Display Ads

PPCblog Review: Mixrank Competitive Ad Research Tool

No Comments » Written on August 17th, 2011 by
Categories: Display Ads, PPC Tools

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to data mine the competition.

After seeing a beta Adsense competitive research tool called MixRank reviewed by VanillaCoke on the Seobook blog I thought I’d take a bit of time and check it out for myself.  I was also curious to see how it compared with another competitive research tool I’ve reviewed for PPCblog called WhatRunsWhere.  You can read that review here.

In this example I’m looking to dig up data in the health vertical.

First thing you’ll notice when you perform a search on MixRank is the handy auto-suggest feature on the field, ordered with the biggest advertisers on the top. Type in one of you’re broadest keywords and you’re likely to get a whole list of domains who you’ve never though of checking out. I started with health… and clicked on the first result healthline.com

The results appear quickly and when the page comes up it’s logically broken up into text ads, banner ads, and traffic sources.

Starting with text ads, I’m able to immediately see healthline.com’s top variations. The default sort is based on ad frequency, but all the columns are sortable, so by clicking on the publishers column, I can see which ads are getting the widest site distribution. Conveniently, all data is exportable for  those of us who like to crunch data from all directions in Excel.

Flipping to the Ad Reach tab, I’m able to see a graphical representation of the total publishers reached per ad. This is the same metric as the previous screen, but in this case its charted over time, enabling me to quickly spot ads that are being ramped up or phased out. This is also great reminder that summary data can be deceiving. All time best performers aren’t always what works best right now. You need to see ad trends, and with this feature they’re quite clear to see.

MixRank’s best performers tab is pretty self explanatory. It graphs ad performance (based on impressions and average position) over time. Once again, immediately pulling out the ads that are going to be your biggest competition.

On to the banner ads section. I like that MixRank allows you to download all the banners from the ‘download all’ link. I do wish there were some metrics in this area to help me determine which banner ads are performing the strongest, and/or which sizes are getting the most play, but even just having the images and the last seen data (available by clicking on the images) is valuable. Certainly useful for inspiration/strategy on ad design.

MixRank’s  traffic sources section details all the sites healthline.com is getting impression share on. As well as the following data points:

  • Uniques – estimated number of unique visitors
  • Last Seen – the last time MixRank saw the ad
  • Days Seen – number of days in the last month MixRank was shown the ad
  • Average Position – the advertiser’s average position in the AdSense block

For PPC, this is great for identifying sites that could be well suited to your campaigns. It could also be a way to identify where you’re competition isn’t getting traction – and an opportunity to either exclude the domain or optimize your ad content and outperform them.

On the flip, as an Adsense publisher also, taking a look at some of the better performing sites was a bit of an eye-opener on what types of verticals I can optimize for. :)

Summing up, if you want to get a leg up on your competition, here’s what you’ll get from MixRank:

  • the competition’s text ad copy and relative performance
  • their banner ads
  • the domains where their ads are showing
  • ad performance trends

While there’s no shortage of spy tools available for Adsense data, going through them, you find that many are so complex that you can’t just get in, get the data and get out without losing a whole chunk of your day.  So far, MixRank appears to be good at distilling the data down to useable, actionable bites.

The *beta* version of MixRank, which is being offered while they ramp up, is also laced with teasers for features that are on the way. I’m quite keen to see what they have in store for the ‘keywords’ and ‘best traffic sources’ tabs.

For the time being, MixRank is free, so go sign-up for the beta and give it a spin. As with all of search tools, it takes a little time for them to build up their database, but so far they’re tracking 93K+ sites, so you’re bound to learn a thing or two.

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!

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:)

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.

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….?

Evaluate Display Network Category Performance

1 Comment » Written on October 7th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Conversion, Display Ads, Google Adwords

Many advertisers haven’t yet explored the performance breakdown Google provides on content network campaigns.  Most Adwords users know you can exclude sites that don’t convert based on data from your Display Network Placement Report, but Google has been slowly adding new data points to the site category exclusion options including the ability to view and/or prevent your content ads from showing on ad units below the fold, or outside of the Doubleclick Adplanner’s Top 1000 Sites list.

To view how you’re performing on different site categories, click the “Networks” tab in your content campaign (either at the campaign or the adgroup level) and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the link for “Exclusions”:

Adwords Site Category Exclusion

You’ll then see a full list of the types of sites you can view performance data on (depending on the date range you’ve selected):

Your cost-per-conversion data may signal that you need to exclude some site categories either at the campaign or adgroup level, or you might find that a particular site category performs exceptionally well for you, in which case you might want to look at placement targeting similar sites.

Either way you use the data, the option to get this kind of visibility into your content traffic is a welcome addition to Adwords platform:)

PS: Thank you so much to the PPCblog training and community members who participated in yesterday’s live Q&A call with myself, Rehan Zaidi, and Neil Patel!  The feedback has been great, and we’re going to make a live conference call a monthly feature for our members.

If you’re interested in becoming a member of our private community, you can find more details here!

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…