Author: Erin Sagin

Bing Expanded Text Ads: 5 Things You Need to Know

It’s official – Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are coming to Bing Ads! Here are the top five things you need to know to gear up for them.

#1. We’ve Got a Couple More Months Before Bing's ETAs Hit the Shelves

bing ads etas coming 

According to the crew at Bing Ads, they’ll be rolling out ETA support for all advertiser accounts in December of 2016. For the time being, they’re being piloted amongst a very small group of advertisers elected to be beta testers. WordStream was lucky to get several accounts whitelisted for this feature, so we’re in the process of setting our ads up right now.

Unlike Google’s ETA pilot (which didn’t offer full interface access at first, let alone support through AdWords Editor), the Bing Ads iteration is significantly more buttoned-up. They’ve already built ETA-creation tools into the Bing Ads interface, as well as Bing Ads Editor. At this point, it seems like they’re just testing out the kinks before releasing it to a more widespread audience.

#2. Bing Has No Plans to Retire Standard Ads

Google’s “master plan” is to fully shift to ETAs in 2017. Advertisers can create both standard and expanded ads for the time being but that will all end come October 26. At that point, existing standard ads will be set in stone and you’ll only be able to create ETAs. Soon after, the shorter ad format will sunset and only ETAs will be served.

Not so on Bing. According to the crew at Microsoft, the engine has “not made any decision on if or when they’ll retire standard ads.” Instead, it’ll continue to serve both formats interchangeably.

standard ads vs. etas 

In 2017, either of these ads will be eligible to show on Bing.

Why aren’t they drawing a hard line? Many suspect that this is a “survival move” for Bing—if it forces advertisers to invest a ton of time into transitioning their accounts, chances are high that many won’t bother, causing a huge hit to Bing’s bottom line.

Motivations aside, I’d like to throw out a huge “thank you” to Bing on behalf of all PPC advertisers. No one wants to spend the first few weeks of the New Year frantically composing ETAs.

#3. Bing ETAs Are Nearly Identical to Google ETAs

Yep, when you see the new feature in the Bing Ads interface, you’ll have a moment of déjà vu. It’s strikingly similar to its Google namesake. Really, the only differentiator is the option to set a native ad preference on ads that you’ve crafted specifically to serve that particular context. Bing Native ads give advertisers the opportunity to reach beyond the Bing search network and display ads on MSN pages. Bing analyzes searchers’ intent signals to ensure that these ads are displaying to the right people in the right context.

 bing ads etas creation

Since the character limits for Bing ETAs mirrors that of AdWords, transitioning to ETAs should be fairly painless for most advertisers. They can use the same guidelines to build their ad messaging and it’s likely that the best practices we’ve identified for AdWords ETAs will hold true for Bing as well. Of course, we’ll be monitoring the performance of our clients in the Bing beta program closely and we’ll be sure to publish a post on discrepancies, should we run into any.

#4. AdWords Import Functionality Is Coming, Too

importing etas from adwords to bing 

Most marketers get their feet wet with Google’s ads and then, when they’ve mastered the PPC basics, they extend their online marketing efforts to Bing. The team at Bing ads doesn’t fight this behavior, they embrace it. They know that advertisers accustomed to AdWords’ CPCs will breathe a sigh of relief when they see what a bang for their buck they get on Bing.

To facilitate this expansion, Bing has spent the last few years ensuring their platform maintains parity with Google’s and making it stupid-simple for advertisers to take the plunge. It even built a tool specifically to help advertisers import their AdWords account structure into Bing Ads.

When AdWords announced it was moving to the ETA model, many advertisers panicked that this import function would no longer work and they’d be stuck creating two ad sets forever. Of course, this would be a serious deterrent to using Bing Ads, so the team has been quick to address this problem. Upon the release of Bing ETAs, they’ve promised that import tool will be up-to-date and ready to pull in Google ETAs.

#5. Your Ad Extensions Won’t Be Affected by ETAs

For years, we’ve relied on Bing’s impressive extension offerings to jazz up our ads and secure additional real estate on the SERP.  Luckily, you’ll still have the opportunity to take advantage of these with your ETAs. Meaning, your ads will be that much bigger!

Get Ready to Take Advantage of ETAs

Just because you don’t have to make the shift to ETAs on Bing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother. It’s too soon to pull any real data and prove the true impact of Bing ETAs, but based on what we’ve seen on Google, we expect to see significantly elevated CTRs.

Think of it this way—you don’t have to floss your teeth every day, but it’s definitely worth your while; the benefits are tenfold. The same goes for running ETAs on Bing. Sure, your account will probably do just fine without them, but it’s likely to do far better with them.

Don’t be a deadbeat marketer—take the time to build/import expanded ads for Bing (be sure to floss, too!).

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

10 Dos and Don’ts for Sitelink Extensions

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Sitelinks are the king of all AdWords ad extensions. They are, by far, the most versatile extensions; they’re useful for accounts of all verticals, they appear on all devices and advertisers can use them to say just about anything.

Even better, I’ve literally never encountered an account that didn’t yield higher CTRs once enabling these bad boys. According to the crew at Google, the mere presence of sitelinks typically lifts ad CTR by 10-20% (+20-50% on branded searches).

Sitelinks FTW.

I’ve been preaching the wonders of these extensions for years (proof: I covered them in one of my first blogposts EVER). Yet, we’ve never done a true deep dive on sitelink best practices.

Better late than never, right? Without further ado, here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help you make the most of these truly magical extensions.

DO Keep ‘Em Short and Sweet

Google allows advertisers to include up to 25 characters in their sitelink descriptions but, just because you have the extra space doesn’t mean you need to use it. According to Google, more succinct link copy performs better. It recommends aiming for a baseline of 18-20 characters for desktop links and 12-15 for mobile. This ensures that your messaging isn’t truncated on the SERP.

DON’T Set Them and Forget Them

Sitelinks require very little maintenance, but it never hurts to check in on them from time to time. Periodically dive into your ad extensions tab to review performance metrics for each of your sitelinks. Here’re a few metrics to keep an eye on:

  • Impressions: If impressions are low for a given sitelink, it’s possible that Google is passing it over for a reason. Try editing the link and giving it another whirl.
  • Click-Through Rate: If CTR is high, you’ve nailed your link description text. If it’s low, it’s a sign that your copy isn’t resonating with viewers. Is this page relevant to your campaign/ad group themes? Can you re-craft your copy to make it more appealing?
  • Conversion Rate: If your CVRs are high, pat yourself on the back. If they’re low, give some extra consideration to the page you’re sending visitors to. Are you putting your best foot forward? Is it accurately represented by your link text, giving searchers the appropriate expectations?

 reporting for sitelinks

For even more insight, use the segment dropdown to see “this extension vs. other.” This will show you how much direct interaction that particular sitelink received, versus the other components of the ad.

