Supercharge your email marketing with Google AdWords

I have a confession to make.

The odds of my instantly deleting one of the many marketing emails I receive each day are about as good as Tom Brady and the Patriots making the playoffs — meaning it’s pretty likely to happen.

Unfortunately for all you email marketers out there, I’m not alone. According to email marketing service MailChimp, the average email open rate across industries is below 25 percent, with a click rate of 2 to 3 percent. That means that, on average, you’d need to send 100 emails to get two or three people to take any action. All that time and energy spent crafting the perfect email marketing campaign will be wasted if you don’t create a complementary strategy to get more sales from your hard-earned email list.

The good news is that you can use Google AdWords as your complementary strategy by simply leveraging the existing data you have on your email subscribers. Let’s dive into the best ways to make that happen.

Learn the ins and outs of Customer Match in AdWords

Customer Match in AdWords might be the greatest secret weapon for email marketers that Google has to offer. It allows you to target or exclude your existing customers on Google Search, Display and YouTube by simply uploading your customer email list to AdWords. Think of it as another way to nurture your sales leads besides sending them more emails.

The best thing about Customer Match is that it’s not that difficult to get up and running. Here’s what you need to do to get started:

Click on the “Wrench” icon in the top right corner of your AdWords Dashboard.Click on “Audience Manager” under the Shared Library section.Click on “Audience Lists” from the Page Menu on the left.Click on the blue “+” button to create a new audience list.Select “Customer List.”Choose the option to upload a plain text data file or a hashed data file.Choose your new file.Check the box that says “This data was collected and is being shared with Google in compliance with Google’s policies.”Set a membership duration (this should be determined by the types of customers that make up the list).Click “Upload and Create List.”

Please note that these instructions are for the “new” version of the AdWords dashboard. If you’re interested in Customer Match but are still using the “old” version of the AdWords dashboard, see here for more instructions.

Segment your email list

Now that you have a better understanding of Customer Match, let’s take a look at how you might want to slice and dice your email list to more effectively target your sales leads on AdWords.

Take a look at the following email audience segments we use at AdHawk (my company) for a moment:

New and engaged email subscribers who have not become customers.Email subscribers who have not opened an email recently.Email subscribers who are existing customers and would be a good fit for an upgraded product or service.

Each of these email audience segments has an entirely different relationship with our business and needs to be messaged to differently. If you have a similar breakdown of your marketing emails, you can repurpose your email list segmentation for your AdWords campaigns via Customer Match. This will allow you to tailor the messaging of your ads for each segment, and as a result, help to nudge your sales leads farther down your funnel.

Create a different AdWords strategy for each segment of your email list

Once you have your email audience segments in place, it’s time to develop a unique AdWords strategy for each segment.

I’m going to use the three email audience segments noted above as examples. Your approach might be different, and that’s okay. Just make sure you’re not using general ads for every email audience segment you have on your list.

Converting new and engaged email subscribers

When a new lead signs up to learn more about AdHawk, our team goes into “educate” mode. The goal is to get them to see the value of our product and services as quickly as possible so we can move them down the funnel.

Our “Welcome” email flow takes the first steps in educating our leads, and it performs pretty well compared to the industry average. But our secret weapon emerges when we take a list of our “new” sales leads and turn it into a Customer Match campaign in AdWords.

Here’s what a typical flow for this segment looks at AdHawk:

Step 1: Potential customer signs up to learn more about AdHawk.Step 2: After signing up, the potential customer receives the first email in the “Welcome” email flow, with a call to action to book a time with our sales team.Step 3: A Customer Match segment is created for all “new” prospective customers that didn’t take action on the first email in the “Welcome” email flow.

By using a Customer Match segment for all new and engaged AdHawk sales leads, we’re able to bid up on more generic keywords that would be too risky to bid up on for a general search campaign. We’re also able to create Gmail Ads with a similar look and feel to our “Welcome” emails series that prompt a strong customer recall.

Converting unengaged email subscribers

Converting unengaged email subscribers can be a huge pain in the butt. They’ve stopped engaging with your emails, so the worst thing you could do is continue to bash them over the head with more emails.

Here’s the flow we use to re-engage leads that have left us hanging:

Step 1: Potential customer signs up to learn more about AdHawk but does not engage with our emails for 30 days.Step 2: A Customer Match segment is created for all “unengaged” prospective customers.Step 3: A Remarketing campaign is created to target prospective customers that have not converted after 30 days.Step 4: We tailor the Customer Match and Remarketing ads to promote a special offer.

This group is the least likely to convert, so any new business scraped up is a huge win! It’s important to educate these stale leads on what we do and remind them why they signed up in the first place.

Upselling existing customers to a new product or service

Most marketers are so intent on attracting new business that they often forget that there is a wealth of opportunity under their noses. Don’t sleep on marketing to those that have bought something from you in the past! We use our existing customer segment to promote new features or products we feel they will be a good fit for.

Here’s the flow we use to target existing customers:

Step 1: A Customer Match segment is created for our “Existing Customers.”Step 2: We further segment this list by renewal date to ensure that customers see our ads when their contract is up.Step 3: Tailor the ads to promote additional services we offer that our customers are not leveraging.

We’ve structured our flow this way because our product runs on a subscription basis. If you’re selling physical goods that can be repurchased often, break down your segment by the products your customers have shown the most interest in. That way, you can tailor your ads to the specific products you believe would resonate most with them.

Final thoughts

Are you leveraging AdWords as part of your email marketing strategy? If you are, I’d love to learn more about what strategies you have used that have been successful.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The nitty-gritty paid search account health check: Part 2

Welcome to the second and final post in a two-part series about paid search account audits. If you haven’t read the first post, be sure to check it out here! Without further ado, let’s dive right into the good stuff — the remaining analyses standing between you and a perfectly manicured paid search account.

Keywords and negatives

Keywords are essentially the building block of your search campaigns, so needless to say, there’s always room for an audit. Here are some things to review:

Are there any keywords that are spending money without converting?I look at this in different time frames, including the past 30 days or longer time frames, such as “all time,” because there could be keywords flying under the radar that may not be spending money quickly but that are slowly spending — like a small leak that can do damage over time.Are there any keywords that are below the first page bid?Are there keywords that haven’t really done anything because their bids aren’t competitive enough to obtain exposure?Are all match types present? Or is there a strategy in place pertaining to match type?Are there any keywords that are converting well but that are in lower-than-necessary positions?Are there keywords that are converting but at a suboptimal cost that could be improved by decreasing bids?Are any keywords suffering from low quality score?Are any keywords suffering from low impression share, and if so, what is the root cause?Are there any keywords that aren’t triggering ads? Why?Are any keywords too broad and, if so, are there keywords in the account that could better qualify intent for the same query?Are there any keywords that are too specific to generate traffic? If so, are there broader keywords in the account that could capture the same intended queries?Are any keyword themes or groups missing that could promote the intended product or service?Are search terms mapping as intended? Are there many negatives? Is there an opportunity to improve mapping, impression quality or cost per lead by adding more negatives?

