Archive for the ‘sem’ Category

Monday, May 12th, 2014

How To Remarket 70+ Ways Using Segments and Conditions in Google Analytics

Remarketing in Google Analytics Using Conditions and Segments

I know what you’re thinking. Can you really remarket more than 70 different ways using segments in Google Analytics?  Yes, you can!  Actually, when you combine the methods I’ll cover today, there are many more types of Remarketing lists you can build!  So the total number is much greater than 70.

My post today is meant to introduce you to segments in Google Analytics (GA), explain how you can use them to remarket to people who already visited your site, and provide important Remarketing tips along the way.  I hope once you read this post, you’re ready to kick off some Remarketing campaigns to drive more sales, leads, phone calls, etc.

What Are Segments in Google Analytics?
Many digital marketers know about Remarketing already.  That’s where you can reach people that already visited your website via advertising as they browse the web.  For example, if John visited Roku’s website, browsed various products, and left, then Roku could use Remarketing to advertise to John as he browses the Google Display Network (GDN).  The Google Display Network is a massive network of sites that run Google advertising, and includes Google-owned properties like YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, etc.  According to Google, the GDN reaches 90% of internet users worldwide.

Remarketing via The Google Display Network (GDN)

By the way, if you’ve ever visited a website and then saw ads from that website as you browsed the web, then you’ve been remarketed to.  As you can guess, this can be an incredibly powerful way to drive more sales, leads, etc.  It can also be extremely frustrating and/or shocking to users.  So be careful when crafting your Remarketing strategy!

When Remarketing first rolled out, you could only set up Remarketing lists in the AdWords interface.  That was ok, but didn’t provide a massive amount of flexibility.  That’s when Google enabled marketers to set up Remarketing lists via Google Analytics.  That opened up an incredible amount of opportunity to slice and dice visitors to create advanced-level Remarketing lists.  For example, you could create Remarketing lists based on users who visited a certain section of your website, or lists based on users completing a certain conversion goal, etc.  Needless to say, tying Google Analytics to Remarketing was an awesome addition.

Now, I started using Google Analytics Remarketing functionality immediately to help clients build advanced Remarketing lists, but I had a feeling that Google was going to make it even more powerful.  And they did.

Along Came Segments… Remarketing Options Galore
You might already be familiar with segments in Google Analytics, which was originally named “Advanced Segmentation”.  In July of 2013, Google released a new version in Google Analytics and simply called it “Segments”.  But don’t get fooled by the simpler name.  Segments enable marketers to slice and dice their users and traffic to view reporting at a granular level.  For example, I often set up a number of segments for clients, based on their specific goals. Doing so enables me to quickly view granular reporting by removing a lot of the noise residing in standard reports.

Using Segments to Create Remarketing Lists in Google Analytics

But starting in January of 2014, Google rolled out an update that enabled marketers to use those segments to create Remarketing lists.  Yes, now marketers had an incredible number of options available when creating Remarketing lists.  In addition, you could easily import segments you are already using! This means you could leverage the hard work you’ve already put in when creating segments in Google Analytics.

Although I thought I had a lot of flexibility in creating Remarketing lists leading up to that point, the ability to use segments opened the targeting flood gates.  I remember checking out the list of options when segments for Remarketing first launched, and I was blown away.

For example, using segments you could create Remarketing lists based on:

  • Demographics like age, gender, language, location, and more.
  • Technology options like operating system, browser, device category, mobile device model or branding, and more.
  • Behavior like the number of sessions per user, days since last session, transactions, and session duration.
  • “Date of First Session” where you could create lists based on the initial session date or a range (sessions that started between two dates).
  • Traffic Sources based on campaign, medium, source, or keyword.
  • Ecommerce options like transaction id, revenue, days to transaction, product purchased, or product category.
  • And you can combine any of these options to create even more advanced Remarketing lists.


Now, the options listed above are based on the major categories of segments in Google Analytics.  But you can also set Remarketing lists based on conditions.  Using conditions, you could leverage many of the dimensions or metrics available in Google Analytics to build advanced Remarketing lists.  Actually, there are so many options via “conditions” that I can’t even list them all here in this post.

