Posts by Geordie:

Ad Character Limits Are For Schmucks

3 Comments Written on October 4th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting, Google Adwords

Hat tip to PPCblog member George for pointing this out:

Google seems to be stretching the  limits of the old ’70 character’ limit with their Webmaster Tools “Google Promotions” (not “Sponsored links”) ads:

Google Stretches Adwords Ad Character Limits

Hey, it’s their inventory and ad system, they’ll do whatever they like…

I guess when setting up the DKI (Dynamic Keyword Insertion) on these ads they don’t have to worry about putting in an alternative keyword in case the user’s search query runs too long.  Must be nice:)

Andy Beard had some commentary on this early as well, looking at this tactic from the webmaster’s point of view.

Sweet! Adcenter Lets Advertisers Segment Search Traffic

24 Comments Written on September 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Microsoft Adcenter, PPC Tools, Yahoo

One of the big advancements that made Yahoo advertising profitable again for a lot of advertisers was a new setting that allowed you to exclude the Yahoo search partner traffic and run your ads exclusively on Yahoo’s core search engine.

With the transition to Adcenter, advertisers lost that control, and I personally wondered when/if Microsoft would roll out similar controls.

Looks like Microsoft’s implementation of this went live today (or very recently at least)…

Hat tip to Matt Umbro for spotting this early and tweeting it out!

Bing Core Search Traffic Selection

Sweet Release

Now advertisers can choose option number 2 under the search network to focus on Bing and Yahoo’s core search traffic exclusively, which in my experience yields much higher conversions at a considerably lower long-term cost.

You can see this new option (provided it’s completely rolled out) by clicking “Create Campaign” and scrolling to the bottom under “Adgroup Settings”.

Update: Switch Your Existing Campaigns to Core Search Only

By default you’ll see that Adcenter has opted you into “All Bing and Yahoo! search networks and syndicated search partners” for your existing Adcenter campaigns.

To change this setting in the Adcenter online UI:

  1. Drill into your campaign and check the box next to “Adgroup” to select all of the adgroups in that particular campaign.
  2. Then click the “More” button and select “Bulk Edit”
  3. From the drop down selector box in the blue area choose “Distribution to Networks” and you can bulk edit your adgroup’s search configuration.

Change Adcenter Campaign to Core Search Only


Get a Bird’s Eye View of Automatic Placement Performance

1 Comment » Written on September 27th, 2010 by
Categories: Contextual Advertising, Display Ads, Google Adwords, PPC Tools

I have to say I’m starting to dig how Google’s been rolling reporting features directly into the campaign tabs lately.  I’ve had a love/hate relationship with their new UI in general, but the more I tweak things for quick access, the more it grows on me.

Case in point:  This isn’t a complicated tip, but the way the Networks tab is now laid out, you can get a nice snapshot of your content campaign’s placement performance at the campaign-wide level.

It’s a great way to quickly see which sites you’re spending the most on and how they’re converting for you.

To enable this view:

  1. Go into your content-only campaign and select the Networks tab, do not select an adgroup
  2. Choose a date range that will have a decent amount of data, for instance the last 30 or 60 days.
  3. Select “show details” next to Automatic Placements in the Display Networks section
  4. Be sure you’re viewing at the campaign level, the breadcumb nav will simply show “All online campaigns”

The result is a nice, birds-eye view of which placements are working (or not working) adgroup-by-adgroup.  Have some winners?  Check the box next to the URL and add them to your Managed Placements and fine-tune your bids, or remove them using the “Exclude Placements” button if they’re not performing.

PS: We’ve been discussing how to more effectively crunch domain-level placement data in the long tail to boost ROI. Why not join us?  Details on how to join are available here…

Other People’s Money…

6 Comments Written on September 24th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Google Adwords, Habits & Work Environment, Marketing

I had an interesting discussion earlier in the week with a colleague about the difference between running your own Adwords campaigns and having a PPC consultant or agency manage your campaigns.

His comments were pretty pointed:

“Basically, the people managing other people’s money don’t care much about sweating the little “tweaks” Google keeps making, even if they’ll raise prices.  If anything, it makes it better for them because the system is getting more and more complex, increasing the need for an expert to manage an Adwords account vs. the actual business owner.”

It reminded me of this tweet from Wil Reynolds, disappointed with mopping up the mess of neglected client accounts:

The Consultant’s Challenge

For those that ‘manage other people’s money’, running client campaigns it’s an interesting thing to ponder:  Do I put as much attention to detail into my clients’ accounts as I would put into my own, spending my own hard-earned capital?

