The True Cost Per Conversion of Additional Conversions

12 Comments Written on June 26th, 2013 by
Categories: Analytics, Conversion

PPC managers have different targets for their clients. One of the most common targets is to manage the campaigns based on an average maximum cost per conversion (CPA).

What many clients –and PPC managers- don’t know or don’t realize is what the true cost of the extra conversions is. Even if the average CPA is below the maximum allowed CPA, the last conversions might be too expensive and maybe even leading to a loss for the client.


Lets have a look at an example.

Example – the calculator shop

Assume you are managing the account of an e-commerce store that sells calculators. They sell for $25. The profit on a sale is $15, with just the ad spend to subtract from the profit.

You are currently managing the campaign and you get 100 conversions for a total cost of $1,000. This leads to a CPA of $10. The profit for the client is $500.

The client however told you the CPA could be $11 if he gets more conversions as the $11 is still well within his profit margin of $15. As a good PPC manager you started pushing the best keywords and magically knew to push 20% extra conversions until you reached an average CPA of $11. So you now have 120 conversions for a total cost of $1,320.

You are happy, the client is happy and you live long and happily ever after. But should the client be that happy?

If we have a closer look at the details of the additional conversions:

  • 20 extra conversions
  • $320 extra budget

This leads to a CPA of $16 of the additional conversion! He actually lost money on the additional conversions. The profit is now $480.


A visual representation of the CPA’s and profit margin

So are those additional conversions bad?

Not per definition as it depends on the goal of the client and other factors that we sometimes don’t know as PPC manager (profit margins, life time value of a client, branding value, increase of the market share etc). It’s important that both you and the client are aware of the price of the additional conversions.

About the author
Rick Vugts is the co-founder of Visible Online Marketing. Intrigued by both the psychological and marketing and the statistical side of PPC marketing.

Time to Play ‘PPC Ad Copy Survivor’ : BoostCTR Review

1 Comment » Written on August 30th, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Copywriting, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords

About a year ago I chatted with David from Boost CTR about his new business, designed to get writers to compete in contests for their advertiser customers to see who could write the highest CTR ads.

If the writers’ ads performed better than the customer’s control ads, Boost CTR gets a small commission.  Pretty simple yet brilliant value proposition for Adwords advertisers who want to see if they can jack their CTRs, which in turn earn them higher Quality Scores and lower CPCs.

Four Challenges to BoostCTR’s Model

It’s kind of like the TV show “Survivor” for ad copy writers.  I wasn’t sure if it would fly however for four specific reasons:

  1. Would enough decent writers actually participate in the contests to get some decent results?
  2. Would said writers know enough about each advertisers’ niche to actually write effective ads?
  3. Would said writers toilet my brand by running ads that weren’t a fit or appropriate for my campaigns and my business?
  4. If I gave Adwords API access to BoostCTR would they be able to steal my campaigns and compete with me?

Add to that from an entrepreneurial standpoint: Could BoostCTR carve out a decent business even though they don’t offer soup-to-nuts campaign management, a bid management system or keyword research solutions like most of the PPC performance enhancement platforms offer, aka. “Can they make a successful business by focussing on ad performance improvement only”?

Well, it’s now a year later and their business is booming with a whack of big-name advertiser clients, so I guess so…:)

How it Works

OK, so here’s how BoostCTR works for me as advertiser:

  • First, I sign up and submit one or more ad groups for improvement.
  • After I’ve submitted at least one ad group, BoostCTR’s expert writers compete against each other to beat my best ads.
  • I only pay when BoostCTR is able to beat my current control ad. (I can track either CTR or conversions to determine the winner.)

Here’s some screenshots of the advertiser UI (Click to Enlarge):

BoostCTR dashboard screenshot

BoostCTR PPC Ad Copy Contests



From what I’ve see in Google ad copy lately, many, many PPC managers could use a hand in the ad copy department, so a bit of fresh blood writing for you can’t hurt here.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for PPC managers to split-test a few ads, then leave the best performing ad uncontested for months at a time.

Then there are active PPC managers who’ve been writing ads for the same business for years. They’re always testing new creative, but they’ve gone through all their best ideas and need a fresh perspective from somebody who’s seeing the account for the first time.

It’s kind of similar in many ways to ’99designs’ where web designers compete with their mockups to earn your business, but you only pay when you find a winner…except here we’re talking ad performance improvement.

