Why You Might Be Wasting Money on Bid Modifiers

Why You Might Be Wasting Money on Bid Modifiers

Search

With the holiday shopping season here, it’s time to re-examine how you’re using bid modifiers in your paid search campaigns. You might be wasting your budget by using too many modifiers.

Google continues to introduce more refined targeting features such as gender, income level, audience targeting, and look-alike audiences. Soon you’ll have in-market audiences. Having more targeting options for your campaigns is good. When businesses serve up more relevant ads, everyone wins: the consumer, the advertiser, and Google.

But here’s the problem: it’s too easy for advertisers to pile on the bid modifiers to their campaigns. Just because you can target by device, location, gender, age, and time of day (to cite just a few modifiers) it doesn’t mean you should.

Let’s say you are a brick-and-mortar retailer advertising a personal care product to women of a certain age. Your research shows that your target age range is likely to respond favorably. You launch your campaign and start achieving results. Then you decide that maybe, just maybe, you’ll earn more if you target a higher income bracket at a certain time of day. Then you discover that your company is opening a new store in Orlando, and so you modify your bid to target the location. Well, the more you refine your bid, the more your campaign is going to cost.

Here’s what happens when you pile on too many modifiers:

  • You can waste money. Your costs per click increase with each modifier. The next thing you know, you’re overspending because you’re trying to reach a highly targeted audience when advertising to a more broadly defined set of consumers might have achieved as good or better a result for less money.
  • You dilute your ability to measure performance. You might see improvement in a campaign. But with 10 different bid modifiers in place, how do you know which one is moving the needle?

This issue has persisted for years. In 2013, Erin Sagin of Business2Community warned about using too many modifiers as part of Google’s Enhanced Campaign feature:

In reality, this feature can result in vast overbidding. Here’s the catch—if a search fits the criteria for multiple bid modifiers, all adjustments are “stacked” on the base bid. For example, imagine that a keyword’s base bid is $1 and you’ve set your device modifier to increase bids by 100% on smartphone searches, your geographic modifier to increase bids by 50% for searchers located in Florida, and your time of day modifier to raise bids by 100% from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. If someone in Florida searches this keyword on their phone at 9 p.m., the bid will automatically be bumped to $6.

But advertisers continue to struggle with overbidding, one reason being that they just aren’t aware of the problem or they cannot resist the lure of experimenting with more targeted advertising as AdWords introduces new features.

To guard against the temptation of piling on with too many modifiers, KeywordFirst suggests:

  • Define your marketing strategy and stick to it. A sound strategy encourages a disciplined spend. Your keyword bids should reflect your agreed-upon product development and rollout campaign. Don’t create keyword bids on the fly. But if your marketing strategy changes, then re-examine your keyword strategy and modify accordingly.
  • Limit your bid modifiers. Apply only a few at a time. If you want to experiment with another modifier, consider dropping one. Limiting your modifiers helps you isolate which ones are performing the best.
  • Use negative modifiers instead of positive modifiers. Instead of adding on to your bid to reach an audience, add negative bids to audiences you don’t want to reach. It sounds so simple, but not enough advertisers use this tactic. Doing so makes for a more efficient spend.

Bottom line: be disciplined and strategic about your bid modifiers. Remember the adage: just because you can doesn’t mean you should. For more insight into digital advertising, contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help.

Advertiser Q&A: Local Services by Google

Advertiser Q&A: Local Services by Google

Marketing

In 2015, Google began testing Home Service Ads, a digital advertising platform aimed at providers of on-location services such as plumbing, heating, and painting. The program is live in 17 U.S. cities. Google has now rebranded Home Service Ads as Local Services by Google and will expand it to 30 cities by the end of 2017.

The idea behind Local Services is to boost the presence of service providers with a dedicated advertising platform beyond paid search. As more businesses have gotten onboard with Local Services (under its old name), I’ve fielded many questions from clients and colleague in the industry who want to learn more about the platform. In the following Q&A, I’ve answered some of the more common ones. Check it out – especially if you provide an on-location service.

What exactly is Local Services by Google?

