Google Adwords

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:)

Adwords Scam Email Alert

3 Comments Written on May 10th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

One of our community members posted about this this morning, definitely something to keep an eye out for.

The email is attempting to get you to login to a fake Adwords interface by submitting your Google Accounts login.

It looks like they’ve done their homework, the email comes from “” and tries to scare you into logging into the fake UI as “your advertisements have stopped running”.













The fake Adwords interface they’ve built is pretty slick looking as well.

Quite a few advertisers have received this attempt today, it might be worth a heads up to your staff and clients to watch out for it as well.

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!

PPC Consulting Q&A with Mona Elesseily

1 Comment » Written on April 19th, 2011 by
Categories: Business, Google Adwords

PPC consultant Mona Elesseily is VP of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media, a PPC and marketing management firm.  She was kind of enough to answer some of my burning questions about PPC consulting, and how they manage client engagements.  Enjoy!

Can you tell us a little about your marketing background? How long have you been focused on PPC consulting?

I’ve been in the industry since 2001. In my career, I’ve done SEO, online media buying, online PR, PPC advertising, copywriting, conversion optimization, analytics (implementation & data analysis) & website usability. For the last 8 years, I’ve focused exclusively on PPC, conversion optimization and analytics (implementation & analysis).

In my career, I’ve worked with companies like Capital One, Cathay Pacific, Yahoo!, Careerbuilder, Knowledge Adventure Inc., Apollo Health Inc. (acquired by Phillips Inc.) & Epoch Integration Inc. (acquired by Research In Motion) to name a few.

I have spoken at over 100 North American and international marketing conferences. I’ve written two books on online marketing and I write a column for I will likely start writing another book related to online marketing in the next few months.

Do you typically work directly with client advertisers, or do you find that clients want you to work with their ad/media agencies?

We work with both clients and client agencies. When working with agencies, the best scenario is when we have directly access to the client. It’s important for us to get answers quickly and to proactive and efficient with marketing initiatives. With PPC advertising, things can change quickly and it’s beneficial to be able to react in a timely manner.

In your mind, who is the “ideal” client (or how would you describe the ‘ideal’ client) for search consultants with less than, say, 5 staff?

I’ve outlined a few questions I ask myself when I’m considering a new client:

  • Are clients willing to listen to ideas?
  • Do they have internal resources to implement suggestions?
  • Are there internal company barriers like poor reporting?
  • Are key contacts easy to get along with?
  • Are clients forthcoming with internal communications and information?
  • Do clients have clear PPC goals like CPA targets or volume targets?

We ask ourselves as an agency:

  • Can we make a difference for the client in their specific industry?
  • Is the client’s budget appropriate for their industry category? For example, we could run into problems if competitors spend $40,000 per month in PPC advertising, and the client only has a $10,000 per month budget.
  • Is it an account we’re really passionate about?

One of the laments I hear from PPC consultants sometimes is that they go in, build out and optimize the client’s account, then it starts running well and all of a sudden they don’t understand why they should keep you on. Any thoughts on how PPC consultants can ensure they don’t “work themselves out of a contract” through success?

There are initiatives I implement for new accounts (or accounts where PPC fundamentals have not been covered) and mature PPC accounts. Some of the new account initiatives include keyword research, choosing appropriate tracking metrics (preferably tied to ROI), match type testing, geotargeting strategies, ad copy creation and testing, PPC landing pages creation and testing, etc.

Some mature account initiatives include additional keyword research related to converting terms/areas in PPC accounts, day parting strategies (i.e. time of day and day of week), multivariate testing and additional conversion optimization efforts. In terms of conversion optimization, we’d say try to increase conversions rates from 8% to 10%. As you know, optimization is a continual process. In general, advertisers should see conversion rate increases if they’re analyzing appropriate data and are focusing on optimizing the right areas in an account.

If a PPC pro lands a new client account, what would be the best way to price his or her services?  Is a setup fee standard followed by percentage of spend? Or are flat monthly fees more desirable?

We use a monthly flat fee and/or a pay for performance model. In my experience, clients don’t tend to like the percentage of ad spend model because agency goals (i.e. higher ad spend) and client goals like better CPAs, additional sales, additional leads, etc. are not aligned.

