Bid Management: Rule-Based vs. Portfolio

If you are working on sizeable search marketing campaigns you are probably well aware that managing bids for thousands of keywords manually becomes impossible to do efficiently. You need rules and algorithms to adjust bids for you and act and react to changes in the marketplace according to your predefined strategy. Adobe even thinks that “it is the models and algorithms that distinguish the players in this space.”

Adobe offers a variety of resources for search marketers in their online search centre, and among them a comprehensive white paper on portfolio-based bid management algorithms. Portfolio optimization stands in contrast to rule-based bid management. A rule-based keyword bid system would look at every single keyword mostly siloed from the rest of the campaign. For instance, you could sell DVDs online, and you could set the maximum amount you want to pay for a conversion to $20. Your system would take care of not stretching this limit for any of the keywords you are using. If the search term “harry potter dvd” would convert at around $21, your system would simply decrease the bid on this keyword or pause it. There is nothing wrong with that and this method would assure that “harry potter dvd” is converting at an acceptable cost. However, the portfolio approach says that this is thinking too short. Your overall performance might actually be better if you take advantage of the maximum amount of “harry potter” traffic, even if this means paying more for these conversions than you are willing to, and in turn making up for this with other keywords in your account that are converting more cheaply, and thus at the end of the day arriving at a higher ROI and conversion numbers than with a rule-based strategy. That means that a portfolio approach will look at all possible combinations of bids across all the keywords in your account, and then choose the best combination to maximize the overall outcome. It is clear that an extremely sophisticated and fast algorithm is needed to continuously adjust bids across a large account, as there are countless variables from position to CPC and CTR to be considered and all keywords need to be regarded as part of an ecosystem.

The portfolio approach can theoretically work very well – if not best – for campaigns with clearly defined goals and target margins and a predetermined schedule that is not constantly being changed or switched around. Note that there is also a cost involved whenever you connect to the Google AdWords API.

If you would like to read more about portfolio-based bid management, we highly recommend you give to Adobe white paper linked here a read.

AdWords Impression Share Changes

How many times are your Exact match keywords triggering an ad instead of a Broad or Phrase? How many Impressions are you losing because your daily budget ran out early or your bids/quality score weren’t high enough? All questions that “Impression Share (IS)” metrics in Google AdWords can help answer for advertisers. Google’s “Analyse Competition” tool shows competitive insights, but IS metrics are perhaps a little more accurate to gauge performance against your competitors in a Google AdWords auction (showing an ad, an impression). Impression Share is calculated by the number of impressions received, divided by the estimated number of impressions you could have received – based on your targeting settings (keywords, locations, languages etc), approval statuses, bids and Quality Scores – Google says Impression Share changes are coming!

Originally you only had four IS columns, namely: IS, Lost IS (budget), Lost IS (Rank), Exact Match IS. You’ll notice historical data is no longer available before October 2012, this is to enable the new IS column transition, all new data will go as far back as 1 October 2012. The changes below are set to arrive immediately for some advertisers or by February 2013 for everyone!

What are the Changes?

  1. Distinct Search and Display Columns. New columns separating Search and Display IS.
  2. “Hour of Day” Segmentation. Evaluate ad coverage by segmented time “Dimensions”.
  3. Filters, Charts and Rules. Apply filters, automated rules and graphs using IS metrics.
  4. Accuracy. Improvements to the calculation of IS.

The new columns are simply Search and Display variations for each original column, as above – Now here’s a question: Can you tell us why there’s no Exact Match IS for Display? comment and WIN a massive, virtual high-five!

Source | More Source

Remarketing 2012: Bigger, Better, Faster, More

Elaborating further on Lauren’s excellent blog post about the changes that have come to Google AdWords’ Remarketing feature, I would like to take the time to explain the possibilities that have arisen for marketers a bit more.

Along with Google AdWords and Analytics becoming more intertwined – for instance, if your, you can now use basic metrics such as bounce rate and pages per visit with your automated campaign rules – Google has recently made a number of significant changes to the way Remarketing campaigns are set up and managed. This has also dramatically increased the functionality of this advertising method.

As mentioned by Lauren in her post, you no longer need to create a code for every Remarketing list you would like to work with. If you use Google Analytics, you can now simply modify your tracking script on all pages of your site in order to be able to distribute the so-called “DoubleClick cookie”. This process is described here:

Google suggests you also update your privacy policy if you decide to use this feature.

With this done, you can now set up and specify all kinds of Remarketing lists directly from Google Analytics. You can find this feature under the “Admin” tab. It will no longer be necessary to create individual codes for every audience you would like to remarket to, making life much easier for your IT department, web developer or client.

A few clarifications up-front:

  • Old audience lists cannot be converted to this rule-based method.
  • You can use old lists and new lists together, and even combine them in custom combinations.
  • There is no need to replace the old lists, but it can make life easier in the long run.
  • After you have created a list, you still need to wait for it to distribute at least 100 cookies before ads will start showing for this list.
  • Once you have saved a list in Analytics, it will automatically be imported into AdWords.