Bid review

An infinite number of factors can be analyzed when reviewing keyword bids. Much of the account success can be attributed to bids.

The main question to ask yourself is this: Is a clear bid strategy defined? Here are a few things to consider:

Do the bids seem to correlate to performance trends?Does the bid strategy correspond to the goals?Are budgets maxed out, to the point that decreasing bids may actually generate more exposure?Do the keyword positions align with performance, or is there room for improvement (e.g., top performers in low positions or low performers in high positions)?Does the bid strategy take into account different conversion types with different values?Are there keywords below the first-page bid?Are there keywords that haven’t received impressions because the bids are too low?.mktoButton{background:#000!important;}

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Budget optimization opportunities

This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s worthwhile to look at budgets to ensure that they are allocated most effectively based upon the ROAS of each campaign.

Another thing to spot-check for: Make sure that keyword impressions aren’t being limited because budget caps are lower than, or close to, keyword bids. I’ve audited accounts in competitive industries where this has been an issue. Likely, keyword bids were increased (manually or via automation) over time after budgets were set. The bids then become close to or above the budget, and the keyword stops showing.

If you can’t afford to increase budgets for your campaigns, but you can’t afford to decrease keyword bids without losing out on valuable impression share, consider grouping similar performing campaigns with similar goals together in shared budgets. It will need to be monitored closely, but it can help to ensure that you can capture that impression share.

Audience performance analysis

There’s so much room for potential with audiences. I love auditing this part of accounts. Because there are so many different ways to slice and dice audience data, I’ll leave you with this list of things to consider:

First and foremost, are audiences being utilized?Are the audiences in play performing better than the campaign average?Could performance benefit from a bid increase or decrease?Could the audiences be further segmented?Are there behaviors on-site that aren’t currently captured with audiences? (Think micro-conversions or indicators of interest or research.)Are audiences being used as strategically as possible? And by that I mean, are audiences being used to connect the dots between the buyer’s journey to support and streamline funnel activity?

Campaign settings

This used to be one of the first things I looked at, but now I typically save it until I’m almost finished; some of the settings are tried and true, while others really depend on the account performance.

For example, I rarely ever recommend any ad rotation other than “rotate evenly” (or “rotate indefinitely” when there were more options). However, my recommendation for ad delivery would depend on whether the account was maxing out its budget each day and whether it was maxing out too early in the day. This might also be paired with automation recommendations around budgeting or bidding, which would also tie back to previous analyses of the Predefined Reports (Dimension reports, in the older UI).

A few things that I look for (aside from device, geography and ad scheduling, which we’ve already reviewed):

Bidding. Review this to ensure that the current method seems to be producing good results, or if testing a different setting could yield better results.Ad rotation. Review this to ensure that ad tests are receiving equal distributions.Ad delivery. Review this to ensure that budget is being utilized most effectively, and also to ensure that nothing is left on the table.Network. Review this to ensure that search and display are separated (I recommend keeping them separated, always). I also review Search Partner performance to ensure that these ads are performing as expected. If Search Partners aren’t enabled and haven’t been in the past, I recommend testing them. Within Bing, certain partners can be excluded; however, Google requires that the entire network is either enabled or disabled.URL parameters and tracking templates. Review this to check if there are messy URLs at the ad or keyword level that can be simplified at the ad group or campaign level.

Settings are somewhat subjective — we all likely have preferences and, again, it also depends on goals and performance — but at the very least, make sure that the campaign settings aren’t just set to the defaults. (Search network with display select, anyone?)

Based upon the answers to these questions, there may be recommendations to alter the structure of the campaigns.

On-page optimization

Once you’ve identified all of the optimizations that could be made within the account, it is time to shift your focus toward improving conversion rates on your landing pages. Improving landing page conversion rates has the potential to positively influence all of your campaigns, so even mild improvements can have a big impact. Here are a few posts about conversion rate optimization and some ideas for landing page tests worth running.

What else do you like to look at when auditing your account? Let us know on Twitter!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The nitty-gritty paid search account health check: Part 1

Maybe you’re looking for ways to improve your paid search account, or maybe you’re looking at your agency’s newest prospect with fresh eyes. It could be that performance seems to be off lately, or maybe you’re just looking for some new testing ideas.

Whatever your reasons, auditing even the most well-kept account is sure to stir up some opportunities for improvement. Not sure where to start? Read on for post one of a two-part series detailing the steps of a comprehensive paid search audit.

First, get the background

Get the scoop on the account. If it is your own account, then you’ll already have the background, but if you’re auditing an account on behalf of someone else, you’ll want to be sure to get the full historical picture before you get started.

Some questions to ask:

Who are the targets?How is performance measured, and what are the goals?How do they track success back to the bottom line?Are there secondary goals?Are there other channels running, and if so, how do the channels fit together?

The more information you can get, the better. Even if it is a seemingly minor factor, it could impact your recommendation, such as ensuring that you don’t recommend to increase the exposure of call extensions during times that customer service agents aren’t available.

Conversion tracking, types, values and priorities

This should come out as part of the account background, but just in case it doesn’t, be sure that you understand what types of conversions are being tracked, how they are being tracked and what the priorities are. Then, make sure that each conversion is tracking as it should be.

Not all conversions are created equal, so you’ll want to be sure that, if there are multiple conversion types being tracked, your recommendations aren’t based purely on the total sum of conversions. I can’t stress this enough, because different conversion types can make seemingly straightforward optimization suggestions more complex.

For example, maybe mobile devices have a higher CPA, so your instinct might be to pull back mobile bids. But wait –- mobile could be driving more calls while a higher volume of desktop conversions might be for higher funnel micro-conversions. In that case, the higher CPA on mobile might be worth it after all.

Performance trends over time

Performance trends are important, too. You can start with performance trends if you’re looking to resolve a glaring issue. If nothing stands out, and you’re simply looking at trends for the sake of review, it also works to circle back and analyze performance trends at the very end of your process. Unless there is a glaring issue, though, my preference is typically to look at trends as I work through the data –- section by section.