DO Create Sitelinks for your Bing Ads Campaigns

bing sitelinks 

Did you know that Bing Ads offers nearly all of the same extensions as AdWords, and then some? (It’s true—you can find the whole shebang here.) All of the benefits associated with sitelink extensions in AdWords hold true for Bing too, so why not take a few minutes to port your AdWords extensions over from Bing. You don’t even have to write anything new!

DON’T Apply Account Level-Sitelinks

Just last week, Google released account-level sitelinks, giving advertisers the opportunity to create just a single set of sitelinks to be applied across the board.  No doubt, the crew at Google created this new option to reduce the barrier to usage to boost sitelink adoption, since they’re so beneficial to ad CTR.

account level sitelinks 

As with most things, the fastest, easiest route is rarely the best route. You’re far better off investing a little extra time to create your sitelinks on the campaign or ad group level. This allows you to customize the links so they directly reflect the topic that your audience is looking for.

relevant sitelinks 

For example, if the Kate Spade ad above featured account-level sitelinks, it’s likely the links would be fairly generic or only feature their best-selling products. Instead, they’ve implemented them in a more strategic manner, giving the user (who is looking specifically for purses) closely related pages to check out.

DO Give Enhanced Sitelinks a Shot

There are two primary benefits of sitelinks. Firstly, they allow you to consume considerably more real estate on the SERP, making your ads more prominent, and secondly, they give you the opportunity to share even more information with your audience.

Now imagine you could make one simple change to score even more real-estate and include even more details with your searchers—tempting? You can actually do this with enhanced sitelinks! These giant, robust sitelinks allow you to include two lines of description text for each link, essentially mini-ads for each one!

enhanced sitelink extensions 

Google reports a 30% CTR elevation when advertisers take advantage of this option, making it a definite “do.”

DO Schedule Start and End Dates for Time-Sensitive Sitelinks

Sitelinks are the perfect way to highlight holiday sales, limited-time offers and special deals. However, no one is going to get excited about your 4th of July sale on the 5th, when all of the discounts are no longer valid. 

scheduling sitelinks 

If you create a time-sensitive sitelink, use the scheduling options to specify the dates that it is eligible to show. You can even set up specific time of day (or days of week) to serve a particular link!

DON’T Assume That Your Sitelinks Will Always Be Served

Just because you’ve done your duty and created your sitelink extensions doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll always be served alongside your ads. Extensions are displayed at Google’s discretion. Advertisers have virtually no impact on which are displayed, if any. Instead, Google uses a secret formula which aims to show the “best options” based on the users’ needs and their contexts.

We do know that Google is more likely to display extensions for ads that appear in top positions. We also know that the number of extensions served decreases as your position decreases. So, if your ad rank is poor, chances are high that your sitelinks will never actually see the light of day.

DO Periodically Check Your Links

There’s nothing worse than seeing an ad that offers exactly what you want, clicking on the link for your desired product and then landing on a freaking 404 error page.

 broken link

Lego’s creative spin on a 404 error page.

Most advertisers diligently update their ads when they update their landing pages (or build a mobile site). Yet, many also neglect to update their sitelinks. Serving a broken link isn’t just a waste of a click and a little cash. It makes a bad impression on the searcher and dissuades them from returning to your site. Don’t let your sitelinks fall by the wayside. Check your sitelink landing pages regularly to ensure they are working links.

DON’T Be Redundant

Nowadays, there are many different ways to enhance your ad copy. Google’s added a whole slew of new extensions (structured snippets, callouts, etc.) and Expanded Text Ads are giving us nearly twice as much space to rave about our products.

Pumping up the word-count in your ads is great, but do it carefully. If all of your extensions and your ad creative tout only one value proposition, you’re missing out on the opportunity to build a compelling case for your product.

redundant sitelinks 

Yeah, we get it. Free Shipping.

As you add new components to your ad, consider the bigger picture. Sure, it’s unlikely that all of your extensions will show, but any combination is fair game, so you should prepare accordingly. For more extension-planning guidance, check out Matt Umbro’s post on how to strategically prep your extensions.

DO Adhere to Ad Policy Guidelines

I know this one is obvious, *eye-roll*, but you’d be shocked how many people fail to stick with the guidelines, resulting in disapproved sitelinks. AdWords’ policies on sitelinks are nearly identical to those for ad headlines—no emojis, no exclamation points and no symbols—period. You’re also prohibited from using dynamic keyword insertion. When in doubt, head to the Advertising Policies help section to verify that your sitelinks are kosher.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

Review: Google’s New Account Health Score for Search (Beta)

Earlier this month, Google did a very limited beta release of a new feature in the AdWords Opportunities tab called the “Account Health Score for Search.”  I must admit that this tool made me a little nervous; at first glance, it was eerily similar to WordStream’s AdWords Performance Grader, as a few people pointed out.

Our team was dying to do a deep dive of the beta feature, but it was tough to find an account with access to it. After poring through hundreds of accounts, we finally found one with a health score.

Here’s my two-cents on the new tool and how it stacks up to our AdWords Performance Grader:

What is Google's Account Health Score?

account health score for search dashboard 

Upon initial analysis of the beta, it appears to be a fairly basic best practice check. It assesses each of your campaigns and then provides an overarching grade for your account, which is likely an average of all of your individual campaign scores. However, only scores for campaigns that have room for improvement are revealed.

Unlike the Grader, it bases your account’s “healthiness” on how much you are leveraging platform features, rather than how your account is actually performing. Each campaign is graded on a 15-point scale that checks to see whether you’re leveraging platform features, such as ad extensions, conversion tracking, the Search Partners Network, and adhering to standard best practices, such as using a recommended daily budget and running tightly-themed ad groups.

campaign level grade 

The campaign-level reports highlight 3-4 sections that you’re struggling with, along with the number of points that will be added to your score upon fixing them—giving you a clear path to reach 100%. For each segment the call-to-action is to “get started” and clicking on it redirects you to that section of the AdWords interface. However, assistance peters off when you actually get there. Google highlights the problem, but doesn’t provide any tangible instructions to help you actually fix it.

Should I use it?

Absolutely—if Google has already rolled it out to your account, that is. When it comes to paid search, I’m an advocate for trying any and all tools out there, especially when they’re free. Embrace this new report, for what it is—a glorified best practices check. It’s an easy way to determine whether you’re taking advantage of the many features that Google has to offer you.

That said, unless many changes are made prior to the mass rollout of this tool, it should not be used to gauge your overall paid search performance. The only tool that truly grades your account based on how you’re performing, rather than what you’re doing, is WordStream’s AdWords Performance Grader.

adwords grader 

Our Grader provides a more comprehensive, in-depth analysis of your account. We show an account-level score, which is broken down into various categories (wasted spend, Quality Score distribution and impression share optimization, to name a few) to show you key areas of opportunity for your account.