There are now four general types of Remarketing lists you can create. You can remarket to all visitors of your site, specify just a page or section (e.g., or your shopping cart), remarket to visitors who have converted on one of your Analytics goals, or you can build a list with the help of Analytics visitor segments. Especially the option to use goals to make your Remarketing even more targeted is very powerful. If you choose to set up a list via visitor segments, you can either work with the “Dimension & Metric Filter” or the “Sequence Filter”. ‘It sounds complicated at first, but I you have a little bit of experience with Google Analytics it shouldn’t take you long to understand. A dimension list could be “all organic visitors that have spent more than $100”, for example. The “Sequence Filter” lets you even use storylines in your advertising. You can remarket to users who came to your site via an E-Mail newsletter first, and then on a later stage visited your site via a specific search campaign. The possibilities are nearly limitless!

It is also very useful that Analytics will now calculate the number of users your lists would have at this point in time on the fly. As mentioned above, note that in any case you will still need to accumulate users after the list has been set up. However, this can give you a great idea if the audience you have in mind will be large enough for you to make crafting an individual campaign for them worthwile.

Compare Dates Comes to Google AdWords

As an online marketer it is essential to be able to easily compare your data between two date ranges. Knowing if your campaign experiment or test has improved results or not and having a clear understanding of account performance between two date ranges is often critical when making educated decisions with regards to campaign optimisation.

Google Analytics always had date range comparison options

Unlike Analytics, Google AdWords has previously only ever allowed advertisers to select a set group of possible dates (this month, last month, last 7 days etc) with only one customisable option. Today, we noticed that Google has finally added a “Compare Dates” feature to the date range options in AdWords. Now allowing advertisers to choose/compare two custom date ranges and data is also displayed in your AdWords performance graphs. Now you can see at a glance the stats between two date ranges, instead of switching back and forth or exporting and arranging the data. Custom date ranges seem to remain saved when switching between accounts in your MCC.

Now available in Google AdWords
Performance Graph illustrates data between date ranges

Well done Google AdWords, we take our hats off to you on this one. Been waiting ages for it.

Welcoming Google Tag Manager

This is really just an extension from a previous article published on these pages, Container Tags Can Save You Time and Resources, but now has an official home among Google’s products. Google has officially launched Tag Manager, a one-stop-shop for managing all your marketing tracking scripts/codes. This is a massive step forward for marketers that will dramatically simplify and speed up the process of inserting tracking code on a website, because traditionally you would be required to generate a unique tracking script and deploy for each property you wanted to track/measure. Now, using Google Tag Manager, you can generate one script, have it implemented once and then customise it as you go, all from one interface on the agency side. This works for all AdWords conversion scripts, Analytics and remarketing scripts. Watch the video for an introduction of how you would set up a container and add tracking scripts.

“Google Tag Manager took one big chunk of time out of the tagging process. What took 2 weeks now takes less than a day—sometimes just hours. We, the campaign managers, now make the call on which tags to use, and we can implement the tags ourselves.”

“Google Tag Manager just makes business sense. Why would we want to manually add hundreds of tags for our pages?” 


YouTube TrueView Ads [Study]

YouTube TrueView video ads offer a pricing model that is based on user engagement, only paying for interested viewers. This creates a win-win scenario for both advertiser and YouTube user. Impressions are free, just the same as a Pay Per Click model, advertisers are only charged when a users selects to watch a video ad, or watches the pre roll ad for more than 30 seconds or to the end of the video, whichever comes first. Guarantee that your budget is spent on an interested audience.

Google recently announced that TrueView ads are now available on mobile devices, but why is this significant? Lets take a quick look at some mobile YouTube stats from last year: more than 20% of global YouTube views came from mobile devices, YouTube is available on over 350 million mobile devices and roughly 3 hours of video was uploaded to YouTube per minute from a mobile device. The basic notion is that mobile traffic on YouTube was never monetised before and now allows advertisers to further expand campaigns across multiple screens; increasing reach, recall and conversions. AdWords for Video means that advertising campaigns across Google networks can all be managed in one interface, bringing YouTube and Google AdWords advertising together.

Mobile In-Stream TrueView Ad – source

Study: How do people respond to TrueView Ads?

Some of you may know that there are four types of TrueView ads, but if I mention the pre roll ad that plays before your video, you probably know exactly what I am referring to and I’d probably be correct in assuming you hate those ads, yes? Interestingly, a study done by Google in the US with a sample size of 1600+ people shows different:

  • Only 10% of people will always skip these ads.
  • 8/10 viewers prefer TrueView ads to standard in-stream YouTube ads.
  • 8/10 thought the “Skip” button was clear, which means people don’t have to think too hard, they know they can skip.
  • 9/10 viewers thought TrueView ads create a better video viewing environment.
  • Curiosity is the main reason users choose to watch an ad, therefore sparking interest in the first 5 seconds (before they skip) is key to driving viewership.
  • Viewers are likely to skip ads they have seen before, which is good for not wasting ad budget.

Find the above study, here.

Based on these findings and the results we have experienced with TrueView ads, they are certainly NOT hated by all and can be very effective. The same targeting is available on YouTube as with the Google Display Network, remarketing lists can be created from YouTube ads and we’re able to set a frequency cap, which limits the amount of times the same person will see an ad per day. These ads lead to follow-on views which increases overall view counts and keeps people engaged with your brand, or as Google says, “buy one, get one free”. We can also direct interested viewers to a desired landing page from a ‘call to action’ banner that is overlayed within the advertised video, great for direct response campaigns and these clicks are at no extra cost to the video view. So, if you have video content that you’d like to promote, try YouTube TrueView Ads or give us a shout.