Sounds awesome, but what about the questions I mentioned above?  Read on…

What Do You Know!? Good Writers Can Write For Anything…

So were they able to find pro writers to compete in my ad contests?  Yup, in fact I’ve heard from a few people I know quite well in the PPC biz who bang out great ads for them on the side. It turns out they now have hundreds of writers competing in the time since I originally spoke to David, their CEO/Founder.

Can they write for my niche?  Apparently so, CTR and conversion improvements on winning ads averages around 30%.  Some see bigger boosts, others smaller, but they regularly beat the control ads which is the whole point.

Check out some examples here on their “Win of the Week” blog.  (In one case they increased an ad’s CTR by 415%)

Campaign Data & Privacy

BoostCTR has thought this through pretty well and their security measures are tight. For instance, when you submit an ad group to BoostCTR only a handful of the broad search phrases are included for writers to see. No other data is included, so search volumes,CTR, and profitability are never revealed.


BoostCTR writers rely pretty heavily on their own research and experience, as well as any information you include in your creative brief. The brief includes any specific requests you may have for how new ads are written.

Reject Ads You Don’t Like

While I don’t have control over who writes for my account or what ads are submitted per se, I still get the final say when deciding which ads to test and which ads to reject.  The creative brief I whip up ahead of time for the writers helps prevent ad submissions that I’m not comfortable with. But even if you do get an ad I don’t like, I can reject it.

*When I reject an ad, I can also send comments back to the writer so he knows how to write better ads for me on the next round.

The Good and Bad of Crowd-Sourcing

If there is any downside to BoostCTR, it’s that you can’t choose or put a face to who writes for your contests. It is bonafide “crowd-sourcing” — an anonymous group of people who all work to improve your PPC ads. That said, the writer or writers who end up working on your ad groups may change depending on the time of day, week, and month you post new contests.

On the flip side, this lack of choice saves you time. Rather than worrying about the person writing for you, you can divert all your attention into deciding whether or not to run the ad or ads that have been submitted, which is a lot faster and easier.

And while this approach is a bit unorthodox, it’s worked well so far. BoostCTR already has a stable of “Big Name” clients including CafePress, Expedia, 99 Designs, Beach Body, and many more.

Personally I don’t care who writes it as long as it lifts myCTR and is appropriate for my campaign.  I’m looking for improved numbers vs. personality.

Who Should & Should Not Try BoostCTR

Obviously, if you’re ad spend is under $250 a month, or if your search volumes are low, then BoostCTR probably won’t be a good investment for you, try growing your traffic first.

But if PPC advertising is a big part of your marketing, and you’re spending thousands of dollars a month, you need to try it.

(NOTE:  I asked David for a trial for PPCblog readers, here’s the “ONE FREE CONTEST” Link Here They Provided)

I have to eat some crow here BTW as well.  I personally was not sure their model would pan out, but they’re kicking butt at this and have now even expanded into doing Facebook image ads, something that’s a major pain due to the fickle nature of FB CTRs and requirements for constant freshness in your ad creative.

Congrats to David and team (Now including Tom Demers formerly from Wordstream – good guy that Tom) on building a successful model by really hammering on one key pain point for advertisers: lifting conversions and CTRs with better ad copy.

Go give it a try!


You Can’t Buy More Conversions

12 Comments Written on July 5th, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords

Perhaps you’ll find this scenario familiar:

Your Adwords search campaign for “Vocal Lessons” features a fairly broad, say two-word keyword phrase like “can’t sing”.

You notice that the conversion rate is OK on this keyword, but the cost-per-conversion is a bit high. You’ve tried tweaking the bids on it to get it more profitable, but it’s still just barely profitable.

Looking into it more deeply, you run a Search Terms report to see how Google matched your phrase-matched keyword to actual user queries.

You notice that the exact match [can’t sing] has generated a lot of clicks but no conversions, whereas the exact match [why can’t I sing] is the search that’s actually driving the conversions on that “can’t sing” keyword.  In fact, the cost-per-conversion and conversion rate on that exact [why can’t I sing] keyword are fantastic, and you would like to get more of that ‘hot’ traffic and those cheap conversions.