When you start with a new client, and their account is breaking even but not performing particularly well, do you typically gut it and start over?  Or use a lighter touch and rework things separately, gradually cutting over to new campaigns?

It depends. If Quality Scores are terrible in an account, we may decide to start from scratch. If they aren’t so bad, we may opt to rework existing campaigns.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen PPC consultants make?

I’ve seen many of them. Some of them include:

  • Not understanding match types and, in particular, the implications of broad match.
  • Not understanding that default settings in Google are set to Google’s advantage. A couple of examples are: 1) default opt-in to mobile advertising and 2) default opt in to the content (display network).
  • Not understanding that advertisers have to dig deep into Google AdWords accounts for beneficial Google features like negative match types, ad rotation features, geographic targeting, etc.
  • Buying into PPC myths. Check out some common myths in my last Search Engine Land article.

Do you specify a minimum term engagement with your clients? What would you recommend in this regard for smaller search consultancies?

I like to go with a 6-month term so I can test & implement various PPC initiatives (like many tactics mentioned in question #4) and assess the overall impact of PPC marketing campaigns. This makes more sense when clients have long sales cycles or when accounts have less volume as it takes time to achieve statistical significance.




Thoughts on Adwords’ Slaps, Bans, & Recovery

13 Comments Written on March 23rd, 2011 by
Categories: Affiliate Marketing, Google Adwords

There are reports lately of a fresh round of “Google Slaps” going around.  It seems like this happens every six months or so, usually in waves.  I’ve heard of quite a few of the latest slaps being tied to accounts that were promoting “counterfeit” goods and knock-offs of designer products and the like.

The following are some of my general thoughts and observations on Google “slaps” and “bans”.

The Difference Between a “Slap” and a Ban

When you hear the term “Google Slap” it’s usually in reference to all of your keywords being “slapped” with a 1/10 Quality Score.  You’ll notice this is a blanket penalty across all keywords that are promoted by one or more domain names within your account.  You won’t see just one or two keywords slapped with a 1/10, with other keywords staying the same at 7/10 or the like for a given domain name.  It’s all or none.

A “ban”, or as Google prefers to call it, having your account “disabled”, is different than a “slap”.  Often, a slap will happen in advance of a complete account ban, with one or more “slaps” culminating in a permanent ban.  Consider a “slap” to be a warning of sorts, and a ban effectively means you’re done with Adwords.  Bans can stretch out to encompass any and all additional Adwords accounts tied to you personally.

When the original group of account bans started going out in the fall of 2009, Google said on their quarterly earnings call that over 30,000 Adwords accounts were ‘disabled’. That was 2009.  Since then the bans have kept rolling, with reports indicating that over 50,000 Adwords accounts have been recently disabled for promoting counterfeit goods.

How does Google know what accounts are tied to you?  Believe me, they know. Everything from IP address triangulation to Google Accounts (Gmail IDs) that have touched a common set of accounts can give you up.   If one of your accounts is disabled, you can safely expect that unless you’ve been phenomenally paranoid and careful in disassociating your accounts from one another, your other accounts will soon be toast.  (If you don’t know what’s required to do this and you have multiple accounts, it’s probably too late.)

Adwords Bans:  Your Past Sins Have Come Back to Haunt You

“My site is totally compliant with the Adwords quality guidelines, and I STILL got banned!”  One of the biggest mysteries to those who have their accounts ‘disabled’ is why it’s happened to them when the site they’re currently promoting is as “white a snow” according to Google’s Adwords quality guidelines.  This might not just be their perception either, their site might indeed be 100% compliant (until Google decides to change the guidelines again of course).

So why are they being disabled?

The most common reason is not what they’re promoting now, it’s what they’ve promoted in the past.

Why would Google hold that against them?  It’s probably because of the way affiliates used to ‘churn and burn’ domains they were promoting in years gone by.  When Google slapped a domain in their account, they just grabbed a new domain, copied and pasted the old Adwords campaign into a new one (using the new domain this time), and started rolling again, with in Google’s view, zero effort to ‘fix’ what Google was objecting to on the old domain.