Recent Changes to Remarketing

Remarketing is a very useful AdWords tool for targeting users who have already been your site but did not complete the desired action (eg. A newsletter sign up or a product purchase). There are various methods for using Remarketing to work for your campaign objectives. Please see my previous post on the basics of Remarketing.

Earlier this month, Google made some changes to how marketers are able to use this feature. The first change allows for Remarketing lists to be created and managed within Google Analytics, allowing for deeper analysis of these ads. This can be found in the Admin section under “Remarketing Lists”.

The second change is the ability to create various Remarketing lists using one piece of code instead of many.
Before, if you wanted to separate ad messages according to the page category that the user was browsing before they left the site, a unique code for each of those categories would have to be generated and implemented within the corresponding webpage. For example, if you have a site selling shoes, you would have to have a unique code for running shoes, a unique code for boots etc., in order to be able to deliver Remarketing ads specific to those shoe types.

Now, only one Remarketing code needs to be generated and implemented across all pages of the site. Some accounts may already have this code automatically generated. If you have this, it will be found under the “Audiences” tab, within the shared library, named “Main List”. If your account does not have this pre-generated list, then click ‘New audience’. Select ‘Remarketing list’ and then ‘define a list of site visitors by placing a new tag on selected pages’. Select the ‘+New tag’ button, name your remarketing list as ‘Main List’.

When the code of this Main List has been implemented across the site, you will then be ready to create category-based lists. From the Audiences tab, select ‘New audience’ > ‘Remarketing List’. Then select ‘Define a list of site visitors based on the selection below’. You can then create a list defined by the contents of the URL. For example, if you want to create a list for all users who viewed running shoes on your site, you would select all URL’s containing the term “runningshoes”. This method is therefore dependant on the URL structure of your site.

If you have already been using Remarketing, you can continue to use the old method, but some changes will need to be made in order to be able to use this new feature. See an explanation from Google on these changes here.

This new way of Remarketing has the obvious benefit of not having to deal with too many separate pieces of code, which can get especially complex when emailing to clients with explanations on implementation. It is also a time saver in that you would no longer need to keep adding additional code when there are changes to landing pages and promoted products.

Image source.


Container Tags Can Save Time and Resources

It is a well-known issue for digital advertising agencies and expert PPC and analytics agencies in particular – tracking and tagging the right events and conversions on a client’s site by implementing the right scripts to accurately measure the success of marketing initiatives, page traffic and site usage. The problem I am referring to that can arise is not the actual tracking software, but the correct setup on the client side.

If you provide paid search marketing, you will often require your client to implement the AdWords conversion code somewhere on their site to track how many leads or sales have been generated by your campaigns. So far so good – you will contact your client, who will forward the request to their IT, who will implement the script for you and ideally it will work as intented. If the script has not been correctly placed, you will have to repeat this procedure. The larger a client, the longer it can take to forward your request through all the necessary instances. Now you also want to remarket certain sections of the site by placing individual scripts on pages of these sections and showing users who have looked at washing mashines different ads than users who have demonstrated interest in high-end gaming PCs. You will have to explain your exact requirements to the client again, who will have to execute the implementation of the needed scripts for you. This costs both you and the client time, resources, and therefore money. If you are offering web analytics advice and implementation, the list goes on .. events want to be tracked, user behaviour measured, e-commerce scripts enabled and tracking scripts amended. Every time a change is needed a new communication process will have to be initiated.

Container tags can take care of this issue for you. A number of different vendors with varying service and pricing models have come up over the last year. These so-called tag management solutions provide you with a JavaScript tag similar to any other tag you would use for Google AdWords or Analytics. However, this tag can contain numerous other tags which you can specify and edit at any given time using a web interface. So you would simply ask your client to implement one single tag across their whole site, and you can take care of the rest. You can include AdWords, Analytics and any other scripts you need in this tag – it empowers you to immediately make changes when needed and to always stay on top of tracking traffic and conversions in the correct way. I think that all of these systems provide you with the possibility to only place certain tags on certain pages you define, and many allow you to pull data from the HTML of a page (or, better, data layers – see reference below for more on this topic) and amend your tracking accordingly (great for instance if you are using Google Analytics e-commerce tracking).

There are of course also downsides to using container tags for your tracking. If you would like to read up on these and find out more about tag management, I highly recommend Google’s Justin Cutroni’s concise and highly informative article on the state and possible implementations of tag management here:

AdWords Labels Allows You To Customize Your Data

AdWords labels is a nifty new feature allowing you to organise your account’s keywords, ads, ad groups and campaigns into your own custom groupings. This allows you to quickly filter and report on the data that’s of most interest to you. It also allows you to see how the custom categories you’ve created are performing relative to each other and the unlabeled entities in your account.


Phil is an online retailer selling a large variety of shoes in South Africa. He’s AdWords account has campaigns targeting 3 different regions (Western Cape, KZN and Gauteng). Within each campaign he has separate ad groups for generic and brand keywords. His structure (e.g. – Cape Town – Sneakers – Generic and – KZN – Sneakers – Generic) means that he has the same ads and keywords spread across different parts of this account. By applying a label “sneakers”  he can now easily sort his account or quickly run a labels report to see how well “sneakers” related keywords are performing in terms of sales across all three regions.

