Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Putting Google Experiments to the Test

Analytics

I always found AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) to be a slightly cumbersome way to test different variables with online advertising campaigns. Reporting, particularly at the keyword level, took some effort, and the setup of the test itself could be time-consuming. So, when Google announced it was going to replace ACE with “campaign drafts and experiments,” I was rather giddy. Now that I’ve had some time to work with campaign drafts and experiments (aka Google experiments) option, I urge you to try it.

With experiments, Google allows advertisers to create a draft campaign (a replica) of a real campaign they are running. By doing so, the advertiser can make adjustments to advertising campaigns in a number of ways, such as changing keyword bids, ad group setup, ad copy, ad scheduling, and geo-targeting.

And how can an advertiser run the 50/50 split properly? Well, Google now asks advertisers how much traffic (budget) they want to spend on the new experiment campaign and how much they want to spend on the control (current) campaign. And with Google experiments, if an advertiser wants to run a test with 90 percent of traffic being piped through the control and 10 percent through the test, they can do so. Having the option to test traffic in this manner gives advertisers the capability to test even if they might be wary to spend more on a true 50/50 test.

Unfortunately (there’s always an unfortunately, amirite?) there are limits to what an advertiser can test, but those limits are not nearly the same as with ACE. For instance:

  • Some reporting isn’t available such as ad scheduling, auction insights, display placement reports.
  • The Dimensions tab is not available. Dimensions reports on search terms, by-day results, paid versus organic, and other deep-dive report.
  • Some automated bid strategies (e.g., “target search page location,” “target outranking share,” and “target return on ad spend) and ad customizers (e.g., “target campaign,” “target ad group”) are not available, either.

But, how many advertisers are looking to test these settings? Not many (other than me, that is). Rather, most advertisers will be using experiments for testing many of the basic questions, such as:

  • What messaging performs best in my ad copy?
  • Do increased keyword bids improve conversion rates?
  • What landing page leads to higher conversion rates?

For those with more advanced tests in mind, advertisers are able to dive deep into each campaign and try testing a number of variables, such as:

  • Excluding a search partner (e.g., another engine powered by Google, such as Ask.com) from the test campaign and keeping a search partner in the control campaign.
  • Targeting a city/state differently in the test campaign then in the control campaign.
  • Bidding differently on gender, age, device, or income.
  • Testing a different ad schedule.

The best new feature of the experiments is easier reporting. Instead of pulling segments, subtracting test totals from the overall totals, or having to run a crazy formula to confirm all of the test keywords were pulled correctly, Google breaks out campaign experiment results simply as “Experiment” and “Original” in the experiments tab. The totals are easy to see and couldn’t be easier to pull. Even better, these numbers are reported on in Analytics! The Analytics feature wasn’t possible through ACE.

After an advertiser does the tedious work of building out an account’s keywords, ad copy, and extensions, experiments allows the advertiser to test, and testing is the fun part of the job. Experiments allows us to get actionable data that can lead to better decision-making, not just for display or paid search, but in some cases across multiple tactics. Those results may give senior marketers another view of their marketing campaign effectiveness and rethink their approaches.

Knowing What to Look for to Improve Digital Marketing in Retail

Analytics Retail Analytics Spotlights

The-Marketing-ScopeYou’ve created a new digital marketing campaign for one of your products, complete with several ads that are driving traffic to a spiffy new landing page. You need a strong conversion rate to boost this quarter’s sales.

Is it working? How can you tell? If it’s not performing as well as you hoped, do you know what elements to tweak? And since mobile devices are now driving more than half of online searches, what is the on-page experience that visitors encounter when they hit your new landing page? Do you need to make different changes for your mobile visitors than people viewing on desktop computers?

In the fast-paced, quarter-to-quarter world of retail, this is a very real scenario. Eric Vidal, Editor & Chief Content Officer of The Marketing Scope, joined me to talk about “Why Digital Marketing Analytics Is Important for Retail Sales.” This video is part of the “Marketing Mash” series produced by Vidal.

