Archive for the ‘adwords’ Category

Monday, January 27th, 2014

In-SERP Hover Cards – How Google Could Surface Your Answers, Products, Downloads, Reviews, Events, and More Directly in the Search Results

New Google Hover Card in SERPs for Beats Music
Last Wednesday, Google rolled out new functionality in the search results, which sure got the attention of SEOs across the industry.  Now when searching for information, you will sometimes see an additional link directly in the search results for specific organizations and/or websites.  Users can click on that link to view additional information about that organization right in the search results (via data from Google’s Knowledge Graph).

Google states that this can occur for websites that are “widely recognized as notable online, when there is enough information to show or when the content may be handy for you.”  When clicking the link next to the URL in the search snippet, a small window opens providing the information.  It’s basically a hover card that provides additional information.  This is an important move by Google, since users don’t need to leave the search results to find more information.

Here’s an example of the info card for Netflix:
New Google Hover Card in SERPs for Netflix

The information displayed in the hover card is based on Google’s Knowledge Graph, or data that Google has collected about “real world things”.  Knowledge Graph data comes from a variety of trusted sources, including Freebase (which Google acquired), Wikipedia, CIA World Factbook, etc. As of July of 2012, Google had collected information about 570 million entities, including 18 billion facts and connections.

To quickly summarize the new addition to the search engine results pages (SERPs), if you are searching for answers, and Google has information in its Knowledge Graph about the sites ranking in the search results, you just might see that new link appear directly within the search listing.  And if you click that link, you’ll see Knowledge Graph data in a small window directly in the search results.

Hover Creep: Your Content, Answers, Products, and Downloads Directly in the Search Results?
As I was testing these new “Info Cards”, I started to think deeper about what was occurring, and how this might be the next phase of a monumental shift for Google.  Over the past few years, SEOs have seen Google provide more and more information directly in the search results.  For example, check out all of the types of answers Google will provide right in the results (courtesy of Pete Meyers).  Based on this shift to the all-knowing SERP, many SEOs believe that at some point, Google won’t need to drive users to third party websites anymore.  Instead, maybe it could provide all the information directly in the results.

Don’t believe me?  How about this search for “calories in bananas”:
Nutrition Information in the Search Results

 

Expanding Hover Cards – Coming Soon to a SERP Near You
Based on how much information Google is already providing in the search results (driven by Knowledge Graph data), combined with new hover card functionality in the search results, is it really far-fetched to think Google could expand this approach?  Sure, it won’t happen overnight, but as Google collects and trusts more information from trusted third parties, it could absolutely start providing that data right in the search results.

And that little popup window (hover card) is the first sign that Google isn’t afraid to add more information directly in the SERPs for specific listings.  Let’s face it, providing author details (based on authorship markup) is one thing.  But using a hover card to provide more content per search listing is another.

And maybe this is just a test to see how users react before rolling out more and more content directly in the search results.  And maybe it’s not limited to content… maybe other types of functionality are coming, like ecommerce functionality, downloads, sign-ups, etc.  Now that would be interesting, unless of course, you’re the owner of that content, download, etc. who gets cut out of the process.  Yes, beware the hover card.

So, let’s have some fun and explore what this could look like and how it could work.  It just might be closer than you think.


Trusted Sources, and a Note About Publishership
Some of you reading this post might be wondering how Google could verify typical websites, especially since it’s using trusted data for the recent release of “info cards”.   For example, Google trusts the data in its Knowledge Graph, so it’s comfortable providing the popup window with more information about certain entities.  But will it do this for the average site on the web?  If Google is going to provide more information directly in the search results, then it’s going to have to trust those third party websites, and their content, to do so.

Although many website owners have been focused on authorship markup, where author details can show up in the search results, there is publishership as well.  By claiming publishership (rel=publisher), Google can connect a website to an entity in Google Plus (similar to the way an author is tied to a G+ profile).  That connection could possibly be the basis for providing more content in the search results.  And yes, this could drive even more people to Google+ over the next few years.

By the way, just last year Google tested out showing publisher images in the search results (similar to author details).  I saw the test live, and others did too.  I almost fell out of my seat when I saw client logos in the search results.  That test was removed quickly once word started getting out, but here’s a screenshot of what that looked like.  Check out the publisher image in the search results below:

Publisher Markup in the Search Results

So, if Google understands more about a website via publishership, maybe it can use data from the website to provide more information directly in the SERPs.  Hey, it’s entirely possible.

Now, if this was the case, at least website owners could remove publishership from their sites (if they didn’t like Google providing more data directly in the search results).  But that could be a double-edged sword for content owners.  Sure, you could stop Google from providing your answers in the search results, but maybe Google won’t rank your listings highly anymore (since it’s getting more engagement from listings that provide the in-SERP functionality).    Who knows, I’m just thinking out loud here…

Now let’s take a look at what could potentially appear in the SERPs if this comes to fruition.

Hover Cards and Google – The Various Types of Content and Functionality That Could Appear Directly in the Search Results
Based on what I explained above, how could Google implement additional content or functionality directly in the search results?  And what would it look like?  I started brainstorming a few different ways this could happen and have provided some possibilities below.  Note, these are just some logical options based on what I’ve seen happening with Google and its search results over the past few years.  There are definitely more possibilities than what I’m listing below, but this is a good start.

And yes, in-SERP content and functionality could have a huge impact on websites and businesses.  I’ll cover more about that later in the post.

1. Direct Answers (From Your Site)
There are a lot of companies receiving traffic from users based on queries for direct answers to questions.  Again, Google is already providing many answer boxes for various topics (as covered earlier).  But that’s not per listing in the search engine results pages…  it’s usually via an answer box at the top of the search results.  That’s much different than a hover card per search listing (or for certain listings in the SERPs).

Let’s use my website as an example.  How about a search for “how many dmca requests google impact”?  That’s a search related to the Pirate Update, which I covered extensively in a post in December.  If Google provides the answer in the SERP via an “Answer Card”, it could look like this:

Google Answer Card in the Search Results

If this type of answer card rolls out, and the hover card provides enough of the answer, users will never hit your site.  So, if you are hoping that users visit your site to find the answer, and then take some other action on your website, good luck.  You better start thinking of another way to get that to happen.

2. How-Tos  or Tutorial Segments
If someone searches for how to perform a certain task, and that task is limited in steps, then maybe that information could show up in the search results via a “Tutorial Card”.  Or maybe someone is searching for a specific step in a tutorial.  Google could provide just that step in a hover card directly in the SERPs.

Google Tutorial Card in the Search Results

3. Product or Service Information
If someone is interested in a certain product category or service, then maybe that information is pulled directly from sites in that niche.  For example, if someone searches for “IT consulting” or “computer science” or “4K television”, Google could provide that information directly in the SERPs via a “Product or Service Card”.  For example:

Google Category Card in the Search Results

4. Ecommerce – Fighting Amazon via the “Ecommerce Card”
Information is great, but let’s talk about ecommerce.  Google and Amazon battle heavily in the ecommerce space.  Sure, Google doesn’t sell anything directly, but they make a boatload of money via paid search.  And product listing ads (PLAs) are at the heart of that growth right now.  On the flipside, many people go directly to Amazon to search for products.  That’s the result of a huge inventory, a boatload of review data, and Prime membership (with free, two-day shipping).

But, what if Google decided to provide one-click ecommerce functionality directly in the SERPs?  This could be handled by connecting your Google profile to Google Wallet and buying products directly in the SERPs via the “Ecommerce Card”.  This would be amazing for people that already know which product they want to buy.  It could look like this:

Google Ecommerce Card in the Search Results

And yes, this would be like AdWords on steroids since Google could generate revenue via the organic listings by earning a percentage of the sale.  Holy cow.  :)  More about the ecommerce impact later in this post.

 

5. Reviews
Going even further with our ecommerce example, if someone searched for reviews of a product or service, Google could surface that information and provide it directly in the “Review Card”.   For some people, the review snippet below would be enough.  And that could drastically impact the downstream traffic to pcmag.com.

Google Review Card in the Search Results

6. Downloads
Along the same lines, what if you were looking to download content via pdfs (or other formats)?  Imagine Google provided this download functionality via a “Download Card” directly in the search results.  Google could scan each file for malware and tee it up for users to download.  And if you want to charge for that file, then you can combine the “Ecommerce Card” with the “Download Card”.  That would be a smart combination for sure.

Google Download Card in the Search Results

7. Sign-ups/Registration
Looking to sign up for a webinar, join an email list, or confirm you’ll be attending an event?  Registration functionality could also be provided directly in the search results.  Actually, Google has already been testing functionality for joining email lists in AdWords (via ads in the search results).  This could easily be included in a “Registration Card” directly in the organic search results.

Google Registration Card in the Search Results

I can keep going here… but I think you get the picture.  And these hover cards don’t have to be limited to Knowledge Graph data.  If Google can verify certain entities, then it can feel comfortable providing more information to users directly in the search results.  That data could be answers, information, coupon codes, medical information, pricing, reviews, downloads, list signups, ecommerce functionality, and more.

 

What Happens if this Rolls Out?
Website owners will riot in the streets.  :)  Ok, maybe not literally, but this could cause serious problems for many business owners.

Publishers with an Ad-Driven Model
Let’s start with websites earning advertising revenue based on traffic.  Well, if a site is charging a CPM (or cost per thousand impressions), and 40% of its traffic goes away, their revenue will take a huge hit.  And as their traffic numbers plummet, so will their ability to sell advertising on the site.  Publishers will once again need to figure out other ways to monetize, which is no easy feat.

