Contextual Advertising

Inside the New Google Display Network Performance Metrics

4 Comments Written on June 15th, 2011 by
Categories: Contextual Advertising, Display Ads, Google Adwords

Some clever eyes spotted this as early as late last week, and yesterday Google officially announced it:  You can now see your “Relative CTR” compared to other content ads (text or display ads) shown in the same ad spots on the same content network pages.

Google also now says that your ‘relative CTR’ is a ‘good indicator of your content network quality score (not that that’s a big surprise though, we’ve always pretty much known content QS was driven by CTR relative to other advertisers’ ads in that same ad spot).

How to View Your Relative CTR

You can view your “relative CTR” rating at the campaign or adgroup level. To see it, go to “Customize Columns” and check the box to display it. This works in the All Campaigns screen as well as when you drill into a specific content-only campaign:

To evaluate these numbers, HIGHER IS BETTER.  Anything below 1x is “below avg” and will likely have fewer impressions that “above average” 1x adgroups.

So if my relative CTR is 2.3x, I have a 2.3 times better CTR for that adgroup than my competitors.

If my relative CTR is .8x, I have a 20% worse CTR than the average CTR for that adgroup.

How To Use This Data

Now you can clearly see with it which adgroups desperately need new ads: ads that can get a relative CTR above 1x to bump out your competitors. Work on new ads for these right away, and evaluate your relative CTR for that adgroup daily until you get up over 1x. Then keep going to improve even more if you want to really lock your competitors out.

If you use the date selector to look at a longer period of time (say the last 30 days) you can get an idea of how the competitive landscape moves and shifts in your campaign. You’ll also be able to tell when a competitor comes up with a killer new ad that’s forcing down your relative CTR, reminding you to go check the ad out on your top content placement pages and see what’ they’re doing and beat it:

Impression Share % for the Display Network is Also Back

Google has shown you your campaign’s Impression Share % column for a while now, but for Search campaigns only.

A while ago a similar metric appeared for display network only campaigns, but then disappeared.

Google is now showing Impression Share % again for display campaigns. This shows you how much of the total display ad or content ad pie you’re getting for your campaign.

To enable it, on your All Campaigns screen, click “Customize Columns” and check the box for the “Impression Share” column. You’ll then see it likeso:

Overall, we’re seeing a lot more information on what’s happening behind the scenes in the display network auction: very cool. Prior to this you just had to make assumptions about what to tweak and rely on fuzzy metrics like avg position and actual CPCs.

Out of interest’s sake, in my top content campaign that gets around 50 million impressions a month, all of my relative CTRs are over 2x, which might be why that campaign has 73% impression share.

One More Thing…

Google has also announced that they’re adding an ad diagnostic indicator to help you see whether your ad is showing on a particular placement page or not:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This feature isn’t live yet for all advertisers, but should be by the end of July.

In what ways can you envision using this new data?  Share in the comments!

Google & Privacy – Maybe We Should Be More Creeped Out

I got an email on Friday from a non-tech savvy friend that had recently asked me for advice on where to set up a new email account for her home business.  I recommended gmail, pretty much just as a reflex.

Here’s the email she sent me:

“…So here’s an interesting thing with Gmail:   I’ve been e-mailing back and forth about a quote for my services and one of the questions the client asked me is ‘am I covered by worker-injury insurance’.  I answered that I have do indeed have private accident and disability insurance, so no need to worry about my coverage while onsite.

Now–alongside my mailbox I’m getting ads about disability insurance, and legal claims for workplace injuries.  Somebody is reading my Gmail besides who I’m sending it to.  What’s up with that?  Is this phishing?  And how do they get into my mailbox?

Now, at first my reaction was the typical techno-geek response: “Duh, Gmail has ads and that’s why the service is free, I’m LOLZ because you think someone is reading your email”.

But then I thought about this for a second.  Someone is reading it.

Maybe I’m the one the joke is on, not the non-techie person.

The Joke is On Us

Consider for a second the world of ad targeting we live in where we’re so used to Google invading our personal data and online activities that it seems laughable that someone ‘non-technical’ would assume another party is reading their email and the like.

It’s kind of sad how Google-conditioning takes over and we forget, and even laugh at, the idea that our data is private and shouldn’t be read as fodder for ad targeting.