Even better, we’ll show you exactly how you stack up to competitors (from a size, spend and industry perspective) who have also run the Grader report. Since the Grader’s inception 5 years ago, we’ve analyzed over over $60 billion in AdWords spend, so we’ve got plenty of competitive intel in store for users. This is an incredibly powerful way to assess whether your account manager is nailing it or whether he/she could use a helping hand!

Is the Health Score a rip-off of our AdWords Grader?

Ah, the burning question! I certainly can’t speak to the Google Product Team’s strategy, but I’d be curious to see how they’d answer that question! From my review, it’s clear that the only similarity between these tools is the scoring component. However, these scores are based on vastly different criteria; Google is grading product adoption, while WordStream’s Grader is gauging your performance in comparison to businesses in your industry that are spending a similar amount each month.

But why listen to me—see it for yourself! Get your free Grader report here to see just how much more intel you’ll get! 

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

11 Ways to Save Money In Your PPC Account [CHECKLIST]

As a kid, I despised the very idea of “couponing”. When I complained that I was bored, my mom often put me to work with coupon books. I spent hours poring through them identifying products we used, clipping out the offers and organizing them alphabetically. The only thing worse than searchign for them was actually using them. With coupons, you never buy a normal quantity of the featured item. It was mortifying to parade through the supermarket with our cart piled high with “couponing wins”—which often featured a lifetime’s-worth of toothpaste and enough toilet paper to serve a small army.

Now that I’m responsible for my own finances, the tides have turned. I’m certainly no champion couponer, but I definitely shop with an eye out for good deals. And man, it sure does feel incredible to watch the register and see the “amount owed” decrease when those discount codes are applied.

Unfortunately, when it comes to paid search, coupons are tough to come upon. Luckily, there’re still plenty of discounts you can take advantage of. We created this 11-step checklist as a go-to resource for anyone looking to stretch their PPC budget a little further. These tips will require a little more elbow grease than the average coupon, but it’ll be well worth it when you see how much you’ve saved!

Click here to get this checklist as a printable PDF!

money saving checklist

How to Create Expanded Text Ads [Guide + FREE Template]

how to create etas title image

Just last week, the crew at Google made advertisers’ wishes come true when they released support for Expanded Text Ads in the AdWords interface. This giant new ad format gives advertisers an additional 45 characters to work with, making it easier to build a compelling case for searchers to click on their ads.

The excitement I felt when ETAs were surprise-released in the AdWords interface was akin to the excitement I felt when Beyoncé surprise-dropped Lemonade on Tidal. I cleared my schedule for the afternoon in eager anticipation of building out these new and improved ads.

Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived, as composing these ads wound up being way harder than I’d anticipated. I found solace in Twitter, where I was relieved to see that many PPC vets were struggling, too.

 creating etas is hard

What's So Hard About Writing Expanded Text Ads?

Why all the griping? Well, for years, we’ve trained ourselves to mince words. Like compulsive tweeters who manage to nail the 140-character limit on the first try, long-time PPCers have grown accustomed to writing super-short, succinct ad copy. Now that ETAs are becoming the “new normal,” we’ll have to adapt to the new formats and develop new, go-to ad formulas.

Luckily, the Managed Services team here at WordStream had numerous accounts with beta access to Expanded Text Ads, so we’ve been experimenting with them for a few months now. Early on, we assumed that this transition would be pretty straightforward. We went the easy route—pulled our existing ad into the new template, tacked on a secondary headline and added fluffier language to the description portion.

If only it were that easy.

We quickly discovered that, if we wanted to make the most of this new ad real estate, we’d have to step up our game. In this post, I’ll show you how we’re approaching each component of this new formula to create super-clickable ETAs.

The Anatomy of an Expanded Text Ad

create etas 

Final URL

Your final URL should be the landing page where you wish to drive searchers who match to keywords in this particular ad group. I love that Google kicks off the ad creation process by forcing advertisers to pick this URL before creating their copy, because it forces us to create copy with that particular page in mind.

Headline 1 – 30 Characters

example h1 

This is, hands down, the most important component of your new ad. We know that humans’ attention spans are abysmal. When we’re on the SERP, faced with a multitude of both paid and organic listings, our attention to detail is even worse. We jump into “scan mode” and rarely make it past most listings headlines. That said, a strong, relevant headline has the power to disrupt our scanning and compel us to actually read the entire listing.

Since Headline 1 is essentially the gateway to the rest of your ad, it deserves special attention. Capture your readers’ attention by using language that is relevant to what they’re looking for (ahem, your top keywords) and/or your key selling point. Remember, you can absolutely kick things off with a question but you can’t use exclamation points in your headline.

Pro-tip: Have you identified headlines that work well on other channels? You may finally have enough room to use them in your PPC ads, too!

Headline 2 – 30 Characters

The challenge with Headline 2 is that it doesn’t always show—at least not in its entirety. When it does appear, it has excellent visibility, so it’s the perfect place to feature supporting information that complements the critical information shared in Headline 1.

example h2 

I love the example above because, although Headline 1 is solid on its own, Headline 2 strengthens the message by introducing an emotional component (protecting yourself from a financial ruin) and highlights a serious value prop (this insurance won’t break the bank).

 ad truncation

Why is Headline 2 at risk? Although Google polices the size of ad creative by character-count, it actually determines the way it’s displayed on the SERP based on pixel-count.


All of these qualify as 5 characters, but the number of pixels that they consume varies.

If the combination of Headline 1 and Headline 2 exceeds the number of pixels allocated to ads on the SERP, Google will truncate your ad to save space.

Pro-tip: If you’re super-sensitive to displaying truncated ads, Google officially recommends being uber-conservative and limiting the character count for both of your headlines to only 33 characters.

Description – 80 Characters

The description section is the meat of your ad. Your headlines’ mission is to capture your searchers’ eyes. Once you’ve got their attention, it’s up to the description copy to compel them to act. When it comes to body copy, the creative process should mimic that of a standard ad—you just have a little more artistic freedom, thanks to the new character limits.

description example 

Here are a few creative strategies that we’re using to create compelling new description copy:

  • Using emotional triggers to push searchers to take action
  • Running ad customizers to instill a sense of FOMO in searchers
  • Dynamically customizing ad copy to create ads that resonate with individual searchers

Your description should also feature a clear call-to-action telling searchers exactly what you want them to do when they arrive on your landing page. Including this in your ad is critical, because it’s a subtle way to invade their subconscious and push them to take action after viewing your site.

URL Paths – 15 Characters Each

paths example 

This new ad component is optional, but we highly recommend using it to your advantage. In fact, for years, we’ve been coaching advertisers to take advantage of the extra space alongside their domains in their Display URLs.  This does not have to produce a working URL—it’s simply a vanity link to strengthen your copy and show searchers that you’re sending them to view relevant content.