Local Services is a platform dedicated to providers of on-location services such as plumbing. Businesses that participate in the program have their ads appear above search results (even paid search results). For example, a Google search for “Plumbers in Los Angeles” reveals the following three sponsored placements for Ninja Plumber, United Plumbing Heating Air & Electric LA, and Expert Plumbing & Roofer – each of which is a Local Services ad:

Notice how the Local Services ads appear above paid search results for rooterhero.com, allsuburbanplumbing.com, and teamrooter.com. They also appear above the 3-pack results and organic listings.

Notice also the “Google Guaranteed” seal in each inset box. As Google notes, “Google Guaranteed” means that providers are pre-screened and meet relevant insurance and licensing requirements. When users book an eligible Local Services provider on Google, they are protected by the guarantee.

Now look at the rich level of detail that a user finds when clicking on one of the Local Services ads (for Ninja Plumber) – everything from customer reviews to information about services provided and location data:

A Local Services ad is more than a banner ad. It’s a mini website with clickable information to encourage a customer to do business with the provider. The content is drawn from a provider’s Google My Business page.

What is new and different about Local Services Ads?

The two most crucial content attributes of Local Services ads are the Google Guarantee and the prominence of customer reviews.

As noted, the Google Guarantee literally gives the provider Google’s stamp of approval. Per Google, here is what a Google Guarantee covers:

  • “If you’re not satisfied with the work quality, we’ll cover claims up to the job invoice amount, with a lifetime cap of $2,000. Your job must be booked through Home Services. Add-on or future projects, damages to property, dissatisfaction with price or provider responsiveness, and cancellations aren’t covered.
  • Claims must be submitted within 30 days of the job completion date.
  • You can identify an eligible pro because they have the Google guaranteed symbol by their name and on their profile page.”

Meanwhile, the prominently placed customer reviews are intended to give users more confidence in their choice of a provider. In featuring a Local Services ad, Google gives preference to providers that have the highest volume of reviews. So it behooves providers to encourage their customers to review them.

What is the compensation model?

The compensation model is pay per lead, meaning that the advertiser pay only for leads resulting from the ad as opposed to clicks. Google charges $25-$30 per lead.

Is a Local Services ad a substitute for paid search?

No. Local Services ads complement paid search. But your paid search strategy may change depending on how effectively your Local Services ad is.

Local Services ads are very similar to Google Shopping ads for retail advertisers, the difference being that Local Services ads are for services, not physical products.

For retail advertisers, Shopping ads complement paid search (and vice versa) by doing a few things:

  • The ad takes up more space on the search results page.
  • The ad acts like a display branding ad by placing your brand name in multiple spots on the search results page, thereby making you more legitimate.
  • The ad drives orders.

Local Services ads act in the same manner by:

  • Placing your brand in more than one spot.
  • Boosting your legitimacy.
  • Allowing users to find and hire you via multiple tactics.

Local Services ads also result in your brand taking up more space in the search results page, thereby driving your competitors below the fold.

How do I participate in Local Services Ads?

You’ll need to undergo an extensive security and verification check that includes submitting background checks on your employees to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Note that the program is restricted to certain markets but is growing rapidly. To learn more, check out this Google page.

From our experience working with clients, you’ll want to prepare yourself by making sure your Google My Business page is up to date and that you are getting a steady stream of customer reviews.

What’s in it for me to advertise with Local Services Ads?

Local Services ads are especially appealing if your business has received a high volume of favorable customer reviews and your Google My Business Listings are rich with useful content. In a sense, a Local Services ad complements your website if the cost of the program is right for you.

The lead-based compensation model is especially appealing if your cost per lead is higher than $25-$30 because Google charges $25-$30 per lead delivered.

What should I do next?

  • Closely examine your cost per lead to determine whether the compensation model is worthwhile.
  • Audit your Google My Business page and make sure all its content and data are accurate and complete. Remember, your GMB page feeds your Local Services ad.
  • Make sure you are actively encouraging your customers to review you.
  • Be ready for an onboarding process, which can take weeks to complete. You may need outside help to complete the process.
  • Monitor your paid search activity. If you see a decline in click and impression volume, your Local Services ad might be the reason. Determine whether your market is included in Local Services ads by reaching out to Google (or doing a search on your own). Then check to see if the decline in click and impression volume is due to a sudden drop in average position, which could be a sign of three factors:
    • Local Services ads are in your market.
    • Competition is heating up among established companies in your market, especially during the October-January months.
    • A new entrant to your market is driving up the level of competition.