So, you decide to add that exact search, [why can’t I sing] to your adgroup as a keyword on its own.  Maybe you also raise the bid a bit on it to try and improve your ad position, hoping to grab even more conversions.

Then something strange happens:  After a little time has gone by, you notice that that exact match keyword, [why can’t I sing], isn’t converting at all anymore.

What happened to those sweet, sweet conversions?  You even bid up trying boost your ad position and that should give you more conversions shouldn’t it?  What’s happening here?

Blood From a Stone?

A good friend of mine (with an infinitely higher level of PPC skill than mine) once told me a few years ago: “Geordie: You just can’t buy more conversions”.  This was his point and it applies both to Display Network placement campaigns as well as Search:

Sometimes Google’s ‘mad scientist’ mix of bid, placement, matching tech, and other factors combine in your favour and find pockets of traffic that for whatever reason, be it ad-to-keyword performance, bid, match type voodoo, or whatever, creates a ‘conversion sweet spot’ where the traffic ‘just works’.

That’s great news, but you can find yourself getting ‘conversion greedy’, trying to make that ‘perfect storm’ of elements spit out more conversions.  It just doesn’t always happen.

In fact, more often than not I’ve found the opposite happens: One element (the exact match keyword) has been yanked out of the perfect storm and the entire sweet spot up and disappeared. Now, not only do you not end up with more conversions than you had previously, you can often end up with none.

Again, you ‘just can’t buy more conversions’, or put another way, ‘you can’t get blood from a stone’.  If something is working, and working exceedingly well, you may be best off simply leaving it alone.

Another Approach to Tweaking the Keyword’s Profitability

“But that phrase-matched keyword was barely profitable overall, you can’t just leave it like that!”.  That’s true.  However you can make adjustments another way without messing with the mojo.

For example, if the Search Terms report shows, as it does in our example above, that when Google matches [can’t sing] to your phrase-matched “can’t sing” keyword, you net a lot of clicks but very few (if any) conversions, you can try adding the exact match [can’t sing] as a negative keyword for this adgroup only.  This will filter out exact match searches for [can’t sing], but won’t stop your ad from showing on [why can’t I sing], the query that nets you the most conversions.

* What can you do if you’ve tried isolating the keyword or placement and conversions went South?  All is not lost, often you can revert to the adgroup’s previous configuration and bids and things will right themselves.  This often works, but nothing is ever guaranteed in Google-land.

The Only Route to More Conversions

The bottom line is that sometimes you just need to accept that you’re getting the best quality and quantity of traffic Google can give you on a particular keyword scenario or Display Network placement.  Of course, you need to be profitable overall with your phrase-matched keyword, but it is completely possible to ‘mess up the mojo’ with what is working and shoot yourself in the foot by trying to get more for less.

If you want to garner a higher volume of conversions, you often need to move on and find another ‘sweet spot’ or ‘perfect storm’.  The only way to do that is to keep testing new adgroups until one presents itself.  What you’ll find is that there are pockets like this everywhere.  In one of my campaigns, a scenario like the one mentioned here has netted over 28,000 conversions over 4 years.  Having learned this lesson the hard way, I’ve let sweet spots like that lie and work their magic over time.

Have you run into this scenario before in your Search or Display Network placement campaigns?  Share in the comments!

PS: Don’t miss our PPC Blog’s Greatest Hits List, it’s got all of our top PPC blog posts nicely organized for your viewing pleasure:)




The Display Network Spy Tool of the Future: What Runs Where

I’ve long felt that the market is ripe for a competitive spy tool that does what SpyFu and SEMrush do for search, but this time for the Google Display Network.

To be effective, such a tool should gather both image, flash, and text ads to give you an idea of who and what you’re up against when it comes to display network campaigns.

It should tell you:

  • What image and text ads your competitors are running on the Google Display Network
  • What landing pages they’re using with those ads
  • What ad networks they’re running display campaigns with, beyond just Google’s network
  • What companies your competitors are buying image ad inventory from
  • How a competitor’s ads have changed over time
  • What publisher sites your competitors ads are appearing on

And let you:

  • Export any and all ad data, in bulk, for offline review
  • Decide exactly how far back you want to look for ads that have shown on publisher’s sites
  • Specify the exact ad networks you want to scour
  • Search by niche keywords or specific competitor domain
  • Narrow your results down to the exact ad sizes and formats you’re most interested in

New Display Spy Tool: What Runs Where

Max from the new WhatRunsWhere service reached out to me last week with a demo of their new service that provides all of these features.  I realized later that I ended up spending over two straight hours researching and exporting competitor ads in a ton of different niches.  This tool is intense, the type of data you can grab out of here is invaluable.

