Category Archives: Adwords

5 Scary AdWords Mistakes Keeping Me Up at Night

Halloween is coming up, so I’ve collected what I consider to be five of the most scary AdWords mistakes. This is not a list of the most common AdWords mistakes, but five mistakes that are scary in the sense that they can wreak havoc while being all too easy to commit. By knowing these mistakes, hopefully you’ll stay clear of committing them in your own AdWords account.

1. Overspending

Most clients operate with some kind of budget, and as their PPC consultant it’s your job to stay within the limits of this budget.

But sometimes mistakes happen. Imagine that you’ve added an extra zero to the daily budget by mistake or that you forgot to include a newly created campaign in the shared budget.

Hopefully, this doesn’t happen too often, but the consequences of overspending can be truly scary. While writing this post I read a thread on Reddit by a guy who overspent by $4,100 for a client in a single month and then his boss wanted him to cover the whole thing!

If you do end up spending more money than your client has budgeted for, I would advise you to investigate the following:

  • How did the extra spend perform? If it performed well, it might not be a bad thing. Try showing your client the value of the extra money you spent on AdWords.
  • Can you reduce the budget for the next month? Or maybe you can spread the reduction out over several months?

After all, it may not be the end of the world if the extra money you spent brought in value or if you can reduce the budget a little in each of the following months.

If the money was straight-up squandered, things would be much more scary, which brings me to the next AdWords mistake …

2. Setting (Completely) Wrong Bids

While setting bids too high won’t necessarily result in overspending (as long as your budgets are under control), it could easily waste a lot of your client’s money.

Google will gladly accept your high bids and eat away your daily budget faster than lions feasting on fresh kill. If you don’t catch this mistake in time, you’ll most likely end up spending a lot of money on very few clicks, resulting in more expensive conversions.

But why is this scary? Isn’t it just a stupid mistake? Not necessarily – at least, not for all my fellow international PPC specialists. Sometimes you’ll find yourself shifting between the English account interface and your local language. The problem is that the decimal separator will shift from being a period to being a comma depending on the account language settings.

Why is this a problem? Because if you don’t realize you’ve just gone from an account using a decimal comma to one using a decimal period, you may end up setting your bids an order of magnitude higher than intended – and then you’ve got a problem.

But won’t Google warn you? Yes, fortunately Google will warn you if you try to change the bid for a single keyword and they think you’re using the wrong format. Below you can see how my bid of 2,0 Danish Kroner is interpreted as 20.00 DKK instead of 2.0 DKK as was my intention (in Denmark we use the decimal comma).

Also, if you select more than one ad group in order to do some bulk editing, Google won’t give you this warning. In the image below, my intention is to set the bid to two and a half Danish Kroner for two ad groups but because the number format setting is set to English instead of Danish, Google will interpret it as twenty-five Danish Kroner – a significant difference!

Language settings aside, there are other ways you might set completely wrong bids. For instance, you could mistakenly think you can rely on the ad group bids in Shopping campaigns. Shopping campaigns use ad groups like any other type of campaign does, but the ad group bid doesn’t work the way you might expect. Frederick Vallaeys has also written about this problem:

“While you have to set a max CPC for each ad group, it doesn’t do a lot… it only serves to set a starting bid for any new Product Group created under it. Once the Product Group is created, it gets its own bid and loses all connection to the ad group bid. In other words, Product Groups do NOT inherit the ad group bid the way a keyword does.”

And while we’re on the topic of Shopping, let’s take a look at another scary Shopping related mistake …

3. Not Excluding “Everything Else” in Shopping

When you start to subdivide the standard All Products product group inside every Shopping ad group, you’ll find a new product group called Everything else in ‘All Products’. The Everything else product group is created automatically and lets you set a bid for all the products that are not part of your other product groups.

This is all fine if your Shopping setup consists of a single campaign with a single ad group as shown in the image above. Here, you can use the Everything else-group to catch any product not in any of the specified product groups.

But as soon as you move on to a more advanced setup with more than one ad group, you’ll have to check the Excluded field for the Everything else product group.

If you don’t do this, all your beautifully segmented ad groups won’t matter, because Google will just use the one ad group with the highest bid (unless the ad groups are in their own campaigns with different priority settings).