He can also now compare the performance of different types of shoes he is selling across these regions.

Labels can be used to organize your campaign elements in a way that you choose. Report on brand keyword performance versus all other non-branded keyword performance. You can measure how ads that mention “20% off” versus ads that mention “Save up to 25%” perform. You could also simply label your best performing keywords across ad groups in order to quickly review them. AdWords labels is a simple, yet handy tool have for any campaign manager’s tool box.





TrueView Video Ads Bring AdWords and YouTube Together

In the attempt to get more small and medium AdWords advertisers to try video and to simultaneously expand and improve the targeting options on YouTube and the Google Display Network (GDN), Google video ad formats and targeting options have received a significant update.

The first big change is that most of these video ads will no longer be charged for per click, but per view. A view counts as either a full watch of the video, or, in the case that it is longer than thirty seconds, a view of the first thirty seconds of the video. This will clearly make the video ad formats more lucrative for advertisers, as they will only be charged for potentially interested viewers. Users who skip their ads won’t leave a dent in the advertisers’ marketing budgets. Video ads will now also receive a sort of “quality score” similar to search ads that can, for instance, determine their position on the YouTube search results page along with the bid. This also adds a dimension of ‘engagement’ to the video ad model. Google thinks advertisers will aim for shorter, high quality clips more than ever to assure good scores, which would also be a definite win for the users.

The second big change is that you can manage all this from within AdWords now. You will also get additional metrics (such as view rate, thumb impressions and video impressions) and will be able to search for your YouTube videos from the AdWords interface to easily upload them. First and foremost, however, you will have access to AdWords’ highly sophisticated targeting methods. You can now target users by audiences consisting of interest categories, topics, content keywords or YouTube search keywords, for instance. This should make video advertising much more efficient.

The four ad formats promoted as “TrueView” video ads are as follows:

  • In-search (previously known as promoted videos, showing on the YouTube SERP and targeting YouTube search keywords)
  • In-stream (videos that show within a video – mostly up front, but can also be shown in the middle or at the end – and that can be skipped after five seconds)
  • In-slate (this is a new format where users will be shown a selection of three videos, and can choose the one they want to watch before proceeding to the actual video they came for – this will be more “opt-in” than in-stream ads, as the user is given a choice, however note that with this format the advertiser will already be charged for the click of the video)
  • In-display (these ads can show on YouTube or the GDN – for instance as a promotion on the right hand side of a YouTube video that is currently being watched)

Thinking about getting your advertising YouTube-ready? Remember that rich-media ads are becoming more important and effective than static banners in many cases and that YouTube is in fact the second largest search engine in the world. Two good reasons to give these new formats a try! Visit for more!

Enhanced Cost Per Click (CPC)

The question of whether to let AdWords handle your budget for you in the name of conversion goals is a tough one to answer. Do we trust these features? Are they more effective than manual bidding practices? When a typical online marketer asks these questions they will probably be thinking of Conversion Optimizer, and the available Enhanced CPC feature can often be overlooked.

How Does Enhanced CPC Work?

Each time an ad is activated, the maximum CPC on keywords or placements will be automatically increased or decreased, based on the chances of a conversion being achieved. The following variables are considered to predict the conversion rate:

  • Location
  • Browser
  • Language settings
  • Time of day
  • Day of week
  • Words in search query
  • Match type
  • Historical performance

Bids can be increased by up to 30%, and there is no limit to decreases.

Initially, Enhanced CPC will take effect on 50% of the auctions entered into. After gaining enough data to analyse performance of the feature one of two further steps will be taken. If it has been found that it has not benefited performance of the campaign, it will reduce its effect, but will not stop running entirely. If it has had a positive impact on the campaign, it will start to modify bids on up to 75% of auctions entered into, and if positive impact on modified bids continues 100% of the auctions will be affected by Enhanced CPC. There is no notification given when the feature starts to modify more than 50% of the auctions.

How is Enhanced CPC Enabled?

Activation within a campaign that has conversion tracking is simple. Within your AdWords account, go to Bidding and budget section under the campaign Settings tab and click “edit”. Then check the box under Enhanced CPC that is labelled “Use my conversion tracking data and bid to optimize for conversions”.

It can also be activated within AdWords Editor on the Campaigns tab, by selecting the drop down under Enhanced CPC to change from “Disabled” to “Enabled”.

How Does it Differ to Conversion Optimizer?

Enhanced CPC gives marketers more control, as they can override bid manually or use external bid management systems, whereas Conversion Optimizer does not allow continued management of CPC bids.

Conversion Optimizer is not limited to the 30% rise in bids that Enhanced CPC is. Conversion Optimizer lets you set a target CPA which it will work towards. Enhanced CPC does not take into account this goal.

Where Conversion Optimizer can only be implemented if the campaign has received 15 conversions within the past 30 days, Enhanced CPC does not have this requirement.

Who Should Use Enhanced CPC?

The feature appears to be a useful tool for experienced marketers who would like to benefit from automated bid management to maximise conversion rates, but retain the ability to control the bid themselves as well.