With standard ads, only 35 characters were permitted in the Display URL. This was problematic for advertisers with lengthy URLs, who didn’t have sufficient space to add new keywords. These new, URL paths even the playing field.

With ETAs, Google will automatically extract the domain from your Final URL and plug it into your Display URL. Then, regardless of your domain’s length, you can use the two, 15-character paths to enhance your URL.

dki example 

To populate each of these fields, I recommend turning to your ad group’s keyword list. Identify your most popular keywords and plug them into the path fields. If you really want to get fancy, you could also try using Dynamic Keyword Insertion for one of these paths, to ensure they’re truly catered toward your searchers’ needs.

Need more ideas on how to craft your ETAs? Check out Mark Irvine’s 7 Best Practices for Google’s NEW Expanded Text Ads.

Uploading Expanded Text Ads in Bulk

Let’s face it, composing new ETAs will be time-consuming. Luckily, you don’t have to build them all directly in the AdWords interface. Just one day after Google released global ETA support, AdWords Editor was updated to provide support for building new ETAs.

create etas in editor 

The creation process is simple. All you have to do is select ETAs on the ads tab, select the option to make multiple changes and then begin building your spreadsheet.

bulk creation in editor 

Once you’ve populated the spreadsheet with your new ads, submit and review your changes, then post them live to AdWords!

FREE Expanded Text Ad Creation Template for Excel

Not a fan of AdWords Editor? You can also build your new ETAs in Excel, then upload the document to AdWords. Download our expanded text ad creation template (with detailed instructions included) here!

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist at WordStream. She was named the 4thd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

3 Reasons to Drop Everything & Build Expanded Text Ads NOW

3 reasons to drop everything & build expanded text ads now

Just this morning, support for Google’s brand new Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) dropped universally in the AdWords interface. Since AdWords’ big reveal at the #GoogleSummit back in May, advertisers have been eagerly awaiting this new, more robust ad format, which has been deemed the biggest change to the AdWords model since its inception 16 years ago.

ETAs weren’t expected to come out of beta until mid-September, so most advertisers were completely unprepared to wake up this morning, log into their accounts and discover that they could indeed create these giant text ads.

eta surprise release 

Excited as we all may be with regards to this change, it’s also a bit terrifying. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if your reaction this morning was to quickly close your browser, wish you could un-see the ETA implementation interface and pray that your clients/bosses/co-workers remain blissfully unaware of the early release. The reality is, while the end result will be rewarding, re-writing all of your ad copy is going to be a huge, painful undertaking.

[NOTE: We're doing a free webinar THIS THURSDAY to explain how to take advantage of Expanded Text Ads and other new features now available in AdWords. Register here for the webinar.]

So, should you bite the bullet or crawl back in bed and ignore the ETA update? I’d argue that your best bet is to cancel your afternoon plans, buy a carton of Red Bulls and power through that ad copywriting. Here’s why:

#1. Beat Your Competitors to the Punch

Google will eventually sunset standard text ads, making ETAs the norm. As with all major migrations (think Enhanced Campaigns), there will be a bit of a time lag between the release of the new format and the elimination of the old one, giving advertisers time to make the transition themselves. Although Google has yet to announce when ads “as we know them” will be officially retired, my guess is that this change will hit sometime in Q4 2016.

So, in the next 3-5 months, SERPs will display a mix of standard and ETA ads.

ads changing from standard to etas 

Imagine receiving these two ads alongside one another on the SERP. The ETA is basically the standard ad on steroids. It’s so huge that it automatically demands more attention than the standard ad, plus its messaging is more informative and more compelling. Who wouldn’t be drawn to the ETA?

In fact, our research shows that ETAs almost always win. We have multiple accounts in this beta and the vast majority have experienced heightened CTR. That said, these extraordinary trends are unlikely to continue after the mass-migration. Sure, we expect that ETAs will perform better than standard ads did in general, but will the difference be this stark when all ads look the same? Probably not.

Take advantage of this unique situation while you can. Get your ETAs up and running before your competitors do and benefit from these temporary, inflated CTRs. Not only will you score more site traffic, you’ll likely see a nice little boost in Quality Scores, too!

#2. Figure Out What Works Early On

Feel like you have an ad copy formula that works down pat for each of your ad groups? I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t come up with it on the first try. You’ve likely spent years iterating on it, testing it and honing it into that perfect copy. In fact, if you’re playing things smart, you’re still running tests against it. Unfortunately, with the ETA transition, that “tried and true” copy may no longer cut it.

When we first gained access to the ETA beta, we expected the ad transition to be fairly simple. We took our best performing ads, tacked on a second headline and set them off and running.

We soon discovered that this approach was failing us. In fact, these ads yielded poorer CTRs than our standard ads (they’re responsible for the CTR loss noted in the graph below).

eta performance 

We quickly ditched the old format’s best practices and started running new ad variations that took advantage of ETAs’ lengthier character counts and keyword-based description paths. These new combinations had significantly higher CTRs and, for the past few weeks, we’ve continued to test new approaches, identifying more ETA best practices.

These new ads are a different beasts and advertisers must be willing to test multiple iterations of them. You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel for your new ETAs. In fact, you can definitely port over strong components of your existing ads to get started. However, it will likely take a few tries before you figure out what combinations work best for you, so the earlier you start, the better off you will be!

#3. Experience Less Job-Induced Pain this Holiday Season

We don’t know the official date that standard ads will be retired, but we do know that it’s definitely going to happen sooner or later. Scarily enough, many believe that the ad sunset is likely to occur near the end of 2016, potentially smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.

Let’s be honest, the holiday season is already brutal for marketers. That Black Friday—Christmas sprint is jam packed with to-dos and the idea of adding a full account’s worth of ad rewrites to your list is terrifying at best.

Don’t be the guy who is drinking eggnog alone all night at his desk, lamenting his summer of procrastination. Take this early release as an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and start prepping your ads. Even if you only do a couple of ad groups a week, it will still be well worth your while!

Also be sure to check out my colleague Mark Irvine's seven best practices for writing new expanded text ads.

Data Sources

Data is based on a sample size of 11 accounts (WordStream clients) using Expanded Text Ads on the Google Search Network in June 2016.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

4 Super-Actionable AdWords Tips to Try Right Now

adwords tips title image

This month, I’ve been working hand-in-hand with Google account managers to review and assess a group of accounts, ultimately coming up with our top three most impactful recommendations for each account. During these conversations, I’ve learned a few new AdWords tips and techniques and different approaches to the “old faithfuls” we’ve been using here at WordStream for years.

Looking for some fresh strategies to implement in your AdWords account? Here are four super-actionable AdWords tips that I’ll definitely be trying in the next few weeks!