Google wasn’t stupid, they knew this “loophole” worked, I’m sure it didn’t help when advertisers were advising each other to ‘just grab a new domain and go’ on the Google-monitored WebmasterWorld forums, not to mention the in-house Google Adwords support forums. (Always reminds me of the “Don’t make Google look stupid” advice).

To get around this “loophole” Google now disables accounts that haven’t ‘fixed up’ the sites that were slapped in the past.  It squashes the ‘get a new domain and reload’ tactic quite effectively.  The only problem however was that it took Adwords support a while to let disabled advertisers know that it was sites they’re no longer even promoting that were at fault for their account getting whacked.

Over time however, Google has been more forthcoming with detailed ban reasons in their ‘farewell’ emails to advertisers, even letting them know what it was about that old site you’re no longer promoting that they didn’t like.  That’s little consolation however when you’re being permanently banned anyway.

You Can’t “Fix” a Site You No Longer Have

Lately, Google has been slapping old domains with 1/10’s and sending warning emails to advertisers letting them know what they’re unhappy about on ANY domain in your Adwords account (deleted, paused, or active).  If you’re lucky, you’re often given a certain number of days to update your site to comply with whatever changes they’re requesting.

BTW: Here’s a Pro Tip:  Nothing in Adwords accounts is ever really “Deleted”, it’s just in a deeper state of “Paused” essentially. So when you think you’re golden because you’ve “deleted” that old campaign on the offending domain, you’re still wrong as far as Google is concerned, the site is still very much “alive” to them.

But what if the site Google is mad about wasn’t even “yours” to begin with?  The most common example of this is affiliate campaigns where you were ‘direct-linking’ to a vendor’s site via your affiliate link, not even promoting the offer on a site or domain you control.  So far the answer from Google to this objection is “not our problem, get it fixed or you’re done”.  Good luck with that.  NOTE: If anyone has had an answer from Google about this scenario, please note it in the comments, I haven’t personally heard of one as yet.  As a result you have to be VERY careful who you direct link to via your destination URLs.

What if the site you used to promote was sold, expired, or you simply don’t have access to anymore?  Looks like the answer from Google is pretty much the same, “that’s your problem”.

You might have guessed at this point that Google may not genuinely care if you’re able to ‘fix’ an old site or not to make it compliant, they’re just telling you how things are, and whether you’re able to actually DO anything about it or not is your problem.  As a result, even with a ban warning email with specific remedial steps to carry out, you’re possibly still going to be permanently dumped.

Can’t I Just Close My Adwords Account & Start Over?

This is a pretty common question:  If an old Adwords account is “tainted” by old campaigns and sites you can’t possibly fix anyway, isn’t it better to “close” your Adwords account while it’s still breathing and open a new one?

Short answer: You can try, but go back and read the part above that explains that “nothing is ever really ‘deleted’ in Google’s systems”.  This applies to entire accounts as well. (The folks at Facebook learned this from Google and never really “delete” your Facebook account either, it just lies in wait for you to break down and open it again, ‘reactivating’ it.)

The end result is here is that ‘deleting’ your Adwords account and opening a new one will most likely lead to Google just following your Gmail ID, IP, credit card number, Google analytics ID, Google Docs ID, or some other data point to tie your new account to the old one.  The ‘curse’ follows you to the new account, which will then be a fresh candidate for a ban.  Fun Times.

So What CAN You Do?

Death sentences are rarely overturned when you’re strapped to the electric chair.  The chances of reversal are not good at all, but here’s some things that have worked in the past:


  • As QS slaps often happen without warning or explanation emails from Google, if you notice a domain in  your account (old, paused, deleted, OR active), take a close look at it through the filter of Google’s LATEST ad quality guidelines.  If you notice something obvious (no privacy policy, wouldn’t comply with the new FTC guidelines, no Terms & Conditions clearly marked etc…) fix it ASAP.  Yes it sucks to have to go back and drag old sites you’re no longer using into compliance with the latest guidelines, but it may be your only option if a ban is waiting around the corner.  The onus is on you to keep an eye on the quality score of old campaigns and domains (quickest way is via Adwords Editor).
  • Pro Tip #2: If it’s a site other than your currently-promoted site that suddenly gets a 1/10 slap, you may want to avoid reaching out to Google support to share what you’ve updated and changed on your old site to make it compliant.  New support inquiries can bring new scrutiny on your existing site that you may not really want.  Use your best judgement when deciding to contact Google for anything to do with site reviews.
  • If your currently-promoted site has been slapped with 1/10, submit a support ticket asking for “specific things that you can do to make your site compliant with Google’s current ad quality guidelines”.  DON’T bitch them out explaining why your site shouldn’t have been slapped in the first place, why you’re ‘a long time advertiser and shouldn’t be treated this way’, or argue at all. The bottom line is that they are a monopoly and Larry Page doesn’t believe in customer service. What they say goes. If they think you’re not compliant, that’s all that matters.  If you get bitchy you’re email will go straight to the trash.  It’s obvious that they think something’s not right per their current guidelines, just ask them politely what that might be.
  • Lately, they will usually get back to you with details about the issue: don’t argue about the validity of what they’re asking for.  Just fix it and move on.

Bans (“Account Disabling”):

  • Sacrifice a chicken to the Google gods and then send an email begging for a second chance to make your sites compliant.  If there’s an “appeal” request path offered in the disabling notice, use it.  If not, and Google tells you not to contact them anymore, Google’s system will usually just trash your manual appeal request.
  • If you’re told not to contact them again, you can try sending the most contrite email you’ve ever composed to ‘lpq-support at’, which goes to the ads quality review team at Google.  If your chicken offering has been successful, (again requesting specifics on how you might better comply with Current ad quality guidelines) you may get a second chance.
  • Other than that, enjoy your new-found interest in advertising on Bing.

Note: There are more tips on how to handle these situations in our PPCblog member’s area.  Join now and take advantage of our New Member Promo!



How To Scale To Large Campaigns

1 Comment » Written on March 18th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Small adwords campaigns are relatively straightforward to run. But what happens when you need to scale up to large campaigns, which can be extremely cumbersome and unwieldy?

In this article, we’ll look at one way to solve this problem, using the Google Adwords Editor and spreadsheets.

What Is The Google Adwords Editor?

Google Adwords Editor

Google’s Adword Editor, available for free here, is a desktop application for managing your Adwords campaigns. The tool features all the groups, campaigns, and statistics, just like you have available in the online interface, however as it runs locally, you don’t have to wait for the screen to update. The Adwords Editor also provides a few extra features, including ad scheduling and custom location targeting.

You can make all your changes locally, without affecting your live account, until you’re ready to upload.

The Interface

The interface is self-explanatory for those accustomed to Adwords. There are tabs that represent keywords, placements, audiences, negatives, ads, ad groups, extensions and campaigns. Flipping between the various options is significantly quicker than using the online version. There are also a number of helpful keyword shortcuts.

You can do everything you can do in the Adwords interface, and more. When you want to upload the changes, hit the “Post Changes” button. Keep in mind that significant changes – tens of thousands of keyword changes – may take time, as the application has to talk with Google’s servers. If you want a fast response, it’s a good idea to post changes one campaign at a time.

Use A Spreadsheet As The Basis Of Your Adwords Campaigns

With a small campaign, we micromanage the details by hand. We organize keywords into small adgroups. We seperate out the keyword themes. We painstakingly hand-write the adcopy. But that’s an impractical approach when we switch to managing large campaigns, because there is often too much data to handle.

How do we get around this problem?

Try using a spreadsheet. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of using a spreadsheet for large campaigns, as it makes it easier to cut n’ slice the data using formulas, as opposed to having to manually adjust all your data by hand.

Start by creating a spreadsheet, using your Adwords variables:

  • Campagin Name
  • Ad Group Name
  • Keyword

….and any other variables you commonly use, such as Maximum CPC.

Once you’ve organized your data, you can copy and paste it into the Adwords Editor. Click the Keywords button, followed by the make multiple changes button, and select the “Add/Update Multiple changes” option. You then need to set up your bids, budget, and other settings.

Similarly, you can use the spreadsheet for creating ad-groups, and managing your copy. Copy can be manipulated by finding and replacing terms to make the copy relevant to each keyword group. For example, if keyword is a member of group X, adjust copy to include keyword from group X, but exclude term Y etc.