The Local Services ads end up limiting the number of paid search ads that are served — so your own Local Services ad could be the cause of the drop in click/impression activity. But keep in mind that Google will never show just a single Local Services ad to a user; rather, Google will show all available. So, it isn’t necessarily your own Local Services ad that causes the drop but rather the introduction of the new ad type as a whole.

If you see a drop in click and impression volume for paid search, the other option available to help increase paid search volume (impressions/clicks) is to improve your average position so that you show in the top 2-3 spots. But, an advertiser is going to have to be willing to accept higher average CPCs and spend more to get the same amount of volume as pre-Local Services launch.

Once you set up a Local Services ad, you can basically take a set-and-forget-it approach. You don’t need to worry about doing bid adjustments or other tactical tweaks.

If you need assistance figuring out whether Local Services ads are right for you, contact KeywordFirst. We’re happy to help. We can provide both counsel and management.

Lead image source: https://pixabay.com/en/building-glazurkarz-ceramic-tiles-1080597/

 

Google Delivers an October Surprise to Advertisers

Google Delivers an October Surprise to Advertisers

Marketing

Managing your AdWords budget has gotten a lot more complicated.

Recently, Google announced that AdWords campaigns can spend as much as twice their average daily budget – a steep increase from when Google allotted itself only a 20-percent leeway to increase a campaign’s budget.

As a result, as Google noted, “On days with lots of high quality traffic, your costs could be up to 2 times your daily budget. This spending is balanced by days when your spend is below your daily budget.”

That’s right: Google has empowered itself to exceed your allotted AdWords budget by twice the amount you had planned. So, let’s say your campaign budget is $300 a day for the month. Conceivably, during spikes in search volume, Google could lift the ceiling on your spend to $600.

Google assured its customers that “you won’t be charged more than your monthly charging limit: the average number of days in a month (30.4) multiplied by your average daily budget.”

But even with Google’s assurance that monthly charging limits would not be exceeded, customers were angry.  Here are three reasons why:

  • Large advertisers running hundreds or thousands of campaigns rely on the ability to constantly adjust their keyword spends daily depending on spikes or drops in demand. They might lower their budgets when spikes in demand occur to protect themselves from their budgets skyrocketing. Now along comes Google disrupting their finely calibrated campaigns and potentially doing the exact opposite of what they intend.
  • Businesses running shorter (less than 30 day) campaigns, such as event-based campaigns, could have their budgets blown within the first few days of their spend. To be sure, Google would cap their budgets, but a spike in demand could cause these customers to essentially end their campaigns sooner than planned if Google were to increase their spend by as much as twice the amount budgeted.
  • The wide budget variance could also hamper anyone performing campaign, keyword or ad copy tests by disrupting their allotted spend levels.

On the other hand, smaller businesses that do not change their budgets often are likely unaffected. In fact, having Google recalibrate its budget could make the business’s spend more consistent throughout the month.

So, what should you do? I suggest three course of action:

  • Pay more attention to the results of your spend on a daily basis (which we do already for our clients). Be ready to adjust spend sooner than you might have planned.
  • For shorter-term campaigns, set your spend levels lower to have some level of protection, especially if you know you’re going to get high volume traffic within that time period. You might want to pull back from the get-go.
  • For existing campaigns, study your performance data carefully to set your budgets more carefully. Many companies that have been actively involved with paid search for years have a lot of data to draw upon in order to calibrate their budgets.

In any case, this change is permanent. It’s not going away. If you are not doing so already, watch your AdWords campaigns more closely and be ready to change them. KeywordFirst can help you. Contact us – managing your online advertising is our business and passion.

Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Two Surprising Ways Google Creates Great Content

Branding

One of the essential attributes of successful content marketing is usefulness. Great content marketers create a win-win for themselves and their audience by sharing branded content that educates and sometimes entertains. Recently, we blogged about how one business, the NFL, provides useful content by acting as a news service about football. Now let’s take a look at two lesser-known ways one of the world’s most valuable brands, Google, makes itself useful.