AdWords Tip #1: Combine Branded Terms with Modified Broad Keywords

The secret to lowering your CPCs and simultaneously boosting your ad rank lies in Google’s mystery metric—Quality Score. Savvy advertisers are perpetually tweaking their accounts in pursuit of those coveted 10’s, but achieving high scores isn’t an easy feat. In fact, it seems as though the only keywords that consistently score 7-10’s are branded terms.

quality score 

Branded terms are a slam dunk for many reasons. Firstly, it’s easy to create super-relevant ads and landing pages for these keywords, as your brand should appear regularly throughout your ad copy and website. Even better, the people who are searching your branded terms likely have strong intent; they know exactly what company they’re looking for so they’re apt to click on your ads and have high engagement rates on your website.

While these keywords maybe be the holy grail for high Quality Scores, you certainly don’t want to limit your ad visibility to people who already know of and are looking for your brand. That said, you can leverage the power of these branded keywords to impact the Quality Scores of non-branded terms.

Here’s how the hack works – create keywords that are a combination of branded and non-branded terms. Set the non-branded term to modified broad (using + signs), but leave the branded term on broad. Using this technique will allow your ads to show when people search combinations of your non-branded terms—your branded terms do not have to be present.

So, for example, let’s say that your branded term is Havaianas and your non-branded terms are neon flip flops. You’d add the keyword as havaianas +neon +flip +flops, and the ad would be eligible to show for search queries that include the words neon, flip and flops.

Why does this technique yield high Quality Scores? Remember, Google calculates your scores based on exact matches to your keyword term. Because the “official” keyword technically includes your branded terms, it’s likely to yield a stellar Quality Score.

AdWords Tip #2: Take Advantage of Location-Based Bid Modifiers

One of the best ways to fine tune your AdWords account is to identify what’s working and amplify it (or promote your “unicorns”—in Larry Kim speak). One route to do this is through location-based bid modifiers.

Far too many advertisers set their targeting to reflect the areas where their products are sold and neglect to revisit these settings. The problem is, not all geographic locations yield the same performance. For example, if you sell hunting equipment, there’s a good chance that you’ll see more conversions coming from searchers in rural areas where hunting is a popular sport than those in heavily populated urban centers.

 search query report

Rather than guesstimating which regions are the most valuable for your business, head to the Dimensions Tab and set your view to Geographic. This will produce a sortable report that breaks down your performance metrics by country, region, metro area, city and “most specific location.” Organize by conversions to understand the regions that are bringing in the most sales for your business.

 mobile bid adjustment

Once you’ve identified your most valuable locations, revisit your location targeting settings and set a positive bid adjustment for each of these locations. Higher bids will help you to attain better visibility for searchers located in (or searching for products within) your top locations, ushering in even more conversions.

AdWords Tip #3: Reach Beyond Your Current Language Settings

According to a 2013 study by the Center for Immigration Studies, one in five US residents speaks a language other than English in their household. However, just because their preferred language isn’t English does not mean that the vast majority of these people don’t also speak English.

Remember, AdWords bases its language targeting settings on a Google user’s interface language. Users can edit this setting to ensure that Google provides results in their selected language, regardless of their physical location.

adwords settings bilingual 

As you can see, when I change my preferred language settings to Spanish, I’m only served ads that are targeted to Spanish speakers, despite the fact that I am logged into the US version of

search spanish profile 

As you can imagine, many of these bilingual Americans set their first language as their primary language on Google, effectively eliminating ads from any companies who do not include Spanish-language targeting in their AdWords campaigns. This is a huge source of missed opportunity for US-based advertisers who absolutely should be advertising to the bilingual consumer-base.

It may sound like a headache to expand your advertising efforts to a completely new market, but it’s actually quite simple. First, identify which languages are most prominent in your target regions.

 map for most commonly spoken language other than english


Then, adjust your language targeting settings to include this new audience.

 language settings adwords

That’s it! There’s no need to add non-English keywords, ads or landing pages. It almost feels too good to be true, right?

Here’s why this trick works—if your website doesn’t translate seamlessly or your sales reps aren’t trained to support multiple languages, you really shouldn’t risk going “whole hog” and creating campaigns specifically for non-English speakers. This could actually do more harm than good, as this campaign would likely garner plenty of impressions and clicks, but fewer conversions. Instead, this trick truly helps you to connect with a bilingual audience; people who are using a non-English browser but will still understand and respond to ads written in English.

grubhub bilingual ad example 

As you can see in the example above, GrubHub has adopted this strategy perfectly. This is clearly a bilingual searcher (her Google profile is set to Spanish, but she is searching in English) and GrubHub’s English ad should suit her just fine!

AdWords Tip #4: Salvage Dying Ad Groups with RLSA

Ever have an ad group that you feel really good about but it just isn’t pulling through with strong results? It’s hard to hit the pause button when your gut tells you that these keywords hold unseen potential. It’s also hard to justify running keywords that aren’t yielding many clicks.

Rather than pulling the plug completely, try resurrecting your ad group using Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). With this feature, you can restrict its traffic by solely displaying ads to people who have already visited your site. Since they already know who you are and have shown an interested in your offerings, they’re more likely to be further along in the purchase cycle and ready to convert than your standard audience.

rlsa target and bid settings 

If you decide to go this route, it crucial that you execute it properly. With RLSA, your primary targeting criteria is still keywords—your remarketing list is then layered in as a secondary targeting method. When adding your remarketing list, you have the opportunity to set it to “bid only” or “target and bid.” In this scenario, be sure to select “target and bid”, which limits your ads’ visibility to past site visitors.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

The Easy 8-Step Checklist for PPC Audits

My computer’s desktop is nothing short of offensive. To most, it appears to be messy, cluttered and vastly disorganized. My teammates are constantly begging me to clean it up.

my messy desktop 

Hate to break it to you, but I’m not changing it anytime soon. To me, it is perfect. I know exactly where every file and document is—contrary to popular belief, there IS a method to my madness.

The reality is, I’ve organized this computer solely for myself. If someone else tried to use it, they’d spend weeks trying to decode my scattered thought process (likely cursing me along the way).

The same can be said for many PPC accounts. Oftentimes, the original owner creates and manages the account in their own, unique way. When a someone new takes over, they’ve got a tough job ahead of them. They have to navigate the existing account without fully understanding its historical background and why it’s been organized the way it is.

The best way to overcome this gap is to do an extensive PPC audit anytime you take on an existing AdWords account. Here’s a checklist of the first things I look at in my search campaigns when I dive into a newly acquired account.

PPC Audit Step #1: Be Sure Conversions Are Being Tracked (Properly)

Neglecting to track conversions is one of the biggest mistakes a PPC manager can make. Without this data, it’s impossible to understand whether all of your hard work is paying off! While this should be one of the very first tasks completed after setting up an account, a recent report from Disruptive Advertising found that only 58% of the 2,000 accounts featured in their study had at least one conversion registered.

conversion tracking adwords 

Google has made this setup easier and easier through the years. Use it!

