Posts about paid search, display and other online ads.

Google Display Network Updates

This March, the Display Network, also known as the Content Network, turned 9 years old.  Just in time for the 9 year anniversary, Google announced significant changes will be taking place on the Display Network.  Some of the features are already available, and the rest will be rolled out over the course of the month.  You definitely need to take note of the new changes because they will significantly impact the way you use the Display Network moving forward.  In this post, we will take a further look at what Google is doing and how you can effectively utilize the changes.

The New Display Tab

The new display tab shown in Adwords

Google is creating a new Display Network Tab to join the host of other tabs in your Ad Center Interface. The new Display Network Tab interface has been rebuilt from the ground up to help you efficiently run your Display Network campaigns.  It will enable you to bid, target and optimize your display campaigns all from the same interface.  The new Display Network tab will combine the current “Networks”, “Audiences” and “Topics” tabs and allow you to bid, target and optimize your campaigns all within the new tab.

Contextual Engine Upgrade

The contextual engine has been around for a while.  The engine matches your ads to pages within the paid search network based on keywords you specify within each ad group.  With the addition of the new Display Network Tab, the contextual engine is receiving its biggest enhancement ever – the ability to combine the reach of the Display Network with the targeting precision of the Search Network.  The new engine accomplishes this feat by using “Next-Gen Keyword Contextual Targeting”.  In layman’s terms, this means that you can fine-tune the performance of your contextually targeted Display Network campaigns down to the individual keyword level.  If utilized correctly, the new targeting options will help you take the performance of your Display Network marketing campaigns to a completely new level.

Visual Diagram

Some of us are visual learners, and I am just one of the many.  Google is finally giving some love to those of us who are visual aide fans with the introduction of a new Venn diagram.  Now, whenever you are adding or editing your Display Network targeting options, you will see a Venn diagram that shows how your targeting methods interact with each other.  The diagram will include placements, interactions, and keywords, and the overlapping sections will show you what methods are currently being used to target your ads.  The diagram introduces a new and improved way to how the reach of your campaigns is impacted by combining multiple targeting types.

Keyword Level Data

We saved the best update for last.  Google will be implementing a new feature that offers users the ability to see keyword level performance on the Display Network.  FINALLY!  I know many of you have shared my frustrations in not being able to see and utilize this kind of data in the past.  The new feature will allow you to see the performance of display campaigns at the individual keyword level.  If you are brand new to the Display Network, marketers previously had to use themed ad groups each with their own keywords in order to try and optimize the targeting of the Display Network.

Do not confuse the Keywords Tab with the new functionality of the Display Network Tab.  The new keyword performance statistics for the Display Network will only be available in the Display Network, and the Keywords Tab will continue to show keyword statistics for the Search Network.  If you choose to add or edit keywords in the main Keywords Tab, any changes made to those keywords will affect both your search and display network targeting.  This means it is more important than ever to keep your Search Network and Display Network campaigns separate.  However, the new feature will improve the effectiveness of extending your search based campaigns over to the display network.

As a professional in the Search Engine Marketing field, I believe these changes will dramatically change the effectiveness of the Display Network in the future.  While some of these changes would have been welcome years ago, I applaud Google for implementing the new features sooner rather than later.

The Down & Dirty On Facebook’s New Premium Ads

February 29, 2012 marked an earth shattering change in the marketing world… well in Facebook’s eyes at least.  That was the day that Facebook announced big changes to its platform, most notably changes to its Fan pages and its Premium ad offerings.  Almost all old ad units are going away, the exception being the standard ads to an external website.  New ad placements are also available.  Additionally, Facebook lowered the barrier to entry by decreasing the minimum spend from $30k to $25k to get premium ads.

The New Premium Ads Placements

  • News Feeds Ads – Appears in user news feed
  • Premium Homepage Ads – On Home Page right hand
  • Mobile News Feed  Ads- In the news feed but on the mobile device
  • Log Out Experience Ads-  that appear on log out page
  • Premium Page Post Ads- appears as a page post

There will be six types of premium ad units: Video, Photo, Event, Question, Status, and Link. They must all come from a page post (posted by yourself or a fan) before being turned into an ad. The changes come from Facebook’s obsession with user experience. They believe it should be less about advertising and more about telling a story that connects your brand with their users.

See Facebook’s Official Slide Deck Overview

As mentioned before the standard ad unit is still available is you wish to drive Facebook traffic to an offsite page. Engaging Faceook users offsite is a chore, but there are some tools to help your conversions. If doing lead generation or list building and you are an AWeber customer, try using the AWeber Facebook app to increase optins.