For context: as we’ve stated before, a business practices content marketing by publishing useful information that supports its own brand. The definition breaks down this way:

  • Content marketing builds the credibility of a brand (hence the “marketing” part of content marketing) . . .
  • . . . by sharing useful information (content), such as how-to tips, news, commentary, and visual stories.

Through content marketing, brands act as publishers, sharing news, editorial commentary, and other forms of insight you typically associate with a third-party information source. Content marketing is not “look at me” advertising or PR. Both those forms of marketing are valuable and have their place, but they are not content marketing.

Google has a vested interest in giving people reasons to stay on Google. More eyeballs on Google means more businesses will pay Google to help them reach those eyeballs through advertising. Google does its own share of advertising to promote its brand. But the most powerful way Google maintains an audience is by offering free tools that will compel people to keep using Google to manage their lives.

I’m not talking about well-known utilities such as Google Analytics to measure how people interact with your own digital properties such as your website or Google Docs and Google Drive to collaborate on document creation, editing, and storing. I mean some of the ways Google helps you learn about the world around you, such as:

  • Think with Google. The Think with Google site is mandatory for anyone who wants free insights into marketing, technology, and consumer behavior. Think with Google offers downloadable white papers and short-form commentary on topics such as the impact of artificial intelligence on marketing and the influence of mobile devices on the customer experience journey. Think with Google elevates Google to the role of thought leader, publishing data-rich information that pushes forward our understanding of marketing. Of course, you’ll have to look elsewhere for insights critical of Google and for non-Google perspectives. Even still, Google is such a large, influential brand that even Google-centric points of view have gravitas.
  • Google Arts & Culture is a site dedicated to enriching our understanding of art. Here is an experience devoted to pure learning and personal growth. Whereas Think with Google educates you, Google Arts & Culture engages you on topics such as a visual celebration of the Lunar New Year. The site features an ongoing set of topics on rotation. One of its current featured sections, Latino Arts & Culture, provides an immersive look at the contributions of Latino artists in the United States. A featured artist section gives you a chance to take a deep dive into the works of famous names such as Vincent van Gogh. Through Google Street View, you can explore cultural landmarks around the world such as Machu Piccu.

Google offers several other resources for learning and self-development. The above two might be lesser known to you.

Google’s motives are not entirely altruistic. The more Google influences our thinking and worldview, the more Google becomes an essential part of our lives. I get it. But what Google does it does very, very well. By providing useful content that educates and enriches our lives, Google masters the art of content marketing. Contact KeywordFirst for help with your content marketing needs.

Google Creates a Mobile-First World with Accelerated Mobile Pages

Google Creates a Mobile-First World with Accelerated Mobile Pages

Mobile

Google continues to create a mobile-first future. The company’s 2015 algorithm update known as Mobilegeddon resulted in mobile-optimized websites ranking higher in search results. And recently Google announced it will extend Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to all AdWords advertisers globally.

AMP is an open-sourced project that Google designed and rolled out in 2016 to make mobile web pages load faster. Recently Google analyzed landing page performance of 900,000 mobile landing pages. As page load time increases from one second to seven seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing more than doubles. For every one second delay in page load time, conversions can fall by up to 20 percent.

With AMP, Google decided to improve engagement in a mobile world. According to Google, by May 2017,  brands had published more than 2 billion pages with AMP, cutting their page times to less than 1 second. Advertisers such as Johnson & Johnson reported increased engagement to AMP pages.

What Google is doing now is supporting AMP landing pages in AdWords search campaigns globally. Consequently, all advertisers will be able to point mobile search ads to Accelerated Mobile Pages. Eventually AMPs will rank higher in search results as more businesses point to them with their ads.

The spread of AMP is significant because:

  • Google is responding to consumer behavior. More people do mobile searches than desktop searches, and people using mobile devices expect content delivered faster and simpler.
  • AMP demonstrates Google’s influence on advertisers. Google has the scale and reach to enact changes that influence how advertisers act. And Google is willing to do so by making a better user experience: pages that load faster.