Because, unlike Conversion Optimizer, a campaign does not have to meet certain conversion requirements before it can be implemented, consideration must be taken into account as to whether the campaign is suitable for Enhanced CPC to be running. Enabling it on a campaign that is young or unstable could have no effect or negative results.

As with any automated feature (like Conversion Optimizer and Automated Rules), careful analysis is needed to ensure that the business KPI’s are not being affected negatively – particularly traffic received, as the limitless decreasing of bids may see it dwindle.

Google Ad Innovations: Campaign Insights

Search has always been the primary advertising medium in the Google stable and the main revenue generator for them. Yet it seems that Google has been working hard on taking Display advertising to the next level. By providing users with meaningful, relevant, targeted ads and giving digital advertisers all the measurement metrics they need to ensure their campaigns remain in tip top shape and achieve the maximum ROI possible.

There are many predictions on the forthcoming success that lies in the path of Display advertising in terms of growth and success. I personally believe that one should not only consider Search advertising when venturing online, but to definitely include Display also, do both.

The Billboards of the future are here and their reach and impact on the information highway can be measured.  Thanks to Google Ad Innovations and Campaign Insights now, even more so.

I’ve often wondered what effect my Display campaigns (banner advertising) run in Adwords, had on my Search advertising campaigns. Did it have any effect on people who saw the banners, but did not click on them? Did it perhaps drive more searches towards my brand campaigns? What was the true value of the view through conversions and how accurate or significant are they in terms of the Display campaigns.

To gain insights to these questions would allow me to be able to accurately judge the full impact of Display, in the Google advertising module. With Google’s Campaign Insights I can do just that.

Campaign Insights:  How it works according to Google.

Using a test and control method, Campaign Insights compares the behaviour of users exposed to a display campaign on the Google Display Network with a group not exposed to the campaign. Using this data, campaign insights can show the incremental impact on the following metrics:

  • Brand site visit or category site visits
  • Brand searches, category searches or generic searches.

The test and control methodology ensures that the calculated lift is attributable exclusively to the display campaign, even if offline campaigns such as TV or radio ads are also in place. Additionally the methodology factors in past browsing behaviours so that we can track impact of the campaign versus what a user would have done anyway.

For a detailed explanation of how the methodology is applied please see the video. This feature’s availability is currently limited.

Getting More With Remarketing

Remarketing has become a necessity for most PPC accounts. It is an AdWords feature that was introduced last year, which enables marketers to re-capture user who have been to their site. This means that a user’s first visit need not be their last, and marketers get another chance to entice them to convert.

Setting up a remarketing list can be done by selecting “Remarketing Lists” under the Audiences tab. Most online marketers will already have tried this targeting feature, but for those who are unaware of how it works, it adds the cookie ID of a user who visits the site is added to the remarketing list by means of a generated code snippet. This allows ads to be targeted to those users when they have left the site and continued to browse on the Google Display Network. The number of days that a cookie is stored on the list can be decided on by the creator of remarketing list. This opens the opportunity to relay different messages for different lengths of time that a user has been away from the site.

Getting More With Remarketing

Taking it a step further, it is possible to remarket only those users that have visited the site, but did not convert. This prevents an already-converted customer from being targeted with your ads and possibly annoying them, as they have already done what you wanted them to. This is done by creating a negative remarketing list of users who have been to the conversion page (this list will collect cookies from users who have converted by means of code being placed on the conversion confirmation page). This list must then be added as a negative list by expanding “Negative Audiences” under the Audiences tab, and adding the list. Now all users who have converted will be excluded from the remarketing campaign.

Remarketing can also be used for new customer acquisitions. If it is the goal of an account to attract more unique visitors, negative remarketing can be a useful tool. This is utilised by creating a remarketing list targeted to all who visit the website, so the code must be placed on all entry pages. This list can then be added as a negative audience to all display campaigns that have a unique visitor objective. This basically excludes everyone who has already visited the website, and display budget can be more ensured to attain uniques.

Remarketing is a dynamic targeting tool that can be altered in various ways in order to meet account goals and has become an essential feature to use for all online marketers.

Paid Ads Looking More Organic

New Blue Pins

Location extensions became available to AdWords advertisers two years ago as a means to give specific information about the location of the business being advertised. (Read more about location extensions)

The new blue pin that was launched in February 2011 is a new feature on certain ads with location extensions that appear in the top 3 ad positions.  In addition, it will only be triggered if there is a Local Universal map the right side of the search results page. If there is no map, only the standard location extension will be shown.  Whereas before a plus box was used to indicate location extensions, the address is now displayed automatically if other Google Places Listings appear within the top 10 results.

The pin looks just like the red pins that appear for Google Places results. The blue pin will also appear on the Local Universal map along with the Google Places pins. This new marker seems to be a way of making the paid ads stand out a bit more, since Google Places listings may have taken away some of the focus.



Looking More Like Organic

Other recent changes to paid search ads include limiting the Display URLs to lower case only, and headlines being extended to include the first description line. (Read more on extended ad headlines)

These changes, along with the new blue markers for certain ads with location extensions, all make the top 3 ad positions look a lot more like organic search results. No doubt this plays in Google’s favour, as users will probably be more inclined to click on these paid ads, as they are confused with organic results which they may have selected over obvious paid ads. This means more cash from PPC advertisers.