I read an interesting quote from a prominent PPC consultant on how optimizing to improve ‘Quality Score isn’t really worth worrying about’, just keep upping your bids and grab as many conversions as you can, profit is just icing on the cake or ‘an incremental win’.  Easy to say when it’s not your money in play.

Google’s solution of course is to just let them look after everything: “Hey guys the system’s gotten pretty complex, just toss us the keys and we’ll take care of it”.  If their systems worked as advertised 100% of the time in terms of meeting all of an advertisers goals, maybe that would work. Until then, having an engaged human ‘keep an eye on the till’ probably isn’t a bad idea.

Mo’ Money, Less Attention

Many PPC consultants have found, as I have, there’s a direct relationship between how small the client is and how much time they spend looking over what you’re doing, how much you’re spending, and how things are performing.  The bigger the client, the less likely they are to keep pushing their consultant or PPC manager for an increasing ROI.

Therein lies the challenge:  keeping the same level of diligence and dollar-stretching as the spends get larger…

Really Google? Silent Change Forces Content Campaigns into Automatic Bidding

17 Comments Written on September 21st, 2010 by
Categories: Contextual Advertising, Conversion, Display Ads, Google Adwords

I had to rub my eyes for a minute and check with some contacts to make sure this actually happened:

I believe it USED to be when you created a content-only campaign and left the “Content Bid” field blank, that Adwords would just use the “Default Bid” for the adgroup in lieu of there being a specified content bid.

I looked today and this is what I see:

Google Adwords Forced Auto bids

What Just Happened Here?

Is it just me, or did they just FORCIBLY move everyone who left that Content Bid field blank into “auto” bidding? Good thing that in the case of this campaign, the “average of all the adgroup’s CPC bids” generally only varies by a cent or two.  Imagine what would happen if some top-performing adgroups in a campaign had vastly higher bids than lower performing adgroups: suddenly your “auto” CPCs are way larger than you want or need.

Of course, some are probably thinking “just set up your campaign with content-specific bids and you won’t have to worry about it”, but why should this be necessary if you take the time to properly configure your campaigns by not mixing search and content in the first place?

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse…

New Adwords advertisers often question why they need to truly understand PPC when Google is telling them they can just run everything on autopilot using algorithms that primarily serves Google’s best interests while  being pitched back to advertisers as “what’s best for you”.

This really, really looks like a an effort to slip this past unsuspecting advertisers and turn the dials to more revenue for Google, and it shows why educating yourself on PPC tactics is essential.

This is effectively letting Google write their own paychecks with all of this ‘improve your life’ automation…No thanks.


Brad Geddes posted this morning on his blog that nothing has really changed here, that ‘auto’ does not mean “automatic CPC bidding“, and the hierarchy of bids has always been (with the exception of new options like Audiences):

  1. Placements
  2. Audience
  3. Ad group placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  4. Campaign placement bid (only older accts might see this)
  5. Ad group display network bid
  6. Campaign content bid (only older accts might see this)
  7. Auto
  8. Default bid

The point being that the “Auto” in step 7 is simply a carry-over from search campaign settings where there are keyword-level individual bids that could be averaged for an “auto” bid in that particular adgroup.

The help text in the yellow box that pops up next to where Google labels the display network bid field, appears to be cut and paste from point number four in this Adwords help article:

“You can enter your Display Network bids in the “Display Network Max. CPC” column on the Ad groups page. If you don’t set a specific bid, your bid is set to Auto by default. Auto Display Network bids are based on an average of all keyword bids for the ad group (including the default ad group bid and individual keyword bids).”

It’s confusing language here as it says “Auto Display Network bids” are based on an average of all keyword bids in the adgroup (which of course isn’t possible with Content-only adgroups).

Couple that with what an advertiser sees when he actually does intentionally select automatic CPC bidding in a content-only campaign:

Additionally, Google’s labeling of the display network bid option when Display is turned off at the campaign level shows that they have the capability to make the field labeling context-specific in new UI:

It’s easy to see how this all starts to get confusing… When is ‘auto’ not ‘auto’??

Final Thoughts

It may ultimately be that there’s no functional change in the way the bid hierarchy works here, but few dispute the language change in labeling here.  After digging into this heavily over the past couple of days and talking with other advertisers it’s really tough to tell, and I’m not even 100% sure other than the fact that wording is eerily similar to what they say when you ARE indeed having Google set your bids.

Why change the language to an old nomenclature that applies to search campaigns only when they clearly have the ability to get granular in the labeling when display is on or off?

Thanks to everyone for your feedback and thoughts, it’s tough to trace these things back when the UI changes every time you hit F5:)

Brad’s takeaway point in his post I 100% agree with:

“The real takeaway: Set bids at the most granular level. Placements or audiences if you have them; and then always place a display network bid at the ad group level.”