Ecommerce Retailers
Next on the list are ecommerce retailers.  The once pure, ROI-driven organic results will now be asking for a commission.  If Google does roll out the ability to buy directly from the search results via one-click “ecommerce cards”, then it will surely want a cut of the sale.  Remember, advertising comprises a huge percentage of Google’s revenue and product listing ads are doing extremely well for them (via AdWords).  But having the ability to sell via the much larger set of organic listings could be huge for Google.

Blogs and Resources
For those writing great content on blogs and resource websites, then the possibility of having that content surfaced in “answer cards” could be a big problem (although not as big of a problem as large publishers and ecommerce retailers).  The real downside here would be users gaining answers based on your hard work, without needing to visit your site.

And if they don’t visit your site, they can’t find out more about you, they can’t subscribe to your feed, find your social accounts, or contact you.  I’m sure some users will decide to visit the site, but a certain percentage surely won’t.  This could lead to a drop in awareness, which could impact multiple channels for content owners.  i.e. less subscribers, twitter followers, facebook fans, etc.  And of course, this could impact leads and new business for the organizations publishing content.

Hover Card Extensions – A Note About Ads
It’s hard to write about Google without bringing up advertising.  Again, advertising drives ~96% of Google’s revenues, so these new hover cards would probably have some type of advertising component.  I already mentioned the revenue that ecommerce cards could drive (via a percentage of the sale), but Google could absolutely add sponsored information to hover cards.

For example, imagine having the ability to promote certain pages on your site (to increase click through), provide the ability to subscribe to a feed, follow you on Google+, etc. right from the various hover cards.  This type of ad extension could easily be included in the AdWords platform.  And if that happens, Google could expand AdWords-like functionality to the organic listings.  As long as it’s clearly labeled, and it’s actually helpful to users, then it’s a huge win-win for Google.  Users get what they are looking for, and Google just added a massive new source of revenue.

Hover Card Ad Extensions in Google

 

Summary – Hover Cards and the All-Powerful SERP
The addition of “info cards” in the search results caught serious attention last week across the industry.  But is this just the beginning?  Is it merely a test to see how users react to providing more information directly in the search results per listing?  And if it works well, it’s hard to say how much information and functionality Google could provide in the SERPs.

Time will tell how much of what I listed above becomes a reality.  Until then, I recommend continuing to diversify your digital efforts.  If not, you run the risk of transforming from a website with a lot of traffic into a hover card sitting in the search results.  And there’s not much room to play with there.

GG

 

 

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

You Might Be Losing Out – How To Make Sure Sitelink Extensions in Bing Ads Are Tracked Properly [Tutorial]

Bing Ads released sitelink extensions in October of 2012, which enables advertisers to provide additional links in their text ads.  Google AdWords has had ad sitelinks for some time, so this was a great addition by our friends at Bing Ads.  For example, if you were an ecommerce website selling sporting goods, you could provide ad sitelinks for your top categories, like football, baseball, basketball, etc. right beneath your standard text ad.  Sitelink extensions are great usability-wise, while they also provide a nice advantage in the SERPs (since they take up more real-estate).

Here are two examples of sitelink extensions in action (2 Formats):
Example of Sitelink Extensions in Bing Ads for Lucky Jeans

 

Example of Sitelink Extensions in Bing Ads for Adidas

So, let’s say you set up sitelink extensions for some of your campaigns, and you’re basking in the glory of those beautiful ads (and the click through they are getting).  But, maybe your reporting isn’t lining up clicks and visits-wise.  Sure, there are several reasons that could be happening, but maybe it got worse since you launched sitelink extensions.  Well, the reason could very well be the lack of tagging on your ad sitelinks.  If those additional URLs aren’t tagged properly, then your analytics package could very well be reporting that traffic as organic search.  And that would be shame.

In this post, I’m going to walk you through why this could be happening, and how to rectify the situation.  After reading this post, you might just run to Bing Ads today and make changes.  Let’s jump in.

Sitelink Extensions and Tracking Parameters
In Bing Ads, you can include sitelink extensions several ways.  First, you can add them manually via the Bing Ads web UI.  Second, you can use Bing Ads Editor to add them locally, and then upload them to your account.  And third, and possibly the top reason ad sitelinks don’t get tagged, is that you can import them from AdWords via the “Import from Google” functionality.  Note, the import from AdWords functionality is awesome, so don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that it’s easy to import ad sitelinks and not know they are there.  Then you run the risk of uploading untagged sitelink extensions.

How To Create Sitelink Extensions in Bing Ads

So, you need to make sure that your ad sitelinks are tagged properly, based on the analytics package you are using to track campaigns.  For example, if you are using Google Analytics, then you need to make sure that you identify each click coming from your sitelink extensions.  That means you should be appending tracking parameters to your sitelink URLs.  For Google Anlaytics, you can use URL Builder to tag your landing page URLs.

Tagging Sitelink URLs Using URL Builder

 

How To Tag Your Ad Sitelinks in Bing Ads
Again there are various ways to include sitelink extensions in your campaigns, from using the web UI to using Bing Ads Editor to using the “Import from Google” functionality.  I’ll quickly cover each method below to make sure you know where to apply your tracking parameters.

1.  The Bing Ads Web UI
You can currently apply ad sitelinks at the campaign level in Bing Ads.  When you access a campaign, you can click the “Ad Extensions” tab to include ad sitelinks.  Once there, you can click “Create” to add a new sitelink extension.  If you have other sitelink extensions set up across campaigns, you will see them listed (and you can apply those to your campaign if it makes sense).

Creating Sitelink Extensions Using the Bing Web UI

If you want to add a completely new sitelink extension, then click “Create New”.  When adding the sitelink extension, Bing Ads provide a field for link text and then a field for the destination URL.  When you add the URL, make sure your tracking parameters are added!  If not, your visits will show up as “Bing Organic” versus “Bing CPC”.  Good for the SEO team, but not so good for the paid search team.  :)

 

Adding Sitelinks Using the Bing Web UI

 

2. Bing Ads Editor
I love Bing Ads Editor.  It’s an awesome way to manage your campaigns locally and then sync with the Bing Ads web UI.  And as you can guess, there is functionality for adding and editing sitelink extensions in Bing Ads Editor.  You can access your sitelink extensions by clicking the “Ad Extensions” tab for any selected campaign.

Once you click the “Ad Extensions” tab, you can add sitelink extensions by clicking the “Create a Sitelink Extension” button from the top menu.  Then similar to the web UI, you can add the link text and the destination URL.  When adding your destination URLs, make sure your tracking parameters are added.

Adding Sitelinks Using the Bing Ads Editor

 

3. Import from Google (in Bing Ads Editor)
As I explained earlier, I love having the ability to import campaigns, changes, etc. from AdWords directly into Bing Ads Editor.  It makes managing campaigns across both platforms much more efficient.  But, I’ve seen advertisers import campaigns from AdWords that have sitelink extensions, but they don’t realize it.  Then they upload their campaigns to Bing Ads and don’t understand that prospective customers are clicking their sitelinks, visiting their sites, etc., but those visits aren’t being tracked correctly.  Again, those visits will show up as “Bing Organic” in your analytics reporting.

When you go through the process of importing your campaigns, make sure you double check the “Ad Extensions” tab for the newly-imported campaign.  You just might find sitelink extensions sitting there.  And yes, they very well could be left untagged.  Make sure you add your tracking parameters before uploading them to Bing Ads (from Bing Ads Editor).

You can also uncheck the “Ad Extensions” radio button when importing your campaigns from AdWords.  Then you can add your sitelink extensions directly in Bing Ads Editor (via the second method I covered earlier in this post.

Importing Sitelink Extensions in Bing Ads Editor

 

Sitelinks Are Powerful, But Only If They Are Tracked
Sitelinks extensions are a great addition to Bing Ads, and they absolutely can yield higher click through rates.  But, you need to make sure those clicks are being tracked and attributed to the right source – your Bing Ads campaigns!  I recommend checking your campaigns today to make sure your sitelink extensions have the proper tracking parameters appended.  If not, you can quickly refine those links to make sure all is ok.   And when everything is being tracked properly, you just might see a boost in visits, orders, and revenue being attributed to Bing Ads.  And that’s always a good thing.

GG

 

 

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Enhanced Campaigns and Local Search | How To Use Bid Adjustments with Radius Targeting to Customize Bids Per Location [Tutorial]

Enhanced Campaigns in Google AdWords

On February 6th, Google AdWords released a major update to its platform called Enhanced Campaigns.  Advertisers can upgrade to enhanced campaigns now (as an option), but all campaigns will be upgraded by mid-2013.  Enhanced campaigns provide a radically different way to target by device, adjust bids for various targeting options, set up versatile ad extensions, etc.  Therefore, if you’re running paid search campaigns in AdWords, you should get up to speed sooner than later.

The major changes to AdWords with enhanced campaigns include the ability to combine targeting methods in one single campaign versus having to break out separate campaigns.  For example, in the past, it was optimal to separate your desktop and mobile campaigns.  This would enable you to tailor creative, drive users to mobile optimized pages, bid differently, etc.

In addition, if you were targeting various locations, you would also break those out to different campaigns.  For example, you might have had one campaign targeting New York and another New Jersey (in separate campaigns).  Using enhanced campaigns, you can use bid adjustments to control bidding per location versus having to break them out to additional campaigns.