Paid ads looking more like organic results is of course a good thing for online advertisers. An increase in click through rates is probable. However, appearing in the top 3 results has become even more desirable, and this increased competitiveness of being on top is sure to drive up CPC’s (another benefit to Google).

Advertisers who wish to embrace these changes and make the most out of them will need to focus on making sure their ads are eligible to trigger these new ad formats. Another major area of attention is Quality Scores. With competition for the top 3 positions, on the rise, optimizing Quality Scores is more important now than ever in order to make being on top as affordable as possible.

Image source.

Maximise on the New Looking Extended Headline AdWords Adverts

What do these new looking adverts mean for AdWords advertisers and users? The first description line of a text advert becomes an extension of the headline, divided by a hyphen. Is this a positive step for better performing adverts or a silent factor that could be negatively affecting your account performance? I don’t think Google would implement a new feature on their biggest revenue stream without having done their research to get more clicks.

Google says that higher click through rates have been achieved with this new layout. To me, PPC adverts are now starting to look more like natural search results. I’m interested to know how SEO experts feel about this change. It could be argued that the new headlines have the reverse effect and highlight or isolate the shorter headline adverts. Either way, the new extended headlines are definitively something to consider for your search advertising campaigns. The only requirement is that your advert has to have individual description lines one and two. What this means is your advert needs to be constructed in two separate sentences. Here is an example

New Headline:


Description line 1:       Mobile | PPC | Online Advertising.

Description line 2:       Get Fast Pay Per Click Results Now!

Original Display:


Description line 1:       Mobile, PPC and Online Advertising

Description line 2        With Profitable ROI. Call us Today!


The benefit of this is that your adverts visibility looks more natural and eye catching. The overall proximity of the advert changes with the longer, bolded headline. We are now more educated after reading the headline text before our eyes drift further down the advert, or at least we should be! Now an enticing call to action, what a welcome! A clever idea now would be to add Sitelink Ad Extensions to present further interactive information as your second line of text (image above) above your display URL, but this is all only possible if you score in the top 3 advert positions.

Vuala, you have the perfect AdWords advert looking very natural, offering great value in terms of targeted user experience and increased click through rates, quality scores and sales. The only caution to advertisers is that the increase in click through rates should be accompanied by an increase in conversion rates for profitable return and to yield an overall increase in performance.

Try it, test it with AdWords Campaign Experiments on adverts with good traffic and let us know your findings for further discussion!

Google Instant Site Previews, Now For Mobile!

When Google released Instant Previews on SERP’s late last year, it enhanced the search experience and made usabililty more convenient in finding quality search results. This great feature has now been released for mobile devices running Android (2.2+) or iOS (4.0+). Simply click the magnifine glass on the right hand side of search results for a snap preview of the webpage. Nice feature is that after you click to preview, you can scroll across and instantly preview the other websites in one easy step. Then simply select the website that looks most relevant in the preview and enjoy. See Google Mobile for further instructions.

Source: Official Google Blog

Easy and efficient – testing changes with AdWords Campaign Experiments

Posted by Matthias Wobrock on 23 Feb 2011

Testing and marketing go hand in hand – if you sell a product or service, you want to know how to best reach your customers to generate as many sales as possible. This is where testing can help you. You might want to test different layouts of your brochure before sending a final version to all your subscribers, or optimize the text and images on your campaign landing page using Google Website Optimizer.  If it is not your site, but your AdWords campaign that you want to test, you have a new best friend in your AdWords tool box: the AdWords Campaign Experiments (in short: ACE).


While testing brochure designs or variations of a TV spot require you to carry out user studies and form experiment groups, testing online is free of charge, fast and efficient. Your website visitors will not even know that you are testing different versions of your campaign. Previously, the only way to test two different settings on an AdWords campaign, ad group or keyword was to use one version, and then the other, for a certain period of time each, and then compare the results – unless you wanted to go through a complex setup with two slightly distinct campaigns running on different schedules. Testing one version after the other is called sequential testing and can result in extremely flawed data. You can never be certain if your change is performing better or worse because of the actual changes made or external factors you cannot fully monitor or control – these could be seasonal effects, news articles, or even the weather in the destination you are advertising in. With ACE, Google will split traffic between your variations in real-time, and positive or negative external effects that might influence your campaign’s performance will affect both versions you are testing. Your final results will therefore still yield actionable data.

ACE gives you the functionality to experiment with any combination of bid, keyword, ad group or placement changes on the Google search and content network. It will help you make important campaign decisions based on the right information. To quote the words of famous web analyst Avinash Kaushik: “I wish I could put into words how much I love ACE. It is truly a blessing for anyone that does paid search marketing. So many companies large and small truly suck at doing AdWords properly […]. This sucking can be solved immediately and awesomely by using ACE.”

What will the impact of adding certain new keywords be? What if I changed the bids on my top keywords? How would my traffic numbers change when I used a different match type for some of the terms in this ad group? These are just a few examples of where ACE can shine. It helps you to better understand the impact of changes and lowers the risk of testing new advertising strategies. If your test didn’t bring the desired results, you can just end your experiment, and start a new one.