That’s bad, but this is worse—of this group, only half of the accounts that were “tracking conversions” had the code implemented correctly. Meaning, only 29% of all accounts reviewed passed muster when it came to tracking conversions.

Be sure that your newly acquired account doesn’t fall into this group. If conversions are registered in the account, be watchful for these tell-tale signs that the tracking has been set up improperly:

  • Your click count and conversion count are identical. If this is the case, you either have the most amazing products in the world or your conversion tracking code was added to your landing pages, rather than your thank you/order confirmation page.
  • Your conversion rates are super-high, despite low sales numbers. If so, your conversion tracking may be measuring visits to a product page or home page, rather than an order confirmation.
  • Your conversion count is suspiciously low, suggesting that you’re missing conversions. In this case, the former account manager neglected to track phone call conversions or forgot to add tracking codes to new landing pages.

 confirmation page example

Your conversion tracking code should always be placed on the page that appears after a conversion has been completed.

If no conversions are registered on the account, generating and implementing conversion tracking code should be your first order of business!  

PPC Audit Step #2: Review Targeting Settings

Setting your campaign targeting settings is a simple activity that takes five minutes, tops, but one small misstep in this section can have a profound impact on your account performance. (You can see how some of our clients learned this the hard way here.) Dive into each of your newly-acquired campaigns to review the previous owner’s targeting settings and ensure they make sense for the business.

campaign level settings 

Key items to check in on are:

  • Network Settings: The goals, expectations and overall performance of ads on the Search Network are significantly different than those running on the GDN (get the low-down on each network here). The audit/optimization process that you follow will be dependent on the network you’re targeting.
  • Mobile Bid Adjustments: Do you want to show on mobile devices? If so, make sure that your bid modifiers are high enough to score you visibility for mobile searches. To determine this, segment your performance by device to assess the effectiveness of your existing mobile bids. Is your new company not quite ready for mobile traffic? Set the bids to -100%, until you get your mobile-preferred ads and mobile landing pages up to snuff. I recommend prioritizing this, given the ever-growing percentage of searches occurring on mobile devices.
  • Target Locations: Check to ensure that your company services the regions that your account has opted into. Then, take this one step further and review your geo-reports. You may find that a particular area performs ridiculously well (or ridiculously poorly) and can fine-tune the account to prioritize that location.

PPC Audit Step #3: Assess Ad Group Relevancy

The general rule of thumb is that an ad group should never contain more than 15-20 keywords and, for auditing purposes, I think this is a good jumping off point. Scan your newly inherited account to find ad groups that hold more than 20 keywords. These are likely the groups that will require the most clean-up.

You’re probably thinking, why the heck does number of keywords matter so much? Realistically, your ad groups’ keyword count won’t impact performance. However, keep in mind that you’re serving the same set of ads for every keyword in a given ad group. If your keyword list is huge, it is likely includes various themes, meaning you’re forced to write generic ad copy.

Instead, your goal should be to populate each ad group with a list of super-granular keywords that all share the same semantic theme. You can then create hyper-specific ads for each ad group that are truly reflective of what the searcher is looking for.

 keyword groupings

I think we can agree that it’d be way easier to write an ad for the second keyword group than the first!

Despite the best of intentions, it’s easy to wind up with a few big ad groups in your account. Even if you start with small, tightly-knit keyword combinations, as more and more terms are added, your ad groups can grow to an unwieldy size. It’s important to QA them regularly and move terms that aren’t a good fit into new ad groups.

PPC Audit Step #4: Check Number of Ads Enabled Per Ad Group

If the account you inherit only has one active ad in each ad group, it’s an indication that the previous manager was not testing ad variations, which severely limits account optimization. On the flipside, having multiple active ads per ad group can also be detrimental. Likely, the previous owner was a testing zealot who dreamt up plenty of ad creative and tried to test it all at once (fail) or he just never bothered to end any of his tests (double fail).

The sweet spot you should be shooting for is two to three ad variations per ad group. This is a manageable number of ads to run tests with. Once you’d identified your winner, pause the losing ad and try testing a new variation.

PPC Audit Step #5: Dive into Ad Extensions

If your new account doesn’t have any ad extensions set up, hop to it! In this day and age, extensions are not a nice to have, they’re a must for creating competitive ad copy.

ad with many extensions 

Ray-Bans has the right idea. This ad features callout extensions, structured snippets and sitelinks.

Luckily, since Google’s announcement that extensions officially do impact ad rank, most advertisers have gotten their act together and implemented them. However, just because these extensions exist, doesn’t mean you can cross them off of your to-do list.

Confirm that the extensions running are appropriate fits for the business itself. For example, if you’re using call extensions, be sure that your company’s phone lines are staffed to handle incoming call volume. If you don’t have someone to answer incoming calls around the clock, schedule the extensions to only appear during your hours of business. If you’re advertising for an e-commerce company with no physical storefront, be sure to eliminate any location extensions so your ads don’t appear in Google Maps. Finally, check to ensure that your sitelinks, callouts and structured snippets are truly representative of your offerings and not overly repetitive.

automated extension settings 

Don’t forget about automated extensions! You can now view the performance of any automated extensions that Google has served alongside your ads from the Automated Extensions Report in the Ad Extensions section of AdWords. Typically, we see that these yield positive performance but, if any appear to be negatively impacting the account, stop the bleed by opting out of them in the advanced extension options settings!

PPC Audit Step #6: Review Keyword Match Type Settings

A well-run AdWords account typically includes keywords set to a variety of match types. Each serves a unique purpose, for example broad match is great for keyword research, while exact helps to ensure you’re only connecting with the most highly-qualified searchers.

match type settings 

One of the most common (and dangerous) account faux-pas is running all keywords on the same match type. We see this most commonly with broad match (since it is Google’s default). Although these broad-match keywords yield plenty of traffic, many of their impressions are from people searching terms that are loosely related to the business, resulting in disastrous click-through and conversion rates and poor Quality Scores. Although broad match is usually the culprit for this problem, using all phrase or exact match can be just as damaging, as they may limit volume considerably.

If the account you’ve inherited is already using a mixed match types, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Take the time to dive in and understand the previous owner’s strategy and ensure that it was implemented correctly. Just because they’ve attempted to enact an advanced strategy, like tiered bidding per match type, doesn’t mean they did it right!

PPC Audit Step #7: QA Your Negative Keyword Lists

Negative keywords are your best defense against impressions and clicks from unqualified searchers. If the previous account manager was not utilizing negatives, your work is cut out for you. You can proactively set negatives by doing some guesswork, but with an active account, I like to take more of a reactive approach. Try heading to your query reports to understand exactly what terms have been triggering your ads. Be on the lookout for terms that you do not want to continue showing for and set them as negatives.

master negative list 

As you can see, we have a robust “master list” of negatives that we use for all campaigns!

