Google Adwords

Get a Bird’s Eye View of Automatic Placement Performance

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

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

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

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

To enable this view:

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

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

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

Other People’s Money…

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

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

His comments were pretty pointed:

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

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

The Consultant’s Challenge

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

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

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

Mo’ Money, Less Attention

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

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

Really Google? Silent Change Forces Content Campaigns into Automatic Bidding

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

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

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

I looked today and this is what I see:

Google Adwords Forced Auto bids

What Just Happened Here?

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

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

The Fox Guarding the Henhouse…

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Good reminder all around…

How Adwords Counts Ad Impressions with Google Instant

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

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

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

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

What changes

New predicted query

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

How impressions are counted

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

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

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

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

Keyword Tasting: The Key to Successful Campaign Expansion

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

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

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

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

a) is there any traffic there


b) can the keyword net ANY conversions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add New Negative Keywords & Placements On the Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Display Network Placements On-the-Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Add Impression Share Data to Your Campaign Dashboard

4 Comments Written on August 25th, 2010 by
Categories: Analytics, Google Adwords, PPC Tools

As Google methodically picks off the reports in the Adwords Report Center, moving reporting to an ad-hoc model in the main campaign UI, some interesting little tricks are popping up.

In the past, if you tried to keep track of how much traffic Google is actually sending you compared to how much is truly available, you ran a campaign report and checked the box for “Impression Share”.

Now, that feature is gone from the Report Center, but with the new changes, you can tack it right to your campaign list columns:

Now you’ll be able to view your Impression Share in real time right from the campaigns overview screen:

Pretty Handy!!

How to Setup Custom Adwords Quality Score Alerts

2 Comments Written on August 23rd, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords, PPC Tools

Ever thought it would be nice if Google sent you a ping if your top keywords suddenly saw their Quality Scores tank?  How about when you lose your top favorite top ad position?

Google’s new filters give you the ability to configure custom alarms that can alert you via email or SMS when one of your top keywords (or any keyword for that matter) goes inactive or stops firing ads for budget reasons, sudden Quality Score drops, or moves by your competitors.

In addition to watching for traffic stopages, you can also monitor:

  • Avg CPCs
  • Spend Levels (Cost)
  • CTRs
  • Avg Ad Positions
  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • Conversion Counts
  • Conversion Rates
  • Costs-per-Conversion

You can set up these custom alerts at the Campaign, Adgroup, or Keyword level for specific, selected keywords or adgroups, or ALL of the keywords or adgroups in your campaign if you like.

To enable custom alerts, click on the “More Actions” drop down likeso:

Here’s a screenshot of the settings for doing this at a keyword level, where if the impressions on a top keyword disappear (for whatever reason, but usually QS drop) you’ll get a ping from Google via email (SMS if you give them your mobile number, but who are we kidding they probably already have your number anyway:p ):

I use an alert for “if this top keyword gets less than 1000 impressions in a given day, let me know” to keep on top of critical quality score changes:

Jen at PPC Hero also had some great suggestions on how to use the new Segments capability as well.

Do you have a favorite new alert to keep you on top of your campaigns? Share it in the comments!

Google AdWords 4th Ad Slot Above Organic Search Results

10 Comments Written on August 8th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords

Shortly after going pink, Google has now decided to extend AdWords by placing their comparison ads below the AdWords ads. so if you search for [credit cards] in the UK there are now 4 ads above the organic search results.

4 Google AdWords ads.

Thanks to Chris Angus for the screenshot.

In addition to including the comparison ads as a separate ad unit, you can see multiple of the AdWords ads in the above picture have sitelink ad extensions, which means that the #1 organically ranked site is the 11th link on the page. On Google’s last conference call Jonathan Rosenberg highlighted how this feature has moved from brand/navigational queries onto broader search terms like [flowers]:

The click to call ads on the high end mobile phones are doing very well. The click through rates go up 6% when you put ads with a phone number, 8% when you put a local address. So, click to call is doing very well. It’s easy to see some of those. If you want, just take a look for yourself if you tried travel agency from a smartphone, you will see under thousands of active campaigns on click to call, so you can take a look at that.