We talked about how to use analytics to spot when something is going right, or maybe when something is going wrong. Once you understand what to look for and how to use that information, you can take action to optimize your campaigns from end to end.

Understanding How Retailers Can Use Analytics to Optimize Their Digital Marketing

Analytics Retail Analytics Spotlights

The-Marketing-ScopeIn 2016, global e-commerce sales are expected to eclipse $1.1 trillion, according to leading consulting firm A.T. Kearney, with annual growth of 15%-20%. When the money is that big, you can bet that competition for wallet share in digital marketing will be stiff.

A competitive advertising space can drive up costs rapidly, so retailers need to make sure they are using analytics fully to optimize their digital marketing campaigns. When you dive into any analytics package, even free ones such as Google Analytics, the options can get complicated and overwhelming quickly. However, understanding the basic key performance indicators (KPIs) and using them correctly can help you optimize your website and improve conversions, which in turn boosts your digital marketing ROI.

I sat down with Eric Vidal, Editor & Chief Content Officer of The Marketing Scope, to discuss “Why Digital Marketing Analytics Is Important for Retail Sales.” This video is part of the “Marketing Mash” series produced by Vidal. We talked about how to understand what you’re looking at when you open your analytics package then, more importantly, how to use the data to optimize your website and drive more conversions from your digital ads.

Best Practices in Applying Analytics to Digital Marketing Campaigns for Retail

Analytics Retail Analytics Spotlights

The-Marketing-ScopeThe retail industry depends heavily on digital marketing, and consequently, that makes online advertising very competitive. The online marketplace brings additional challenges that don’t exist in the brick-and-mortar world. Products, prices and even competitors change rapidly, sometimes by the minute.

To have any hope of achieving a positive return on advertising expenditures, online retailers must analyze what is working and what isn’t. While most digital marketers have an analytics program, such as Google Analytics, in place, more than half of them aren’t using analytics effectively.

These issues were the focus of a conversation I had with Eric Vidal, an Editor & Chief Content Officer, on this episode of “Marketing Mash,” a video series produced by The Marketing Scope. Watch the video, “Why Digital Marketing Analytics Is Important for Retail Sales,” to learn some best practices in applying analytics to digital marketing campaigns.

Using Analytics to Improve Digital Marketing Performance

Analytics Spotlights

TargetMarketingMany digital advertisers use Google AdWords to manage their online campaigns. While that is an excellent starting point – and one that we believe helps clients optimize campaigns – it has limited use beyond telling you how someone arrived at your website.

What happens after they arrive? What pages do they visit? How long do they linger and read or watch your content? Where do they get lost or abandon your site?

Those are the types of valuable insights you can gain from an analytics application like Google Analytics. I cover this in “How to Use Analytics to Improve the Performance of Your Digital Marketing Campaigns,” which originally appeared on Target Marketing (May 21, 2015).

If you can learn what works to find and convert prospects, you can optimize your campaigns to find more of them and stop spending money on people who aren’t your target audience.

Prepping for the Digital Advertising Race

Analytics

RED INDY CAR 3For my last couple of posts, I’ve drawn parallels between the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500 – and the current state of digital advertising because recent changes to Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) have made competing for space a more rigorous contest. And in the last installment, I advised digital marketers to keep in mind there is more than one competitor on the track.

Sure, Google has the pole position. But other racers, such as Bing or YouTube and social-media contestants Facebook and Instagram, also are worth evaluating. These online venues can still yield excellent results. So, we walked through the garage and kicked a few tires.

OK. Some of the alternative vehicles look pretty slick. But admiring their gleaming chassis in the garage isn’t the same as jumping behind the wheel, gunning the engine and burning rubber on the track.