When you stand back and look stuff like this from a non-Google-user perspective, it’s pretty striking.  I used to think that one day ‘we’ll all look back and laugh at the time when our private communications were private’, but low and behold, we’re already there.

Maybe we should stop laughing.

 

Prevent Previous Buyers From Seeing Your Google Remarketing Ads

Many remarketing campaigns use discount offer banners to try and recapture visitors who abandon the shopping cart.  For example they might ‘remarketing cookie’ bailout users and show them ads offering coupon codes or bundle offers – anything to get them back into a purchase.

The only danger with this however is that you might end up ticking off users who have already bought through the regular sales process at full pop.

To prevent this with buyers who come in via Adwords traffic, you can exclude “Sale” or “Lead” conversion audiences to your remarketing combinations.  Google uses their usual Adwords conversion tracking code that’s likely already on your ‘thank you’ as a ‘pre-configured’ remarketing list:  People who have bought or signed up already.  Handy.

Add Your Converted Visitors as a Remarketing List

Here’s how to create a remarketing list for people that have already converted (assumes you have regular conversion tracking already installed):

While in the Campaigns view in the Adwords UI, open the expandable left sidebar and at the bottom of the sidebar click “Control Panel & Library”, then select “Audiences”.

Now, create “New Audience” then “Remarketing List”.

We’ll want to name this list something that is familiar like “Adwords Buyers” , and we can reuse the existing conversion tracking tags (here called “Sale”) instead of creating a new tag:

Preconfigured Adwords Conversion Tracking Tags

This will allow us to give our remarketing campaigns special instructions about how to handle people who have already converted via Adwords.

Create a Negative Audience to Suppress Previous Adwords Buyers

Now we want to update our existing remarketing adgroup or campaign to exclude these folks.  I already have my Adwords-sourced site visitors in a remarketing list running inside an existing remarketing campaign.

I’m going to add them as a campaign-wide “Negative Audience” to ensure I don’t show discount offer ads to them after they’ve already purchased:

Now we’ll select our “Converted” list to the negatives:

That’s it!

Note:  This example bears out the importance of creating separate Display Network campaigns for remarketing.  The more granular you get in separating campaigns, the more targeted you can get in deciding who sees what ad as you grow out your remarketing efforts.

 

What About People Who Buy Via Microsoft Adcenter Traffic?

Google’s conversion tracking shortcut for reusing existing tags on your thank you page doesn’t work for suppressing remarketing ads against buyers from other traffic sources.

For that you’ll need to tag buyers from non-Adwords traffic via a new remarketing list and place those tags on your thank you page as well.

To create the tags for this, follow the same instructions above to navigate to your Audience lists.

Again we’ll create a new remarketing list from the “New Audience” button.

This time we need to create a new tag rather than reusing an existing one:

Now we can get the tag code to put on our thank you page:

 

 

Now we need to add these buyers are a campaign-wide negative list to our existing remarketing campaign as well (just like we did with Adwords buyers):

 

 

Done!  Now both Adwords buyers and those that buy via Adcenter or other traffic sources will be excluded from seeing our special offer remarketing ads.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Now it’s true that adding just the “Adcenter Buyers” remarketing tag to the thank you page and adding that list as a campaign-wide negative audience will prevent ANY buyers from seeing remarketing ads from this campaign, this example gives you as a reader a better idea of how Google’s conversion tracking can create list shortcuts as well as helping you not to forget about buyers from other traffic sources beyond just Adwords.

This also goes to show the importance of thoroughly thinking through your remarketing campaigns, trying to visualize who will see your ads and when.  Preventing people who have already bought from seeing your discount ads can save you a lot of grief.

That said, even buyers can come back for more, so you might want to think about what you could specifically market to people who have bought from you already.  Maybe you could create a custom remarketing campaign that just targets the buyers’ lists with ads encouraging them to sign up for a deals newsletter or your general mailing list.  Don’t waste the opportunity to keep selling!

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: WhatRunsWhere.com

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:)

Did Google Just OK Adwords Arbitrage Again?

I feel like I’m in some kind of dream.

I don’t know how I missed it, but this was posted on the Google Adwords blog just last week:

Using Google Adsense to Complement Your Adwords Account

The post asks how, “since not every visit leads to a sale, wouldn’t it be great to have other ways of making money from those visits?”