It’s the same strategy we use when we write ads by hand in that we keep the copy tightly integrated with the keyword terms and intent, however spreadsheets allow us to add a level of automation, essential for managing large data-sets. The level to which you automate is only limited by your spreadsheet skills.

Creating spreadsheet formulas is a little outside the scope of this article, however I’m sure you can think of ways to cut and slice the data in order to form and manipulate thousands of groups. The Adwords Editor allows you to import every data type you use in your online campaigns, so try using a spreadsheet as the basis for your Adwords strategy, and Adwords Editor to pull it all together.

School of PPC Hard Knocks: Localizing & Translating Adwords Campaigns

4 Comments Written on March 14th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting, Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Landing Pages

Having just recently finished the localization process of some of my English Adwords campaigns into European languages, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way.  After considerable effort and reorganization the campaign is succeeding, but it was fraught with failure and ‘lessons learned’.  Hopefully some of my experiences will be helpful if you’re thinking of translating your campaigns to target new markets and languages…

Surveying the Competitive Landscape

Before going through the work of translating my English campaigns into the most common European languages, I took a look at the competitive landscape via Google’s much-improved Ad Preview Tool (remember to set both the country to the locale you’re after, but also the language selection).  I was looking for a few things in surveying the competition in each country:

  • Were the competitors in the various markets were English vendors using translated campaigns, or companies native to those locales?
  • If the competitors were English, was their translation properly done by native speakers, or just a quick Google Translate?
  • Again if the competitors were English, was their entire end-to-end process properly localized, from keywords to ads to landers to  e-commerce and customer support?
  • If the competitor was a local, how aggressive were their PPC ads, landers, shopping cart and the like from a conversion optimization perspective?

The basic idea here was this:  “Is this going to be like shooting fish in a barrel if I’m highly optimized, or do the competitors have strong PPC fu?”

It turns out that in most countries my competitors in this particular niche were typically other English vendors with Google-translated ads, landing pages, and completely untranslated e-commerce checkout setup.

Finding a Translator and Where to Start?

Now that I knew which countries and languages to start localizing for (in order of local search volume primarily),  I needed to decide where to begin.  I had decided to do a full end-to-end localization from keywords to e-commerce and customer support.  I also knew that I wanted my translated content to be as close to 100% accurate as possible.

To test just how good or bad Google translate was, and to help evaluate the proper translation, I put an ad on Craigslist for a fully bilingual translator who was born and raised in the first country I decided to test.  To qualify the applicants, I gave them a sizeable snippet of text from one of my existing landing pages and ask them to email me back their translation from English into the chosen language.

I have a friend who certainly qualifies to do proper translation but wasn’t looking to be a translator for this project to evaluate the control text in English, and then the submitted translation in the new language.  To make things more interesting, I translated the English snippet using Google translate and included that for review as well.

The results were interesting.  Five candidates had submitted translated snippets, plus the version made with Google Translate.  Oddly, three of the five candidates submitted results identical to the Google Translate version:)  Disregarding those, I forwarded on the remaining two real translations.  My friend sent back one saying it was the most accurate, and represented the way a local would translate the English snippet.  The other had spelling errors and other grammatical issues and was disregarded.  And the Google Translate version?  To say it had butchered the translation would be an understatement.

The point?  There’s a big difference between Google Translate’s “good enough” on-the-fly translation to help you quickly understand the odd alternate language site, but for heaven’s sake don’t use it to translate your ads and landing pages.

Translation Gotchas & Efficiency

Now that we had a translator, we set her to work (on an hourly basis, in our local offices) on translating the keywords first, then the Adwords ads, then the landing pages, then the shopping cart, then the receipts and customer support touch points.

One thing I learned very quickly is that English does not always have a one-for-one equivalent in other languages.  In fact, you have to watch out for tenses of words as well, as often the past/present can be tricky and change the meaning of keywords and ads if you’re not careful. Same goes for plurals.

Though overall the process of finding someone locally to do the translation, vetting them, and then working with them at your offices worked really well.  When you realize the amount of back and forth and questions the translator may have to clarify the meaning of what you’re promoting (particularly with technical terms and the like) I highly recommend not trying to do the entire process over email.  There’s just too much interaction required in my experience to make the email back-and-forth route efficient.