While these ad changes may be great for branding and engagement, the ROI remains to be seen. Coming from a PPC results based focus, I have my doubts in terms of an ecommerce play. Clearly these ads change the game in terms of marketing strategies on Facebook.  List builders who use Facebook will likely see value through content based engagement driven ads to build their fans and list.

New Time Line Business Pages

New Branding focused pages versus the fan page are now on Facebook, where the layout feels more like a website rather than a profile.  Also, there is no more “Fan Gating” internal Facebook traffic to collect likes.  But you can change your external urls, such as the Facebook link from your website, to land on your Fan Gate app url.  This feature is a move to further cement Facebook’s shift on the timeline profile style that it has already implemented in profiles.

There are a lot more changes than we can cover in one blog post, but there are several great articles floating around on the web if you need more knowledge. Only time will tell if Facebook’s gamble is right and these ads bring an increase in results and user engagement.  Ultimately it’s up to the Facebook users to decide.

Microsoft adCenter Goes Local

Shortly after the launch of Rich Ads in Search (RAIS), Microsoft adCenter made available two additional ad offerings: location extensions and click-to-call. While both of these features have long since been available within the Google Adwords interface, the new ad formats are a welcome addition to Bing and Yahoo! Search advertising and a useful supplement to geo-targeting efforts.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, a location extension is an ad format that enables advertisers to display the business street address information alongside text ads; particularly effective for local businesses that rely heavily on foot-traffic. In Microsoft adCenter, up to 1,000 business locations can be uploaded to the interface and a business location will be displayed to users within a 50-mile radius. In the instance where several business locations exist in close proximity to each other, the business address closest to the user’s location will be shown.

Furthermore, when location extensions are implemented and smart phones are included in devices targeted, search ads will automatically have the click-to-call functionality on Bing for Mobile (currently unavailable for Yahoo! for mobile, but rumored to be coming soon).

Set up is free and can be implemented by following these simple steps.

1. From the Campaigns tab, select “Manage your business locations”.
2. Add locations by either of these methods:
• Add a single location by clicking “Create location” and completing the form.
• Add multiple locations by filling out and saving an Excel template as in the example below, and click “Import” to upload the excel file to the platform.

Apply the location extensions to either 1 or multiple campaigns.
• To add location extensions to a single campaign:
i. Select the campaign from the campaigns tab and click “Edit your campaign settings”.
ii. Under Advanced settings, select the Location extension option under Ad extensions and click “Save”.
• To add location extensions across multiple campaigns:
i. From the campaigns tab, select the campaigns you wish to apply extensions to and select “Make bulk changes”.
ii. From the dropdown menu, select “Ad Extensions”, and check the location extension box.
This new offering is but one of several recent Google-esque enhancements that Microsoft adCenter has recently implemented to improve upon their services. While they still lag behind Google in terms of innovation and interface functionality these new ad formats show progress in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Yahoo! and Bing Search Getting Rich

Google this, Google that. Google is no doubt the celebrity of search, creating formidable buzz and coverage with even the most inconsequential of updates: “How will the wavy Google Doodle affect your Ad Rank?! Jeremy Lin explains next.” I assume that Yahoo! and Bing have long grown weary of Google incessantly dominating conversations about search advertising. While Google continues to sustain a comfy search market share at 66%, Yahoo! and Bing cannot be eschewed with 14% and 15%, respectively.

For those unaware, Microsoft AdCenter is the platform used to manage ads on both the Yahoo! and Bing search engines (similar to AdWords with Google). AdCenter has recently re-launched a rehashed refresher of its captivating, feature-heavy ad format: Rich Ads in Search.

Once RAIS is enabled, which requires contacting a Yahoo! representative, it can be used to bid on up to 500 exact match branded keywords (it is currently available for branded terms only). Rich Ads will display in the top position only, displacing other standard text ads to the right side bar of the search results page. RAIS allows for inclusion of the following features in your ads:

  • Additional links (think Google Sitelinks)
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Icons
  • Form Field
  • Product Info

AdCenter claims that this format enhances existing campaigns by building a stronger brand presence through prominent placement, as well as generating higher click-through and conversion rates. In fact, RAIS allegedly averages a 30 – 35% click-through rate and a 40 – 50% higher click-through rate in comparison to standard text ads. They will be slightly more expensive though—bids must be higher in order to indicate that these Rich Ads are the preferred format. AdCenter recommends a 50% higher bid for RAIS than standard text ads.