Sidebar:  It’s a little known fact that I’ve been working with a friend to try and build a “content spy” network for a while now, but it’s a heck of a lot harder than it sounds.  We ran into server load issues, Google dodging and blocking the spider, delays between query and results and more.  Basically, we ended up with a tool that worked pretty well for one or two users at a time, but not for larger user loads.  Mike and Max at WhatRunsWhere seem to have worked around all of these issues.

Here’s a demo of how WhatRunsWhere works:  NOTE *The audio background is a bit loud, mute the sound if you want to just watch it in action, the narration is in subtitles:

Digging Deeper on a Competitor

If you want more intelligence on a particular competitor, after clicking their ad you get a menu like this:

Pretty cool stuff:)

Pricing & Competition

There are a couple of other tools out there attempting to do this, Adbeat is one, but according to a few people I’ve talked to that have used both, Adbeat doesn’t seem to have as much data and depth as WhatRunsWhere. On the flip side, WRW needs some UI polishing, but it’s easy to ignore that when you see the data you can pull.

WRW is priced at $249 for a month’s worth of usage, and that’s a one time bill: you get 30 days to dump out as much data as you like, then you’re done. For most advertisers, 30 days is enough time to get the data you’re after.

If you want to use the monitoring and change reporting features, they have a monthly deal for $229 a month.

Check it out and try it out here:

Full Disclosure: The above link is an affiliate link. If you’re not ok with that, just type the URL into your browser. WRW is an awesome service and I don’t have any qualms about officially promoting it, but the choice is yours as to how you want to navigate to the site:)

How to Research Negative Keywords

14 Comments Written on May 3rd, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords, Keyword Research, PPC Tools

“Negative” keywords are just as important as the ‘positive’ keywords you bid on.  Effective targeting of your Adwords campaigns requires that you put your ads in front of the right users, and keep them away from users who are unlikely to be interested in your product or service.  Many keywords have multiple meanings from niche to niche, others many apply to a particular area of your niche that your product may not want to target.

Poor broad-matching due to inadequate negatives can severely impact your keyword relevance quality scores as well as keyword-level quality scores are heavily measured based on ad click-through rates (CTR), and the more often your ad shows against irrelevant keywords, the lower your CTRs will be.

Different Kinds of Negative Keyword Structures

For search campaigns, negative keywords can be added either on a campaign-wide basis, or on an adgroup-only basis.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for which level of negative you should use:

If there’s no conceivable way that a keyword you’re adding as a negative would apply to ANY of the adgroups in your campaign, add it as a campaign-level negative.  If you only need to apply a particular negative keyword to one of your campaign’s adgroups enter it as an adgroup level negative.

Note: Negatives are not grouped into adgroups the same way positive keywords are. If you want to add a negative keyword to just one adgroup, you enter it like a standard keyword with a minus symbol (-) in front of it, and add it to the adgroup as if it was a positive keyword.

Locating Negative Keywords

Google has a pretty good idea of what keywords relate to each other.  Processing billions of queries per day, they can see patterns in what keywords are being used together, and what the searcher is looking for.

One easy way to leverage Google’s historical data on keyword combinations is by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.

For instance, if we’re advertising high-end custom car rims, we’ll want to add as negatives for products we don’t carry, or customers we don’t want (aka. people searching for “cheap”).  Additionally, we might be interested to see what additional terms Google says are commonly used in searches for our phrases (particularly when broad match goes bad).

You’re Not Going to Cover Every Negative With a Brand New Campaign

One of the most effective ways of isolating negative keywords can only happen after you’ve been running your campaign for a few weeks.  Google now provides much-improved reporting on users’ actual, exact search query.

Using the “See Search Terms” report when you’re on the adgroup’s Keyword tab can show you terms Google is incorrectly matching your keyword to.

Negative Match Types

Negative keywords can be entered with the same three match types as regular keywords: exact, phrase, and broad.