I suggest that advertisers get familiar with the Google toolkit for using AMP for AdWords a tactical measure. As a strategic move, understand how your own customers are using mobile – not just with text searches but with voice searches. Optimize your site experience accordingly. Mobile is a behavior influencing how all brands and people interact. Google is responding to that behavior, and so should you. Contact KeywordFirst to ensure that your digital experience is mobile. We can help.

Image source: stateofdigital.com

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Tips to Make Your Landing Page Mobile Friendly

Mobile

When Google announced in 2015 that more Google searches were taking place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries (including Japan and the United States), marketers experienced the beginning of a major shift in the way they reach their target audiences.

Since 2015, mobile has become an even larger piece of the search puzzle. (According to Hitwise, mobile searches account for 58 percent of all search activity in the United States.) Businesses (including KeywordFirst) continue to refine our digital strategies, including search campaigns, to better align with an increasingly on-the-go search audience. Meanwhile, Google has made great strides sharing features that that allow businesses to better target the mobile search segment. Those features include mobile bid modifiers, mobile preferred ad copy, the ability to show ads in mobile apps, and location extensions, among others.

In addition, Google continues to change its algorithms to reward content that is optimized for mobile – which means businesses need to make it a higher priority to ensure that their landing pages are mobile friendly.

Optimizing the Content of Your Landing Page

Optimizing your landing page for mobile means understanding first that behind every mobile device is a person. People using their mobile phones for search purposes are often literally on the go. The mobile audience is composed of busy, multi-tasking, need-it-done-now people. It is important to respect their limited time and attention.

This insight has an impact on how you view your landing page. For example, instead of directing customers to a home page containing a wide variety of products or services, look to more closely align keywords and ad copy. This strategy helps better define the searcher’s intent and will ensure they are directed to a landing page that most closely fits their search query.

For example, if someone searches for “women’s Nike cross-training shoes,” the best experience for the searcher would be to land on a page specifically displaying women’s Nike cross-training shoes versus a page displaying all women’s cross-training shoes or all Nike shoes.

You might be tempted to simply drive ads to a general landing page and have users drill down to specific pages, which is certainly the quickest and easiest way to integrate your digital ads with your landing page content. But doing so will hurt your conversion rates. Searchers typically find it more difficult to navigate sites using small mobile screens instead of larger desktop/laptop monitors. If your ad drives traffic to a landing page that requires multiple clicks before the searcher reaches their ultimate destination, the likelihood of the interaction ending in a conversion decreases with each subsequent click.

A Client Example

For example, for one of our clients, a hotel, we performed a test with searchers who were looking for “hotel discounts.” First, we drove those searchers to a home page that contained general information about the hotel, as well as a link to the “special offers” page. Then we tested an alternative landing page that sent searchers directly to a special offers page – resulting in a marked improvement in conversion rates.

It seems obvious that people searching for hotel discounts are most interested in seeing current deals offered by the hotel. By sending people searching for hotel discounts directly to the special offers page, we eliminated the risk of them leaving the website before checking out the special offers page.  We also saved searchers the effort of locating the link to the special offers page and a few extra clicks as well – a big plus for people looking to complete a transaction quickly and easily on their mobile devices.

Not all keywords are specific enough to truly understand a searcher’s intent, but for those keywords that contain more modifiers, make sure you are taking full advantage and directing searchers to the most appropriate landing page. Remember, for the on-the-go, mobile audience, time is money. A few modifications to landing pages will save your customers time, and help boost your bottom line. Contact KeywordFirst. We’re here to help you build your brand.

Image source: Brodie Vissers

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

How to Use Your Google AdWords Account to Compete with Amazon

Marketing

Amazon is so popular for product searches that retailers who rely on Google AdWords to drive online sales may be wondering how to compete with the $136 billion giant. For some, the answer is to start selling on Amazon themselves. For others, advertising on Amazon might not be the right fit. Although many people search and shop on Amazon exclusively, many others continue to search first on Google. And comparison shoppers are loyal to no site. In a previous blog post, I discussed why Amazon devotees head there first: they like the large variety of products, reviews, the amount of deals, and free shipping opportunities. With an understanding of why people like Amazon, a retailer can use different functionalities in AdWords to attract similarly minded customers.