Those are just two of the changes that enhanced campaigns bring, and you should definitely read up on the rest.  Again, you will be forced to upgrade at some point, and you don’t want to frantically get familiar with enhanced campaigns at the last minute.

Local Businesses and Radius Targeting
So, how do enhanced campaigns impact location targeting for local businesses?  Well, if you are targeting users located near your physical location, then enhanced campaigns provide a great way to control bids by location.  Specifically, you can use radius targeting to adjust bids based on the distance from your store, office, etc.

Radius Targeting in Google AdWords
Radius Targeting in Google AdWords

For example, let’s say you ran a plumbing service in the Princeton Area.  Since you need to travel to customer locations, and many need help immediately, you know that prospective customers located within 15 miles of your office are highly valuable targets.  But, you also know that prospective customers as far out as 30 miles can work for your business too.  But, time equals money, and 30 miles out isn’t ideal when you factor in travel time.  Again, this is all hypothetical, but you get the picture.

So, based on this situation, you could use enhanced campaigns to target users 15 miles out and 30 miles out, and set bids accordingly (using bid adjustments).  A bid adjustment lets you increase or decrease your bids, based on certain criteria.  In this case, you might set a standard bid that your 15 mile radius targeting could use, and then decrease your bid for users located up to 30 miles away.  Then AdWords would dynamically adjust your bids based on the location of the person searching for your services.

Below, I’m going to show you how to set this up in an enhanced campaign.  Note, you would obviously need to first upgrade your campaign to “enhanced” before being able to implement the steps listed below.  Google has provided an upgrade guide in case you want to upgrade one of your campaigns prior to following the steps below.

How to Use Radius Targeting in Enhanced Campaigns (with Bid Adjustments):

1. Access one of your campaigns that has been upgraded to an “enhanced campaign” and click the “Settings” tab.

Campaign Settings in Enhanced Campaigns

2. Click the “Locations” tab within your campaign settings.  Then click “Edit locations”.

Location Tab in Campaign Settings (in Enhanced Campaigns)

3. This is where you can add locations to target.  In the field labeled, “In what locations do you want your ads to appear”, enter the city or zip code you want to target.  For example, I will enter “Princeton, NJ”.   AdWords will autopopulate locations based on what you’re entering. When you see the city you want to target, click the “Nearby” link.

Adding a location to target in enhanced campaigns.

4. Click “Radius Targeting” in the top row of links and re-enter the city and state combination.  Then choose a distance away from your location for the first target location.  Let’s enter 15 miles and click “Search”.

Using Radius Targeting in Enhanced Campaigns

5. AdWords will show the custom location underneath the radius targeting field.  You can then click “Add” to add that location as a target for your campaign.  Click “Done” at the bottom of the location targeting window after you have added the first location.

Adding Radius Targeting in Enhanced Campaigns

6. But we’re not done yet.  We need to add a second targeting option for 30 miles away.  Then we’ll adjust bids based on location.    You should see your first location in the “Edit Locations” window (with the radius targeting you just selected).  You should only see one location at this point.  In order to add another location target, click the “Nearby” link next to the first location target.  This will bring up the location targeting window again.

Adding a second location target in enhanced campaigns.

7. Similar to what we did earlier, click the “Radius Targeting” link in the top list of links.  Then enter your city and state combination, or zip code, and enter a radius.  This time, we will enter 30 miles.  Remember, we want to still reach users up to 30 miles away, but we don’t want to pay as much per click.  Once you click “Search”, AdWords will show your location with the radius you selected.  Then simply click “Add” to add that as a second location target.  Click “Done” at the bottom of the location targeting window after you have added the second location.

Adding a second location target using radius targeting in enhanced campaigns.

8. Below the “Edit Locations” window, you should see your two location targets (one for 15 miles out and the other for 30 miles out).  You should see a column for “Bid adj.” which will enable you to include bid adjustments per target.  Our strategy is to bid normally for users located up to 15 miles out from our location, but we want to lower that bid by 30% for users located up to 30 miles out.

To do this, simply click the dashed line in the Bid adj. field for the 30 mile target and select “Decrease by” and then enter 30 in the percentage field.  Click “Save” to lock in the bid adjustment for the location target.

Adding a bid adjustment in an enhanced campaign.

Including bid adjustments for location targets in enhanced campaigns.


That’s it!
  You just set up a smart scenario for bidding normally for users located closer to your location, while lowering your bids for users outside your typical service zone.  Dare I say we’ve just covered an enhanced way to bid.  :)

Summary – Use the (Local) Power of Enhanced Campaigns
What I explained above is just one way for local businesses to take advantage of enhanced campaigns.  You can also mix various targeting methods with bid adjustments to create advanced-level targeting scenarios.  For example, combining desktop, mobile, and location to ensure you are bidding appropriately for the right devices, and for the right locations.  But that’s for another day, and another tutorial.

For now, I recommend familiarizing yourself with enhanced campaigns, and testing various location targeting scenarios.  Use bid adjustments by location to ensure you are bidding correctly, based on the user’s location.  Then you can expand from there.  Good luck.

GG

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) in Google AdWords – How Your Technical SEO Problems Just Impacted Your SEM Campaigns

Dynamic Search Ads in Google AdWords (DSA)

In October of 2011, Google began testing Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) in AdWords.  It was a bold move and signaled a change in how paid search could operate in the future.  Using dynamic search ads, advertisers could greatly expand their reach by enabling AdWords to match queries with content in Google’s organic index.  Instead of simply setting up keyword-based campaigns, you could dynamically provide relevant ads to users searching for content residing on your site.

Last week AdWords released Dynamic Search Ads to all users, so now everyone can expand their reach using DSA’s.  But before you run and set up your campaigns, there’s a catch you need to be aware of.  Your content must be indexed in Google’s organic search index in order for it to be eligible for dynamic search ads.  Yes, your SEO just impacted your SEM, and that’s what my post is about today.  Read on.

Targeting Dynamic Search Ads (DSA)
Targeting-wise, you can set up dynamic ad targets based on the content that’s been indexed on your site.  For example, you can target all webpages on your site, categories of content, pages by URL, content by page title, or simply by content residing on a page.  Depending on the dynamic ad targets you set up, AdWords will match up queries with your content that’s been indexed.  I bolded those last few words, since thorough indexation can be a big problem for some companies.  More on that soon.

You can target DSA’s by Category, URL, Page Title, or Page Content:

Dynamic Ad Targets in Google AdWords


Dynamic Search Ads Example
Imagine you sold shoes and had AdWords campaigns already set up for sneakers and boots.  I’m sure you would have more, but let’s keep this simple.  Now, let’s say you have 150 specific products that fall into these categories, but aren’t set up in your AdWords campaigns (you just have categories set up).  These products are essentially left out in the paid search cold… until now.  Using dynamic search ads, you could target those specific products that don’t have campaigns set up and let AdWords match up your content with targeted queries automatically (based on what’s indexed in Google’s organic index).  AdWords could dynamically build the ad title, include ad text written by you, and then determine the destination URL based on what’s indexed in Google.  Hence the “dynamic” part of Dynamic Search Ads.  :)

An example of creating a dynamic search ad in AdWords:

Example of Dynamic Search Ad in AdWords

Yes, it’s paid search less the keywords.  As you can imagine, this can have a major impact on how paid search is managed, optimized, and enhanced by AdWords advertisers.  But more importantly, now technical SEO issues can negatively impact your DSA’s, since they leverage Google’s organic search index.  That’s a good segue to the next section of my post.

DSA’s are based on Google’s Organic Search Index (Meet Your New SEO Problem)
As I mentioned earlier, in order for dynamic search ads to work, your content needs to be indexed.  Although that sounds trivial, it’s not for some companies.  And that’s especially true for large-scale sites with hundreds of thousands of pages (or more).  And if you add CMS problems to the mix, a site could very well have tens of thousands of pages not getting indexed properly.  And that could be a serious problem for advertisers trying to leverage DSA’s to expand their reach.

If your site has a crawlability problem, or other technical SEO problems, then those problems can now affect your SEM campaigns.  In addition, if your competitors don’t have those SEO problems, then they are at a big advantage with regard to dynamic search ads.  If they set up their DSA campaigns intelligently, then they can potentially reach a much wider audience than you can, since they have a much deeper set of content indexed.

Indexation Issues Impacting DSA's

Uh Oh, The Holidays Are Here
Did you just start to sweat?  Right, the holidays are just around the corner…  That’s perfect timing for some companies to boost sales, while others with technical SEO problems falter.  In the past, SEM was separate from SEO.  But now, SEO has crept into SEM.  Let’s take a look at some problems that could cause issues with your DSA campaigns.

7 SEO Problems That Could Affect Your DSA’s

1. Make it Clean and Crawlable, or No DSA’s For You
First, your content needs to be crawled and indexed.  I never thought I would be saying that in an SEM-focused post, but there’s a first for everything. :)  If your content cannot be easily crawled and indexed, you will be at a major disadvantage with dynamic search ads.  Again, AdWords will leverage Google’s organic search index to match content and queries, and then use that content to build dynamic ads.  If your content isn’t in the organic index, ads cannot be generated.  No DSA’s for you.