Below, you can see how the Shopping campaign has been split up into 4 ad groups depending on the price of the product. The Everything else product group is excluded in order to limit each ad group to only show products from the chosen product group.

The problem is – and this is what makes it scary – even if you always remember to exclude the Everything else group when creating new targeted ad groups you may unknowingly activate it again later. For example, if you want to bulk edit bids for all product groups inside an ad group and therefore click the top checkbox in order to select everything, you’ll also select the Everything else group and thereby reactivate it. To prevent this, you’ll need to uncheck it manually every time. If the list of product groups was long, you might not realize that you’ve also checked the Everything else group hidden at the bottom.

Kirk Williams called this “the All Products Trap of Optimization Death” and I think this is a fitting name.

4. Choosing ‘Target and Bid’ by Mistake (RLSA)

When using the terribly named Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), you get to choose between two settings. Which one you choose depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Most often, you’ll pick the Target and bid option when you are targeting more generic keywords or if you want to tailor the ad based on users’ previous behavior. On the other hand, you can use the Bid only option as a kind of overlay on existing ad groups in order to raise the bids for certain users.

It’s important to know the difference between these two options, as choosing the wrong one could either leave you targeting very generic keywords without the audience applied, or you could end up cutting off all new traffic to your existing campaigns if you were to choose Target and bid over Bid only.

If you meant to set up a Bid only campaign and accidentally set up a Target and bid ad group, you’ll see your traffic from that ad group drastically reduced as you narrow down your audience to only returning visitors, buyers, or whatever audience you’ve chosen. If not detected in time, this will result in a period of significant underspending, which can be just as big of a problem as overspending.

This is a scary mistake because it’s all too easy to commit. The option is set at the ad group level and will often have to be done in bulk through the AdWords Editor. This way, you can copy the audiences from one group and paste it to all your groups. But here comes the problem: Even though you copy the audiences (and the associated bids), you don’t copy the targeting setting. It’s my experience that sometimes you’ll find some of your ad groups set to Target and bid while the rest are set to Bid only as you intended.

When you’ve pasted the audiences to all your ad groups, I recommend you check the Audiences area in the editor to make sure everything is set to Bid only as in the image below:

If you do find any groups set to Target and bid instead of Bid only, you should go to Ad groups and choose the Flexible reach tab as shown below. Here, you can select every ad group and then make sure Bid only is selected under Interests and remarketing.

5. Failing to Follow Up on Recent Changes

This is actually the one mistake that amplifies all the other mistakes mentioned in this post. It’s limited how much damage can happen to an account if you follow up the next day and manage to spot any mistakes you might have made.

Scheduling a follow-up is especially important if you know you won’t get to review the account for several days or maybe even weeks. Make it a habit to schedule a quick follow-up a few days after you make important changes to an account.

Enough scary stories from me. What do you fear? I hope you’ll share your biggest AdWords fears in the comments below.

Have a happy Halloween!

About the author:

Frederik Hyldig is a search specialist at s360 – one of the leading search agencies in Denmark. He is currently focusing 100% on the ever-changing Google AdWords platform. Follow him on LinkedIn or his personal site.

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How Not to Kill Your PPC Account With a PR Stunt

When my client Rent Like A Champion came to me with the news that they would be appearing on Shark Tank, I had two big gut reactions.

First reaction:

 

Second reaction:

(Dr. Strangelove)

Big publicity events can do wonders for growing the lead funnel and enhancing your PPC efforts, but they can also cause major glitches in an otherwise immaculate account. While no brand should ever shy away from the limelight, not anticipating how this PR exposure will impact all facets of your business is not only dangerous, it’s an avoidable risk.

Here’s how to rock the limelight and ride the wave of stardom to PPC growth (instead of decay).

The Power of Branded Campaigns & How They Interact With Big PR Stunts

Branded campaigns are a vital part of any paid search account, as they allow for complete control of messaging when someone searches for your brand name. In normal circumstances, a branded campaign might have somewhere between 20-30% of an account’s spend and focus on the name of the brand, the values of the brand, and be targeted more broadly than the general service/product campaigns. They tend to have higher CTR’s and Quality Scores, so live apart from the “main” campaigns.