Their suggested answer to this conundrum? Put Adsense on your site.

What?

The post continues:

“DesignerApparel.com is an AdWords and AdSense client that has had great success using these two products together. DesignerApparel.com offers premium designer clothes at affordable prices. They implemented AdSense for Content and AdSense for Search and specifically targeted certain pages within their site.”

The “CEO”/Webmaster guy then says, (get this):

“We have come to think of AdSense revenue as a partial but instant rebate on our AdWords investment,” said Dominic Ang, President of MyPerfectSale.com, the owner of DesignerApparel.com. “While we were initially concerned about potential cannibalization, we have found out that using certain spots for AdSense such as the end of a page or in exit pages can drive significant additional revenue with no loss in our core e-commerce revenue.”

You view it as what? “A rebate on your Adwords” clicks?”

But wait – It gets even better…  What kind of site is “DesignerApparel.com”?

It’s a…wait for it….thin affiliate feed site. At least “DecorMyEyes.com” actually sold the products they promoted…

Go to this page on DesignerApparel.com and check out what happens when you click on a product in their “store”.

The entire site is an affiliate ‘doorway’ page to other shops.  A year ago you would have been banished for life from Adwords for promoting a site like this via Google Ads.

Now, not only can you run ads to a door way like this, you can even run Adsense on it and arbitrage your “rebate” on Adwords clicks – And Google is SUGGESTING THAT YOU GO OUT AND DO IT!

In fairness, it doesn’t say they run Adsense ads on their individual Adwords landing pages however it doesn’t say they don’t. Again, I feel like I’m dreaming.  After several years of painfully culling the accounts of arbitragers, affiliates, and price/review aggregators, we have this?  Really?

Maybe now that Google has an affiliate network and their own in-house thin affiliate feed sites (shamelessly ripping off ShoeDazzle’s innovative style configurator), they’re ready to ease up a bit on their guidelines.

It looks like it’s ‘game-on’ again for arbitrage, they just blessed it.

10 Killer Adwords Strategies for Startups

Acquisitions aside, a big part of the reason Groupon is growing as fast as it is is because of their massive Adwords push, particularly on the Google display network.

Skillfully executed Adwords display and search campaigns can help your startup:

  • Maximize launch buzz and get people coming back to their new beta accounts
  • Help tweak and test new feature ideas
  • Tip you off when you need to pivot
  • Grab investors’ attention

Here are ten quick tips in three main areas detailing how startups can use PPC to boost their success rate pre-launch, during launch, and post-launch:

- Pre-Launch -

Capturing Investor Attention

Looking to catch some eyeballs on Sand Hill Road? Carpet-bomb your display ads across specific parts of the Silicon Valley (or anywhere you like really) using tight campaign geo-targeting.

Build custom banners specifically designed to speak directly to VCs as they browse their favourite blogs, many of which participate in the Adsense (or Doubleclick) content network.

Sites will often backfill inventory at pennies on the dollar via various ad exchanges like Doubleclick’s, giving you the chance to slip sideways into premium placements as other monthly direct-buy ad campaigns reach their caps. (See the below ideas on retargeting to make sure your ads ‘follow’ your potential investors.)

Testing New Feature Ideas

Wondering if adding a new feature to your product or service will really make a difference to sales? Try running Adwords traffic to a split test pitting your typical landing page against a variant that highlights the potential new feature. Next, measure the difference in Call-to-Action clicks: Did it move the needle? If not, the new feature might not have the draw you’re hoping for.

Naming Your Product

Tim Ferriss has been a huge proponent of testing everything from potential book titles to business and product names using Adwords. I completely concur.

Try creating multiple ads with different product names you’re considering and compare the various ad click-through-rates (and/or beta registration rates) to vet the catchiness of your company, product or feature names.

You can use the Adwords ad text display URL field to mix up the naming variables (eg, %idea%.companyname.com, or companyname.com/%idea%), or better yet, test using the ad headline to grab the results more quickly.

Crafting Your Pitch

Searching for the perfect brand or product tagline? Trying to accurately align your messaging with the most common customer pain points? Ad split testing and CTR evaluation can help you find the most attractive taglines.

Additionally, bidding on specific sets of keywords that reflect different ‘types’ of customer pain points and evaluating the click through interest and traffic for each keyword theme can help you quickly determine what pain points are worth hammering on in your marketing and messaging.