For example, there are eight major categories of dimensions and metrics you could choose from, including Acquisition, Advertising, Behavior, Custom Variables, Ecommerce, Time, Users, and Other.  And each category has a number of dimensions or metrics you can select to help craft your Remarketing lists.

Using Conditions to Create Remarketing Lists in Google Analytics

Note, it can definitely be overwhelming to review the list of options when you first check this out.  Don’t worry, I provide some tips for getting started later in this post.  For now, just understand that you can use segments and conditions in Google Analytics to craft Remarketing lists based on a number of factors (or a combination of factors).  Basically, you have the power to remarket however you like.  And that’s awesome.

Examples of What You Can Do
Enough with the introduction.  Let’s get specific.  I’m sure you are wondering how segments in Google Analytics can be used in the real-world.  I’ll provide a few examples below of Remarketing lists you can build to get back in front of people who already visited your website.  Note, the lists you build should be based on your specific business and website.  I’m just covering a few options below so you can see the power of using segments to build Remarketing lists.

Example 1: Remarket to users who came from a specific referral path (page).
Imagine you knew that certain referring webpages drove a lot of high-quality traffic on a regular basis.  Based on the quality of traffic coming through those referring pages, you decide that you would love to remarket to those users as they browse the web (since you have a strong feel for the type of user they are based on the content at hand).

Using segments, you could create a Remarketing list based on the original referral path (i.e. the referring pages).  And once that list reaches 100 members, then you can start getting targeted ads in front of those users and driving them to your preferred landing page (whether that’s current content, campaign landing pages, etc.)

Using Referring Path to Create Remarketing Lists

And if you find several referring pages that target similar categories of content, then you could use Boolean operators to combine those pages from across different websites.  For example, {referring path A} AND {referring path B}.  For example, if three referring pages are all about Category A, then you could combine them to create a Remarketing list.  You can also use regular expressions to match certain criteria.  Yes, the sky’s the limit.

Using Boolean Operators to Create Advanced Remarketing Lists

Example 2: Reach a certain demographic that has visited your website.
Let’s say you just launched a new product targeting 18-25 year olds and wanted to remarket to users who already visited your website that fit into this category.  You know they showed some interest in your company and products already (since they already visited your site), so you want to reach them via display advertising as they browse the web.

Using segments, you could create a Remarketing list based on age using the Demographics category.  Simply click the checkbox next to the age category you want to target.

Creating Remarketing Lists Based on Demographics

Or to get even more targeted, you could combine age with gender to test various messaging or visuals in your ads.  Going even further, you could add location as another selection to target users based on age, gender, and geographic location (down to the city level if you wanted).

Combining Demographics to Create Advanced Remarketing Lists

Example 3: Target users of specific campaigns, ad groups, or keywords.
Let’s say you are already using AdWords to drive targeted users to your website.  Using segments in Google Analytics, you could build a Remarketing list based on specific campaigns, ad groups, or keywords.  For example, if you have an ad group targeting a specific category or product, then you could create a list containing the users that already searched Google and clicked through your ads related to that category.  It’s a great way to get back in front of a targeted audience.

Creating Remarketing Lists Based on Previous Campaigns

And by combining the targeting listed above with ecommerce conditions like the number of transactions or amount of revenue generated, you could create advanced Remarketing lists targeting very specific types of users.

Creating Remarketing Lists Based on Revenue

Example 4: Pages or Page Titles
If you have been building a lot of new content and want to reach those visitors as they browse the web, then you could create a Remarketing list based Pages or Page Titles.  For example, let’s say you have 25 blog posts about a certain category of content.  They rank very well, have built up a nice amount of referral traffic, etc.  You could build a Remarketing list by select a grouping of pages via urls or via page titles. Then you could reach those users as they browse the web and drive them to a targeted landing pages, knowing they were interested in a certain post (or group of posts) about a certain subject.