As I go through each of the sections — ads, campaigns, ad groups, keywords, time of day, location, device and so forth — I look at what is working now and what isn’t working. That’s a given. I also look at what previously worked but isn’t working anymore. This can give insight into trouble areas that need attention. Viewing the Change History is usually a good way to follow up on these things.


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Campaign structure

As you review the account, it’s good to take inventory of the campaign structure. These are some questions that are worth answering as you review campaigns:

How many keywords are in each ad group? Are they all relevant to each other and to the ads that are within that ad group?Are the ad groups within each campaign relevant to each other? Does it make sense for them to be grouped together?Are there any performance outliers –- good or bad –- that are altering the average of the campaign? Would it benefit the account to place them into a separate campaign where budget and settings could be controlled?Are there any keywords or ad groups that are budget-capped because the campaign’s average performance is poor despite the fact that certain keywords or ad groups within it are performing well?Are campaigns organized in a logical way? Is there seemingly some basis or structure by which the campaigns are segmented?Did anything come up in part of the audit that would indicate a different structure might perform better (e.g., localization, match type breakout)?

Device performance analysis

Analyzing device performance can uncover low-hanging fruit. I like to export device performance and segment by conversion types. I typically pivot it based upon the campaign, with device and conversion type within each campaign.

Although I do compare device performance across campaigns, I don’t base modifiers on that comparison. Device modifiers should be used only when you’re comparing devices within the same campaign. If the overall CPA for the campaign is too high in comparison to other campaigns, then there’s most likely a greater issue with conversion rate or conversion volume that needs attention.

Geographic performance analysis

Geography is one of my favorite topics. First, I look at the location settings within a campaign. If you have strict geographical restraints, then it almost always makes sense to ensure that you are only targeting people within that area –- and excluding people who are searching for it from other regions.

There can easily be issues with this setting anyway. For example, maybe you are targeting Venice, Florida, but your settings allow people searching for your location to see the ad, too — even if they aren’t within your targeted area — then your ad starts showing for semi-ambiguous searches meant for Venice, Italy, and the CTR is horrible, plus the clicks you do get are just wasted spend. There are some exceptions for which it makes sense to allow users outside your geographical area to search for your location –- such as in the case of tourism. Usually, I don’t allow it. I do the same with the corresponding exclusion setting. I almost always prefer to exclude anyone searching from or about my excluded locations.

In addition to the settings, I like to pull location reports to pivot the data and look for outliers. Bid modifiers can be used, in most cases, to amplify positive results and pull back on poorly performing geographies.

Sometimes there’s such an outlier, though, that it makes sense to separate it into a different campaign –- either to give it more budget or to separate it from the group to ensure it isn’t hiking up the CPA for the other geos while also hogging the budget.

Most often, if a geography is performing really poorly, it makes sense to exclude it, but there are times where there’s enough volume so that it’s worth it to try to make it work. Separating allows you to bring up the campaign averages and open up budget for better-performing locations.

Time-of-day & day-of-week performance analysis

Analyzing time-of-day and day-of-week performance can result in multiple different optimizations, the simplest of which is bid modifiers. Alternate options could include cutting out certain time frames, expanding into additional time frames or adjusting budgets.

Note that adjusting budgets will really only be impactful in certain circumstances. For example, if you aren’t maxing out your full budget, then opening it up at certain times won’t make a difference. Pulling back budgets could still have an effect, though, if pulled back far enough.

Be sure to add in segments (extra layers of data) when analyzing time-of-day and day-of-week performance. I like to look at both hour-of-day and day-of-week in one report, for instance. In the new UI, you can edit the columns and rows to add the extra layers.

In the old UI, using the dimensions reports, you can do this by adding segments after you’ve requested to download the data.

Note: I also like to look at hour-of-day and time-of-day with conversion name as an extra layer, if multiple conversions exist. It is possible to add this as a segment in the time reports within the old UI. In the new UI, you’ll need to look at conversion reports and add the timing element as an extra column. It still functions the same way; it’s just a different path to the data.

When analyzing this data, I look for outliers. What’s performing exceptionally well? How are our positions during that time? Would increasing positions gain more exposure and potentially more leads or sales? If positions are already at 1.0 or close to it, and we aren’t losing impression share by rank, then increasing bids won’t be impactful. But if budgets are capped, toggling budget to make more room for top-performing time frames could be impactful.

Conversely, what isn’t performing well? Is there room to decrease positions? Should the time frame be excluded altogether?

Reviewing ad tests

Are there ad tests running? If so, are there any clear winners? If not, is there something prohibiting the ad tests from having a clear winner, such as too many ads running, or not enough? Are the ads relevant to the keywords in their respective ad groups? I also like to look at previous winning variants that were paused or deleted to see if there’s any potential to resurrect ads, themes or CTAs.

Running and analyzing ad tests warrants a whole post of its own. Brad Geddes wrote the book on ad testing (no, really), so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’ll just strongly advise you to check out the ad testing guide that he put together.

Reviewing ad extensions

As with ad tests, I like to review ad extensions as well. First, I check to ensure that the account is leveraging all appropriate and applicable extension types. Then I review to ensure that the extensions are:

    relevant (Extensions are sometimes treated like a set-it-and-forget-it element — which means you sometimes wind up with outdated promos or messaging that isn’t timely).compelling.performing well.

Check back next week for the second post with more tips on auditing your paid search account.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

The PPC challenge of selling manufacturing capability vs. stock products

While running a successful advertising campaign can be complex at the best of times, it presents a special challenge to small industrial manufacturers.

It’s one thing to advertise a widely understood product, such as a running shoe or blender, to a large consumer market. It’s another thing entirely to sell a manufacturing capability that’s only really understood by those in the industry — especially when products look and function differently based on the specifications of the buyer.

This challenge is particularly pronounced in the world of search engine marketing, where industrial manufacturers must adapt to an ad platform (e.g., AdWords) that seems more geared to retailers.

My company, Huff Industrial Marketing, faced this challenge with a manufacturing client. I’m pleased to report that through carefully and patiently running a variety of experiments, based on different approaches and ideas, we’re now seeing good results.

In this column, I’ll share how we did it.

A manufacturer of specialized machine parts

The client is in the business of making specialized machine parts used in a variety of manufacturing processes. Because each part is custom in size, type, material and so forth, what this client is really offering is the capability of making these specialized products. In other words, they don’t make “stock” products sold off the shelf.

This immediately created a conundrum with the PPC advertising campaign — namely, how in the heck do you advertise a manufacturing capability to buyers in dozens of industries?

Eventually, we came up with a solution that encompassed three critical PPC elements: keywords, messaging and landing pages.