If there’s a chance that adding your keyword broad match negative (i.e. no quotes or square brackets) is going to limit your campaign’s ad impressions, you may want to get more specific in telling Google when you’re not OK with that negative.  With negatives, using the broad and phrase matching will prevent your ad from showing more than an exact match negative.

If the negative keyword is clearly off-topic, broad match is typically the best choice.

What’s your favourite method for digging up negatives?  Share them in the comments!

Three Essential Google Analytics PPC Hacks

13 Comments Written on April 11th, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Microsoft Adcenter

Note from Geordie: I asked Google Analytics expert and PPCblog member, Stephanie Brachat, if she would blog three ‘hacks’ for properly tracking PPC campaigns in Google Analytics.  The following are her favourites, Thanks Steph!

Sourcing Your adCenter Traffic as ‘CPC’ and Not ‘Organic’

Are you running PPC campaigns on both AdWords and adCenter? Ever wonder why Google Analytics shows “bing (organic)” and “yahoo (organic)” but no ‘cpc’ traffic data for anything other than Google?

While Google automatically splits out their own traffic between paid and not-paid by default, anything coming from adCenter falls under the organic umbrella. You’ll need to manually tag this traffic to track it correctly.

For anyone who hasn’t used manual tagging, it’s simply a matter of appending your destination URL with Google friendly parameters. The only difference in this case is that instead of static values, we’ll get adCenter to dynamically pass the keyword data.

So, here’s what you need to do:

Head on over to Google’s URL builder and fill out the form as below:

  • Website URL: *my landing page
  • Campaign Source: adcenter *I opt to use adcenter instead of Bing, as some traffic could be Yahoo too
  • Campaign Medium: cpc
  • Campaign Term: keyword
  • Campaign Content: *this field is optional, in my example I left it blank
  • Campaign Name: myCampaignName *pick something relevant

IMPORTANT: AFTER you generate your URL, make sure to add curly brackets around ‘keyword’, as you don’t want these brackets encrypted when you paste them into adCenter… you want your URL to look like the version below as {keyword} is the adCenter parameter that passes your keyword.

In this example, the resulting URL was:{keyword}&utm_campaign=myCampaignName

Now all you’d need to do would be to head back to adCenter and update my destination URLs to ones with the new schema:

and bingo… soon afterward you’ll see adCenter traffic and data showing up under ‘adcenter/cpc’ and accurate info on the paid keywords driving it.

Yes, it’s true you could extrapolate the paid/unpaid traffic ratio directly from your adCenter account stats, but if you’re looking to spot deeper traffic trends and patterns, it’s really invaluable to have this data properly segmented within Google Analytics.


How many times have you been looking back at historical data, only to see a huge spike or valley and not recall what caused it?

Finally, there’s help for that… Google now allows you to annotate your data.

Here’s what it looks like:

To add an annotation, simply select a data point on your graph, then, in the data bubble that appears, select ‘Create new annotation…’


Another pane subsequently appears, allowing you to type a note and choose whether it’s a private memo for you, or shared with other profiles who access the account. Your graph’s timeline is also updated with a little note icon as shown below.

I find it especially useful to use this feature when I make significant changes to our PPC campaigns. This allows all members of our team to easily tie back traffic fluctuations to alterations we’ve made. Beyond that, it’s really a handy way to note any event that impacts your traffic… server issues, the start of a new email campaign, election day… etc.

‘Not Set’ Visitors

I often get people asking me about “not set” visitors that show in analytics, and where that traffic is really coming from. There’s a few possible reasons for this. Two of the most common are:

  1. If you’re looking at keyword or e-commerce data, you’ll often see ‘not set’ for traffic that came in from the display network as that traffic isn’t tied to keywords
  2. Redirections between the ad and your landing page can also cause your Google auto-tagging (and gclid) to be stripped. While Google Analytics still records the visit and the subsequent user activity, it doesn’t have the information necessary to properly attribute the visit to your Google ad.

So, if you suspect it’s redirections causing the issue, how do you confirm if the gclid is being stripped?

1. Grab the ad’s destination URL
2. Create a test link by appending gclid=test to the end of it…

3. When you arrive at your landing page via the test link, is the gclid=test in the address bar?

  • if yes, your redirections are okay
  • if no, you may need to make some adjustments so that the gclid id is passed, and/or try manual tagging

As a side note, the tips above were screenshot on the old UI, but are the same process for the new version of GA. If you haven’t tried the updated interface yet, I highly recommend it! On top of the dashboard enhancements, it’s so much quicker, the date selector finally has some shortcuts for relative dates like ‘yesterday’ and they’ve really beefed up the options for event tracking.