If the former account manager added negatives already, review the list with a fine-toothed comb. Confirm that all of the negative terms are genuinely a good fit for the business and are not blocking impressions for any of your keywords. In addition, check your negative keywords’ match type settings to ensure that they are operating as anticipated. I can’t tell you how many accounts I’ve seen with negatives set to “exact” match that are doing absolutely nothing for them. These settings can drastically affect the impact of your negatives.

PPC Audit Step #8: Create Your Game Plan

Now that you have all the ground work done, you know exactly what you need to do to whip the account into tip-top shape. Once you’ve cleaned it up, the real fun begins. Happy auditing!

Looking for a short-cut? Get a free, instant account audit with the AdWords Performance Grader.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

Is Bing Ads Ready for the #GoogleSummit Changes?

There’s no doubt about it, Bing Ads and AdWords have a tenuous relationship. In some ways, they’re competitors, vying for marketers to pour more advertising dollars into their respective networks. Yet, they’re also partners of sorts, working together to shape the future of digital advertising.

Lucky for SEMs, these ad management platforms have become increasingly similar throughout the past few years, making it easier for us to serve ads through both. In fact, they’re so closely aligned that many advertisers execute the same strategies on both networks. Some even duplicate their AdWords campaigns and upload them directly into the Bing Ads interface.

Of course, when either of these platforms launches a major change, this symbiotic relationship is at risk. Just last month at the #GoogleSummit, AdWords execs announced several enormous changes coming to the AdWords interface. Will the release of expanded text ads, new bidding structures, demographics for search ads, Google Maps local search ads and more throw a wrench into our current, seamless systems for advertising easily on both Google and Bing? Will we be forced to, gulp…deal with both platforms individually?!

Don’t panic. We can rest assured that the crew at Bing is on their A-game and ready to respond to the announcement. In fact, for a few of these new features, they may just beat Google to the punch.

Expanded Text Ads

Google’s new, expanded text ads are like standard ads on steroids—they’re enormous. They actually offer double the number of characters that advertisers can use to promote their products on the SERP, a godsend for those of us who have desperately struggled to fit our messaging into that tricky, 130-character limit for years.

 expanded text ads

Google’s bigger (better?) Expanded Text Ads

As we hurriedly re-build our ads in preparation for Google’s upcoming release, a stress-inducing thought comes to mind—if Bing doesn’t follow suit with expanded copy, will we be stuck building two sets of ads for every new ad group that we build? What happens when we transfer account structures from AdWords to Bing Ads? Will the system go beserk? Will we be forced to create our Bing campaigns from scratch?

Bing Ads addressed these concerns in an announcement on their blog this Tuesday. Their team is promising full support of expanded text ads by the end of the summer and, according to the mock-up on their website, their creation process closely mimics that in AdWords.

 bing support for eta

Even better, they confirmed that that they’ll be updating the functionality to import from AdWords to support bigger ads, too. Crisis averted!

Demographics for Search Ads

Eagerly waiting for Google’s newly unveiled Demographics for Search Ads to be available in the AdWords interface? Stop twiddling your thumbs and give it a whirl in Bing Ads.

 demographics for search ads in bing

Yep, Bing totally beat Google to the punch on this one. They’ve offered this functionality for years now, giving advertisers the opportunity to adjust their bids by gender and age. This has been a game-changer for many marketers. They can set negative bids for particular groups, whom they deem unlikely to purchase their product or service, so the majority of their budget is allocated to highly-qualified searchers. Or, they can use these levers to segment their ad groups and serve customized ad copy to these target groups. Aside from remarketing (and Customer Match on Google), this is the closest any major search engine has come to providing identity-based targeting on the search network.

 skepticism for adwords demos for search ads

When Google shared that they were adding this new feature, many industry vets were skeptical of the accuracy of Google’s demographic data. With Bing, we’re a little more confident. Thanks to Windows 10, Bing reports that its demographic information is highly accurate and based on real information from logged-in user sessions.

If you haven’t played with this tool in Bing Ads yet, you’re missing out. Here at WordStream it’s helped us to make the most of our clients’ budgets and yield higher click-through and conversion rates from our ad copy. We can’t wait to give it a shot with our AdWords campaigns.

Device-Based Bidding Capabilities

The team at Bing Ads overhauled most of their platform to keep up with AdWords when they shifted to Enhanced Campaigns. Yet, the one, major update that Bing held their ground on was control over device-specific bids.

device based bidding in bing 

While AdWords looped desktop and tablets together, citing similar user behavior as their reasoning, Bing gave advertisers the option to set separate smartphone and tablet bid adjustments.

 example of reaction to lack of tablet bidding in adwords

For the past three years, PPC advertisers have been griping about Google’s frustrating bid management settings. The search giant is finally taking a step back and giving in; in the coming months advertisers will have the flexibility to set a campaign base device and then create bid modifiers for the other two devices. For example, you will be able to create campaigns where the standard bid is for mobile devices, with modifiers for desktops and tablet devices.

Will this have any impact on how we manage our Bing Ads accounts? Probably not. If there’s one thing that advertisers don’t keep consistent across networks, it’s bids (since CPCs are drastically different for each engine). That said, it will certainly make it easier to mirror device-specific strategies across networks.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

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5 Perilous Mistakes That Will Destroy Your PPC Budget

5 mistakes that will destroy your budget

If you’re not careful, your PPC budget can disappear at the blink of an eye. Here at WordStream HQ, we’ve inherited hundreds of accounts that have fallen into these perilous, money-wasting traps. Here are the five craziest real-world scenarios our account management team has encountered, with tips on how avoid them in your accounts!

Mistake #1: When Your Biggest Competitor Is Yourself

With paid search, the tiniest missteps can result in large-scale chaos. Mark Irvine shared a great example of this, which we see rather frequently when we take over accounts running RLSA campaigns.

About two years ago, we brought on a client who had two vastly similar campaigns. One was labeled “Bath Products” and the other, almost identical campaign was labeled “RLSA—Bath Products.” The RLSA campaign was spending nearly as much as the standard campaign and really wasn’t yielding better performance—both of which raised red flags.


Upon further investigation, we discovered that the account manager who originally set up that so-called RLSA campaign had actually just cloned the original campaign and added the audience as a “bid only” audience, rather than a “target and bid” audience, so it was still serving ads to anyone who matched to the keywords, regardless of whether they’d been to the site before in the past.

Despite its label, it really wasn’t an RLSA campaign at all, it was just a duplicate campaign that was effectively bidding against the first. In this particular account, after running the faux-RLSA campaign for 30 days and spending $1,700, only $1.73 had been used as intended, to reengage with a returning audience.

rlsa targeting settings 

Of course, this was a super-simple fix. We adjusted the settings so the campaign’s ads were only served to those on the remarketing list.