Element #1: Keywords

Almost immediately, we knew that keywords were going to be a problem. One challenge is that terminology used in manufacturing is often specialized and used as “jargon” inside a company or industry niche — but may not be fully understood or used by buyers across the myriad industries or markets that exist.

Consequently, searches on these terms often return irrelevant results.

For example, when I conducted a search on a specialized type of manufacturing wheel, it returned results for car wheel rims and bike wheels — which wasn’t at all what I wanted (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Google keyword search result

Unfortunately, this didn’t seem to be something that Google’s machine learning could correct.

So, what to do? When we went too broad with our keywords, the ads ended up displaying with irrelevant search results. (Of course, we worked to mitigate this with negative keywords.) If we went too narrow, then search volumes were too low.

Eventually, what saved us was monitoring search queries for both organic search and PPC. Based on the data, we realized we had to stop thinking in terms of “capabilities” and start thinking in terms of “end products” — even when those end products weren’t standard.

Then, we marketed each end “product” individually through separate campaigns and ad groups.

As an aside, the client, too, was surprised at the terms buyers were using to source specific types of products. It’s been a real eye-opener for everyone on the team and has led to the client looking at new ways of marketing custom items they’ve been manufacturing for years.

Element #2: Ad messaging

We also took a closer look at our ad messaging — in particular, the calls to action.

If you’ve looked at PPC ads generated by industrial manufacturers, you’ll know it’s not unusual for these ads to include calls to action like “Free RFQ” or “Get a free quote!” in the ad body or sitelinks.

Figure 2: RFQ in ads

Initially, we followed the lead of other manufacturers and included similar calls to action in the ads. We realized very quickly they weren’t converting. When we thought about it more deeply, we realized that this kind of messaging didn’t make sense.

Why? Because at this point in the sales process, the client’s potential customers weren’t ready to embark on a lengthy quote process. They simply wanted an answer to the question, “Can you make this thing?”

It was a classic case of: “Don’t ask your prospects to marry you on the first date!”

In other words, prospects needed to talk to someone. So, we revised the ad copy — and landing pages — accordingly.

Element #3: Landing pages

Once we identified the issue with the call to action, we knew we needed to revise the landing pages. Instead of a call to action to fill out the RFQ form, we replaced it with a much shorter form that allowed potential customers to ask their “can you make this?” question (Figure 3):

Figure 3: Landing page form

At the same time, we reworked the landing page to remove any unnecessary navigation and competing calls to action.

This task was made significantly less onerous with the help of our web developer, who was able to reconfigure the client’s code and add simple “click to remove” options. This allowed us to remove the main nav, footers and so on by simply checking a box.

With this capability, we didn’t have to rely on a third-party landing page service, which saved the client money and also kept the landing pages on the client’s domain.

To top things off, the development team added the script for Google’s phone call conversion tracking, where Google dynamically changes the phone number on the landing page, allowing for tracking of desktop calls.

Result: Relevant traffic and good conversions

With these changes in place, we were quite pleased to see four “in-the-ballpark” form inquiries and four phone calls in the first five business days. Inquiries have continued to stream in at a good pace.

In conclusion…

What can industrial manufacturers take away from this experience? Three things:

    Focus on your business and sales process versus what other manufacturers are doing. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of “everyone else is doing it so it must be working.” Nope! Study your data and then experiment with different approaches until you see the results you want.Rethink what you’re selling. For many small industrial manufacturers, what is being sold is a capability — often to create highly specialized parts that go into bigger systems. Monitor organic and PPC search queries to see what terms potential buyers are using to find you — and let those queries be your keyword guide.Don’t give up! It’s very easy to become frustrated with AdWords (believe me!) when you’re spending money and seeing little, if any, return. Continually read the AdWords help files to understand how things work, find a good developer who can help you with tricky things like coding and tagging, and experiment. With patience, you will find a combination that works for you.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

5 non-traditional skills to look for in a PPC account manager

Hiring a dedicated pay-per-click marketer is tough.

Just about every two- and four-year university in North America offers a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and some even offer the opportunity to minor or specialize in digital marketing. But you can’t get a degree in the disciplines that correspond to an actual job — PPC, AdWords, Facebook Ads, online ad design, interactive ad copywriting and so on.

So, when you’re looking for new talent, unless you want to do the training yourself, you need to find candidates with prior experience.

A quick scroll through LinkedIn or AngelList shows a common thread of agencies and businesses seeking out a “number-driven, passionate, creative and analytical individual with 3+ years of experience managing accounts.”

The problem is that any motivated would-be marketing hire will claim to possess these skills. So what makes a candidate stand out?

5 skills that differentiate you from the everyday PPC marketer

Top-notch PPC (pay-per-click) marketers need a diverse set of skills to conquer new opportunities, roles and challenges working in digital. For me, a variety of capabilities and a willingness to learn new skills on the job are some of the most valued features in a potential candidate.

I believe that there are five skills seemingly unrelated to PPC that truly make up the Full-Stack PPC Marketer.

Note: I do not talk about Excel or Data Science, though these are important. Search Engine Land already has some great content on Excel (sexy charts, combo charts, mini-series for search) and Data Science (similarities between PPC and Data Science, testing ads like a data scientist).

Skill 1: Design

We’ve all grown tired of the overused phrase “visually engaging ads,” but there’s a reason why it’s repeated so often. Our content consumption behavior is becoming more visual than ever, so a deep understanding of design makes your ad creatives stand out above the rest.

That said, you shouldn’t expect your Account Managers to come up with brilliant, engaging ads from thin air for each new client, campaign and product.

You want someone who understands the guidelines of each platform and is resourceful enough to apply best practices around color, sizing and call-to-action (CTA) buttons.

Frequently, a screen shot of a landing page with a CTA button overlay gets the job done, but this may require a deep knowledge base and the ability to work with a design tool.

Must-have design knowledge for PPC marketers:

Google’s Guide to Display Ad Sizes and RulesFacebook Ad sizes, Text Rules, and Best Practices (from my employer, AdHawk)5 ingredients for writing the perfect expanded text adsA working knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or free alternatives like Canva or Pablo by Buffer

Skill 2: Sales

Google’s internal sales training was one of the most valuable assets I gained from being a part of the AdWords team.

I like to give account manager (AM) candidates an AdWords account and ask them to treat me like the client — explaining performance, immediate opportunities and potential for long-term growth. I expect account managers to be able to do these four things:

    Educate yourself. Google’s client-first approach requires that account managers do the work necessary to fully understand who they are working with before any sales discussion begins. This means getting to know the business owner, the marketing team, the product and the different customer personas.Educate the client. Once you understand the business, you can clearly explain what strategies will work for them and WHY. If you and the client can stay on the same page, they will feel that they are still in the driver’s seat in making marketing decisions.Set expectations. The worst thing you can do is oversell and underdeliver. It isn’t just an awful customer experience; it kills long-term revenue for your business.Handle objections. The most passionate business owners (the best ones to work with) question strategies, decisions and the lack of changes in their account. They want to make sure you’re on top of things. The way candidates handle confrontation is essential to their ability to build a strong relationship and keep clients happy in the long run.