You can find the ACE feature under the campaign settings tab in the AdWords reporting interface, and most information on it in the announcement of ACE on the AdWords blog, Google’s official ACE page and in the ACE video tutorials.

There is one powerful experiment setup that is not documented that well. Ad group experiments allow you to not only test keyword bids or different keywords, but manifold other elements you might want to experiment with – for instance, your original ad group versus a range of more granular ad groups with similar keywords, or different sets of copy and banners. You will have to use ad group tests for this. Create copies of your existing ad groups, change every element you want to test on your copied groups, and start a campaign experiment with your original groups set to “control” and the new, copied ones set to “experiment”. I recommend that you don’t focus too much on CPCs and costs per conversion using this method (unless your new versions contain changes that might alter them directly) and more on your actual conversion rate, as click costs will naturally be lower on your control groups which have already been running for a while and have a positive account history paired with good quality scores.

Lastly, give your experiments time to run and try to not stop your experiments too early. You might experience ups and downs in the beginning that will eventually even out. The more data your experiment gathers, the more precise your result will be. Put some sophisticated math behind the changes you make to your AdWords campaigns, start a testing culture within your account or agency and you can be sure that you will be making just the right changes to your campaigns based on accurate data.

Google's Automated Rules in AdWords

This is a new feature in Adwords, still in the beta* stage of testing, which allows advertisers to schedule automated changes to specific parts of their accounts based on the criteria they specify. Sounds brilliant…Or so I thought when I first heard of i! But is it really?

The idea behind automated rules is to help advertisers who manage large accounts to save time by creating specific rules that will help manage these accounts more efficiently. They also allow advertisers who are constantly making manual changes to the accounts to automate these changes by creating rules.

So where and how, do we create these rules?

If and when it’s released, the automated rules button should appear within your Adwords account right next to the “Alerts” button. You can create automated rules on a campaign, ad group, keyword and ad level. Upon clicking the automate button a drop down menu appears that looks like this:

By selecting one of the options you will then be able to further customise your rule according to your specifications.

There is also a functionality that allows you to preview your newly created rule, recommended.

Sounds fantastic, but I am still not convinced!

Whilst researching and testing this nifty new innovation I came across a few limitations and concerns raised by others who were also using it, as part of the beta* testing done by Google. The following screen shots were taken from Search Engine Land and The Search Agents web sites.

*[Beta testing] Google allows certain clients the access to use their latest innovations and give feedback on their performance.

These are interesting points raised as to the limitations of this new, soon to be released feature in Adwords. Most of the concerns related to bidding and how dangerous it becomes when creating your own rules for adjusting bids. If the rules are created recklessly you could find yourself paying more for clicks than what you should be. I would advise that when it comes to bidding to rather stick to the right tool to do the job. Rather consider the bid optimizer function within Adwords to work out your bidding strategy. I think it would be imperative for Google to educate advertisers as to the possible pitfalls when creating rules for adjusting bids and give a detailed outline as to what the best practises are when using this feature. When I was using the feature, I found a lack of information on how best to operate it. I sincerely hope this will change before it’s released for mass consumption.

I think it would also be a good idea to enable advertisers to create rules on an account level. Let’s say I wanted an account paused once it has spent a certain amount of budget and reached a certain amount of conversions. Guess what, I can’t do this. Currently this can only be done at a campaign level. This means if I have 5 Campaigns in 1 account and wanted to stop my ads from running once the account has reached 50 conversions. The best I could do is, to limit my campaigns to 10 conversions each. This however doesn’t work as it would stop campaigns performing well within the account and may even stop me from getting my daily 50 conversion requirement. As I can’t predict where and in which campaigns my conversions will come from.

Will automated rules benefit advertisers?

Well when it comes to creating rules for changing bids I would NOT recommend applying them to well established accounts and keywords that have a significant amount of history. You do not want to mess up what has been working and optimized to perform well. I might use them with the utmost of caution on new keywords or new parts of existing accounts and monitor how the rules affect them.

I found that creating rules for budgets to be the safest way to go and a handy way of rewarding campaigns for doing well. Let’s say I set a rule that allows a specific campaign more budget if it reaches a certain amount of conversions at a favourable conversion rate. Then I would have saved myself some time and adjusted the budget when I needed to. I would avoid punishing campaigns for not performing well. Why? You can never tell when or where that next conversion is going to happen. If you create a rule to pause a campaign when it’s not converting but still spending. You might just loose out, as one more click could have resulted in a conversion.

I think that automated rules button is just another handy tool in the PPC optimization tool box, for Adwords advertisers. I look forward to the point where Google has ironed out all the wrinkles of this potentially great feature and it becomes a standard feature on the User Interface.