Ensure Googlebot can easily crawl your website:

Googlebot Encountering Errors While Crawling a Website


2. Poor Navigation and Internal Linking Structure
An important aspect to getting all of your content crawled is having a strong internal linking structure.  There are still many sites that don’t provide a robust drilldown into their content using text links.  If you simply provide a top-level navigation and don’t provide additional links to deeper content, then you could easily run into a situation where that additional content isn’t crawled or indexed.

If that’s the case, then that additional content cannot be used for dynamic search ads.  I highly recommend reviewing your navigation and internal linking structure to ensure you are providing a descriptive drilldown into your categories, products, articles, blog posts, etc.

Provide a robust drilldown into your content versus hiding it:

Navigation Causing Indexation Problems


3. Gremlins in Your Content Management System (CMS)
In my experience, I’ve witnessed CMS packages hide content, provide serious crawlability issues, and create serious duplicate content problems.  And all of this won’t be good for your DSA efforts.  If your CMS hides content, then those pages will not be available for DSA’s.  If the CMS provides crawlability issues, then it can hide content from Googlebot, which means the content can’t be included in DSA campaigns.  And if your CMS generates massive duplicate content problems, then who knows what AdWords will match up with targeted queries (if it will match up any content at all).

Let’s face it, a great CMS can make your life a lot easier.  But a poor CMS can wreak havoc on both your SEO and SEM efforts.  And now with dynamic search ads, you can combine the two… I highly recommend having your CMS audited to ensure it’s not hampering your search campaigns.  I provide more recommendations later in the post.

Understand if your CMS is causing crawlability or indexation issues:

CMS Packages Causing SEO Problems


4. XML Sitemaps
During SEO audits, I still find sites that aren’t providing xml sitemaps that contain all of their content.  For example, I recently audited a site with 300K+ pages, but its xml sitemaps only contained 10K.  XML sitemaps are a great supplement to a traditional web crawl.  You don’t want to rely on them for getting all of your content indexed, but they can help Google identify new content and understand the canonical URL’s for your content.  In addition, you can view sitemap errors in Google Webmaster Tools, which can help you understand problems Google is having trying to access or index your content.

For dynamic search ads, XML sitemaps can help more of your content get crawled and indexed by Google.  And that can help you target more content via DSA’s.  Again, you shouldn’t rely on XML sitemaps to fix crawlability and indexation problems, but it’s a smart move to set them up.

Monitor xml sitemap errors in Google Webmaster Tools:

XML Sitemaps Should Contain All Canonical URL's


5. Poor URL Structure
As mentioned above, you can target content by all web pages, category, URL, page title, or page content.  If you want to logically launch DSA’s by URL, then your URL structure needs to be strong.  For example, you can target any page with /category/sneakers to target sneakers or /category/boots to target boots.  If you have something like /?nid=2343jieejd&sot=23jjdjdj  and you are going to try and find some common thread, good luck.  Chances are you won’t be able to target by URL.  Try and use clean and descriptive URL’s if possible.  Stay away from complex URL’s with a lot of querystring parameters.

Complex URL’s can cause crawlability, canonical, and indexation issues:

Complex URL's and Poor URL Structure Can Cause SEO Problems

6. Canonical URL Tag Issues
When used properly, the canonical URL tag can be a great way to address duplicate content issues.  You can tell the search engines which pages are the canonical url’s for the content at hand.  But when used improperly, it can be extremely destructive to your SEO efforts.  I wrote about this in my Search Engine Journal column titled, “Two Examples of How One Line of Code Could Kill Your SEO.”  You should read the post when you get a chance.  It’s fitting that I’m referencing that post on Halloween, since it’s horrifying.  :)

So, if you implemented the canonical URL tag incorrectly across your site, Google may only have a small percentage of your content indexed and available for DSA’s.  In a worst case scenario, you could be using the canonical URL tag to attribute all search power to just one page on your site.  Don’t laugh, I’ve seen this happen several times.  If that’s the case, then you might only have one page available for DSA’s.  And you might be looking at your AdWords reporting wondering why there are no impressions or clicks.

7. Poor On-Page Optimization
If you choose to target by page title, then you need to ensure pages are well-optimized.  I’ve completed SEO Audits on some larger sites that have thousands of pages with the same exact title tag.  If that’s the case, then AdWords might not be able to figure out what the page is about, and might not be able to match the content up with targeted queries.  If this is the case, then make sure you uniquely optimize each page, based on the content at hand.  If you do, then you can target DSA’s by page title and be in good shape.

Ensure all of your content is uniquely optimized:

Poor Content Optimization Can Impact DSA's


What Can You Do?  3 Things You Can Do Now to Help Your DSA’s
If you are reading this post and determine that you might have some of the SEO problems I listed above, then here’s what you can do now.

1. SEO Audits
First, and this is something I have advocated for a long time, have a technical SEO audit conducted.  Audits provide the most bang for your SEO buck.  They can be completed relatively quickly and provide a remediation plan based on the findings.  If you can implement the changes relatively quickly, then you very well could see some improvements in a short period of time.  That obviously depends on your specific situation, but some changes will yield strong results in a short amount of time.

And with the holiday season upon us, time is of the essence.  If you want dynamic search ads to help you this holiday season, then you need to make sure your content is being indexed, and that it’s optimized correctly.

2. Index Status in Google Webmaster Tools
Second, analyze Index Status in Google Webmaster Tools, which can help you identify the number of pages Google has indexed, as well as how many it counts as “not selected”.  Index Status won’t give you the answers, but can let you know how well your site is being indexed.  For example, if you have 10K pages on your site, but only 2K are indexed, you’ve got a problem.  If you have 5K pages on your site, but Index Status shows 75K as “not selected”, then you also have a problem.  I highly recommend reading my post about Index Status and analyzing your current situation.

Index Status in Google Webmaster Tools

3. Bypass DSA’s and Build Out More Campaigns Manually
Third, if you have indexation issues, but still want to gain additional targeted traffic via Paid Search, then you can focus your attention on fleshing out more campaigns and ad groups based on your own category and niche.  Perform thorough keyword research, understand which keywords you need to target, analyze the competitive landscape, and then build out more campaigns and ad groups.  Sure, this will take a lot of time and effort, but it provides the most control.

Summary – The End of Keywords in SEM?
Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) can help advertisers reach a broader audience by automatically matching up advertiser content and targeted queries.  Paid search without keywords could very well be the future of SEM, so it’s important to understand how DSA’s work now.  But as I explained throughout this post, your content needs to be crawled and indexed in order to be eligible for dynamic search ads.  And that means SEM will require strong SEO.  Go figure.  :)

GG

 

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

How To Find Keywords Triggering Product Listing Ads Using AdWords and Google Analytics [Includes a Custom Report for PLA’s]

If you’re an ecommerce retailer, then you have probably heard of Product Listing Ads in Google AdWords.  Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) are powerful ad units that enable you to display image thumbnails in the search results for products you sell on your site.  As you can imagine, the visual nature of the ads yield more ad real estate and can greatly help with click-through rate (since the ads are hard to overlook.)  And with the holidays quickly approaching, standing out from your competitors is an important aspect to landing new customers.

Here is a screenshot of product listings ads in action:
Interested in a Keurig Coffee Maker? I bet the ads on the right will catch your eye.
Product Listing Ads for Keurig Coffee Makers


Are you looking for a new golf driver? Again, the PLA’s on the right will probably catch your attention:

Product Listing Ads for Golf Drivers

Google Shopping Goes Commercial
This past spring, Google announced that Google Product Search was moving to a full commercial model and would be called Google Shopping.  No longer would you be able to have your product ads show up for free (blended in the organic search results).  Google originally set a target deadline of October 1st, 2012 for the transition so ecommerce retailers could get familiar with product listings ads (which would be the mechanism for displaying products in the search results).  The ads would be cost per click-based (CPC), like PLA’s have always been.

This was a big move for Google, as many ecommerce retailers relied on shopping results to gain free clicks to their sites from prospective customers searching for products.  Now, in order to have similar results, those ecommerce retailers would need to pay.  Therefore, many ecommerce retailers jumped on board the product listing ads bandwagon (as they should).

Google Shopping Transitions to Commercial Model

Optimization is Important
When you run product listing ads, you don’t bid on keywords.  Instead, Google reviews your merchant center feed and then matches your ads with queries that it believes are relevant.  In my experience, there are times I see Google displaying product listing ads for queries that aren’t directly tied to the product at hand, or that are more category-driven.  This can yield untargeted visitors, higher costs, and lower ROI.  And that’s exactly what you don’t want in SEM.  Therefore, it’s important to optimize your product listing ads campaigns over time in order to increase performance.

It’s Hard to Determine Out of the Box
Given what I listed above, where do you find the keywords triggering your product listing ads?  Unfortunately, they aren’t so easy to find out of the box.  In addition, finding the keywords triggering your ads also depends on how you set up and structured your product listing ads campaigns.  For example, are you using product targets to segment your merchant feed, are you lumping all products in one ad group, etc?

Today, I’m here to help.  I’m going to list two ways to find the keywords triggering your product listing ads and I’ll include a bonus custom report at the end of this post that provides even more information for you to analyze.  Let’s get started.

Two Ways to Find Keywords Triggering Your Product Listing Ads
1. The AdWords UI
The first place you can find the keywords triggering your product listing ads is in the AdWords UI (managing your campaign on the web).  First, click the campaign holding your product listing ads (which should be a campaign that’s separate from your other search or display network campaigns).  Then click the “Keywords” tab.