So, here are a few pointers for running the race…

Different Vehicle, Same Race

Just because you’re slipping into a new cockpit doesn’t mean your overall objective has changed. You want to finish in a competitive position – generating as many quality clicks as possible. To cross that finish line, you need to be comfortable in your new seat, knowing what your vehicle can and can’t handle. In other words, know what to expect in terms of performance. Don’t figuratively slam the gas pedal before you have had a few test laps in your new ride.

In marketing speak, this means you should move to new vehicles incrementally. If you want to explore other channels, pick one for your experimentation, rather than blanketing Bing and YouTube and Instagram and Facebook all at once. The digital world gives you hard data very rapidly, so you can conduct a test and know within days or weeks if it works for you.

Are Car & Driver Up to Specs?

No one just rolls up on race day and enters the Indy 500 field. Racing teams must qualify for the event, demonstrating that their cars and drivers are up to the challenge. In marketing terms, when you think about where to extend your digital advertising, which new channels to try, always consider your goals and your target market. As noted in earlier posts, your product may or may not play well on Instagram, and your target may or may not be more likely to be a Bing user.

One Car Can Run Two Races at the Same Time

My Indy 500 analogy finally has run out of gas. Because digital advertising is not limited by the constraints of the physical world. We’ve seen many clients who set up Bing ad accounts and put 10-20% of their budget in them, then let them run on auto-pilot while tending to the 80-90% of their campaigns in Google. As they make refinements in their Google AdWords campaigns, they don’t go back and make the same adjustments in Bing. But Bing has made it very easy to import your Google campaigns and keywords directly into Bing. So, by carefully choosing your channels and managing your digital advertising strategy, you can effectively drive one vehicle and have it compete simultaneously in two races.

That’s a feat not even the best Indy 500 driver can accomplish.

Vetting Competitors in the Digital Advertising Race

Analytics

RED INDY STRAIGHTAWAY shutterstock_141403861In my last post, I drew parallels between the “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500 – and the current state of digital advertising because recent changes to Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP) have made competing for space a more rigorous contest. And when faced with picking a winning strategy for this daunting challenge, digital marketers would be wise to remember there is more than one competitor on the track.

Yes, Google has earned the pole position. But it’s worthwhile considering other racers, such as Bing or YouTube and social-media contestants Facebook and Instagram. These online venues can still yield excellent results. By placing figurative bets on multiple vehicles, you can determine whether keeping all your money riding on Google is the most optimal strategy. Perhaps you should spread your digital advertising wagers across several “cars” in the race, which could yield a more dominant position in the field.

So, let’s kick a few tires…

Bing customers tend to be more educated and affluent. It’s the default search engine on Windows 10 devices, including the popular Microsoft Surface laptop/tablet hybrid, which are becoming standard issue in corporate suites. Bing’s share of the search market, while still much smaller than Google, is growing. It’s worth consideration, especially if the demographics of your target market align with Bing users, which are skewing toward businesses large and small.

If you want more eyeballs and increased branding at a relatively low cost, then YouTube is a solid option. After all, it is the second-largest search engine on the internet.

Depending on your product, Instagram might be a good option, too. Particularly for business-to-consumer marketers who have visually appealing products, we are seeing some strong results on Instagram. Flowers, landscape designers, foodies – these are strong plays on Instagram. However, if you are a B2B industrial machine supplier, Instagram is probably not the best venue for a share of your marketing budget.

Another avenue to explore down is remarketing campaigns on Facebook. Remarketing, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the ability to show an ad to someone who has previously visited your website or Facebook page. Since we know most consumers begin their purchasing decision process online, remarketing is an excellent way to reconnect with people who have already shown some interest in your company or product.

Facebook’s targeting options have improved dramatically, so you have many options for reaching people: standard demographics, of course, as well as tight geographic areas, interests, pages they have visited and liked. Especially useful to many advertisers are “lookalike” options – the ability to target people who share similar characteristics to a group you understand already, such as your current customer base.

Now that you’ve vetted the racers, it’s time to determine the best approach to race day. More on that topic in my next post.