Happy data mining!

Quality Score is Busted Again: Don’t Change Your Bids

8 Comments Written on November 23rd, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords

UPDATE: Things appear to be returning to normal as of about 10am PDT today (Nov. 24th).  Our members are reporting that their scores and minimum bid amounts have gone from 3’s and 4’s to 7’s and 10’s sometime through the night.  Certainly a relief.  Hopefully the advertisers who jacked their bids as a result of this will bring them back down to earth soon and normalize the auction again.

This is getting kind of ridiculous:

Not only was the last Quality Score “malfunction” not completely fixed (going back all the way to October), but it’s happening all over again, and right before the busiest online sales weekend of the year. Add to that that this has been happening again for over 48 hours now.

Google’s channels for communicating with advertisers on these huge issues is also broken. Why not put an announcement in the Adwords UI? They’re simply tweeting (two days late) and posting randomly in their Adwords support forums, “Adwords Pros” are contradicting one another in the same threads, and then they come back and post stuff like this:

Adwords Pro:

Although I posted with essentially the same message yesterday, I think it’s best that I re-post now – as there have been many posts since then, and the message could be easily missed.

Bottom line, I do not yet have concrete information as to what is occurring, and I have learned never to make predictions or guesses as to what might be occurring, or regarding a time-to-resolution. Going even further, I will typically not say that something is resolved until many hours after I’ve heard a formal ‘all clear’ from the engineering teams.

With all that said, I would again advise everyone to focus on their core metrics (CTR, CPC, and etc) and to not make changes to their account based on an unexpected change to their quality score. In fact, as a general rule I’d say that core metrics are the single most accurate depiction of performance – and the first place one should look if they notice Quality Score changes.

I will certainly keep this thread updated when I have concrete information to report. And, again, I apologize on behalf of Google for the uncertainty and upset.



It might be true that quality score numbers aren’t the be-all/end-all, but minimum first page bid estimates are definitely a major decision point for most advertisers.

Add to that that you’d have no idea that this whole ‘malfunction’ wasn’t your fault and doesn’t demand your immediate action if you weren’t constantly trolling Google’s support forum for news.

Here’s the big problem though: For those who have no idea that this is a Google error, they WILL raise their bids and they WILL screw up the entire auction! Again: right before the busiest shopping weekend of the year.

So whether or not the “system” is serving ads normally, there’s a thousands and thousands of human beings bidding for placement that will most definitely change the reality of ad serving.

The damage is likely already done here, and once again Google ends up on the winning side with what will will amount to a nice bump in holiday PPC revenue.

Review: Google’s Beta Contextual Targeting Tool

Google’s new Contextual Targeting Tool (currently in beta, some accounts have it already, more will see it roll out shortly) is a fantastic way to build out quick and dirty display network campaigns.

Many advertisers build out their content campaigns using variations on the keywords used in their search campaigns, perhaps integrating a few other contextually-related keywords to round out the ‘theme’ of the adgroup, making it easier for Google to figure out where to put your ad, or simply start from scratch using Google’s keyword tool to throw together thematically-relevant keywords into new adgroups.

A Much Easier Approach For Creating Content Campaigns

Google’s new Contextual Targeting Tool however gives you an in-depth look at what types of terms Google thinks are semantically related to your core keywords and also shows you totally new branches of keywords that you might not have ever thought to look for on your own.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the tool allows you to see how Google thinks related terms should be grouped together to make successful content adgroups that they can ‘understand’ in order to place your ads on the right display network pages.

To use the tool, you select a geography and language, then pop in a few sample keywords that are most closely related to whatever it is that you’re selling on Adwords: (click images to enlarge)

The tool then returns a list of pre-made content adgroups and bid suggestions that you can add to your existing campaign, or use to create a new one:

By selecting any of the suggested adgroups, you can edit the keyword phrases Google comes up with: removing keywords that are too geo-specific, or not really relevant to the human eye, or add keywords of your own that you think would round out the adgroup even further.

