Live from #SMX East: Best Practices With AdWords

By Lindsay Keller | Sep 16, 2011
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As Google continues it’s fast pace of updates and enhancements to AdWords, it means that paid search marketers need to work just as hard to keep up. Last year’s best practices are being trumped with newer, more powerful best practices. In this session at #SMX East, Andrew Goodman, George Michie, Brad Geddes, and Frederick Valleys discussed the best practices for incorporating the most important new features, ad formats, targeting capabilities and campaign automation features that will keep your campaigns moving forward and ahead of your toughest competitors.

Andrew Goodman started off the session by discussing what has changed in paid search:

1. Quality Score & Auction

  • AdRank = Bid x QS
  • Quality Score history does matter (for the keyword and the relationship that the keyword has with the ad its showing)
  • Quality Score is calculated on the fly for every query
  • 7 is an aggregate score for the keyword, it’s not the same in every instance
  • QS determines both eligibility and position
  • The QS is different from the display network
  • Landing page and website quality can have an effect on relevancy and the CTR, which directly affects the Quality Score.
  • 3/10 (useful stat?) – you can make money with a low quality score so don’t pause the keyword.
  • A quality score of 7 is normal
  • 3s are useful information, but no need to panic!
  • Account best practices come first, use QS as feedback
  • Use QS to understand keyword intent
  • Ads with the highest CTR (that will bump up your QS) are not always the ones that convert the best. Going on CTR alone is a big mistake.

2. Remarketing

  • Use Google Audiences as a way to reach out to someone who has already left your site
  • Interest Categories – behavioral targeting (will use Google + and uses Facebook categories) made possible by Google acquiring DoubleClick.

3. Bid Simulator Tool

  • Google suggests what you should be paying for a keyword to maximize traffic, but sometimes if you bid what Google suggests you may get too many untargeted clicks. The increase in traffic may actually result in a loss of money if conversions do not positively correlate with the traffic volume.

4. AdWords Campaign Experiments

  • You may test increased bids and test the results – may see a higher CTR but not higher conversions

George Michie discussed some best practice of Product Listing Ads & Extensions and why marketers should use them.

  1. Product Listing Ads  are shopping results on the side that show an image of the product (tend to show up when someone searches for something pretty specific). These are now part of AdWords where you can pay per click as opposed to CPA (as it was in November of last year).
  • You can get two ads on the page as separate auctions with both the text ad and the product listing ad showing.
  • Shopping results are now being showed in sponsored listings and not in the organic listings (the importance of them are tremendous, driving great results)
  • Recommend separate AdGroups for each product category
  • Use one ad per product, which will be chosen by Google from the category based on user search. Having an AdGroup for each product is a ton of additional work for probably little results because Google is pretty good at serving the right product based on the search.
  • Granular tracking is problematic, but help is on the way
  • Use promotional copy in PLA’s if you can
  • Hand write the titles as opposed to using the same product name as everyone else so you stand out on the page.
  • Set initial bids higher than AdWords bids for product specific keywords to gain traction
  • Use negatives
  • Use all the product targeting capabilities Google offers
  • Do PLA’s cannibalize traffic from AdWords? – Apparently not, but look at your own data. CTR on product level AdWords ads did not drop when he tested PLA’s.
  • Do PLA’s drive the same quality traffic as text ads? – On balance, yes. Conversion rate is slightly higher, but interestingly the AOV is lower.
  • Do PLA’s drive the same quantity of traffic as competing text ads? – Relative position matters, but in general PLA’s drive about half the volume as text ads.

2. Product Extensions – little plus boxes that show up like PLA’s, but only if you hit the plus box.

  • Product Extensions improve CTRs and QS but users rarely ever click on the plus box. When they do expand the box, people usually click on the main link anyways.
  • These are compliments, not replacements to text ads (last five weeks seen a major increase in popularity).

Brad Geddes approached the topic differently by discussing the top 11 AdWords mistakes:

  1. Not using extensions (use at least one).
  2. Poor match type selection – use modified broad match as opposed to using broad match (what is not really similar to you may be considered similar to Google).
  3. Not utilizing negative keywords – negatives also have match types (take control) – don’t always use free as a negative (product may not be free but shipping may be or someone could search for a free white paper )
  4. Poor AdGroup organization – granular AdGroup organization is worth the time invested!
  5. Sending traffic to the homepage – took much going on, the user shouldn’t have to make another search once they land on the page. Use product pages and category pages.
  6. Understand Quality Score – AdRank = Keyword QS x Max CPC. Remember, you can show up higher than someone who is bidding more than you!
  7. Ego Bidding – Don’t always go for position 1 because if you are losing money for every click you get then you are not doing any good.
  8. Always test everything – ad copy, display vs. search, landing pages etc.
  9. Misusing the content network – you can spend a lot of money quickly in the content network. Don’t look at conversion rates, use smart pricing (what is really important is CPA). If your ad is displayed on a blog, Google will charge you less because there is less of a chance to convert, so your cost per conversion is much less. CTR in the content network will always be really low and conversion rate is always low depending on where your ad is shown, so look at the cost per conversion to see if you are being profitable and acquiring conversions at a low cost.
  10. Set & measure goals.
  11. Getting an AdWords Education!

Frederick Valleys closed the presentation with discussing a few more best practices that can be used to improve the success of your AdWords Account. A useful tip is that you can have the same keywords in different campaigns and target them to different cities in order to bid differently and further optimize each campaign to fit that particular geographic area. He also mentioned that one of the best ways to improve your QS is to make tighter AdGroups! Run Search Query Reports to determine what searches are triggering your ads. You may want split into different AdGroups if you are finding that the searches are not very similar.

Conversion Optimization Ad Rotation is a new tool that should be turned on to optimize your AdWords account and increase your ROI. This tool will serve the ad in your AdGroup more often that has a better combination of CTR and conversions, instead of just serving ads based on CTR. Just because an ad has a high CTR does not mean that it is converting well and you want the ad that is making you the most money showing more often.

Also, Google just added a new column to AdWords 2 weeks ago that reveals the estimated top of page bid. Utilize this new information to see if it helps you better manage your AdWords account. Also, use the Bid Simulator with caution. Not every click costs you the same amount of money. If your incremental CPC is more than the profit you would make then you don’t want to bid higher and stay at position two. Remember, position one is not always the most profitable! Lastly, if you have a keyword with a bad historical QS, put it in its own AdGroup to see quicker results in QS improvement. But remember, Quality Score should not be your goal, conversions should be!

Do you have any tips and tricks to share?

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