Creating Remarketing Lists Based on Page Titles

And you can combine those pages with conversion goals to add users to a list that completed some type of important action on the site.  For example, users that signed up for your email newsletter, users that triggered an event, downloaded a study, etc.

Creating Remarketing Lists Based on Page Titles and Conversion

Remarketing Tips

Based on the examples listed above, I hope you see the power in using segments and conditions to craft Remarketing lists.  But as I said earlier, it can quickly become overwhelming (especially for marketers new to Remarketing).  Below, I’ve listed several important tips to keep in mind while crafting your campaigns.

  1. Remarketing Lists Require 100 Members
    A list requires at least 100 members before you can start showing ads to users.  Keep this in mind when building lists to ensure you can reach that number.  If not, you will never get back in front of those users.
  2. Start Simple, Then Increase in Complexity
    Based on the 100 member requirement, start with simpler Remarketing lists and increase your targeting as you get more comfortable with Remarketing.  Don’t start with the most granular targeting possible, only to have a list of 3 people.
  3. Refine Your Tracking Snippet
    Google requires that you refine your Google Analytics tracking code in order take advantage of Remarketing.  Review the documentation to ensure you have the proper technical setup.
  4. Craft a Strategy First, and Your Lists Should Support Your Strategy
    Don’t create lists for the sake of creating lists. Always start by mapping out a strong Remarketing strategy before jumping into list creation. Your strategy should dictate your Remarketing lists, and not the other way around.  Spend time up front mapping out who you want to target, and why.  And once you have a solid plan mapped out, you can easily build your lists via Google Analytics segments and conditions.
  5. Use Display Advertising In Addition to Text Ads
    Remarketing enables you to use both image ads and text ads.  Definitely use both when crafting your campaigns.  There are a number of sizes and formats you can use.  I recommend hiring a designer to build your ads unless you have in-house staff that is capable of designing high-quality ads.  Use image ads where possible to grab the user’s attention and provide text ads as a backup when a site doesn’t support image ads.  You don’t have to choose one or the other.
  6. Measure Your Results! Don’t “Set It and Forget It”.
    Remarketing is advertising.  And advertising campaigns should have a goal.  Don’t simply set up Remarketing without knowing the intended action you want users to take.  Instead, make sure you set up conversion goals to track how those users convert.  Do not set up the campaign and let it run without analyzing the results.  Understand the ROI of the campaign.  That’s the only way you’ll know if it worked, if the campaign should keep running, and if you should base other campaigns on the original.


Summary – New and Powerful Ways to Remarket
After reading this post, I hope you see the power in using segments and conditions for creating Remarketing lists.  In my opinion, too many marketers keep going after new eyeballs and easily forget about the eyeballs that already showed an interest in their company, products, or services.  I believe that’s a mistake.  Instead, marketers can craft advanced Remarketing lists to get back in front of a targeted audience.  Doing so provides another chance at converting them.

Remember, a warm lead is always more powerful than a cold call.  Good luck.



Friday, April 19th, 2013

AdWords for Twitter – How To Set Up Keyword Targeting Campaigns in Twitter Ads [Tutorial]

Keyword Targeting in Twitter Ads

There was a big announcement on Wednesday in the advertising world.  Twitter finally launched a keyword targeting solution for Twitter Ads.  Yes, that means AdWords-like targeting for Twitter.  Many in the industry (including myself) have thought for a long time that Twitter should launch something like this… and it’s finally here.

As soon as I heard the news, I ran to my Twitter Advertising dashboard to jump in.  Based on setting up my first set of campaigns, I decided to write this post to detail how keyword targeting works in Twitter, how to set up a campaign, explain the targeting options you have, etc.  My hope is that after you read this post, you’ll be off and running with your first AdWords-like Twitter campaign. :)

What is Keyword Targeting in Twitter?
Let’s start with a quick introduction.  With this new release, advertisers can now promote certain tweets based on keywords that users are searching for on Twitter, based on keywords used in their tweets, or based on keywords found in tweets users recently engaged with.  When a match is made, your promoted tweet has an opportunity to win placement either in a user’s Twitter stream or in the search results (for when someone searches Twitter).