Keywords Tab in Google AdWords

Next, click “Keyword Details”, and finally “All”.  This will reveal all the raw search queries that have triggered your product listing ads and that drove traffic to your site (by ad group).  Then you can adjust the columns in the report and export the report to Excel.

Matched Search Queries for Product Listing Ads in AdWords


2. AdWords Reporting in Google Analytics (Match Search Queries + Second Dimension)
The second way you can find the queries triggering your product listing ads is to access your AdWords reporting in Google Analytics.  You can click the “AdWords” tab, and then the “Matched Search Queries” link to view all matched search queries for your campaigns.  Then, you can add a second dimension for “Ad Group” to view a list of raw search queries by ad group.  This is extremely powerful if you segmented your merchant feed using product targets (as mentioned earlier).  For example, imagine viewing all raw search queries by major brand, product type, etc.

Viewing Matched Search Queries for Product Listing Ads in Google Analytics

Next, you will need to filter this report based on your naming convention for product listings ads in AdWords.  That’s because the report will initially contain all ad groups and matched search queries (and not just queries for your product listing ads).  You can use the filter box in your reporting to filter your ad groups to isolate the ad groups for your product listing ads.  For example, if your ad groups for product listing ads begin with “PLA”, then you can filter the report to select ad groups that contain “PLA” in the title.  When you do this, you will be left with all of your ad groups for product listing ads and the matched search queries that have driven traffic to your site.  Then you can export this report to Excel for further analysis.

Filtering Product Listing Ads in Google Analytics

 

Bonus: Product Listing Ads Custom Report in Google Analytics
All of what I listed above works well, and can be extremely useful, but there’s a quicker way to drill into this data.  You can use custom reporting in Google Analytics to create a new report that enables you to drill into campaign, ad group, raw search query, and then landing page by query.  Sounds awesome, right?

Well, I’ve built that report and provided a link to it below (so you can use it for your own campaigns).  If you are logged into your Google Analytics account, then clicking the link will launch the report in your account (just the structure, not the data).  Then you will need to tailor the report structure for your own campaigns.  For example, I created the report to isolate a campaign with “PLA” in the name.  You’ll need to identify your own product listing ads campaigns based on your own naming convention.

Once you do, you’ll be able to drill into your campaign, ad groups within that campaign, matched search queries per ad group, and then the landing page from each query.  The report will enable you to quickly identify negatives to use per ad group, and will help you double check landing pages per query.   Note, the landing page (destination URL) is based on your merchant center feed, and depending on the retailer, there can be thousands or tens of thousands of products in a feed.  It’s always good to double check the destination URL’s to make sure the right queries lead to the right product listing ads, which lead to the right product detail pages.  If not, you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

Click the link to access the product listing ads custom report I built.

Summary – Make the Most of Your Product Listing Ads
As I mentioned earlier, product listing ads are a powerful ad unit for ecommerce retailers.  And now with Google Shopping moving to a full commercial model, it’s critically important for retailers to get a handle on their PLA’s.  You can use the methods I provided above to find the search queries triggering your ads and driving prospective customers to your site.  In addition, you can use the custom report I provided to drill into your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and landing pages.  Then it’s up to you to analyze your newly-found reporting in order to refine your efforts.  And that’s the name of the game in SEM.

Have a killer holiday season.

GG

 

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

How To Share Budgets Across Google AdWords Campaigns Using The New Share Budget Feature [Tutorial]

Shared Budgets in Google AdWords

Google AdWords rolled out a new feature last week that will make the lives of some SEM’s easier.  The new shared budget option enables marketers to apply one budget to multiple campaigns (versus having to manage budgets for each campaign separately).  Shared budgets make it easier to maximize your total ad spend for paid search since you can let the AdWords system allocate budget across selected campaigns without having to specify a specific budget for each.

For example, a typical AdWords account has several campaigns set up, all targeting different audiences.   You might have search campaigns, display network campaigns, remarketing campaigns, mobile campaigns, etc.  In the past, you had to allocate budget for each.  If you had $250 per day to spend, you would have to divvy up the budget across those campaigns.  But, if you allocated $100 to your core search campaign and it only hit $60 on some days, then the additional $40/day was not used.  Over time, that can lead to a lot of lost clicks, conversions, and revenue.  Using this new feature, you can ensure that your budget doesn’t sit on the sidelines when it can be working for you across other campaigns in your account.

Shared Budgets are a Great Idea (For Some Campaigns)
Shared budgets work well for companies that want to make sure their allocated budget is used each day across campaigns (no matter which selected campaigns use that budget).  For example, if a company has refined its campaigns over time based on performance, then using sharing budgets should help them achieve stronger results.  i.e. ROI is strong across campaigns, so feeding those campaigns more budget is a good thing.

If you don’t have a solid understanding of your ROI, then shared budgets can drive more wasted budget.  Be careful if you are just starting out and need to keep a close eye on budgets.  If you are in this situation, I recommend setting specific budgets per campaign and working on refining those campaigns based on performance.  Then when you get your campaigns to a stage where performance is strong, then a shared budget could work well for you.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t just pull the trigger on a shared budget.  You need to first set up, manage, refine, and optimize your campaigns before you do.  That’s the only way to know that the additional money you spend will yield conversions.

How To Share Budgets, Step by Step
Setting up shared budgets is relatively straight forward.  Below, I’ll cover the steps you must take to share a budget across your AdWords campaigns.

1. Log into AdWords and Access Your Campaigns

2. Click “Shared Library” in the left-side navigation.
Shared Library in AdWords

3. Click “Budgets” in the left-navigation.
Shared Budget Link in Shared Library Menu

4. Click “New Budget”, name your new budget, select campaigns to apply the budget to, and set a dollar amount for the budget.
Create a new shared budget in AdWords

4a. Note, you can choose specific campaigns to apply your shared budget to in the previous step.  The shared budget doesn’t need to be applied to the entire account.
Apply Shared Budget to Selected Campaigns

5. Click “Save” and your new shared budget will be added to your shared library.
New Shared Budget in Shared Library

You’re done!  You can check your campaigns in the AdWords UI to ensure the shared budget is being used for your selected campaigns.
Shared Budget in Action in AdWords UI


Next Steps for Shared Budgets in AdWords – Signals from Advertisers
Although this is a great move by AdWords, I hope they expand the shared budget functionality even more.  For example, it would be great to give a priority to certain campaigns within a shared budget.  For example, if you wanted to share a budget across campaigns A, B, and C, but B is the most important of the three, then it would be great to let AdWords know that.  Then the system could prioritize budget during the day, based on that signal.

Also, maybe AdWords could provide a minimum threshold value per campaign within a shared budget.  This would be another signal you could provide Google to make sure certain campaigns are given priority.  For example, maybe you could tell Google AdWords to make sure Campaign B should be allocated a minimum of $100/day (if demand is there).

Until AdWords expands shared budget functionality, you’ll need to analyze your current campaigns that are sharing a budget.  For example, if you share a budget across campaigns and notice a certain campaign isn’t receiving its fair share of the budget, then you should rethink your approach.  In this situation, you could create multiple shared budgets based on campaign type.  This approach would be better than setting a budget for each campaign, but wouldn’t be as easy as sharing one budget across campaigns.  That said, you would ensure important campaigns are receiving the appropriate budget and not getting sidelined by the AdWords system.  Again, this is why I mentioned that “signals from advertisers” would be a great addition by Google. :)

Bonus: Shared Budgets are a Great Fit for Google Grants
I do a lot of work with Google Grants, which is an incredible program from Google for non-profits.  Google Grants provide $10K in free AdWords advertising for approved non-profits.  I covered the program extensively in a post about maximizing a Google Grant account.

If you read my post, you’ll learn that there are some serious limitations with Google Grants that many marketers can’t easily overcome.  One of those barriers is trying to drive visits with only a $1.00 max cpc.  Based on the limited max cpc, I find many non-profits find it hard to drive a lot of traffic from target keywords via their Grants accounts.  So, as non-profits set up several campaigns, it’s hard to allocate pieces of your $329/day daily budget limit.  When auditing Grant accounts, I often find some campaigns not even coming close to hitting their daily budgets, while other campaigns could utilize that extra budget.  This can severely impact the traffic levels being driven by Grant accounts.

Well, shared budgets are a great solution for Google Grant owners.  You can set the $329/day shared budget and share it across all of your search campaigns.  Then you don’t need to worry about trying to allocate budget across your campaigns (like I explained above).  AdWords will make sure that if demand is there, your campaigns will be fed the appropriate budget.

Summary – Try Shared Budgets Today
As you can see, the new shared budget functionality can be extremely helpful for certain accounts.  I recommend analyzing your campaigns to see if a shared budget is a good fit for your company.  If it is, you can use the steps I listed above to set one up today.  If your campaigns are performing well, then using a shared budget can drive more visits, conversions, and profit.  And that’s exactly what SEM is all about.  Good luck.