Sales must-haves:

Strong research skillsObjection handlingExpectation settingActive listeningPass Google’s new Digital Sales Certification

Skill 3: HTML & CSS

Understanding how websites work is a critical skill to becoming a full-stack PPC marketer. For everything from ad design to website troubleshooting to conversion-tracking implementation, a basic understanding of HTML & CSS will go a long way.

HTML5 is a versatile markup language that is used to create a wide variety of ad formats. For example, HTML5 display ads are interactive and act as microsites within a page, opening up opportunities for higher conversions and experimental ad tactics.

Another great application of HTML5 is in Gmail Ads. Once someone opens your Gmail ad, they get an expanded version where advertisers can follow Google’s kinda tricky guidelines to create some pretty cool experiences. Expanded Gmail ads let you embed forms, videos, images and interactive elements directly in your ad.

Must-have web development skills:

Knowledge of the inspect element tool on preferred browserUnderstanding of web elements like classes and IDsCode Academy’s intro to HTML and CSS course

Skill 4: JavaScript

There are two levels of proficiency an AM can have with JavaScript. At the very least, candidates should understand what JavaScript is and apply that understanding to Facebook’s tracking Pixel, Google Tag Manager (GTM), Google Analytics (GA) and AdWords conversion tracking.

The next level up is being able to create custom events in GA, GTM or Facebook that track the correct conversion event and ideally capture important metadata around how much the conversion is worth to you.

This allows you to not only optimize your ads for conversions; it also allows you to optimize your ads to the most valuable conversions to the account.

A bonus attribute would be the ability to apply free public AdWords scripts and even make minor manipulations to the script when it isn’t working properly.

After getting comfortable with scripts, one of our employees modified an existing script to send a Slack notification whenever the CTR of an ad falls under a certain rate.

Must-have JavaScript skills:

Ability to set up event tracking in Analytics and Facebook AdsImplement basic Google Scripts using the script consoleAbility to educate someone else on how Facebook’s Pixel and Conversion tracking workCode Academy’s Free Javascript Course

Skill 5: Writing

AdWords only gives you 140 characters to catch your audience’s attention, convey value and entice a click. Candidates who can combine Hemingway’s succinct, impactful diction with the enthusiastic value propositions of an As-Seen-on-TV salesperson should be shoo-ins for the PPC job.

The mark of a skillful writer is the ability to communicate your unique value proposition, implement advertising best practices (keywords and strong call to action) and add a dash of brand personality to the mix.

The best way to sharpen writing skills is by writing more. Look for candidates with content marketing experience or an English or Journalism degree, or consider requiring a writing sample with the job posting.

Writing must-haves:

The ability to omit needless words, as per Strunk and WhiteKnowledge of the AdWords editorial standards and how to meet themA talent for enthusiastically expressing the brand voice

Anything else?

What other skills provide above-and-beyond value from your account managers? Share your insights with Search Engine Land on Twitter or Facebook.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Developing YOUR audience targeting strategy

We all know that remarketing is a powerful tool for connecting (and reconnecting) with online audiences — especially those customers that come close to converting, then change their minds.

But there is much more to remarketing than abandoned shopping cart visitors, which is why I’ve been saying for the last several years that every campaign could and should be an RLSA campaign.

So, what is the most important audience of online searchers? Yours. 2017 has been a year of growth for what is possible with remarketing, as both Google and Bing have released innovative features to help you create a custom audience that speaks to your exact business needs.

Creative features such as exclusions, custom audiences, in-market audiences and similar audiences enable retailers to find their perfect target market online.

In light of all of these updates and changes, in my next few articles on Search Engine Land, I want to dig into remarketing to help you think about defining, mapping and segmenting your audiences, so you can create and shape the most important online audience in the world: yours.

Developing your audience targeting strategy

Who are you customers? What do you know about them? I mean really know about them. Do you know their pain points, what motivates them, and why they want or need whatever it is that you are offering to them?

Just because you think you know who your audience is, it doesn’t mean you’re right. Your hunch might start you down the right path, but to really get to know your ideal and target customers, you’ll want to analyze the available information from your CRM system and analytics account. Use this data to identify key insights about your customers, the actions they take, and what makes them YOUR ideal customer — or not.

Defining your audience

Of the thousands of marketers I’ve spoken with about remarketing in the last year, very few started by documenting and defining their audiences. Instead, they start with a specific scenario they are trying to solve with a remarketing campaign, such as trying to re-engage cart abandoners, cross-selling products and services or re-engaging previous customers who might not understand their full business offering.

In my opinion, while this strategy does work, it’s not the most effective way to utilize remarketing. You’re starting with the problem and trying to build a solution instead of starting with a customer-centric view and with all of the possibilities that remarketing has to offer. It means that the remarketing solutions you come up with might be tainted by Maslow’s Law of the instrument:

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Abraham Maslow

So then, where do I think you should start with developing your remarketing strategy? In my opinion, the art and science of remarketing come down to two things: questions and data.

I think that you should start with a set of questions to help you segment your audiences, and with access to data from your analytics platform and database/CRM to get transaction insights. Then, armed with data, you can look at the potential audience pools to determine if you have the minimum 1,000-cookie base to activate an audience list.

Using positive and negative bid modifiers on top of each audience segment, you can shape your campaigns and the flow through your website, helping customers throughout their decision journey.

To help you get started with your audience development, I’m sharing a set of carefully crafted questions I’m calling the “Ultimate Audience Development Questionnaire.” I’ve broken the checklist down into five sections based on the types of questions I explored when I was auditing and developing a remarketing strategy.

The Ultimate Audience Development Questionnaire

Part 1: Conversions

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

What are your conversion actions?What is your average purchase/order size?What is the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer?How frequently do customers make purchases on your website (in a week, month, year or lifetime)?How many of your customers are return customers?Do you know which customers return purchases/orders?

Part 2: On-site behaviors and actions

Recommended data source: Analytics platform

What are the actions you want consumers to take on your website?What do you consider a short website visit? A long website visit?Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is already a customer?Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is more likely to convert?Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is not your ideal customer?Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone wants to cancel a service or return a product?Are there pages on your site that would indicate that someone is not happy or satisfied with your company?Do you know when someone is no longer interested in your products/services?