A Promoted Tweet looks like this:
Example of Promoted Tweet


Creating Your First Campaign
In your Twitter Ads dashboard, you should click “Create campaign” in the upper left-hand corner.

Create a keyword targeting campaign in Twitter Ads


Next, click the “Promote your Tweets” button to select a promoted tweets campaign.


Select campaign type in Twitter Ads


Once you select a promoted tweets campaign, you should click the button labeled “Target by keywords” to create a keyword targeting campaign.


Select keyword targeting in Twitter Ads


Your Options (Feed and Search)
When you decide to launch a keyword targeting campaign in Twitter, you’ll have to decide if you want to target the search results or users’ timelines.  I like that Twitter forces you to break out campaigns by type, since I would have recommended doing that anyway.   This will enable you to better analyze the effectiveness of your targeting (very similar to breaking out display network and search campaigns in AdWords).

Target search or users' timelines


Keyword Match Types
Next, you’ll need to address the keywords you will target for your campaign.  Similar to AdWords or Bing Ads, you have several options when targeting keywords.  You can choose unordered match (which is similar to broad match), phrase match, or exact match.  Unordered match will match your keywords, but those keywords can be in any order.  Phrase match requires the keywords be in the exact order you list, but other keywords can be at the beginning or end of the query.  And exact match requires a perfect match on the keywords you enter – without any other keywords in the query.  Exact match is the most restrictive of the match types and is only available when you target the search results.

Choosing keywords for your Twitter Ads campaign


Note, you can also import keywords as comma separated, or line separated (which is a nice option for importing keywords from other platforms).


Importing keywords in Twitter Ads


If you are familiar with paid search advertising, then you already know the power of using negatives.  Well, Twitter Ads enable you to include several types of negatives, including negative broad match, negative phrase match, and negative exact match.  Note, negatives are only available when you target the search results versus users’ timelines.  This makes sense, since most tweets don’t contain a few words (like a search query does).  When you use a negative, it tells Twitter to not show your ad when the negative appears in a search query.

Using negatives in keyword targeted campaigns in Twitter Ads


Your Ad, I Mean Tweet
When you use keyword targeting, you are setting up a “Promoted Tweets” campaign.  So, you aren’t setting up ads.  Instead, you are choosing a specific tweet to promote.  That’s important to understand or you can make the mistake of tweeting out an ad-sounding message during the campaign creation process.  When you set up your keyword targeting campaign, you can select a tweet to specifically promote from your stream.  You can also create a new tweet to promote, if that makes more sense for your campaign.  And yes, that makes the most sense, since you will want to tag your destination URL’s so your analytics package can accurately report your campaign statistics.

Selecting a tweet to promote in Twitter Ads


Personally, I think Twitter can learn something from Facebook here.  Using Facebook Ads, you can create an unpublished post to promote, and then use various targeting methods to reach your audience.  I would love to have that ability using Twitter Ads.  For example, an advertiser could create specific tweets to promote that wouldn’t necessarily show up in their stream (that all of their followers would see).  That would also enable you to split test your tweets more effectively.  Hey, it’s just an idea. :)
Targeting Options for Keyword Campaigns in Twitter Ads

Location Targeting
Once you choose your keywords, set negatives, and choose your promoted tweet, you can target your audience in a number of ways.  For example, you can use location targeting to limit your promoted tweets to users in a specific geographic region.  As of now, you can target users by country, state, and metro area.  For example, you can target the United States, New Jersey, or the Philadelphia Metro area.  Note, you cannot target at a smaller city or town level (at least yet).

Location Targeting in Twitter Ads

Target by Gender
In addition to using location targeting, you can also target by gender.  There are radio buttons for “any gender”, “male only”, and “female only”.  Twitter infers gender by the tweets shared by users, by their profiles, and by their follow graphs.  Using gender targeting, you can test response rates by gender (by splitting out campaigns by gender).  That’s exactly what I did when setting up my first keyword targeting campaign.