GG

 

Monday, September 10th, 2012

SEM Competitive Analysis – The Power of Understanding Your Competition in Paid Search

SEM Competitive Analysis

There are a lot of moving parts to developing and managing SEM campaigns.  First, you need to develop a strong paid search strategy, perform keyword research, map out a robust structure for your campaigns and ad groups, determine budgets, create effective ads, etc.  After the setup phase, you will be neck deep in ongoing campaign management, which involves refining your campaigns and ad groups based on performance. That includes refining keywords, ads, creating new ad groups when necessary, pausing ad groups or campaigns that don’t perform well, split testing ads, etc.  This includes managing both Search and Display Network campaigns.  As you can guess, SEM is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Based on all that’s involved with paid search, I think it’s easy for SEM’s to keep driving campaigns forward without taking a step back to analyze the competitive landscape.  For example, which companies are you competing against in SEM, which ads are they running, what types of landing pages are they using, how does their pricing stack up, etc.  That’s where a thorough competitive analysis can pay huge dividends.  There are so many important things you can learn from analyzing the competition that I’m surprised more companies aren’t doing it.

In this post, I’m going to explore five important insights you can learn from performing an SEM competitive analysis.  My hope is that once you read through this post, you’ll be eager to get started on your own analysis.  Let’s get started.

What’s an SEM Competitive Analysis?
Simply put, an SEM competitive analysis enables you to understand the companies also bidding on the same keywords and categories you are targeting in paid search.  Let’s face it, if you are bidding on a set of keywords, it’s important to understand which competitors are targeting the same keywords, where they are driving visitors, how aggressively they are bidding, the pricing they are providing for similar products, etc.  While performing the analysis, there are times you find incredible nuggets of information that can help enhance your own campaigns.  You can also understand why certain competitors might be outperforming your own efforts.

Competitive Analysis Tools
This post isn’t meant to provide a tutorial on how to use the various competitive tools in the industry.  There are many to choose from and you should test them out to determine which ones fit your needs.  Pricing-wise, some are paid solutions while others are offered for free.  For example, SEMRush and SpyFu are two paid solutions that enable you to view a wealth of competitive SEM data such as keywords, ads, cpc’s, volume of traffic, etc.

Competitive Analysis Tools

Google’s Ad Preview Tool is free and enables you to view an unpersonalized SERP, while also enabling you to specify geographic location, mobile vs. desktop, language, etc.  In addition, AdWords recently released Auction Insights, which gives you a view of the companies you are competing with on a keyword level (if there is enough data).  You can view a competitor’s impression share, their avg position, the overlap rate, the percentage of times they rank above your own ads, etc.  Again, there are many tools on the market, and my recommendation is to figure out the right combination for your needs.  Many of the paid solutions have free trials, so you can start using them immediately to gauge their effectiveness.

A screenshot from the Google Ad Preview Tool:

AdWords Ad Preview Tool

Analysis Scope
When determining the scope of your analysis, you can either start small and analyze a specific ad group, or you can analyze a larger campaign (or set of campaigns).  If you are just starting out, you might want to start smaller and just focus on an important ad group.  Once you determine the best process to use, along with the right tools, you can expand to other ad groups and larger campaigns.  I recommend choosing an ad group that’s important to your business, but one that might not be performing very well.  You never know, the competitive analysis could reveal why that is…

Let’s take a look at five things you can learn from an SEM competitive analysis that can greatly help your own SEM efforts:

1. Who Are Your *Real* Competitors (in Search)
Whenever I begin  helping a new client, I always ask them who their top competitors are.  It’s a trick question, since the standard set of competitors in the industry might not be the same competitors in SEM (or SEO).  Understanding which companies are present in the SERPs for target keywords is extremely important.  For consumers that don’t know which company to do business with, and start searching Google, the offline competition might not make a big difference.  That’s why you need to understand your true competitors in SEM.  That’s who prospective customers will be reviewing while researching online.

When I present my findings with regard to true competition, it’s not uncommon for my clients to fall out of their chairs.  Sure, they might find some familiar faces, but they might find some additional companies or websites that surprise them.  For example, say hello to Amazon.com, the biggest and baddest ecommerce retailer on the web.  If you are selling online, Amazon very well could be a core competitor in SEM.  If that’s the case, you better check out pricing on Amazon.com, how often they show up for your target keywords, which third party sellers are providing similar products, etc.  Let’s face it, low pricing and Amazon Prime membership is a killer combination that you’ll have to face and deal with at some point.  And you’re not alone.

You also might find comparison shopping sites, forums, answer-driven sites like Yahoo Answers, personal blogs, etc.  If you do, you might need to form a strategy for monitoring those sites to ensure you are represented (the right ways).  You might find manufacturer websites that provide links to online retailers that offer their products.  Are you listed there?  Should you be?  I think you get the picture.  Understand the real competition, dig deeper, and form a strategy for dealing with those “competitors”.

A list of competitors in AdWords for a target keyword:

Your True Competition in Search

2. Find the Keywords Your Competitors are Running
OK, so now you know which companies you are competing with in SEM.  Your next question might focus on which keywords they are running.  This is important for several reasons.  First, you want to make sure you aren’t missing important keywords or categories that customers are searching for.  Even if you performed keyword research, you might have missed something.  Analyzing keywords your competitors are running could help close the gaps.

Analyzing the keywords a competitor is bidding on:

Competitive Keyword Analysis in SEM

Second, you can start to gauge how much traffic each keyword or keyword category is driving to your competitors’ websites.  For example, if you see a larger percentage of traffic for certain categories, there might a good reason for that.  Maybe they are seeing outstanding performance from those keywords or categories, and they are allocating more budget to those keywords.

Note: there are many companies not managing SEM correctly, so be careful here…  If you see something stand out while analyzing the keywords that competitors are running, you can and should, test those yourself.  As long as you have a strong analytics strategy in place, you can easily identify high quality traffic, strong performance, etc.  I guess what I’m saying is that keyword intelligence is great to attain, but nothing compares to actual testing.

3. Competitor Landing Pages
Next on our list are the landing pages that competitors are using.  Let’s say you were running an ad group for an important category.  You are getting  a lot of traffic, but not many conversions.  You’re baffled why that is…  Well, analyzing the landing pages that competitors are using can tell you a lot.  Are they driving visitors to product detail pages,  campaign landing pages, lead generation pages focused on gaining contact information, mobile landing pages (for mobile traffic), etc?  All of this can help you better understand why your competitors might be outperforming you in SEM.

Understanding the landing page experience for prospective customers can help you form ideas for your own landing pages.  If you are driving visitors to a product detail page and competitors have set up dedicated campaign landing pages with a wealth of information, images, video, reviews, live chat, etc., you might want to refine your efforts.  Don’t pale in comparison to your competition.  It could be the very reason you are seeing less conversion (or no conversion).

A sample SEM landing page:

Landing Page Analysis

4. Ads, Ad Extensions, and PLA’s
Using competitive tools, you can review the text ads that competitors are running.  When prospective customers are facing a SERP filled with paid ads, it’s important to stand out (for the right reasons).  Are your competitors punching sales, deals, special offers, etc?  Are they providing actual pricing in their ads?  Are competitor text ads aligned with the landing pages they are driving visitors to?  All of this can help you understand why your own performance isn’t as strong as it should be.

Viewing competitor text ads:

Analyzing SEM Ads

And let’s not forget about ad extensions and product listing ads.  Are your competitors using sitelinks extensions, product extensions, call extensions, local extensions, social extensions, etc?  The extra information provided by ad extensions can be extremely valuable to prospective customers.  For example, you can drive visitors deeper to certain sections of your site, to specific products pages, show social connections, click to call phone numbers, etc.  And if you’re an ecommerce retailer, don’t overlook the power of seller rating extensions.   Those little stars can bring a level of credibility that can mean the difference between revenue or just a click.

An example of sitelinks extensions in AdWords:

Analyzing Ad Extensions in Paid Search

In addition to what I mentioned above, I have to cover the power of product listing ads.  Recently, Google transitioned Google Shopping to a pure paid model.  Product listing ads are an important part of that model, and are extremely powerful.  They are image-based ads for specific products, based on your merchant center feed.  They are CPC-based and can help drive strong performance for ecommerce retailers.  If your competitors are running PLA’s, and you aren’t, you better get in the game.  There are times text ads just don’t compare to the image-based PLA’s competing for attention in the SERPs.

An example of product listings ads in action:

Analyzing Product Listing Ads

5. Pricing
The final insight I’m going to cover is probably the most important – pricing.  Performing a competitive analysis will reveal the pricing your competition is providing for the same products you are selling.  The power of the internet is a double edged sword for many sellers.  You can now compete with the big boys, but you will also be compared with every other seller on the web.  And this can happen in mere seconds as people research products via Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

I find this step in a competitive analysis provides incredibly important insights for my clients.  They are sometimes floored by what they are seeing.  Actually, it’s not unusual for some clients to start yelling as I’m presenting my findings.  “How are they providing that pricing?”  “That can’t be right.”  “They are lowballing prospective customers!”  I’ve heard every possible comment under the sun.

Regardless, unless a consumer knows and trusts your company, you are going to have a hard time comparing to a competitor selling the same product at 20% lower than your own pricing.  Not every person will go with the lowest price (based on a number of credibility factors), but some will.  And when you are paying for every click, it’s important to keep those visitors on your site with the hope of converting them.

Analyzing competitor pricing:

Analyzing Competitor Pricing

 

My recommendation is to analyze each of the competitors for a category, and break down the pricing for each.  Try and determine if that’s the real pricing, how they are providing that pricing, understand their shipping costs, etc., and then form a strategy for dealing with the situation.  By the way, that could mean pausing your ad groups for that category.  If your ROI is pitiful, and your competitors are selling at pricing that makes no sense, then pause your ad groups.  You can find other more profitable categories to drive…

Summary – Competitive Data is There. Go Analyze It
Are you ready to get rolling with your own competitive analysis?  As I covered above, there’s a lot you can learn.  It’s important that you don’t get so caught up in your own campaigns that you forget to learn what your competition is running, how much they are spending, where they are driving visitors, and what type of landing pages they are using.  You never know, you might end up finding serious gaps in your own campaigns.  And that can lead to more revenue, profit, and a stronger ROI.  Good luck.