Google Shopping Ads

Reasons people like Amazon include reading customer ratings and reviews and learning about products and promotions. Using Google Shopping ads is a great way retailers can capitalize on those reasons.

According to a 2016 PowerReviews study, of the people who start their product searches on Google, 52 percent said they’d click on Google Shopping ads next, followed by Amazon or a retailer site, at 41 percent each. To use Google Shopping ads, a business should link its Merchant Center to AdWords. Once linked, the product data dictates how and where ads will show. Management of the shopping ads is done in AdWords, where organization and promotion of items is done using ad groups or campaigns. Unique ads do not need to be created manually. Rather, Google pulls information such as an image, title, price, and store or business name from the feed into an ad. In the new AdWords experience, advertisers can even use Showcase Shopping Ads, which is an ad format that shares information about several related products.

Shopping ads come with their own set of enhancements, which are similar to ad extensions for text ads. Opting into these enhancements is where there’s the opportunity to showcase many of the features that make Amazon attractive to online shoppers. Currently, these are the available enhancements:

  • “Special Offers” with Merchant Promotions – uses a promotions data feed, promotions shown as “special offer” links alongside the Product Ads.
  • Product Ratings – provide critical information to shoppers using a 5-star rating system and count of total reviews. Reviews are specific to the individual products and not reflective of the store or business and they are based on aggregated ratings from multiple sources.
  • Google Customer Reviews Badge – A badge available to those who’ve opted into the Google Customer Reviews service. The badge associates the retailer website with the Google brand, can be placed on any page of the site, and displays a seller rating using the 5-star system.
  • Seller Ratings – A score that can appear on shopping ads. An automated enhancement that utilizes consumer reviews on post-purchase feedback to generate an “XX% Positive” Rating.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are another great way to share information about a company or products, and also make text ads stand out against the competitors in the search engine results. Using them is also a way to showcase detailed product information, which people look for while shopping on Amazon. In addition to the basic extensions like sitelinks and callout extensions, there are also a few other extensions every retailer should be using:

  • Structured Snippets – show a preview of the advertised products before a searchers clicks to the website, using a predefined header and the retailer’s choice of supporting details. Some of the relevant headers for retail are Brands, Models, Styles, and Types.
  • Price Extensions – display up to eight cards that people can view to see different products or brands and prices. From the price menu, people can click directly to their area of interest. This feature includes a header and small description, similar to sitelinks. Pricing qualifiers include from, up to, and average, allowing for flexibility in the offering.
  • Promotion Extensions – highlight sales and promotions, catching the eye of those people who are looking for the best deals. They include the option to emphasize holidays, special events, coupons and offer codes. Scheduling guarantees the promotions will only show up during the designated time frame.
  • Review Extensions – share positive third-party reviews or awards with potential customers, giving them a good impression of the business even before they click on the ads.
  • Seller Ratings Extensions – an automated extension that uses the 5-star rating system. Google displays a rating after gathering enough information from reputable sources that aggregate business reviews. Ratings normally reflect the overall consumer experience with the business and show if a business has 150 unique reviews with a rating of 3.5 or better.

Custom Ads for Specific Audience Lists

Audience lists that are layered into search campaigns bring another opportunity to capture competition from Amazon. With IF Functions, it’s possible to write customized ads for different audience lists. For example, if an advertiser wanted to use a text ad and highlight a percent off offer on all items, they could choose to have a separate offer for people who haven’t been to the website before. Using the IF Function for audiences, the current customer list could be shown a 20% off text ad while people not on the audience lists could be shown 30% off. Or if the products being sold are considered commodities and buyers commonly jump around from site to site looking for the best offer, the opposite can be done and current customers can receive the larger discount.

By using Google Shopping Ads, Ad Extensions for text ads, or writing custom ads using IF Functions for specific audience lists, a retailer can provide a shopping experience that can appeal to an Amazon shopper. And regardless of where a searcher starts out, most people want the same thing: a good customer experience. Showcasing as much relevant information as possible before someone clicks on an ad helps create a good customer experience because it tells the searcher what to expect and if the product matches their need. Highlighting the amount and type of products available, relevant reviews, discounts, savings, and promotions encourages people to choose your products even before getting to your website. If you need help setting these features up, contact us at KeywordFirst.