Gender Targeting in Twitter Ads

Device Targeting
Keyword targeting campaigns also enable you to target by device.  For example, you can target desktop and laptops, iOS, Android,  Blackberry, and “other mobile devices”.  You can use this targeting capability to split mobile and desktop campaigns, to target specific platforms, etc.

Device Targeting in Twitter Ads


Bid and Budget
At the bottom of the campaign setup screen are fields for campaign budget, daily budget, and maximum bid.  You can also use standard or accelerated delivery for your daily budget, which will either spend your budget as fast as possible starting at midnight, or spread that budget throughout the day.  When setting a maximum CPC, Twitter will supply a suggested bid range.

Setting a bid and budget in Twitter Ads

Once you have entered your keywords, chosen a tweet to promote, set up targeting, and set your bid and budget, then you are ready to rock and roll.  Simply click the “Create Campaign”  button at the bottom of the screen to launch your campaign!

Long Overdue, But Glad Keyword Targeting is Here
Although many in the industry believe this is long overdue, I’m thrilled that Twitter has finally released keyword targeting for Twitter Ads.  Over the past few days, I’ve been setting up various campaigns and testing performance, engagement, etc.  I plan to write more posts in the near future, based on the results of my initial campaigns.  So stay tuned.  In the meantime, I recommend jumping in yourself.  You can set up your first keyword targeting campaign today by following the instructions I included above.  Good luck.




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.




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.


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.  :)



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.



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.



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, 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, 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.


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.



Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools – How To Analyze the Search Impact of +1 Annotations

How To Use +1 Reporting in Google Webmaster Tools

Google+ has now been around for close to a year, it has grown significantly since it launched, and Google is integrating its new social network across products.  Based on what I just listed, many business owners are wondering how Google+ has benefited their companies.  Unfortunately, I think many of them wouldn’t know how to answer that question.

And what about the +1 button?  How do +1’s impact exposure, click-through, and trust?  Sure, we’ve seen those +1 buttons show up across the web, in the search results, in ads, etc., but do they make a difference?  And since Google is primarily a search company, how are +1’s affecting performance in the search results?  These are all good questions, and I hope to shed some light on the situation in this post.

Based on what I do for a living, I find myself analyzing data in Google Webmaster Tools a lot.  As I’ve mentioned many times before, Google Webmaster Tools is essential for webmasters.  It provides a wealth of data and functionality (directly from Google).  The problem is that I’m still finding many companies that aren’t aware of Google Webmaster Tools, the reports available, the functionality that Google provides, etc.  So, it’s not a shock to find that many webmasters are unaware of the +1 reports available in Google Webmaster Tools.  The reports provide a wealth of information about how +1’s are affecting the search results, click-through rate, etc.  If you want to know how +1’s are impacting your search performance, then the set of three reports in GWT is a great place to start.

+1 Annotations
Before I dive into the reports, let’s quickly cover what +1 annotations are.  When you search Google, you can +1 a search result in both the organic and paid listings (when logged in).  In addition, you can also visit a webpage and +1 that content via a +1 button embedded on the site (similar to a Facebook “Like” button).  You will need to log into G+ for the +1 to stick.  Those +1’s cast a vote for the webpage and are captured in your Google+ account.

+1 data is used as a ranking factor (yes, getting +1’s can help your content rank higher in Search), and it helps Google personalize the search results for users.  After you +1 a webpage, there’s a chance that your vote could be attached to a search result as a +1 annotation (when your social connections search Google).  The +1 annotation can help your social connections understand that you “recommend” that content.  By the way, your thumbnail and name can show up in the +1 annotation.

Here are some examples of +1 annotations in action:
+1 annotations in action

+1 annotation in organic search results

In addition, as you search Google, you might see +1 annotations based on the actions of your social connections.  For example, if your friend +1’d a product page on Zappos, then that search result could provide a personalized recommendation from your friend (in the form of a +1 annotation).  And yes, ads can show +1 annotations as well (via Social Extensions in AdWords).  Both paid search ads on and display ads on The Google Display Network can display +1 annotations.