When a big publicity event hits there are two schools of thought on branded campaigns, and both have their pros and cons.

The 'Turn Up The Budget' School

Because branded campaigns allow you to control the message, if you can craft a landing page specific to the event, this campaign should get amped up. When the major publicity event happens, searches on your brand will spike into the thousands, likely including the name of the event in the search query. Do you want your audience going to the page that happens to have the highest organic rank, or one that you craft specifically with transaction in mind?

Depending on the level of the event you may want to craft ad groups specifically focused on the event (so long as these are the only ad groups running in your branded campaign). Landing pages are your biggest chance to milk the publicity, as you’ll be able to include badges, logos, and promotional copy that plays off the type of exposure you’re receiving.

The biggest reason to subscribe to this school of thought is if a brand’s social pages outrank their actual domain. An audience who just finished watching a brand on national-level media will expect that brand to show up when searched for, and the ad can be a way to get the top placement without the organic ranking.

The 'Turn Off The Branded Campaign' School

On the flip side, some publicity events are so huge, they’ll eat up all your budget, and leave you with data anomalies that will throw your metrics way out of whack. Events like Shark Tank or appearing on major talk shows will bring hordes of “curious visitors” who will click your well-crafted ad to investigate, but not convert until much later. While it’s absolutely fine (and recommended) to highlight the exposure post-event, leading up to the event and during the event, branded campaigns should be turned off to avoid wasted spend.

The biggest reason to subscribe to this school of thought is when there is no one else on your brand’s search result page, and the event carries over 10,000 unique monthly searches.

Regardless of what school you and your event falls into, be sure you have a retargeting pixel set up on the site. An absolute must for any major PR event is a remarketing campaign set up to remind people they saw you at XYZ, now they should come back.

Attribution for PR-Related Leads

One of the big reasons there’s two schools of thought instead of one “proven way” is that the verdict is still out on the best ways to attribute conversions that come from these events, and which would have happened anyway. Real-time analytics will be your best friend in tracking clicks and conversions, as well as annotating your analytics to note two weeks before, during, and two weeks after the big event. While there is no foolproof way to sort out the leads that would have happened regardless of the publicity, and the ones that are a direct result of it, this will at least ensure there’s a rough estimation of lead value, as well as ensuring CPA metrics for the account don’t get blown out of proportion.

Ad Copy & Keyword Modifications Before & After the PR Stunt

Regardless of whether you keep your branded campaign on, you will want to make plans for Call-Outs and Ad Copy after the event. Ad groups revolving around the event should include a call-out like “As Seen On XYZ” and ad copy might include, “You Saw Us On XYZ – Learn More!” Additionally, the retargeting campaign should include the event as one of the target interests. 

 

If you will be bidding on the event name, make sure it’s in a separate campaign, and that all keywords are set to modified broad and exact match (so there’s no room for wasteful impressions, clicks, and spend). For example:

  • +brand on +XYZ +event
  • [brand on XYZ event]
  • +brand +special +XYZ +event
  • [brand special XYZ event]

Before the event, unless you subscribe to the “Turn Up Branded” school, you’ll want to make sure that keywords and landing pages focus more on the products and services you offer. The two-weeks-out window insures ad cycles won’t conflict and cause discrepancies in data.

Applying Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are arguably the most important part of planning for a big publicity event. You may wish to make a negative keyword list to apply to all campaigns save for the one that’s oriented around your event, or just apply them at the account level if you’re opting out of that strategy, but either way, they are a must. Obvious examples include the name of the event, as well as any personas associated with the event. Less obvious ones include c-level executives of the brand, and whoever was the spokesperson for the brand during the publicity event, and any “spin off” concepts. 

If you only implement one thing from this list, get your negative keywords in order. They’re the most important part of any account, and will be the one thing that separates PR success from publicity overload in your business.

I hope this post helps you rock your brand’s stardom and that the PR does everything you hope it will!