Part 3: Consumer decision journey

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

What is the length of your typical purchase journey?Is there a specific timing window you need to reach consumers during their purchase journey?How long do consumers spend researching your products/services before purchasing?How long do consumers spend on your site researching and comparing products?How frequently do visitors return to your website during the purchase journey?How frequently do visitors return to your website after the conversion event?Are there pages on your website that would help identify which stage in the purchase journey the consumer is in?

Part 4: Ideal customers

Recommended data source: Analytics platform and your internal CRM tools/database

Who are your BEST customers?What identifies your best customers?What identifies your less-than-ideal customers?What are the characteristics of your best customers (age, gender, location, martial status education, job title, income, etc.)?What are the characteristics of your less than ideal customers?Are there customers you don’t want to re-engage with marketing?

Part 5: Personas

Recommended data source: Analytics platform, your internal CRM tools/database, social media data, and your internal marketing team!

Who are your target personas?What are the characteristics of your target personas (age, gender, location, marital status education, job title, income, etc.)?What are their interests and likes?What devices do they use?What actions signify that someone is part of your persona groups?What motivates this persona to take action?What is their pain point?Who isn’t your target audience/persona (and their characteristics, behaviors, interests)?

Note: If you don’t know much about personas, check out “The Complete, Actionable Guide to Marketing Personas” by Kevan Lee.

Mapping and documenting your audience questionnaire results

After you’ve researched and investigated who your audience is and what they want/need, it’s time to organize the data in a way that makes it easy to mine for insights.

It was important for me to create an XLS spreadsheet to track the answers to the audience development questions, because while I set up the accounts and created the structure and strategy, I work with account managers and specialists who manage and optimize the accounts.

Where I was able to pull data from my analytics platform, I included my unique visitor count for the previous 30–90 days to act as a somewhat decent proxy for potential cookie pool size.

Pro tip: Choose a look-back window based on either the length of your customer decision journey or the purchase window. In the e-commerce accounts I managed, a 30- to 60-day window was sufficient for my clients; however, I worked with an automotive dealership where the average consumer went from researching to purchasing a new car in 128 days, so I would select a 130- to 145-day window for my audience analysis and for my actual cookie duration when I created audiences.

Next, I created an audience map in Excel, which includes two columns for the name of the audience (one column for Bing and one column for Google), the definition of the audience and what it represents, what stage in the consumer decision journey the audience is in, and how I’m expecting to use that specific audience list. (Is it a standalone audience segment, or do I expect to layer it with other audiences? Am I planning on using it as a positive or negative audience? What are the goals I have for the segment?)

While this exercise is time-consuming, it helps with auditing and tracking audience implementation. It also helps you to not see all audiences as “nails.” Instead, you’re able to see the potential of how to reach your customers with unique messaging and landing pages, enabling you to create customized (and seemingly personalized) marketing campaigns.

You’ll be able to shape your campaigns with positive and negative audiences to help guide searchers along the purchase journey and provide them with the answers they are looking for.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

How to test (and perfect) nearly everything in PPC

PPC (pay per click) is a key component of many online marketing campaigns. And while it can drive significant revenue, it’s also one of the most expensive ongoing costs in a campaign. Therefore, it’s key that you test your ads regularly, to make sure you aren’t letting any conversions slip through the cracks.

Testing and optimizing is an important part of our job as digital marketers. And I’m not just talking about perfecting your ad copy.

At SMX London earlier this year, I gave a talk on how we design and implement tests at Crealytics for both Text and Shopping ads.

Carrying on from that, this post will cover three methods you can use for successful testing, two types of testing to help you take performance to the next level, and five common pitfalls that testers often run into. I’ll also illustrate these points with examples from our own internal testing efforts.

Deciding which method to use

Designing a good experiment is actually the most important step in getting actionable results. Which testing method you use will depend on what data you have available and what variables you are trying to test. In general, there are three basic types of testing methods:

Drafts and experimentsScheduled A/B testsBefore/after tests

Each of these methods comes with pluses and minuses.

Drafts and experiments

Drafts and experiments are the most diverse testing tools. This two-pronged testing method lets you propose and test changes to your Search campaigns.

Drafts let you create a mirror image of your campaign and then change the element(s) you want to test. This lets you play around with what settings it’s possible to change without messing up your current campaigns. Once you’ve created your draft, you can turn it into an Experiment.

Experiments help you measure your results to understand the impact of your changes before you apply them to a campaign. Once you’ve completed your Draft setup, you convert it to an Experiment and choose a percentage of your traffic to run the test on, as well as a time frame.

Through this method, you can test almost anything within your campaign. You can test structural elements of your campaigns like Ads, landing pages or match types. You can also test the influence of bidding variables like bid amounts, modifiers (device, schedule, geo-targeting) and strategies (eCPC, Target CPA). Finally, this method allows you to test changes within features in your campaigns, such as Ad extensions or Audience lists.

Unfortunately, drafts and experiments are currently only available in Text ads.

Example: A/B test landing pages with drafts and experiments for conversion rate

In this example, we want to know which of two landing pages gets the most conversions.

To set it up, create a draft of your campaign, change the landing page URL and set it as an experiment.  For the analysis, keep track of top line performance using the automatic scorecard displayed in the experiment campaign.

In this case, our new landing page didn’t perform as well as the old one.

Once the experiment has run its course, make sure to take a deep dive into the data to rule out any irregularities.

Manually-scheduled A/B tests

There are still some scenarios where you can use manually-scheduled A/B tests, in which the tests are run alternately instead of simultaneously. These are especially useful in the cases where drafts and experiments won’t work because it stops your campaigns from potentially cannibalizing each other.

This kind of testing works best for things like search terms where the query composition is important, i.e., match type changes and negative changes. It also allows you to test the structure, bidding and features of your Google Shopping campaigns.

Recommendation: Use this scheduling to avoid cannibalization while still being independent of seasonality

To use manual A/B tests, create a duplicate of your campaign, change an element and use the campaign settings to share hours justly between the two.

Example: How fast do quality scores pick up after campaign transition?

To set it up, duplicate the campaign and set a schedule to run it against the original campaign. For your analysis, compare traffic and Quality Score levels. In this example, we can see that Quality Scores pick up within a few days.

Before/after tests

Before/after tests are a versatile type of testing often used for feed components. In this type of testing, it’s important that you have a good control group; that way you will know how much of the performance uplift is due to seasonal or budget changes and how much is due to your experiment.

Before/after testing is best for things that are difficult or take a long time to change, such as product titles, images and prices. In these tests, you are measuring the relational change between your test and control groups. This is often the only way to test variables in Google Shopping.