For instance, in the below highlighted adgroup, you might choose to take out the references to specific states or just have one state mentioned per adgroup:

One of the most important features of this tool is that you can expand out any number of adgroups into an even deeper set of adgroups related to any of the initially-suggested groups.   (Mousing over any of the adgroups reveals an “Expand” button.)

For instance, if we ‘expand’ the initial “Cheap Car Insurance” adgroup, Google suggests a number of additional adgroups they think are deeper derivatives of “Cheap Car Insurance”:

They’ve come up with a number of great ways to expand on “cheap car insurance” including terms like “budget”, “cheap insurance forum”, “cheap auto insurance quotes” and more.  This is MUCH more easier than trying pluck these out of the standard Google keyword tool.

The Contextual Targeting Tool even shows you where, based on these new adgroups, your ads might show up, right down to the exact URL:

Seeing this in advance is equivalent to getting a sneak peek at your Campaign Placement Report before you put the campaign or adgrousp live.  What’s the value of this?  Well, first off you get to see what sites your ads could show on that are NOT appropriate, and should be added as campaign-wide negative site exclusions before these new adgroups are launched.  You may also notice some negative keywords creep in that could be added immediately as campaign-level negative keywords.

Given that we’re looking at car insurance-related adgroups you can likely spot a few sites here that don’t exactly match up to that theme:

So now we’ve got a list of nicely expanded adgroups, that can be exported directly from here into Adwords Editor where you can add text or image ads etc…

WARNING: This export to Adwords Editor feature is handy, but notice that the suggested bids from Google are also exported, and they might be a) higher than is really necessary and b) more than you’re able or willing to pay.  When you import these adgroups into Adwords Editor, be sure to go in and update the Max Content CPC you’re willing to pay so you don’t end up with a bigger than expected spend.

The Value for Search Campaigns, Quality Score & Ad Text

I’ve put together a completely new training module for our PPCblog community members that includes tips and examples on how to use this new Contextual Targeting Tool to expand search campaigns, pump up Keyword Relevance Quality Score, and tweak ad text for higher CTRs.

If you haven’t joined yet, what are you waiting for….?

Has Adwords Gotten Too Damn Complicated?

2 Comments Written on November 15th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords, Marketing

When I was speaking a couple of weeks ago at BlueGlass Florida, just out of curiosity I asked the audience of marketers and business leaders if how many used Adwords every day.  About half of the several hundred attendees put up their hands.  Then I asked how many felt that Adwords had gotten too complicated for its own good?  About 30% put up their hands…

Who Benefits From PPC Platform Complexity?

I’ve long wondered why Google keeps front-loading so many practically insignificant levels of feature complexity into the Adwords interface.  Granted, some of these are somewhat interesting to look at, but maybe one reason Google does this is to create so many comparison points as to ensure that you as an advertiser are less inclined to spend time and money on competing ad platforms that don’t have all of these features and data points.

Making competitors’ platforms (*cough*Adcenter*cough) look hopelessly behind means Google wins the ‘feature war’ by ensuring they end up with the lion’s share of advertisers’ attention and ad spend.

Another side benefit: Google’s competitors also spend more time chasing their tails to develop reports and functionality that really won’t make much difference to the lives of their clients, but will tick off a box in the feature-for-feature competition with Adwords.  While they’re spending time trying to match Adwords UI features instead of, for instance, growing their content network partnerships to increase marketshare, or something else that will actually make a difference for their advertisers, Google ‘drinks their milkshake’.

What About the Little Guy?

What about the flip side?  What about the small business that opens an Adwords account and tries to make a go of it?  They’re not professional marketers, nor do they have time to spend every waking hour servicing Adwords’ insatiable need for attention.  No matter how blogs or books they read or how many Google small business seminars they watch, they have no idea why they can’t just pay for their damn ad to show.  It’s almost as if Google is saying to them, “Hey, this is really complicated…just let us manage your bids and budgets for you.”  Oh, and remember:  If you’re having a problem getting Adwords to show your ads, the answer is always “increase your bid”.  Umhmm…

In the quest for the “beautiful” algorithms that will ensure they never have to actually talk to their customers in person, Google has created a monster.  A monster of complexity and “quality” that obfuscates the only data that really matters: “Is my damn ad being shown on to the customers I’m looking for, and am I making any money?”