Good reminder all around…

Join Me at Blueglass Florida!

1 Comment » Written on September 16th, 2010 by
Categories: The World Around Me

I’m very excited to be presenting at the upcoming Blueglass Florida conference in North Miami November 2nd and 3rd!

I’ll be presenting along side the always-entertaining Marty Weintraub from AIMclear and the lovely Joanna Lord from SEOmoz.

The topic of our panel is advanced demographic targeting with PPC, and I’m looking forward to presenting my tactics for inexpensively capturing conversions from the best demographic of all:  the hot-and-ready buyer:)

Here’s the promo for our spiel:

Advanced PPC Tactics : Styling & Profiling!

PPC is much more than starting a few campaigns in Google AdWords and then setting & forgetting. This panel will cover advanced tactics in behavioral, demographic & profile targeting within AdWords, Bing and the big daddy of profiling : Facebook! Want to serve customized ads to your target demographic that are going to lead to sales and long term brand loyalty? Then this session is for you. After an hour of discussion and tactics, you’ll be ready to tweak your PPC campaign and take it to the next level.

The full lineup of speakers and presentations is available on the agenda page here.

The feedback from the first Blueglass LA was phenomenal, and Miami in November sounds like a smashing idea:)

Some tickets are still available, and more info on the entire event can be found here!

If you’re planning on attending, be sure to drop me a line and let’s meet up!

An Interesting Approach to the Advertorial Squeeze

This was discussed a couple of months ago in our PPCBlog private members forum, (membership tour available here), but we thought our blog readers, especially those doing lead generation and/or information marketing, might find it interesting.

Disclaimer: Normally we wouldn’t identify the specific advertiser using a particular technique, however in this case the company no longer appears to be advertising actively and the site has not been updated since March of this year and its community appears to be abandoned at this point.

The Content Ad Blend

A while back on Yahoo Answers I came across this ad, heavily meshed with the surrounding text-heavy content and served up by Yahoo’s display ad platform (so no, I’m not sure if this lander would make it through Adwords:)

“Advertorial”-style square display ads that look highly similar to the fonts, colors, and imagery of the site you’re targeting can net slightly above-average CTRs in some cases.  One easy way to do this is find a placement you want to target your ads to, and replicate the look and feel as much as Google’s display ad reviewers will allow.  You may have a tough time replicating site buttons, but colors, fonts and general image look-and-feel usually gets approved.

First off:  This ad has a fantastic headline, and the copy (though it has its flaws) is compelling enough to pique your curiosity:

I’m not an expert on the use of publicly-licensed celebrity images, but this one got through.  Any legal eagles who might be able to clarify feel free to leave a comment:)

On ad click, you’re taken to a straight-up email squeeze page, notice the one-liner to “Put your credit card away…”  (nice touch).

(Click Image to Enlarge)

*Note re. Adwords:  Depending on the brand strength you have, you may or may not be able to get away with squeezing visitors this hard into an email submit as Google likes to call this “info harvesting”.  That said, I’ve seen brands get away with it…

After you enter your email, here’s where you’re taken:

(Click Image to Enlarge)

On the thank you page here, it’s interesting to see how they’ve done the ‘membership login’ info…pre-populating the login data so it’s just sooooo easy to go to the next step….

Here’s the “Member’s area:

Great, But Does it Convert?

No one knows for sure how this pipeline ultimately converts, and given that the site now seems to be abandoned perhaps it was a dud, although that could be due to factors other than the conversion funnel.

They’re also not capturing the credit card in the ‘free trial’ stage, but it could be that the raw number of people coming into the funnel is large enough to offset the ‘forgetful trial subscriber’ optimization.

When we were discussing this approach in the forums, Aaron brought up a good point as to the credit-card-collection-on-trial approach:

I wonder if on the inside if they had some sort of “bonus” which cost $1 and got the credit card data maybe that would help convert a lot more people, while still allowing for the huge numbers of free people upfront to sign up free?

It’s an interesting question.  Simply because you didn’t get the credit card on the initial lead form doesn’t mean however that you couldn’t get it shortly afterward while they’re farther into the signup process…

Love it or hate it, the trend towards blurring content text and display ads with editorial will continue, and it’s interesting to see how some advertisers have started to take advantage of the opportunity.

How Adwords Counts Ad Impressions with Google Instant

20 Comments Written on September 8th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords

Today’s announcement from Google of their new seizure-inducing “Google Instant” search-as-you-type invention immediately made me stop and wonder (after rubbing my eyes from the headache of using it) how Adwords would count impressions on ads as they flash by in milliseconds.

Hat tip to David Szetela for tweeting out the update Google has just posted in their Adwords support section.