Adwords Campaign ‘Cloning Fail’

I had decided not to start a net-new campaign with entirely new keywords and ads for this project, rather I thought I’d just clone the English campaign and have it translated, then switch the language and geographic settings in Adwords Editor and reload it.

Seems logical no?  Well as it turned out, it wasn’t quite so simple.

Of course copying, pasting, and translating the campaign in Adwords Editor was a snap, as was quickly adjusting the languages and country settings.  What I didn’t factor in though was that even with a seasoned translator doing the heavy lifting, people just do not always search for things the same way they do in English.

It wasn’t just that they use slightly different suffix’s or word order:  keywords that were the ‘high volume’ winners in both search traffic and conversion rates in English BOMBED in some of these other languages.

The best part?  The clicks were still there in large volume, but they just weren’t converting. The challenge in a lot of situations was, you have this keyword, it’s getting a ton of traffic, but you can’t figure out what’s gone wrong until you first see the Search Terms report in Adwords which can take days to fully an properly populate.  At first you’re looking to see if you’ve stumbled on to a term that has dual meanings, something that can easily happen in English, let alone languages you’re not familiar with.

So the keywords weren’t working the way they did in English, how about the CPCs?  Turns out that simply using the (typically high) CPCs you’re used to using in your English campaigns is a BAD idea too.  How bad?  By the time I had things fully optimized bid-wise, I had cranked the bids down by up to 80%!

So not only are you bleeding money on keywords that aren’t working, you’re also paying 80% too much for said keywords.  Not good.

Save Some Money: Learn Your Market

My advice from all of this?  Do some serious research into how users in different languages and countries look for stuff online.  Ask anyone and everyone you can who is from these locations originally to answer a few ‘quiz’ questions like “if you needed to find a solution for problem “X”, what would you type into Google?”

In fact, put together a Survey Monkey questionnaire and post it on Craigslist paying people a small amount from those markets (either originally or ex-pats) to fill it out and tell you they would search for refer to your product natively.  This can save you HUGE dollars.  In my case I blew through over $10k in ad spend before I realized I should have done this first. The same goes for just dumping a load of keywords out of a PPC spy tool and thinking that’ll cover it, you’ll end up with exactly the same problem: context.

When the dust settled and Google Analytics + the Adwords Search Terms report populated, I could see a few land mines that I had fallen onto via double-meanings etc, and also a number of negatives that were missed (to be clear, the negatives list was also translated one-for-one, but again, the correct negatives for the campaign used entirely different terms, terms I didn’t even have).

You might wonder: If the translator ‘was so good’ why didn’t she catch these things?  Bottom line?  That’s not really what she does.  And the “what” is context.  In retrospect, I needed to know the questions to ask her (see comments above under how people search for things in other countries), and I didn’t know to ask her what I didn’t know.  Sounds convoluted, but basically it was my fault not hers.  It’s my job to know the big picture context in my business, not hers.  Lesson learned: Learn what you need to ask.

Finding the ‘Missing Piece’

Even after fixing the ‘keywords and negatives’ problems by cutting and adding new negs, the campaign still wasn’t profitable, and the keywords that were profitable were far too low in search volume to move the needle.

Why not?  There was still ONE BIG problem to find and conquer before this campaign started rocking…

What was it?  How did we fix it?  What’s happened with the campaign since?

Usually I don’t do this with our public blog posts, but I’m going to save the answers to these for our PPCblog members.  If you haven’t signed up yet, I’m running a $1 one month trial deal right now so it’ll only cost you a buck to join and get the rest of the details as well as the hundreds of pages of PPCblog members-only content.

Members have access to this, and all of our case studies, join now!

Adwords ‘Enhanced CPC’ Split Test Results

13 Comments Written on March 4th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

After reading Mark Ballard’s post on the Rimm Kaufman blog about the possibilities with Google’s new “Enhanced CPC” feature I was intrigued.  Google claims that Enhanced CPC can be a nice bridge between manual bidding and full-blown Conversion Optimizer (a campaign setting that allows Google to show your ads when and where Google thinks you’re most likely to get a conversion).