Example: Does Google reward cheaper product prices with more impressions?

Here we want to know if Google is more likely to show lower-priced products in Google Shopping. To set it up, choose a product and increase its price from lowest to highest among competitors. To analyze the results, compare traffic before and after the change, using your control group as a baseline.

In this case, a small 5 percent increase in price, had a huge negative effect on the number of clicks. You can read more about our theory on Google’s low-price bias here.

Google Merchant Center experiments

Right now, before/after tests are the only way for you to test how product information (title, image, description) affects Google Shopping performance. However, Google is beginning to test allowing for feed optimizations directly in the Merchant Center interface. These tests include Phase 1 and Phase 2 in comparison to the baseline.

However, the idea is still in beta, and there isn’t much evidence around whether or not it works. The biggest issue we’ve noticed with this method is that Google randomizes the products that can be included in both the test and the control group, meaning the suggestions aren’t based on the true uplift potential of the account.

For more on how we’ve tested Feed Titles in the past, check out this Search Engine Land post.

A/B testing tools

Calculating whether or not the results of your test were statistically significant can be tricky. Luckily, there are plenty of online A/B tools that can help. You upload your data and then run statistics tests on your success metrics, which can include clicks, conversions or impressions.

Optimizing current accounts and performance

There are two reasons you might conduct a test within your PPC campaign. The first is to optimize the parameters within the Google sandbox to get better Google KPIs. In this case, you are testing your ads to optimize performance directly. This is a necessary step to make sure your account is performing at optimum level.

The second is to help you understand what the black box does. In this case, you are testing your understanding of how Google works. Knowing how Google does what it does (or even exactly what it is doing) can help you inform and improve your strategy and may allow you to gain an early advantage over your competition.

Optimization example: Shopping campaign segmentation

A few years ago, we theorized that splitting Shopping queries into generic and designer campaigns would save advertising costs while maintaining revenue. Using campaign priorities and negatives, we designed an AdWords structure that would force Google to split traffic into a generic or designer campaign based on the shopper’s query, for which we could then set different bids. We wanted to test whether this campaign structure would be more effective than the regular AdWords structure.

To test our new campaign structure, we used a rotating A/B test. We duplicated the products into a test campaign, applied the new structure and gave the designer campaign a higher bid. Then we rotated by scheduling.

Turns out we were right. Queries with higher conversion probability get more exposure, overcompensating for the higher CPC.

What we learned

A/B testing campaign setups are possible.To keep results comparable, either keep cost or revenue stable.Don’t measure the uplift of the test campaign itself, only the overall change in relation to the control group, to eliminate outside influences like seasonality.

Black box example: Bidding on products is like ‘Broad Match’

Another big question we had when we started using Google Shopping was about how Google’s bidding algorithm worked. Google was pretty tight-lipped when it came to what was going on behind the scenes, but from our cursory observations, it seemed as though higher bids led to a larger share of lower-converting traffic.

To test our hypothesis, we increased bids on brand campaigns by 200 percent. As we expected, our impressions skyrocketed, while our conversions remained stable.

Our results indicated that after a certain amount, your traffic quality gets weaker as you increase your bid — just like in broads. Essentially, you’re just paying more for the same traffic, which makes overbidding in Shopping a real problem.

What we learned

Pure before/after tests need multiple sibling tests to validate the results; we tested several brands with the same results.Look beyond your hypothesis for additional insights — same traffic at a higher CPC was surprising.Always segment out queries, device, top vs other, search partners and audience vs. non-audience.

For more on how we drew conclusions on Google’s bidding algorithm and how to structure your campaigns, read this article.

Common pitfalls

There are lots of things that can bias the results of your tests, making them unusable. Here are five pitfalls we’ve encountered and how to overcome them.

1. Statistical significance

You should only end a test when you have enough information for it to be statistically significant. If you only run a test for two weeks, you might think something has no effect, when really it just takes a while for the effect to kick in.

This is especially true when working with Google. Their algorithm needs time to learn and adjust to the changes you’ve made. Use the tools we talked about earlier to help you evaluate if your data has relevance.

2. Don’t aggregate

Don’t just analyze the totals of any one metric. Instead, you want to measure changes on the actual changed elements. In this example, if you look at the total aggregated data, it looks as though changing the title actually hurt impressions.

However, when we look at all the data individually, we can see that in every case except one, impressions increased by an average of 116 percent. In this case, one very large outlier completely skewed our aggregated data.

3. Think outside the box

Regardless of what you ran your test to look for, you don’t have to limit your observations to the original changed variable. There are plenty more insights to be gained from other changes in your campaigns. For example, when we tested Enhanced CPC (eCPC), we noticed that it increased conversions by 5 percent. Then, upon further analysis, we noticed that eCPC helped lower the CPO of ads on tablet.

4. Know your surroundings

With any experiment, it’s important to think about what other factors may have influenced your results. The data alone doesn’t always tell the whole story.

For example, when we first looked at testing images, sometimes the change produced better results and sometimes it didn’t. Based solely on this data, we would have had to rule our results inconclusive.

But, just to be extra sure, we took a closer look at the testing environment. What we found was that in cases where changing the image made it stand out from all the other images, we saw uplift. However, if there was already a variety of image types on the page, changing the product image had no effect.

5. Look out for cannibalization

This is another form of understanding your surroundings when running a test. Sometimes a product’s increased performance means that it is diverting traffic away from some of your other products.

For example, when we increased the bids on one of our customer’s products, we saw a significant increase in impressions. However, it turned out when we looked at the total account performance, the product with the increased bid was cannibalizing other products by taking away the impressions they usually saw.

Based on that information, we were able to conclude that the actual incremental improvement was much lower than initially observed.


Testing is an essential part of any good PPC strategy because it allows you to gain a significant advantage and can lead you to some major campaign improvements.

However, you can’t just wade in and start changing things willy-nilly. Accurate testing requires a detail-oriented approach and a lot of planning.

Here are the four things you should have before attempting any significant tests:

PPC experience. In order to derive smart hypotheses and come up with intelligent testing methods that take into account external factors, a significant amount of PPC experience is invaluable. Experience also helps when analyzing the data for insights, since you’ll have a good idea of what to look out for in terms of extra insights and variables that may affect your results.Loads of data. Some experience with data science or at least data warehousing will definitely be beneficial. Before you begin any tests, make sure you have a way to store, clean and analyze the data you collect.A knack for numbers. Liking data, numbers and analytics will make wading through all that data you collected a lot more pleasurable.The big picture. Data miners and scientists aren’t everything. You need to make sure someone in your testing team understands the bigger picture. This high-level thought process enables you to pull back and ask why something might be happening, which is often even more important than the observation that it is happening.