It seems that the standout feature is the option to include a form field within your ad. For instance, a field could be included for zip code submission that would generate a list of nearby stores, a very appealing offer for local businesses. Also, the ability to include an engaging video within your ad is quite desirable and could provide that extra nudge needed to convert a searcher into a fan or consumer.

While Google remains the main event with the most packed arena, Yahoo! and Bing are making some concerted aesthetic changes to rally some of the crowd.

Enhanced Sitelinks for More Exposure

What are sitelinks?

While Google launched sitelink extensions back in June 2010 for the first time to allow businesses to get more exposure by displaying additional destination URLs below their ads, Google has taken it one step further, announcing ‘Enhanced Sitelinks’ for AdWords users just recently.

Up until now, advertisers could create up to 10 sitelink extensions per campaign in their AdWords account to show additional links beyond that of just the main landing page in their ads. The performance of the sitelinks can be viewed in the ad extensions tab where the extensions could also be edited to resemble up-to-date website information related to each campaign. While ads on desktop computers and tablets can display two, four, or six links along with the display URL of the ad, mobile phones with full Internet browsers can show up to two sitelink extensions.

Why advertisers want to use sitelinks?

There are a few reasons why advertisers should use sitelink extensions. For one, these links can serve as shortcuts, allowing users to quickly see related content to the product / service that is being offered in the ad, as well as directing customers to specials and promotions, which will push them further along in the buying cycle. Furthermore, advertisers can also show links to similar products as those promoted in the actual ad on Google. This could help promote and compare your own brands to name brand products in order to raise brand awareness and exposure for your proprietary brand. Sitelinks also make it easy to show additional information, i.e. a 30% off promotion or a holiday special, that affects all products / services in the campaign but could not be added to the actual ad due to character limits. It is also easy to keep sitelinks updated as you can just add them within the ad extensions tab without having to re-write the entire ad in the campaign itself.

The idea behind sitelinks is to grab the attention of customers and lead them to the page that best suits their buying needs. Therefore, it is recommended to keep link text short and sweet (KISS – Keep It Short and Simple!). The shorter the sitelinks, the more sitelinks Google will have the opportunity to show, and the more Google can choose from the better.

What are enhanced sitelinks?

Let’s talk a little bit more about the new feature that Google recently added to sitelink extensions. First and foremost, enhanced sitelinks are only eligible for campaigns that already use sitelink extensions. Meaning, existing ads must already show with two or three lines of sitelinks and must appear above the Google search results. Secondly, the AdWords account must contain other ads that Google believes to be related to the existing sitelinks. Google then chooses to automatically enhance sitelinks with additional information that is pulled directly from content that is provided on the advertiser’s website. With this additional information added to sitelinks, ads have the potential to become more relevant to potential customers.

Here is an example provided by Google:

This is an ad created for one of the campaigns in the AdWords account, which includes 4 sitelinks:

Moreover, the account could also include the following ads in different ad groups / campaigns:

While these text ads include information that is similar to the sitelinks used in the first ad, Google might add the information of the latter text ads to enhance the sitelink information of the first ad. It could end up looking like this:

The cost associated with this new feature simply equals the cost of a click on the display URL of the same ad. No matter which link the user clicks on, advertisers will be charged the same amount.

How to implement enhanced sitelinks?

The biggest question remaining is how to implement this new feature in the account. As compared to the implementation of current sitelink extensions so far, Google decides whether or not to show enhanced sitelinks. What advertisers can do, however, is make sure that their current sitelinks are closely related to other ads, as shown in the example by Google, and most importantly, add up to 10 sitelinks in each of the active campaigns in an account. As Google only enhances sitelinks with information that’s similar, it is important to go through the account and update sitelinks with new information, as well as review ad copy to ensure similarities. While matching ad text and sitelinks more closely will be a new challenge for advertisers, they should not forget the main purpose of having relevant information shown to users in order to fully benefit from this feature.

Analyzing enhanced sitelinks performance

The performance of enhanced sitelinks can be viewed on the ad extensions tab by clicking the ‘Segment’ dropdown menu and selecting ‘click type.’ However, Google does not seem to differentiate between the performance of normal sitelinks and enhanced sitelink extensions. Moreover, there is currently no option to see if and when Google is showing enhanced sitelinks. As Google has just released this new feature and advertisers are working toward showing enhanced sitelinks, there will hopefully be an option to do so coming soon.