Other less sophisticated ad platforms pretty much do just that:  take the money, show the ad,  kind of a refreshing idea.

Of course there are challenges with ad quality.  Of course there’s a lot of competition to manage, but quality score in particular is often unnecessarily harsh to honest advertisers who just want to show an ad to their potential customers.  They’re not running business scams, or promoting deceptive products, they just want to sell eaves troughs to people who need eaves troughs.

What’s All This Data Really Worth?

For Adwords professionals, the pertinent question is what metrics are worth poring over and which are simply distracting noise?  There’s no doubt that between Google Adwords and Google Analytics there are enough data and measurement points to keep you buried for eternity.  But there’s also the possibility that you start to lose sight of the forest for the trees…

Adwords isn’t going to get any less complex going forward.  In fact, it’s likely to get even ‘data-noisier’ as 2011 unfolds.  But it’s interesting that in the case of funnel analytics and split testing for instance, the data firehose of Google Analytics has opened up room for new companies such as KISSmetrics to differentiate their analytics offering by making things simpler.  Will the same thing happen to PPC advertising platforms in the future? Very possibly.  Facebook (Google’s biggest real competitor going forward) has shown some promise in this area conceptually, trying to help advertisers connect with actual people rather than just queries.

Times Are a’ Changin’

I think it’s ironic that while Microsoft spends their precious development resources trying to match Adwords feature for feature, Google is rushing to make their search engine look more and more like Bing.  If Microsoft can properly align Adcenter’s functionality with Bing’s future direction, they’ll have an opportunity to differentiate from Google instead of simply playing copycat.  Given Microsoft’s historical internal silo-like structure, this isn’t too likely unfortunately, but one can dream:)

The other day my eight-year-old asked me to “look up a video on”.  I asked him why he wanted to look at ‘’ instead of Youtube? He said he didn’t know, but he thought ‘Bing was newer’.

The next generation of searchers growing up now won’t have brand loyalty to Google alone. They’ll be using whatever’s new, neat, built into their favourite web service or social network site, or more likely, whatever is preset by their mobile device carrier.  No report in Adwords is going to show you that you should really be spending some time buying ads on other platforms.   In fact, Google will make sure you keep thinking the alternatives are simply too immature to be worthy of your ad dollars.

Smart marketers will keep their ears to the ground and ensure they’re looking at signal rather than noise, following their customers and not simply Google.

Was the Recent Quality Score Display Glitch Really Fixed?

9 Comments Written on November 12th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords

On the morning of October 27th, a huge percentage of Adwords advertisers woke up to a nasty surprise:  Their Quality Scores had absolutely tanked and their minimum first page bids were horrifyingly high.  10/10 and 7/10’s were now 2/10, or 3/10.  My Quality Score alerts were pinging all over the place.

The weird part was that traffic seemed to be coming in normally and the actual CPCs being charged were apparently normal.  Word spread on Twitter and search marketing sites that Google was experiencing a “display issue” with Quality Scores and minimum first page bids showing up in the Adwords UI and that Google was “looking into it”.  They then came back and said they figured it out, ad serving wasn’t affected, and the issue was fixed:

“This issue was limited to the reporting of Quality Score, and the fix should be live for all within the next 24 hours. For those keywords with a status of Low search volume, the fix should be live within the next few days.”

Too bad for you as an advertiser if you freaked out (understandably so) and changed all your bids…

That aside, there’s still one small problem:  It doesn’t appear that the glitch is fixed for everyone and it’s starting to get really annoying.

A number of days later after the “fix” some of the members in our PPCblog community started commenting on the fact that they still had not seen their Quality Scores return to where they were before the display issue.

I’ve noticed it personally as well.  This is what it looks like, relatively high first page bid estimate with a low QS, but normal traffic levels and average CPCs well below the Max CPC:

Google’s support forums (pretty much the only way for non-big-brand advertisers to get any official Adwords support) are also lighting up with reports again that advertisers are still seeing the issue as well…

If you’re struggling to figure out recent drops in your Keyword Relevance Quality Scores, and you’re one of the blessed, reach out to your rep.  If you’re rep-less, but have been deemed worthy of being allowed to email support, it’s worth the time to ping them on the issue.

Alternatively, if you’re stuck with sending Adwords support smoke signals, keep loading threads into their hosted support forum, maybe they’ll finally give it a second look.