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PPC Worst Practices: 5 "Smart" Strategies That Are Actually Dumb

As digital marketers, we have the *pleasure* of being part of an ever-changing industry. Consider Google AdWords, which has changed drastically since its inception back in 2000. It started out as an internal service, eventually became a self-service portal and has evolved rapidly from there. As paid search platforms become more complex and sophisticated, it’s critical that account managers remain flexible and adjust their strategies to match these changes. But I can’t tell you how frequently I encounter advertisers who are dead-set in their outdated ways, which drives me completely insane.

So, here’s my list of the top five outdated “best practices” that you should eliminate from your PPC repertoire immediately.

Worst Practice #1: Stuffing your account with every keyword under the sun

Back in the day, it was trendy to build expansive accounts with a gazillion keyword variations. I actually remember one of my first tasks when I started at WordStream was to create a list of long-tail keywords for a cosmetics site. I spent hours dreaming up makeup-related keywords and when I finally submitted my list, my co-worker sent it back to me asking for permutations of EVERY SINGLE TERM. New to this whole shebang, I spent nearly two days developing a keyword list for only a few ad groups. It was so painful that haven’t shopped online for makeup since.

Nowadays, keyword-heavy strategies on the Search Network are becoming extinct. Since the rollout of mandatory close variant keyword matching, we no longer have to obsess over adding every permutation, misspelling, plural and singular version of the keywords in our account. In fact, in doing so, we may actually be putting ourselves at risk. If you have a number of extraneous keywords, it’s likely that many of the low search volume terms are suffering from poor Quality Scores. These can negatively impact the scores assigned to new keywords in your account, making it even harder to achieve good scores in the future. Moreover, if your account is cluttered with zillions of keywords, it can be challenging to manage it effectively.

too many keywords

Our founder, Larry Kim, encourages advertisers to delete the bottom third keywords in their accounts (that are NOT converting) and re-deploy that portion of spend to a more fruitful strategy like remarketing, which brings me to my next point…

The industry is shifting away from keyword-based strategies altogether. More and more advertisers are dedicating significant budgets to networks using identity-based targeting. For example, through paid Facebook ads, you can market to an audience that fits very specific criteria. These settings range anywhere from basic demographic/geographic/interest-based categories to custom lists (based on prospect information that you already have). Here’s an example—last week, I got the (somewhat bizarre) ad below while I was perusing Facebook.

identity based targeting

At first, I was like, why the heck is Facebook encouraging me to attend an EGG FREEZING PARTY?! And then I realized, the platform knows I’m single, I live in Boston and at 27, I fall right into the “baby fever” age group. Boom. This advertiser hit their perfect target. Pretty savvy, huh? As these methods continue to become more sophisticated, I predict that they’ll become even more widely used.

Worst Practice #2: Using DKI for all ad groups

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting that Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) is a bad technique, but it should never be your go-to method for creating ad text. DKI is a fundamentally lazy approach to ad copy. When you’re pressed for time and looking to bang out some halfway decent ads, DKI is a temporary, quick-and-dirty solution. However, it can introduce quite a few problems in your account. For example, if you are bidding on misspelled keywords, you could end up with disastrous, sloppy looking ads. Or, if you’re bidding on your competitors’ branded terms, you could end up with a nasty disapproval (or lawsuit, god forbid).

dynamic keyword mistakes

The reality is, you may see decent performance for DKI ads, but they will never be your superstars. You’re much better off taking the time to create tightly knit, granular ad groups centered on distinct keyword themes. This enables you craft highly relevant ads that are guaranteed to be a good fit, regardless of the keyword match.

ad modifiers

If you’re attached to DKI because you love the idea of automated customizations, let me introduce you to the new “DKI on steroids,” ad customizers. These scripts give you the ability to tailor your ads based on sophisticated custom attributes, such as product brand and model, pricing and even a countdown functionality urging users to make a purchase sooner than later. Layering this on top of well-crafted ads is a true slam dunk for advertisers.

Worst Practice #3: Using the same strategy on domestic and international campaigns

Oftentimes, when companies are ready to expand their marketing to international markets, they assume that whatever works in their current account will generate similar performance abroad.

au contraire

What’s worse is their inclination is to dump their account into Google Translate and bid on whatever it spits out. This is PPC seppuku! Google Translate may suffice for basic translations, but it neglects to account for regional nuances. Mistranslated keywords can result in little to no traffic or worse -- unqualified traffic – making a mockery of your PPC efforts.