Site links is also making pretty good progress. We’ve given you examples on past calls where you type a big brand like Sears and then you see the more useful links that you can get through and the click through rates on those can go up as much as 30% over the ads without the site links. But we changed the way we do site links and we’ve added a new one line format. And that also allow site links to show up in more places. You can try flowers if you want to see that. Then the other format that’s getting some adoption is the – we are adding the seller ratings, which shows merchants ratings out of six stars aggregated from reviews on the Web. You see that if you look for things like digital cameras. And that’s doing pretty well as well.

The net result of new ad extensions and new ad formats is the organic results keep getting pushed down. Of course it only impacts a few results for now, but over time it will spread…just like Google Checkout buttons on ads, advertiser ratings, maps, product search, video results, and news results have. Each new feature gives your ads a new dimension to test. Couple in geo-targeting and dayparting and the possibilities are endless.

fbf0fa – Now You See It…Or Maybe Not

2 Comments Written on August 5th, 2010 by
Categories: Google Adwords

As recently mentioned in Search Engine Land, Google has decided to move permanently to a new background color for their sponsored ads.  When sampled, this color came up in Photoshop as #fbf0fa.

Cashmere Matt Cutts

Aesthetic Angora added to image from

SEL quotes Google:

“The ads, which currently have a pale yellow background, will change to have a pale purple background. This change is part of the ‘look and feel’ update to our color palette and logo that we made back in May of this year to keep the Google results page looking fresh and modern. This is purely an aesthetic change to our ads and won’t have any impact on the way we target or serve advertisements on”

OK. I mistakenly thought the point of the color is to visually indicate a separation between paid and organic results. Aesthetics aside, I would think this color has held a pretty specific function.

I noticed the change, because at work one of my 3 monitors could not display the color at all. I noticed it by its absence.

The video card it is connected to powers two monitors, so I could test. On one monitor, I could adjust the brightness and contrast to make #fbf0fa slightly visible. On the other, I can’t make it appear at all.

It definitely seemed to be a hardware issue, and tied to the display – something in one monitor’s mechanical limitations would not allow it to display the color. Not enough bits or something.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines in Guideline 2 suggests: “Don’t rely on color alone. Ensure that text and graphics are understandable when viewed without color.” Loretta Guarino Reid, a Google editor at the time, helped to write these guidelines in 2008.

Maybe that is why Google places the words “Sponsored links” at the top of the ads, so you can see it right away. Funny thing though, was that when the color disappeared, so did the clear distinction between the start of the organic and the end of the paid results.

Does It Really Matter?

On the surface, it would seem like a small issue. It’s only one monitor of my three, and the monitor is old. It would seem like Google is developing for the future visitors, using colors easily visible on all newer machines.

Indeed, the trends toward using wider, deeper, and more inclusive color palettes have been continuous. The W3C stats say:  “The current trend is that most computers use 24 or 32 bits hardware to display 16,777,216 different colors. Older computers and laptops often use 16 bits display hardware. This gives a maximum of 65,536 different colors.”

However, this statement from the same definition is interesting:  “Handheld computers (and very old computers) often use 8 bits color hardware. This gives a maximum of 256 colors.”


So it seems that Google’s new aesthetics do not consider the potential effect of using colors unattainable on some handheld devices and older computers. I saw it – I know.

I found that the new color is not behaving like the light blue used behind the ads for years, or even the pale yellow that was in there for a while. Either of these colors rendered as slightly diminished and harder to see in my older setup, but I could adjust the contrast and brightness of the monitor display to see at least traces of them.

Not so, with the aesthetically pleasing #fbf0fa – it is completely invisible on the same older system.

Check out this image I saw on, from three years ago:

Organic listings clearly delineated by using numbers? Preposterous!

A Different Test

While I was looking into why Google would choose a color from beyond the palette of web-safe colors, I found a good little tool. This one is for checking the compliance of the contrasting colors you’re considering to use online.

According again to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, “For colors to be compliant brightness should be above 125 and color difference should be above 500.”

Just to see, I entered in the values offered by Google’s new changes.

Foreground: #1111DB (Ad text color)
Background: #FBF0FA (Ad background color)
Brightness Difference: 204
Color Difference: 488
This combination is Not Compliant

Interesting choice, #fbf0fa.

Not compliant, and non-existent on some older machines or handhelds but aesthetically pleasing, you do have to admit it.

That is, if you can see it to comment.