Be aware however that you might find that the types of customers you thought your service would appeal to don’t really have much interest in your pitch or your beta. It pays to listen to the market. If the interest doesn’t seem to be there, retest and see if you end up with the same results. If so, it may be time to consider a pivot.

Beta & Pre-launch Email List Building

Groupon used the Adwords display network in launch city after launch city to drum up a huge email list before they even had offers in those markets. How much would it rock to have a massive list of beta testers and potential launch customers ready waiting the minute you’re ready to drop?

- During Launch -

Combine Launch Buzz with Site Targeting to Generate Expanded Visibility

Adwords is also a great way to extend the your awareness and reach during your launch. Often, sites that would editorially cover your launch announcements also running some form of Google/Doubleclick-powered display ads on their sites.

Look up your PR-hitlist of sites ahead of time using the Google placement targeting tool and create placement-targeted display ad campaigns you can use to blanket these top sites with your ads right at launch time.

Additionally, create a keyword-targeted version (using your brand keywords) of your campaigns to reach sites you hadn’t thought would cover that ended up picking up your launch.

Stalking Hesitant Visitors

Use Adwords Retargeting feature (also called “remarketing”) to cookie users who check out your site at launch time but don’t sign up. Your display ads will follow them around the Adsense and Doubleclick banner network for weeks afterward, giving you a chance to change up your banners until you find something that finally convinces them to buy or sign up.

Pissing Off Your Competitors

Want to put your competitors on notice? Use Adwords to bid on their brand name and URL using a clever or striking ad that diverts their potential visitors’ attention your way.

As an added bonus, your competitors are likely to check out your site when you launch, so using retargeting you can cookie them and follow them around the internet as well, taunting them daily:)

- Post-Launch & Beyond -

Price Testing & Funnel Optimization

Use Adwords to send specific traffic streams to new checkout flows, different registration path tests and more. Adwords search traffic comes in through a pretty silo’d channel so you can try new things without rocking the boat with existing customers (especially helpful when price testing or including new bonus concepts etc…)

Regaining Post-Signup Mindshare

Often, getting free trial signups for your new service isn’t the hard part, it’s getting people to come back and actually use their new accounts, hopefully leading to a paid conversion. Cookie your new users via Adwords retargeting and create banners designed to lure them back to log into their accounts and actually use your service.

Final Note: Build Adwords Spend Into Your Funding Plan

All of this is wonderful if you’ve got the resources to be able to pay Google for traffic. A lot of startups recognize that SEO is an important part of their user acquisition strategy, but how many bake Pay Per Click into their plan right from the start?

How does it work in practice?  “Adwords was always part of our marketing plan from the beginning.  Bidding on tail terms worked extremely well for us in addition to using retargeting banners.  I can’t understate the importance of factoring in PPC to your launch.” – Jason Morehouse, founder of Checkfront Inc., a fast-growing online booking system.

If you’re raising funding, make sure allocate some budget for Adwords to make sure you can leverage all of these handy tactics to improve your product, snag early users, and pitch additional potential investors. SEO can seemingly take forever to move the traffic needle when you’re desperate to get traction with your launch. Adwords gives you traction right away, on-tap when you need it. Plan and budget for it, and you’ll be able to use PPC to seriously disrupt your market.

Facebook Lead Generation for Local Businesses

Whether you’re a web marketing consultant for locally-based businesses, or do the marketing for your small company yourself, you need to give Facebook a serious look as a channel for quickly generating leads.  When you combine Facebook’s ability to drill deeply into any locale or language with their advanced user interest and demographic targeting, you end up with a very potent platform for reaching local customers and generating leads.

To illustrate, consider the following example.

Generating Local Business Leads During Slow Periods

Renovation contractor Jordan S. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada wanted to drive more home renovation leads during typically slower, early spring months.

When times are busier, he generates leads based on referrals and job-site advertising signage.  Facebook Ads however presented a unique opportunity to drive leads via his newly-optimized landing page and lead form.

First Things First: Landing Page Optimization

Before spending significant dollars on any kind of advertising, it’s always best to optimize your landing page and lead or sale conversion flow to ensure your site visitors aren’t led to sub-optimal pages that don’t convert.