In conclusion

It will definitely be interesting to see if this new feature can help increase the overall CTR (click-through rate) of sitelink extensions beyond the 30% higher CTR that Google claims sitelinks already produce compared to campaigns without. While ad copy, landing pages, and sitelinks should already be matched closely, this feature now allows advertisers to also display additional information about the same or similar products with the same ad. Incorporating this feature could help cross-sell products / services, as well as support the upselling of customers who are already further along in the buying cycle.

New AdWords Release: Ad Group Level Impression Share Metrics

As a foreword, have you ever used a word to describe something and you used it so much that it began to annoy all of those around you? Well, we have such a word… ‘Granular.’ The one word in our office which must never be uttered—I could get in trouble for just typing it!

Google has recently announced that beginning January 30, 2012, AdWords’s global advertisers will be able to get more gran…er… specific with impression share data with the implementation of ad group impression share metrics.

Previously, impression share data could only be accessed at the campaign level. This change will allow advertisers to make more informed decisions on which ad groups should receive higher budget allocations.  In addition to what ‘share of voice’ your ads garner, the new feature will also give insight into many other aspects. To include:

  1. Impr. Share: The percentage of impressions you received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.
  2. Lost IS (Rank): The share of impressions lost due to your Ad RankNote that Lost IS (rank) will not be shown if you were at or near your budget for part or all of a given day (a.k.a. were “budget constrained”) during the date range being examined.
  3. Exact Match IS: (Search Network only) The percentage of impressions you received for searches that exactly matched your keyword divided by the estimated number of exact match impressions you were eligible to receive.
The above will be displayed in newly available columns that can be added to your ad groups tab.

Google will also be improving its algorithm to better capture this data. Thus, Google will update all historical impression share metrics back to March 2011, and all data prior to this will be lost. Google will update all impression share metrics once daily at noon PST to ensure the most accurate data possible.

We at Leverage believe that this new data will become indispensable in making budgetary decisions moving forward. It will also help to paint the competitive landscape for your business and give great insight into how competitve the market is for your keywords.

Boost Offline Revenue with PPC

With online ad spend predicted to exceed print advertising spend in 2012, it is clear that more and more businesses are recognizing the power of Internet marketing and its potential for generating revenue.  A recently concluded two-year study by the marketing analytics company RevTrax reaffirms the value of online marketing for businesses, even as it impacts offline sales and revenue for multichannel retailers.

The RevTrax study used cross-channel tracking methodology via online coupons with unique barcodes to track in-store purchases back to online paid ads.  Using this methodology, the study found that paid search resulted in an additional $6 of offline revenue for every $1 of online revenue generated.

What This Means
The online marketers are right.  We’ve preached for years how paid search has positive impacts on other marketing (online and offline) efforts and on organic search.  We’ve certainly suspected that paid search is a big driver of offline revenue too.  The RevTrax study goes beyond our own efforts of urging clients to ask where new customers heard about their brand and it confirms our suspicions in a more data rich and relevant way.

If you are a multichannel retailer, take a look at the ecommerce revenue that you’ve tracked from your paid search efforts, and consider how much more paid search may be doing for your bottomline beyond those revenue numbers.  Think of ways that your online efforts can be used to bolster offline sales via the implementation of paid search strategy, targeted landing pages, and special online offers for in-store savings.

Breaking News: New Feature in Google AdWords

If you’re like many advertisers, you jump at the opportunity to experiment with the latest and greatest feature available in Google AdWords. Who can blame you? Trying something new can be exciting and it just might improve your pay-per-click account. Although there can be benefits to testing new features, there are some steps that need to be taken to improve your chance of success as well.

Develop A Strategy

Before implementing a new feature in Google AdWords, you need to determine:

  • Does this make sense for your business?
  • Does this make sense for all campaigns in your account or only a select few?

The fact is not all AdWords features work well for all advertisers, so you’ll want to have a good understanding of what a new feature does and when it is appropriate to use before implementing.

Even if the feature seems to be a good fit, you may want to consider implementing it on only one or two campaigns rather than account wide.  This is especially true for features such as Enhanced CPC and Optimize by Conversions, which allow AdWords to change your bids or alter how frequently ad copy is displayed, respectively.

It’s also a good idea to avoid adding multiple new features at once.  Doing so can make it difficult or even impossible to determine exactly what caused the performance in your account to change.