Google's Gift for Small Business Owners Who Use Adwords

Google visited several areas in the USA and surprised small business owners with a massive gift to encourage further success and growth for 2011. They invested in these small business by providing them with these amazing gifts:

  • Brand new laptops and smart phones
  • 1 year worth of high speed broadband
  • 1 year of green environmental consulting
  • 1 year of professional accounting and tax services
  • A webmaster to get their websites performing at an optimum level
  • First $100 000 of advertising spend free for 2011

Enhance Text Ads on Google Networks with Ad Extensions

Posted by Adam Mitchell on 17 Nov 2010

Google Ad Extensions offers PPC advertisers more opportunity to stand out with text adverts on desktop and mobile devices. Ad extensions such as: Location extensions (map), Sitelinks (additional page links), Product extensions (catalogue/shopping cart), Phone extensions (click to call) and recently announced Seller Rating extensions (consumer reviews) all make up the Ad extensions tab in AdWords. In South Africa we are only previewed to Location, Sitelinks and Phone Ad extentions, but this is a superb feature to increase your ads appeal.

Location extensions appear as a link under your text ad to an expandable window that leads to your Place page and website. Using a Google Places listing in conjunction with AdWords will optimise on appearance and usability of text ads. Location extensions allow you to promote very relevant information about your business such as the business name, address, contact number, pictures and consumer references as a simple added benefit to the standard four line text ads. Manually entered, static Location extensions require regional specific targeting in the settings tab to function effectively, but will show relevant extensions to users based on their geographic location which makes your ad more relevant.

Sitelinks allow advertisers to promote other pages on the website with four additional links appearing under your ad. This is really effective for dominating those brand terms and to showcase other areas of your site that the user might also enjoy. For example, a bank offering various financial services could use Sitelinks to promote all of them through one text ad. Chances are increased that the ad will relate to the users query and induce a click. This can improve click through rates, quality score, CPC’s and conversions. Sitelinks will however only work if you are advertising on a keyword that has the ability to appear in position one.

Phone extensions work on a click to call basis and can be extremely cost effective tracking metrics such as click to call’s and call duration. A direct conversion straight to the clients phone line. Google Voice allows synchronisation of all business telephone lines into one, which will be very handy when it’s available in South Africa. A Television show in the US made excellent use of Google Voice to inspire interaction from the audience with thoughts on the show, “leave us a message”. Explore the campaign site here and listen to people’s contributions.

Ad Extensions are measurable as per normal columns, but with two limitations in the Ad extensions tab. Data on individual Sitelinks is unavailable and shown as sets on campaign level. Clicks on the ad headline are not separated from clicks on Ad extensions, therefore this could exaggerate your reports if exporting data directly from the Ad extensions tab. To gather accurate data on our “ad extender” friends, make use of the “Segment” feature on the campaign and adgroup tabs in AdWords. From the Segment drop down menu, select the “click type” filter to view granular information on your Ad extensions, including clicks, CTR’s and conversions.

The financials are always important and this is my understanding of the costs related to Ad extensions. Clicks on Ad extensions are only charged for when the user clicks through from the search interface or display ad (not charged to expand windows), so be sure to also focus on your landing pages where users are not taken straight to your website (Place page). Enjoy and feel free to share any success or other related stories in the comments area below.

Representing Competitors in Google AdWords

When it comes to ethics and search marketing there are some very dubious lines that are and have been skewed by search marketing companies in South Africa owing mainly to the lack of knowledge of their clients.

That said, it is a rapidly expanding industry in this country and indeed worldwide and on the flip side there are some agencies making great efforts to improve the SEM (Search Engine Marketing) service that they offer to their clients. The nature of the South African entrepreneurial spirit also means that associated technology, tactics and angles are in hot pursuit as South Africa and specifically Cape Town positions itself as viable global ICT hot spot. The existing and potential foreign investment and outsourcing to South African SEM and ICT companies has far reaching effects for our economy and job creation. Furthermore, in terms of SEM, the nature of Google’s global system opens endless opportunities for local companies to represent themselves to foreign markets through a cost effective and measurable medium.

Google has not released figures of how much South African agencies collectively spend with Google on their clients’ behalf but if we take what our small agency spends for clients it must be many millions of dollars per annum and that is to err on the side of conservative estimation.

The problem facing the growth of this ‘heaving with potential’ industry is primarily a lack of skills in the arena. That will change in the not so distant future as companies like ourselves are forced to train graduates in the way of SEM. The more pressing issue is the fact that there are not enough specialist SEM companies to service the growing interest and need for fulfilling the requirements and needs of the local market. And this brings us back to the question of ethics.

Simply speaking it is counterproductive for an SEM company to represent clients who are competitors on some level. The very nature of the bidding system used on the Google Adwords system, for example, means that representing competitors causes the agency ends to bid their clients’ against each other. This in turn increases both clients advertising spend.

Turning away clients is not something any company wants to do but in certain instances it is vital in maintaining the trust of existing clients and maintaining a level of ethical marketing and advertising that would apply to offline agencies.

In terms of traditional advertising agencies, we wouldn’t find BMW and Mercedes serviced by the same creative agency now would we? And that’s without having to consider the added complication of directly increasing their respective advertising budgets!

We are having to turn away business because companies that are seeking our services are direct or indirect competitors of existing clients. Traffic Brand feels very strongly about maintaining honest relationships with our client base and is not willing to compromise these relationships for new business however tempting the associated income might be.

Sadly there will always be agencies that cross these lines. But as the industry expands and marketers become wise to the risk of entrusting their online campaigns to unprincipled organisations the demand for exclusivity will increase.

This begs the question of how we, as an industry, can responsibly expand the SEM services available to South African companies without compromising on ethics and without adding to our own competitors’ market share.