Enhanced CPC doesn’t take into account the CPA or cost-per-conversion you’re looking to achieve like Conversion Optimizer does, rather it  automatically adjusts your Max CPC bid, auction-by-auction (+/- 30% of your Max CPC bid), depending on whether Google’s algorithm for Enhanced CPC thinks you’re most likely to get a conversion.

Free Bid Management?

At the end of the day, Enhanced CPC is supposed to lower your max bid when you’re least likely to get a conversion and jack it up when you’re most likely to convert, lowering your overall costs.  If it turns out that this system works, it makes automatic bid management with manual over rides for zero fees a reality.

To determine the likelihood that a particular auction will convert for you, Google looks at a number of factors:

These include the individual words that make up the user’s query; the user’s geographic location, web browser, and operating system; and even time of day when the user is performing a search.

As Mark rightly pointed out in his blog post, advertisers can’t typically tinker with the settings for a number of these factors like OS and web browser, though they do have control over time-of-day ad scheduling and geo-targeting.

Setting Up the Split Test & Results

I decided to run my own test with Enhanced CPC.   In order for the test to be largely accurate, I had to ensure the campaign I was testing it on had no changes in the last 30 days or so to get an accurate baseline on all of the campaign metrics and conversion rates.  Additionally, I needed to ensure I didn’t change anything but the bidding method (changing from manual bidding to Enhanced CPC) to eliminate other factors accounting for changes in campaign performance or metrics.

That said, here are the results after 6000 clicks on a year-old Search only campaign (no Search Partners) taken over several consecutive weekdays that was untouched in the preceding 30 days:

Avg CPC- Start: .18c      End: .19c

Avg Pos.- Start: 1.7        End : 1.8

Impression Share- Start: 62.84%    End: 62.66%

Cost per conversion- Start: $17.60    End: $27.41

Conversion Rate- Start: 1.01%    End: 0.69%

Conversion Counts (1 per click): Start: 43  End: 31

The test period using Enhanced CPC was measured against the same days of the week and number of days as the previous ‘control’ week (aka the “Start”).

In a Word: “Meh”

End result?  Costs and went up slightly, conversions tanked, ad position dropped and impressions didn’t budge.

The big metric to measure of course is ROI, and in this case ROI dropped like a rock.

The odd thing however is that given the above results, you’d expect to see the Avg CPC  drop overall, which didn’t happen.

For me the net-net is that it didn’t work as advertised.  I thought perhaps it needed more time to ‘calibrate’ for maximum efficiency, but according to a number of PPC experts I spoke with it doesn’t really require the same lead time as Conversion Optimizer does to optimize itself based on campaign data.

What do you think?  Just another “bell and whistle” from Google to make Adwords appear easier for the masses?   Another attempt by Google to compete with 3rd party bid management providers?  Leave a comment below!

Big Changes: Adcenter Trademark Policy Updated

2 Comments Written on February 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Microsoft Adcenter

Image Credit: dropped a big piece of news last week: they’re bringing their trademark use policies closer to Google’s.  In the past Microsoft had a similar policy to Google, but when they took over PPC for Yahoo they adopted Yahoo’s archaic trademark editorial policies.

As of March 3rd, Microsoft Adcenter will once again allow bidding on trademarked terms and use of competitors’ trademarks in your ad text under certain circumstances:

Use of a competitor’s trademark in ads only may be allowed if its use is truthful and lawful, for example, if:

  • Your ad compares your own product’s attributes to those of your competitor’s product, as represented by independent, third-party research. However, you must also do the following:
    • Present the trademark in the context of the research that is cited in the ad.
    • Feature the related research clearly and prominently on the landing page that your ad links to.

When Microsoft changed to Yahoo’s old trademark policies as part of the Search Alliance rollout, they automatically disapproved most, if not all, advertiser keywords that were determined to be trademarks.  I seriously doubt that if you just left these keywords and ads in your Adcenter account  that they’ll just magically go back through and retroactively approve them all on March 3rd.

My recommendation would be to delete all of your old, disapproved ads and keywords and recreate them after March 3rd.  Of course, there’s likely to be a bit of inconsistency when that date rolls around, so it may take some adding, disapprovals, deleting and reloading if you start right away on or near that date.