Measure The Results

Google makes it easy to implement new features in your account, and at the rate new features are released, implement them often.  As you add new features, it’s important to have a plan for measuring what effect they had on your account.  For each new feature you add to the account, you should make a note of:

  • What feature was added.
  • Where in the account it was added.
  • When it was added.
  • How performance was before adding the feature.

You’ll need this information later in order to keep up with what new features you need to check on and whether or not they had a positive effect on the account.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to check on the performance of the new feature periodically, but it’s also a good idea to define a plan for determining whether or not to continue using the feature.  This can be a set duration, such as 2 weeks or 30 days, or once a certain amount of data has been accrued, such as 1,000 clicks or 50 conversions.

Most important is that you don’t set up a new feature and then not check on it at all.

Don’t Forget The Fundamentals

If you’re not getting the performance you want from pay-per-click, it’s unlikely that trying the newest AdWords feature is going to get you where you want to be.  In fact, it’s common for a new feature to produce only incremental gains at best.  The largest improvements in performance can almost always be achieved by improving the fundamentals in your account:

  • Keyword selection and match types
  • Account organization and campaign settings
  • Ad copy and destination URLs
  • Budget and bidding strategy

Desirable Descent

What’s the most important facet of your AdWords campaign? Is it bidding on the most auspicious keywords in your industry? Very important but no. Ensuring that the keywords are highly relevant to the matched ads within a particular ad group? Crucial but not superlative. Invariably, the sacrosanct factor in your paid search equation is none other than your landing page quality

Google has further confirmed the above verity with the recent tweaking of its AdWords algorithm to give landing page quality more weight in the Quality Score formula. Whether you are managing your own paid search accounts or contracting management with an agency, the critical, top priority task of creating a high quality landing page is your responsibility. What makes a landing page quality, you ask? Follow the best practices and guidelines below to join the eminent advertisers in landing page salvation. 

Relevance – Relevance has always been touted as the paramount focus when creating and optimizing landing pages. Make sure your page is relevant to both the associated ads and keywords and to the searcher’s user experience after clicking through. Use similar and relative keywords when writing content and always keep the user in mind when considering what and what not to include on your landing page. 

Transparency – Don’t promote any special offers or products in your ad copy if you are not prepared to follow through on your landing page. If your ad copy suggests a sale on socks, there better be some discounted hosiery clearly visible. Even more nuanced, don’t advertise German Shepard specific dog food if your landing page is selling chow for Border Collies. Google will not be deceived and the requital is far from worth it. 

Usability – From navigation to aesthetics, user experience will go a long way. Bear the shoes of the searcher and scrutinize every business-driven decision that you’re thinking about making. It would be an ironic tragedy for that unattractive ad at the top of your page to lead to your Quality Score being vitiated. 

Always keep the above three principles in mind when crafting your landing page. If your proclivity is for lead generation, I have even more goodies for you! 

Focus on the Lead Form – The star of your landing page should be the lead form—this is the primary purpose of the landing page. Over-emphasizing details and prices can confuse consumers and lead to a drop in conversion rates.

  • Hyperlinks – Links to other parts of the site are helpful for direct website traffic, but when it comes to lead generation landing pages, too many links can confuse the visitor and result in clicks to other pages instead of a lead form fill out. 
  • Simple Design – The simpler the design the better. There is less room for clutter and more room for the lead form plus basic information relevant to your product / service. Specific costs for every single type of package is unnecessary—this is reserved for the sales person who will be contacting the prospective client. 
  • Above The Fold – Visitors should not be forced to scroll down to the bottom or middle of the page to fulfill the desired action. When designing a landing page specifically for paid search traffic, try to include all appropriate information “above the fold” with no or little scrolling necessary. This will give a clear and concise display of the lead form, and optimally, simplify the user’s experience. 

You are now prepared to create an optimized landing page that Google will indubitably be enamored by so get to designing and prepare yourself for Quality Score rapture. 

Mood Marketing?

Ad targeting is the key to getting your product or service in front of your core demographic and successfully driving qualified traffic to your website. It’s also a factor that makes online advertising more attractive than print and other advertising mediums. Currently, we have many targeting methods, including demographic, geographic, behavioral, and contextual, and many of these targeting strategies are now being used together, like geographic and behavioral, to send the right message at the right time to the right consumer base. What if marketers could also target users based on their current mood? Given status updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Google, it won’t be long before these updates are crawled to determine emotional states and tone inflections. Read more