GG

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Local Remarketing – 6 Remarketing Strategies for Local Businesses

AdWords Remarketing Strategies for Local Businesses

Have you ever visited a website, researched a product or service, and then left only to see that company’s ads as you browse the web?  I bet you have.  That’s remarketing in action, and it’s darn powerful when implemented correctly.  Sure, there can definitely be a creepy factor, since users are being followed around the web, but getting your messaging back in front of people that already visited your site is a very smart move.

Using remarketing in AdWords, you can tag specific visitors to a certain page, or section of pages, and then remarket to them as they browse the Google Display Network (GDN).  The GDN includes any site running Google Ads, and includes Google properties like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. It reaches approximately 80% of all web users.  It’s also important to note that you can use both image ads and text ads across the Google Display Network.  This gives you more creative options than just text ads like in Search.

Remarketing for Local Businesses
When you think about remarketing campaigns, it makes complete sense to think about ecommerce retailers.  Prospective customers visit category or product pages, and left without converting. Maybe they even added items to their shopping cart, but left without completing a purchase.  It’s smart to get targeted messages back in front of those people, like special deals, offers, etc.  So it makes sense for ecommerce retailers, but what about other types of businesses?  Can they also utilize remarketing to increase sales?  You bet they can, and I’m going to tackle remarketing for local businesses in this post.

As consumers research local businesses, they might visit several different websites during their research.  Tagging visitors that hit your own site, and then getting your message back in front of those prospective customers, can be the difference between just another visit and a paying customer.   And when local is heavily influenced by word of mouth, that one new customer can actually turn into 5, or more.

How Remarketing in AdWords Works

By the way, you should check out my post about how to set up a remarketing campaign if you are interested in launching campaigns like this.  I also published a post about using custom combinations to exclude visitors that already converted.  But don’t visit those posts yet.  Read more about how local businesses can utilize remarketing first, and then you can follow those tutorials to get up and running quickly. :)

A Note About Timing and Membership Duration
For certain types of local businesses, consumers will inherently act fast.  For example, if there is an immediate problem someone is having with their home, then you might only have a few days to land that customer.  Then there are other local businesses that aren’t as time-sensitive, and you’ll have much longer of an opportunity to get back in front of them.

It’s Important to Tailor Membership Duration for Local Remarketing:

Membershiup Duration in AdWords Remarketing

For example, a plumber or electrician might only have a few days, while a karate school or day care center might have longer.  In order to tackle timing issues, you can adjust the membership duration of your remarketing list to shorter or longer during the setup phase. The membership duration tells AdWords how long someone should remain on your remarketing list after being tagged on your site.  For example, you might set a membership duration of just 10 days for the plumber example I mentioned earlier, but 90 days for a daycare center.

Remarketing Strategies for Local
Now that we’ve covered timing, let’s talk about local remarketing strategies.  Again, we have the ability to tag certain visitors (or all visitors), and then provide targeted ads in front of that audience as they browse the web.  It’s important that you analyze the various types of visitors hitting your site, understand the campaigns you are currently running, etc. before implementing a remarketing campaign for local.  Those considerations can absolutely help you tailor your efforts, and drive higher performance.

Below, I’ve listed several ways that local business can implement remarketing campaigns.  Note, this does not include every possible way to implement remarketing, but can definitely get you moving in the right direction.  Let’s begin.

1. Starting Broad – Remarket to All Site Visitors
This is obviously the broadest strategy, but can still work.  This involves tagging every visitor to your local site, and the remarketing to them as they browse the Google Display Network.  It’s definitely smart to get back in front of people that were interested in your business, but the messaging won’t be as targeted as the other approaches I’ll list below (since you didn’t isolate pages or sections).

If you are new to remarketing, then this is a good way to start.  With regard to your ad creative, you can punch your current deals, packages, etc.  And just to clarify, your remarketing ads will only be shown to your remarketing list, which includes people that already visited your site.  Definitely make sure to include a strong call to action, which applies to all strategies I’m including in this post.  For example, ask them to act.

Conversion-wise, using the site-wide approach, you won’t be excluding visitors that converted already.  This can lead to an awkward experience for customers, as you are still advertising to them even though they converted.  To alleviate this situation, you can use custom combinations to exclude customers that converted already.  That said, you can only use this approach if you have a hard conversion on your site (like someone filling out a contact form, or buying something).  If you don’t, then there’s not an action you can use to trigger “conversion”.  For example, you can’t easily exclude someone picking up the phone and calling your business, or someone walking in…

2. Tagging Contact Page Visitors (AKA, Your Local “Shopping Cart”)
For many local businesses, the contact page is an extremely important page on their websites.  Since they are local, visitors will often check out the contact page to find the address, phone number, directions, etc.  I’ve helped some local businesses build remarketing campaigns using this page as the trigger, and it can work well.  By tagging this page, you can provide targeted messaging to visitors that you know visited your contact page.

Remarketing to Visitors of Local Contact Pages:

Remarketing to visitors of a local contact page

For local businesses, this is the equivalent of someone adding an item to their shopping cart on an ecommerce site.  Theoretically, they are more targeted than the average visitor, so you definitely want to get back in front of them.  You might be more aggressive with your messaging and calls to action.  Maybe you’ll provide an incentive in your ads to get members of that audience to convert.  Note, you can test various ads to see which ones perform best.  This can help you better understand the messaging that works best for the audience (people that already visited your contact page).  Also, since you can use image ads across the Google Display Network, you can test visuals, as well as just text ads.

If you have a contact form on your website, make sure you use a custom combination (mentioned earlier) to exclude those visitors from your remarketing list.  Since they already “converted”, they shouldn’t be on your remarketing list.  That’s unless there’s some other type of messaging you want to provide to that audience.  For example, you might choose to drive return customers by providing special messaging and incentives to them as they browse the web.  This is why it’s important to map out a solid remarketing strategy before pulling the trigger.

3. Tag Deals and Special Offers
Many local businesses provide deals and special offers.  If you provide these deals on specific pages, you can tag those visitors by deal or sale.  Then you can remarket to them with messaging specific to the page they visited.  You know they are interested in your company, and you know they were interested in your deal or offer, and you can use that combination to craft targeted ads to get them back to your website.

Remarketing to Visitors of Special Offers Pages:

Remarketing to visitors of a special offers page.

For example, maybe you are providing a package deal where customers can get 30% off your cleaning service if they buy a package of four cleanings.  If you know someone visited that special offer page, you can provide ads punching the offer to that specific audience as they browse the Display Network.  And again, you can use both image and text ads.

Quick Example: I have a client that recently launched a remarketing campaign based on a special offer they were running.  They had several new customers explain to them that the ads they saw around the web drew them back to the site. The only ads this client was running were remarketing ads, so the new sales were assisted by their use of remarketing in AdWords.  There you go, ROI from remarketing. :)

4. Tag Campaign Landing Pages
Similar to what I listed above, you can remarket to people that visited one of your sale pages.  For example, having a Labor Day Sale where you are providing 20% off everything in your store?  If prospective customers have visited that sale page, you can tag them and then remarket to them as they browse the web.

Remarketing to Visitors of Local Sale Pages:

Remarketing to visitors of a local sale page.

This can be extremely important, since many people will research products before pulling the trigger.  Let’s say they left your site, and visited YouTube to view video reviews of the products you sell.  Using remarketing, you can provide ads to this audience as they view videos on YouTube.  Again, this is a smart way to use remarketing, since your ads can punch your 20% off store-wide sale.  Since you are a local businesses, you can mention your location, a strong call to action, and possibly even an additional incentive to get them to the store.  The sky’s the limit with what you can do.

5. Tag Your Mobile Site
With mobile booming, many businesses are starting to provide a user experience tailored for mobile visitors.  For example, you can redirect visitors to a mobile version of your site, you can format your content on the fly for mobile devices, etc.  For local businesses, this can be extremely important since prospective customers might be on the go, quickly looking for phone numbers, directions, store hours, etc.  You can also provide mobile-formatted campaign landing pages for specific sales.

Remarketing to Mobile Visitors:

Remarketing to local mobile visitors.

You can absolutely tag mobile visitors just like desktop visitors.   Since they visited your mobile pages, you have some additional intelligence about them.  You know there’s a good chance they were on the go, that they probably didn’t view all of your product pages, that they might not have been able to research all of the specifics of each product, and they might not have viewed your videos.  Again, you know what your mobile pages provide, so you know what this audience could have missed.

Using remarketing, you can make sure you get your ads back in front of these people (on their desktop systems).  Targeted ads can include copy and visuals that punch the desktop functionality and content.  You might include messaging about your product videos, high resolution photos of products, customer reviews, etc.  Make sure they know they can find all of that rich content by revisiting your site.   And since everything is trackable, you can understand the impact of reaching this audience via remarketing.