So What’s the +1 Impact?
For those of you involved in Search Engine Marketing, you know that slight changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) can pay huge dividends click through rate-wise.  For example, if you take 5 search listings, and one has a +1 annotation, it gives that listing a big advantage visually.  Standing out like that can absolutely help drive clicks.  But can you prove that?  How can you know that +1 annotations are impacting the search results and your search performance?

That’s where +1 reporting in Google Webmaster Tools comes in handy.  You can view three +1 reports in Google Webmaster Tools that help marketers better understand how +1’s are impacting search performance.  Let’s take a look at the trio of reports currently available.

+1 Reports in Google Webmaster Tools
1. Search Impact Report
After logging into Google Webmaster Tools, you can click the “Traffic” tab, which will then reveal the “+1 Reports” link.  The first report is “Search Impact” and will display the number of +1 annotated impressions, +1 annotated clicks, and the search impact of +1 annotations (by showing the click through rate of listings with and without +1 annotations).

The Search Impact Report in +1 Reporting

What this essentially shows you are the pages receiving annotated impressions, how many clicks those pages are getting (with and without +1 annotations), and then the percentage of click through rate change with the +1 annotation.

For example, here’s a page that shows an 11% click through rate without the +1 annotation and a 27% click through rate with the +1 annotation.  Needless to say, that’s a big difference in CTR.

Example of click through rate impact of +1 annotations

2. Activity Report
The second report in the list is the “Activity Report”.  This will show you new +1’s to your site during the timeframe selected (from your own site and from outside your site).  For example, you can view the number of +1’s from your own buttons on your site versus +1’s from the search results or on ads.  You can also click a toggle button to reveal all +1’s to the site in aggregate.  To clarify, the columns contain information about +1’s from your site (via the +1 button), as well as +1’s form other sites.  “Other sites” would be +1’s from the search results or via ads.  You can also click a specific URL to drill into results just for that piece of content.

The Activity Report in +1 Reporting

3. Audience Report
The third report in the list is the “Audience Report”, which displays information about users +1’ing your content.  There’s a trending graph of the number of users that have +1’d your content, along with graphs and charts for gender and age.  There’s also a button at the top of the report which will show you the location of those users (by country).

The Audience Report in +1 Reporting

Yes, You Might Be Surprised
Once you analyze the +1 reporting, you might be surprised with what you find.  I have the ability to analyze a wide range of websites across industries, and the data isn’t always what you think it will be.  For example, you would think that +1 annotations would yield higher click through rates across the board, but that’s not the case.  For some sites, you will see higher click through rates without +1 annotations.

There are several reasons that could be happening, and it really depends on the site at hand.  For example, user intent, the competition in the search engine results pages, etc.  Some sites I manage are seeing a big increase in CTR based on +1 annotations, while others show a slight decrease for +1 annotations.  Since every site is unique, I highly recommend checking your own reporting today to see the impact.

Authorship Markup Could Skew Results
Before ending this post, I wanted to bring up one point about authorship markup.  Using authorship markup (rel=author), your search listings can show up with author details, including a thumbnail image of the author in question.  Here’s a screenshot of one of my listings:

Author Details in the SERPs

Needless to say, this can have a big impact on click through rate in the search results.  When analyzing +1 reports for sites using authorship markup, I’ve seen less than stellar search impact from +1 annotations.  That very well could be occurring since most of their listings show up with author details already.  So, a SERP jacked up with author details could be skewing the results.  For example, even if the listings don’t have +1 annotations, they still have author details.  Users searching Google might click through based on seeing the listing with author details, which would be increasing the click through rate of non +1 annotated search results.  It’s worth mentioning this in case your own +1 data doesn’t show strong results.

Summary – Analyze your +1 Reporting
If you’re like many webmasters, you want to know how certain changes impact the search results, click through rate, and traffic.  With the launch and growth of Google+, it’s important to know how +1’s are impacting your business.  I highly recommend logging into Google Webmaster Tools today and analyzing the +1 reports.  You might find that +1 annotations are providing a big lift in click through rate.  And if they are, you should be looking to gain more of them.  :)