Rather than landing visitors on his site’s homepage, Calgary contractor Sage Renovations requisitioned a customized landing page that fed their main goal:  Getting leads to contact them for estimates.

His landing page features minimal links to other pages on their site to ensure users are properly funneled through the lead process:

lp

Note for Consultants: You can launch the most fantastic Facebook Ad campaign conceivable and still fail miserably if your client’s landing page stinks.  Even if they’re reticent, pound it into them that they need a well-designed lander or contact page to have any noticeable success advertising on Facebook, Adwords, or any other PPC platform.  If they’re not willing to invest a couple hundred dollars into a single landing page to improve their chances of success, you’re going to be hard pressed to drive any value for your services.  Use this requirement as a qualifier to ensure you’re spending your time on the right clients.

Next Up: Creating a Lead Campaign with Facebook Ads

The first step in  setting up a Facebook Ads campaign is creating winning ads.

Here’s some key points when it comes to creating ads for Facebook:

  • You need to create multiple ads to ensure you find an ad that gets the best possible click-through-rat.
  • Your (110×80) image is the most important part of your ad.  It’s even more important than your headline.
  • Dark images work best at grabbing attention against Facebook’s (mostly) white user interface.
  • Be sure to read the Facebook punctuation and image guidelines to ensure your ads are approved.
  • Try using the location name you’re targeting in your ad headline and body.  i.e. (“City Name” + Keyword)

To create your ads, select the green “Create an Ad” on Facebook.com/ads:

ad create

Note: When creating your ad, be particularly careful to check your Destination URL to make sure it a) works and b) lands the user on the right page.

Next, you’ll want to set up your ad targeting options:

targeting

Be VERY careful here not to just go with the default targeting options.

The Facebook ad server will give you an idea of how many users you’re reaching with the targeting options you’ve selected.

Some notes on Facebook targeting:

  • The more granular the better.  For instance, ad performance can vary greatly between age groups, male vs. female, geographic location, relationship status and more.
  • Try creating multiple ads with the same image, headline, and body text, but vary the ages, gender, location, etc…  Yes, you’ll have a lot of ads to manage, but you’ll be able drill your targeting in more deeply, and cut low-CTR demographics where interest happens to be low.
  • Try using different keywords to further increase the relevance of your ad to users who have either used those keywords in their Facebook Newsfeed or profile description.  This will reduce the user pool overall, but more closely honed targeting means more qualified leads and higher ad click-through-rates.

Next, you’ll need to configure your bids:

pricing

  • Facebook defaults to CPC or Cost-per-Click-based bidding, which is typically the type of bid you’ll want to start with.  If you’ve got a particularly strong ad click-through-rate after running for a while on CPC bids, you can switch to CPM later, reducing your ad costs.
  • Trying to start with CPM (impressions-only bidding) will make it tough to get your ads into rotation early on.  Most other advertisers will be using CPC bids, and once Facebook’s ad server normalizes everyone’s bids across the system, you’re likely to end up without traffic.
  • You’ll also want to be careful here to ensure your budget is set at a level you’re comfortable with.  If your ad is successful early on, you could see a TON of traffic from Facebook before you realize whether or not that traffic is actually converting to leads or sales.  Often, it’s best to start with a smaller daily budget until you can get a grip on how the traffic is performing for you quality-wise.

Review Your Ads For Accuracy & Go!

With a few ad variations created, the ads will await Facebook’s reviewer approval.

Note:  Facebook can be quite slow in approving new ads, occasionally taking a day or two to review your ads.  This is normal, unfortunately you’ll just need to wait it out.

kichen1kitchen2bathroom1bathroom2

Evaluate, Tweak, Repeat…

The one thing about Facebook Ads is that its not a passive ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ system on which to advertise.  Users quickly experience ad fatigue and your ads will be lucky to run longer than a week or so before you’ll need to come up with more creatives to refresh your presence and keep your place in the ad rotation.  You’ll know it’s time to come up with fresh, tweaked ads when your CTR starts to drop precipitously.

Continually loading new ads is a particularly important requirement if you’re targeting a small, tight group of people: people that will likely be exposed to your ad multiple times (depending on the amount of competition) over a very short period of time.  Find what’s getting clicks, tweak it, keep it fresh and you’ll be able to consistently generate leads for almost any local business.

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…

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.

Update:

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…

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.