Moreover, when targeting a different audience, it is critical to take cultural trends into account. For example, Americans tend to be attracted to bargains, so we commonly highlight deals and discounts in our ad copy to encourage high CTRs. This tactic would actually negatively impact CTRs in Switzerland, where consumers prioritize quality and are more likely to click on ads offering high-end, luxury items.

Given these cultural diversities, it’s critical to design campaigns that are catered toward your target marketplace. If you’re looking for guidance with this, I highly recommend checking out Katy Tonkin and Michael Stricker’s recent presentation on International PPC from HeroConf, which breaks down cultural marketing trends by location.

Worst Practice #4: Focusing all efforts on Google’s Search Network

The Google Search Network is a wise place for advertisers to launch their initial PPC efforts, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of the PPC universe. In fact, if you’re solely targeting searchers on Google, you’re likely missing out on tons of opportunity.

The number one reason advertisers are hesitant to break out of this space is because they’re unsure of which avenue to pursue next. Don’t be paralyzed by choice, embrace it! Here’s a breakdown of some of your top options:

  • Bing Ads Search: Bing Ads is easy to experiment with because it follows a nearly identical format to AdWords’ search marketing. In fact, you can even go as far as to import your AdWords account into Bing and adjust it from there. On Bing, you can expect less volume, but cheaper CPCs. (Here are a few more advantages that Bing Ads has over AdWords.)
  • Google Shopping: If you are an e-commerce advertiser, you should be running Shopping campaigns, which allow you to display images of your products on the SERP. While setting up and maintaining your feed can be an onerous task, the results are typically stellar.
  • Remarketing: I’ll be honest, I think remarketing is one of the most genius things you can do with digital marketing. It allows you to launch ad campaigns targeted to those who have visited your site in the past and therefore are more likely to engage with you. It works well for a wide variety of businesses and is easy to set up. (Just don’t make these remarketing mistakes.)
  • Google Display Network: The expansiveness of this network alone is appealing—it reaches nearly 90% of online users and nearly 2 million sites. This makes it a great venue to pursue a more passive, top of the funnel audience and promote your brand.
  • Paid Social (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn): Paid social advertising is becoming an increasingly popular way to build brand awareness and entice users to your site. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this channel is that you can layer in sophisticated targeting to reach your most ideal audience.
  • Yandex/Baidu/Seznam/Daum/360/Sogou/Yahoo! Japan: Living in a Google-obsessed country, it’s easy to forget that the Goog isn’t actually the top dog in other countries. If you are focused on foreign markets, it’s critical to understand the user behavior in those zones and adjust your strategy accordingly. The engines listed above are some of the most popular engines in Asia and Europe.

Worst Practice #5: Basing account management decisions solely on Quality Score data

Before I give Larry Kim (our Quality Score obsessed founder) a heart attack, let me quickly point out that I don’t want to downplay QS completely. It IS an important metric to keep an eye on, and the savings associated with higher scores are palpable. However, when optimizing an account, I believe that managers should first consult more concrete data, such as conversion rates, CPA, etc.

quality score isn't everything

It’s important to remember that Quality Score assignments are somewhat subjective. It’s Google’s way of incenting advertisers to create customer-centric experiences free of spammy, irrelevant ads and landing pages. So, if you have a history of poor performance, even new keywords will start with low scores. We’ve even noticed that certain industries have lower average QS than others. My point is, just because a keyword has a low Quality Score doesn’t mean it’s necessarily yielding a low number of conversions (and vice versa). So, you should never look solely at QS when making big decisions.

Instead, Quality Score should be used as a secondary, “health-check” metric. I like to think of it as an indicator of which keywords need a little extra attention. For example, if you have a keyword with a low Quality Score, it may be worthwhile to assign it to a new, more targeted ad group with more catered ad text and relevant landing pages. By making changes to strive for better scores, you are cutting costs and taking action to improve your searchers’ experience—a win-win.

Erin Sagin is a Customer Success Manager at WordStream. In addition to conducting software training and consulting calls for clients, she also helps to maintain our usability testing program. Originally from Western Maryland, Erin majored in International Studies at Kenyon College. When she’s able to take a break from PPC, 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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