This brings back to mind a tip I share in our PPC training modules: Keyword or ad disapprovals in Adcenter are often best handled by just deleting the disapproved item and reloading it.  I’ve seen scenarios where doing this as often as 4 times on the same item with get the 5th attempt through permanently.

The ‘delete and reload’ method is annoying to be sure, but at least you don’t have to do something even more annoying to resolve it:  Submit a question to Adcenter support staff (not a fun experience, trust me).

In our members’ community  I’ve posted a number of strategies for competitive trademark bidding, but here’s a couple quick points to keep in mind for Adwords in particular:

  • The trademark will almost always be auto-blocked in ad text if the TM owner has complained to Google or Microsoft directly via their online complaint process.  No complaint from the TM owner? No auto-block when uploading new ads containing the term.
  • The TM claims are country-by-country.  The TM owner must apply for and prove grounds for an automatic TM block in ad text for each country individually.  Basically, they need to have the TM registered in every country they want to block ads from showing in.  If they have a US-only TM, they can’t block ad text containing the TM in Canada et al…
  • Recognizing this, advertisers can create individual campaigns targeting one or more countries where the TM owner hasn’t registered a TM. In some cases where you have countries mixed together in a campaign that have some countries where a TM is restricted I’ve seen Google put a “limited” flag next to an approved text ad indicating they won’t show it in every country targeted in that campaign.
  • Although I’ve seen claims otherwise, it’s perfectly easy to get good Quality Scores on Adwords for a competitor’s trademark, CTR is king, and if users find your ad click-w0rthy, you’ll be fine QS-wise.

Here’s a list of the trademark registration and search sites from various prime PPC markets if you want to find out if a particular TM is registered in a given country:

If you’re interested in internal Google’s thinking on fair trademark usage with Adwords, be sure and read this fantastic interview with Terri Chen, Google’s Chief Trademark Counsel.  Josh Dreller did a great job of asking the tough questions and pinning Google down on specifics.  Josh’s post didn’t get the attention it deserved at the time.

Adwords Extended Headlines – Early Test Results

13 Comments Written on February 16th, 2011 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Google’s relentless march to completely indistinguishable ad layouts took a big step forward with the implementation of a change to the handling of headlines in ads found above the organic SERPs.

This change coincided with a move back to light yellow backgrounds on top-position ads, ditching the highly noticeable pink that’s been in place for a while now. (Anyone want to bet how long it will be until the background colours disappear completely?)

I’ve seen some crazy CTR-lift numbers batted around in PPC expert circles, with some managers reporting seeing lift as high as 50% or more.

Early Test Results

I ran my own split test to see how much the CTR can be lifted with these new, elongated ad headlines above the SERPs, and I thought I’d share the results so far.  The results were indeed positive, but not as good as I’ve heard others mention.

First off, it’s hard to isolate the test to only report on ads that appear above the SERPs, (sometimes Google will show the #1 and #2 ad on the right, where there’s no room for the extended headline to show).

So you have to find a keyword to test the new ads on where you’re sure that 99% of the time your ad appears above the serps where the new format will appear.

I have only one or two keywords where I can guarantee that happens and that have enough traffic to test with accurately, and yes, I realize that position 2.1 isn’t a guarantee that my ad will show above the SERPs even 99% of the time, but this is a keyword I’ve advertised on for years, and in my experience always has had (and continues to have) three ads shown above the organic results.

Anywhoo, I was able to run a pretty stable ad rotation and here’s the results thus far:

A 13% lift is great and I’ll take it, but I was expecting more, particularly when these new headlines look SO much like organic results.

I ran the test on other ads and keywords as well, the results showed no difference, but I think is because I couldn’t guarantee that the ads were not showing on the right, in which case a period isn’t going to make any difference to CTR per se.

Impact for Advertisers

The big thing I see here is that if your competitor is aware of this new change and is actually running ads with the new headlines, their CTR is going to rise leaving you in the dust in the auction.

Basically, you need to be first or pretty damn quick to implement it if you dont’ want to fall too far behind in CTRs and quality score.

Google’s ability to turn their revenue dials to bring in more paid clicks is truly enviable.  I can’t wait for their Q1 paid click results to see what impact this has had overall.

What CTR increases have you noticed so far?