6. Bonus: Tag Prospective Customers That Call You
Many local businesses would love to get their ads in front of people that call them directly, but that’s hard to achieve.  Here’s a workaround.  As they call, make sure you get their email address.  You can then send a follow up email thanking them for calling, and providing a special offer that they can access via a specific URL.  You can then tag those visitors as they view the special offer page.  Note, this page should be isolated from your other pages, since you want to make sure only prospective customers that call will be on the remarketing list.  If you do, then you can tailor specific ads for people that called, with the goal of turning them into paying customers.

Summary – Remarketing for Local
As I explained earlier, remarketing is not just for ecommerce retailers.  Local businesses can absolutely utilize remarketing campaigns as well.  I recommend mapping out a strong remarketing strategy, based on your specific business.  Understand your sales and offers, and get back in front of visitors that show interest.  If you are new to remarketing, start by tagging all visits to your site.  Then as you get more comfortable with how remarketing works, you can expand to more specific campaigns (like sale pages, contact pages, offers, etc.)

In closing, there’s a reason why remarketing has taken off.  It works.  Now it’s your time to leverage remarketing to drive more local customers.  Go ahead, set up your first campaign now.

GG

 

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

It’s Official: Google Wonder Wheel is Back, and It’s Called the Contextual Targeting Tool [Tutorial]

Contextual Targeting Tools in Google AdWords

Keyword research is a critical component to a solid and rounded SEO strategy.  When you break it down, you need to know what people are searching for in order to target the right terms.  Keyword research fuels your content generation strategy.  I use a wide range of tools when conducting keyword research and each has its own purpose.  In the past, one of my favorite free tools was Google’s Wonder Wheel.  You’ll notice the word “was” in the last sentence.  That’s because Google shut down the tool last year, while many search engine marketers screamed a collective “NO!!” while it was happening.

Many people in the industry used Wonder Wheel to visually find related keywords, which often helped expand your keyword research (down the right path based on data).  Wonder Wheel’s related terms were based on Google data (same session searches), so you knew the terms being displayed made sense.  Also, the visual nature of wonder wheel made it very interactive and easy to use, while returning a smart path for search engine marketers performing keyword research.

As you clicked a word, related terms appeared around that term. As you clicked related terms, it became the anchor word, with more terms appearing around it.  So on and so forth.  It was a phenomenal way to find related keywords in an interactive and visual way.  Needless to say, we all missed the Wonder Wheel.

An example of using Google Wonder Wheel to find related searches:
An Example of Using Google Wonder Wheel
Image from Tech Source

Alternatives, and Confirmation at the Google Agency Summit
I had the opportunity to attend the Google Agency Summit last week in New York City at Google Headquarters.  It was a great day packed with presentations covering the latest in Mobile, Video, Analytics, Social, etc.  One of the first presentations was by Jordan Rost covering some of the free research tools that Google provides for marketers.  As Jordan was covering Google Correlate, I asked if it could be used in a similar way to the old Google Wonder Wheel.  He shot me a quick look and said, “Not exactly, but I’m getting to the Wonder Wheel soon.”  Needless to say, I was excited to learn more!

The Contextual Targeting Tool
I do a lot of paid search work, so I’m extremely familiar with the Contextual Targeting Tool (CTT).  But it seems the CTT contains a surprise that many search marketers don’t know about.  Sure, it was often listed as an alternative to Wonder Wheel, but was it a solid replacement?  Does it provide the same great same session data we were getting from Wonder Wheel?

Well, Jordan explained that the Contextual Targeting Tool is run by the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel.  Note, I’m not referring to a similar type of engine.  It’s the exact engine that ran the Wonder Wheel!  That’s awesome news, and it was great to receive confirmation of this.

Sure, it’s not as visual as Wonder Wheel, but it can still yield the same results.  So, I’m going to walk you through a quick example of finding related terms by using the Contextual Targeting Tool below.  Again, the purpose of Wonder Wheel was to find related terms, based on actual Google data.  Let’s dig in.

An example of using the Contextual Targeting Tool in place of Wonder Wheel:
Let’s say you focused on computer security and you were just beginning keyword research.  You know several keywords and categories you want to target, but want to find related terms, based on Google’s wealth of data.  That’s a smart move, since you don’t want to leave keywords (and targeted traffic) on the table.

Let’s head over to the Contextual Targeting Tool to do some research.

1. Log into AdWords, click the Tools and Analysis tab, and then select Contextual Targeting Tool.  Note, the primary purpose of the tool is to help search engine marketers build tight themes of keywords for Display Network campaigns.  But, we’re going to use it as a replacement for the Wonder Wheel in this example.

Find the Contextual Targeting Tool in AdWords

2. In the text field at the top of the page, enter “computer security” without quotes.

Entering keywords in the Contextual Targeting Tool

The CTT will display several rows of data containing related keywords, based on the initial keyword you entered.  You will see the anchor keyword on the left and then five related keywords in each row.  This is where you can start to gain great ideas for related terms.  Again, these keyword grouping are being driven by the Wonder Wheel engine.

2. In our example, I see “internet security”.  Maybe I didn’t know people were searching for that keyword, in addition to “computer security”, and I want to use that term as our keyword anchor (to find more related searches).  When I enter that term in the text field, I now get more rows of data, based on that new keyword.

Finding related searches using the Contextual Targeting Tools

3. I now see “internet security software” in the list, and decide to use that as my anchor.  I enter that word in the text field and I now see more terms related to this specific keyword, including “security rating”.  Interesting… I wasn’t going to focus on that while building out content.  Let’s go down that path now…

Expanding related searches with the Contextual Targeting Tool

4. You can also click the plus sign (+) to expand a certain category, which will reveal additional rows with related keywords.

Exapnding ad groups in the Contextual Targeting Tool


Valuable and Addictive
You can see how this can become both valuable and addictive.  :)  Sure, this isn’t as visual as Wonder Wheel, and it takes a few extra steps, but the data is the same.  To me, running through this exercise is an essential component to performing thorough keyword research.

Let’s face it, you won’t know every keyword that people are searching for.  Actually, many people are too close to their own industries, products, and services to know how the average person is searching.  Using Wonder Wheel, I mean the Contextual Targeting Tool, you can find some gems that you might never uncover normally.  That’s why I love this functionality.

Summary – Long Live Wonder Wheel!
Again, this is the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel, and that’s confirmed by Google.  So, if you are performing keyword research, I highly recommend you check out the Contextual Targeting Tool for uncovering related searches.  Like I said earlier, don’t leave keywords and targeted traffic on the table.  Now, if Google would only bring back the slick visual UI of Wonder Wheel!  OK, I’m getting greedy now. :)

GG

Friday, April 6th, 2012

How To Target by Zip Code in Google AdWords

Location Targeting by Zip Code in Google AdWords

Google AdWords is a powerful platform for reaching targeted users on the web.  Google has done an incredible job with building a robust system for launching targeted ads on both the Search Network and the Display Network.  This enables you to reach prospective customers while they are searching on Google.com, or when they are visiting websites across the web.

Functionality-wise, Google keeps adding new features and options to its platform, which enables advertisers to precisely target the people they want to reach.  One of these features is location targeting.  Using location targeting, marketers can create specific campaigns targeting people in a certain location.  For example, you can target at the country level, the state level, the city level, you can use radius targeting, etc.  It’s a must-have piece of functionality for any local business.  And with 20% of all queries on Google related to location, you can imagine how important location targeting can be for reaching a targeted audience.

Zip Code Targeting in AdWords
Well, now there’s another level of location targeting you can add to your campaigns, which was released yesterday.  Marketers can now target their campaigns at the zip code level, which provides another level of precise location targeting.  You can now target up to 30,000 zip codes via the AdWords system.  Note, each campaign can target up to 1,000 zip codes, but there are 30,000 codes in the system.  Below, I’m going to cover how this works within the AdWords interface (UI).

Similar to other location targeting methods, you will access zip code targeting via the Settings Tab within your campaign.  Then you can begin to enter zip codes, and then add or exclude them for the campaign at hand.

Here’s how to add zip code targeting to your campaigns:

1. Access the Settings Tab for a Campaign
Campaign Settings Tab in AdWords

2. Add Location Targeting
Under the Locations and Languages section, click “Edit” under “Locations”.  This brings up a text field where you can start to enter locations to target.
Location Targeting Settings in AdWords

3. Enter Zip Codes
In the text field, you can begin to enter zip codes.  As you begin typing zip codes, the list will auto-populate with zip codes that match what you are entering.  You will then see options for “Add”, “Exclude” or “Nearby” next to specific zip codes.  If you click “Nearby”, then a map will appear showing the location that matches the zip code selected.  Excluding a zip code does just that.  Users in that zip code will not see your ads.
Zip Code Targeting in Google AdWords

4. Add Zip Codes and Save Your Work
As mentioned earlier, you can add up to 1,000 zip codes per campaign.  Once you have the zip codes selected and entered, make sure you click “Save” to add the zip codes to your campaign’s location targeting.
Save Location Targeting Settings in AdWords

You’re done!  Your ads will now target users in the zip codes you selected.

Summary – Targeting Zip Codes in AdWords
If you are a local business, or you want to target users in a specific location, then I think you’ll find zip code targeting extremely valuable.  There are times that you want to get extremely granular with the locations you target, and zip codes can help you achieve this.  You can add and exclude specific zip codes to create an advanced level of targeting for your campaigns.  If you are using location targeting, I highly recommend you take a look at the new zip code targeting option.  It’s available now in your AdWords campaign.

And by the way, I’m already using it. :)

GG