Basically, those fly-by impressions as your ad flickers across the screen aren’t going to destroy your CTR.  Looks like they (fortunately) gave this some thought ahead of time:

What changes

New predicted query

Although Google Instant won’t change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown for a new “predicted query.” For example, if someone types “flow” into Google, an algorithm predicts that the user is searching for “flowers” (the predicted query) and therefore displays search listings and ads for flowers. Those results will continue to show unless the next letters that the user types lead to a different predicted query.

How impressions are counted

When someone searches using Google Instant, ad impressions are counted in these situations:

  • The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).
  • The user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries.
  • The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

We recommend monitoring your ads’ performance the same way you usually do. Google Instant might increase or decrease your overall impression levels. However, Google Instant can improve the quality of your clicks since it helps people search using terms that more directly connect them with the answers they need. Therefore, your overall campaign performance could improve.

So as usual, if they stick with this as a default option and too many people don’t opt out, they think they’ve got it covered but “monitor your campaigns’ performance just in case it screws up”.

Keyword Tasting: The Key to Successful Campaign Expansion

3 Comments Written on September 7th, 2010 by
Categories: Conversion, Google Adwords, Keyword Research

Domainers have long sampled domains by “tasting” them for traffic after they drop to see if they have any revenue potential before committing to a purchase. (EDIT:  My friend John Andrews pointed out that domain tasting has been over for a while, but I’m sticking with the analogy:) )

The same principle applies to PPC and can represent one of the fastest and most profitable ways to scale out your campaigns.

The “Keyword Tasting” technique is one of my favorites.  You grab a fairly broad type of keyword and toss it against the wall in a new adgroup to see:

a) is there any traffic there


b) can the keyword net ANY conversions.

We’re not worried about ROI at this point, we just want to see if there’s any juice there.

I typically let the tasting go on for a few days or enough time to capture enough data to get a look at the “actual search terms” in the Adwords Keywords tab.  For most of my campaigns this ends up being a few days and 300-500 clicks.

If a few conversions roll in the broad term, have a look at the specific search terms that netted the conversions and add them as an exact or phrase match to the adgroup (or add them to a net-new adgroup if you like).

If the broadish keyword doesn’t result in any conversions after a decent amount of data, cut it.  You’ve just saved yourself a ton of time going “deeper” on a keyword that most likely doesn’t have any conversion juice.

If the “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” approach results in some conversion potential and you can see via the “See Search Terms” button which keywords and match types grabbed those conversions, you’ve got some great new adgroups to expand with the foreknowledge that they can convert.

In a future post we’ll expand on the ‘wide then deep’ approach to keyword expansion.  In the meantime, why not try this out today with a new broad keyword and see if you can find any gems!

Add New Negative Keywords & Placements On the Fly

The integration of the Search Query Report directly into the Keywords tab of your Search campaigns makes it super-easy to see if your keywords or match types are picking up non-converting or irrelevant searches that should really be added as negatives at an adgroup level at least, or at a campaign level if they’re “way out there”.

It should be noted that the search queries (even in the new UI option) can take a couple of days to fully populate with results, so it’s best to look a decently-sized block of time to make sure the data is valid.

To access your search queries, go into an adgroup and select the Keywords tab and the “See Search Terms” button:

Next, if you see an irrelevant or poorly converting keyword you’d like to add as a negative on-the-fly, check the checkbox next to the keyword and hit the “Add as Negative Keyword” button:

This box then pops up allowing you to choose the match type of that negative keyword (it defaults to adding the keyword as an adgroup-level negative keyword) and you can vary your negative match type depending on how surgical you want to get in avoiding a particular keyword or phrase:

Compared to the old method of cutting and pasting from the Search Query Reports to your various adgroups, this is a MUCH easier and faster way to improve your campaign’s targeting.

Cutting Display Network Placements On-the-Fly

The same approach also works for adding negative site placements to your campaign with some small differences.

To exclude placements quickly (and with all the conversion data right at your fingertips), in your content network campaign, select an adgroup, then hit the “Networks” tab.

On the Networks tab, regardless of whether you’re using Automatic or Managed placements, you’ll see a full list of domains (or URLs) where your ads are showing and how they’re converting.

If you see a dud, hit the checkbox next to the junk placement and click the “Exclude Placements” button:

On the popup box, select whether you want to exclude the domain or URL placement for your entire campaign or only this adgroup.  Because you can often kill the golden goose in another adgroup by doing a campaign-level exclusion, it’s usually best to stick to the adgroup level and evaluate each of your adgroup’s exclusion placements on a group-by-group basis.

All in all, the consolidation in the new UI is speeding things up considerably, it just takes some getting used to:)