Moral of the Story: Mind Your RLSA Settings

This is an easy mistake to make, but it can certainly wreak havoc on your account. Before using RLSAs, be sure to understand these two, vastly different options. By selecting target and bid, you’ll only show ads to people on your remarketing lists. With bid only, you’re essentially adding the remarketing list in along with your standard search targeting, but have the opportunity to set specific bids for the remarketing audience.

Mistake #2: The Dangers of Bieber Fever

Years ago, a client that I was consulting for was mysteriously hemorrhaging money. His account was performing perfectly and then, at the drop of a hat, things took a turn for the worse. All of the sudden, impressions were at all an all-time high, click-through rates had plummeted (although overall click count was slightly elevated) and conversion rates were down. It was a code red situation.

The two of us wracked our brains trying to figure out what the heck had gone wrong. We were at a loss—we’d made no major adjustments to the account, no competitors had “dark-horsed” their way into the auction and nothing notable had changed in his industry.

As we frantically tore through his search query reports looking for clues, we stumbled on something shocking—his ads had been showing for a slew of Justin Bieber-related search queries. The client’s company sold fiber optic cables, so this definitely did not add up.

As we did a little more digging, we unearthed the full story. Nearly all of his keywords included the term “fiber.” Through close variant matching, Google deemed “Bieber” to be a misspelling of “fiber.” Things really heated up when Justin released a new album and Beliebers were pounding the SERPs in search of it.

justin bieber 

Bieber fever is real, guys. Here’s proof.

Not surprisingly, these pesky Bieber fans were definitely not in my client’s target market, so we set “Bieber” as a negative keyword—costly crisis averted!

Moral of the Story: Monitor Your Query Reports Religiously

This client’s account was set up perfectly and yet, he still fell into this sticky, costly trap. When it comes to close variants, it’s nearly impossible to predict what types of terms Google will match you to.  More often than not, you’re linked to relevant queries that are truly misspellings or close variations of your targeted terms…but that doesn’t mean that a few bad apples don’t make their way through, too.

The more negative keywords you can predict, the better. For those poor matches you don’t foresee, the best defense is to review your search query reports on a regular basis. The sooner you catch them, the sooner you set them as negatives.

Mistake #3: International Love Gone Awry

international love 

Your targeting settings matter—in a big way. Far too many advertisers neglect to set these up from the get-go, resulting in tons of impressions and clicks from unqualified regions. One of our consultants, Francine Rodriguez, recently worked with a client whose targeting settings cost him thousands of dollars in wasted ad spend.

This particular client sells fan paraphernalia and jerseys for various soccer teams online. Given that there’s a global audience for these products, he set his targeting settings to “world.” Not surprisingly, he exhausted his budget rapidly—as it goes, there’s a fair number of people around the world searching soccer-related terms.

His traffic yielded its fair share of impressions and clicks, but little to no conversions. As he and Francine reviewed his geo-reports, they found that the vast majority of these impressions/clicks were coming from India and China. The problem is, the client’s product pages were in English and his pricing information was only listed in USD, CAD and Euros.  Even if these visitors did consider making a purchase, the shipping costs would be so exorbitant that they’d likely outprice the order itself.

Francine helped him narrow his targeting to areas that made more sense for his company, which drastically improved his performance.

Moral of the Story: Google Has Sophisticated Targeting Settings—Use Them!

Just because you can sell to the whole world doesn’t mean you should.  Understand the regions that are most likely to follow through with a purchase and focus on those first. Over time, you can always expand your reach to new areas (cautiously!).

location targeting 

Be sure to take advantage of Google’s sophisticated targeting options and remember, when it comes to geo-targeting, Google will automatically default your location settings to focus on people located in or searching for your terms in your country (if you’re in the US, it includes both US and Canada in this default).

Mistake #4: When Your Experiments Rob Your Budget

We PPCers LOVE running experiments. We test ad and landing page variations, audience combinations and campaign types fanatically. The only thing that can get in the way of our endless experiments is our clients. The vast majority of clients push us to stick with what works, rather than going the riskier route and trying something new.

So, when Navah Hopkins, one of our PPC consultants, learned that her new client was all-in on running tests in his account, she was thrilled.  Together, they dreamed up all sorts of crazy campaigns to test for his account. They were risky, but if they worked, it’d be a huge breakthrough for him.  She instructed him on how to implement the changes and set up a follow-up call to assess the results a few weeks later.

When Navah jumped in to check-up on the progress of the tests, she was horrified to see that the account had blown through tons of money. Upon further investigation she discovered the fatal flaw—her client had missed one small step of the setup process. He’d allocated the same budgets for his test campaigns as his core campaigns.

ppc experiments 

Luckily, a few of the tests had worked well, mitigating the impact of those that didn’t. But, this scenario could have been disastrous.

Moral of the Story: Test Wisely

Running tests is the best way to determine what really works in your PPC account. However, you should only allocate a small percentage of your overall budget to experimental campaigns, to protect yourself, should they backfire.

Mistake #5: When Your Celeb Endorsement Backfires

Is Kim Kardashian singing the praises of your luxury handbags? Is Lebron recommending that all aspiring athletes invest your flashy sneakers? Congrats. You’ve scored yourself a celebrity endorsement, something many brands would kill for.

celebrity endorsement 

In 2003, McDonald’s paid Justin Timberlake $6 million for an endorsement deal, which included shooting a music video and recording a sound clip for the “I’m lovin’ it” jingle.

One of our senior SEM managers, Jaclyn Jordan, works with a beauty product vendor who has the backing of an uber-popular celebrity (I’ve been sworn to secrecy, so I can’t reveal the name). Her endorsement has had a ridiculously powerful impact on the brand and we reap it for all its worth. We’ve adorned all of their display ads with her beautiful face, the text ads remind readers that she’s a big fan of the brand and we even bid on keywords that include her name.

Between this American sweetheart’s endorsement and Jackie’s brilliant PPC skills, this account had been killing it for months. Each week’s CPA was lower than the previous until—BOOM—the celebrity endorser got a haircut. The second the news broke (yes, I realize how absurd this statement is, but it was covered by multiple news outlets!), the account’s CPAs skyrocketed. Jackie, not privy to THE NEWS was shocked to see performance plummet. It wasn’t until she dove into the search query report that she realized the source of all of these new, unqualified searches.

Moral of the Story: Monitor Your Celebrity Endorsements Carefully

In a perfect world, your brand’s token celebrity would give you a heads up anytime they do something that might cause a spike in searches for their name. But, chances are, they’re not going to turn over their personal calendars to protect your PPC account.

The best defense against scenarios like this is to monitor your celebrity closely. Try to prep for major events (awards shows, album releases, big games) in advance. For unexpected news (like haircuts), set up a Google Alert for their name, so you will be notified any time something newsworthy occurs. Once you know what you’re up against, you can set negatives or tweak match types to limit unqualified traffic.

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 3rd Most Influential PPC Expert of 2015 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

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