This article was adapted from a keynote talk I gave at SMX London. You can see the slides from that presentation here.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Beginners' guide to Bing Ads management

You’re in business to reach as many people in your target market as you can, right? That means you should explore a variety of marketing channels.

One of those channels is Bing Ads.

Bing often gets a bad rap because it’s viewed as “the other search engine.” That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any users, though.

Currently, Bing takes about 7 percent of the worldwide search engine market share, including over 20 percent of US desktop search market share. That’s a lot of market share you’re throwing away if you ignore it.

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to ignore it. Bing offers its own pay-per-click (PPC) marketing service that’s very similar to Google AdWords.

Here’s what you need to know about running ads on Bing.

Note: This is a beginners’ guide; it is meant for people doing Bing pay-per-click for the first time. 

Starting is easy: Just create an account

Before you can start running ads on Bing, you’ll first need to create an account. Fortunately, that’s pretty easy to do. Just head over to Bing Ads and click the “Sign Up Now” button. You’ll go through a process of creating an account that’s fairly familiar to you.

Once you’re done, Bing offers you a big, fat present. No, it’s not free ads. It’s the opportunity to import your existing AdWords campaigns from Google. How’s that for customer service? You won’t even have to recreate campaigns that you’ve run successfully on AdWords.

If you’re completely new to PPC, though, you’ll have to create a campaign from scratch. Don’t worry, that’s fairly easy as well. (More info on that below.)

Performing keyword research

Great PPC campaigns are like great search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns in this way: they’re keyword-driven.

Think about how people search for information online. They enter keywords into a search engine and then view the results. You’ll want to advertise to people who search for keywords relevant to your niche.

So, for example, if you’re selling low-priced blue jeans, you want to advertise to people who search for “discount blue jeans” or “buy blue jeans” or “cheap blue jeans.” That way, you’ll promote your brand to people who have intent to make a purchase.

That’s an important point to consider. While you might be tempted to offer up an ad to people who are searching for “blue jeans,” that keyword carries no intent to purchase. They might just be searching for fashion tips.

The Bing Keyword Research tool

Just like AdWords, Bing offers its own keyword research tool. Once you’re logged into Bing Ads, you can access it by clicking on “Research Keywords” under the “Tools” menu at the top.

On the screen that appears, you can provide an initial keyword relevant to your niche. Remember, use a keyword that carries commercial intent.

You have the option to further refine your audience by selecting some “Advanced targeting options.” You can select options such as the user’s language, country/region and device. As a rule of thumb, start by defining your audience as narrowly as possible. That will save you money on clicks from people who aren’t really interested in what you’re offering. You can always broaden it from there.

Bing Ads also gives you the option to find keywords by entering in a website URL. If you go that route, just enter your landing page URL, and Bing will collect relevant keywords from that page.

Once you’re done entering your search criteria, Bing Ads will present you with matching keywords, along with data on how many times each keyword was searched for last month, the number of clicks it received, the click-through rate (CTR) and the average cost per click (CPC).

All of that information is important to you, but the last metric, CPC, tells you how much you can expect to pay every time somebody clicks on one of your ads.

And remember: narrow targeting is best. You might see a keyword in your list that got 30,000 searches last month, but that doesn’t mean it’s best for your brand. It’s possible that a keyword with only 1,000 searches last month will get you more clicks and a better return on investment.

The Keyword Planner

Bing also offers a Keyword Planner tool that’s very similar to the tool of the same name in Google AdWords. In fact, if you’ve already used the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool, then you should be able to pick up the Bing Ads Keyword Planner tool very quickly.

Once again, you’ll enter a keyword with commercial intent. Then, you’ll click the “Get Suggestions” button.

Instead of just showing matching keywords by default, Bing Ads will show you Ad Groups that you can use to find keywords relevant to your campaign. You can also click the “Keyword Suggestions” tab and see information similar to what we looked at above.

Bing Ads also displays a bar graph that shows you monthly searches for the keyword over the last 12 months.

Creating a campaign

Now that you’ve gathered some keywords related to your brand, it’s time launch a campaign. To do that, head back over to the dashboard and click on the “Create Your 1st Campaign” button. You’ll arrive on a new screen where you enter campaign information.

The first thing you’ll do is give your campaign a name. Often, you’ll name a campaign after a products category (e.g., “shoes”) or a promotional theme (e.g., “holiday promotions”).

Next, select the time zone relevant to the campaign. This should be the time zone where your target customers live. If your target audience is national or international, it may just be easiest to select your own time zone.

After that, you’ll set a campaign budget. That’s the most you’ll spend during a given time frame on your campaign. For example, if you set a budget of $10 per day, then Bing Ads will stop running your ads once you’ve spent that $10 for the day. Your ads will resume on the following day, when your spend amount resets to $0.

Next, you select the language that you want your customers to speak and the locations where you want your ad to run.

Remember: narrow targeting is generally best.

Writing the ads

After you’ve entered your targeting and budget info, it’s time to start writing the ads themselves. Although Bing Ads makes it easy to enter ad text, it’s probably the hardest thing you’ll do. Why? Because you need to write ad copy that sells. Simply put, there aren’t too many people who know how to do that.

If you’re not confident that you can produce compelling ad copy, then you should consider hiring someone who can. Although you’ll spend more money, you’ll almost certainly waste money if you try to “wing it” with writing ads.

Your ad copy is composed of two parts: the ad title and the ad text. You’re limited on character counts for both, so you have to say what you want to say in just a few words. (That’s another good reason to hire a professional.)

Your ad title will stand out in large, bold letters. That should be an attention-grabber.

The ad text explains the title in a little more detail. It should seal the deal by convincing people to click on your link.

Assigning keywords, match types & bids

Once you’re done writing your ads, it’s time to select which keywords you want to associate with each ad.

Fortunately, you’ve already done your keyword research in a previous step. Now, you just need to add those keywords in the big box. Then, click the “Add” button at the bottom.

Of course, it isn’t quite that simple.

Bing Ads also gives you the option to determine how the keyword you’ve selected matches on a search. The options are as follows:

Broad match — Search queries that contain your keyword or concepts related to your keywordBroad match modifier — Close variations of your keyword based on a modifier you provide. For example, if you enter “+red flower” as the keyword, then Bing Ads will match on “red flower” and “red rose” but not on “yellow flower.”Phrase match — Search queries that contain the same words in your keyword, in the same order, even if other words are usedExact match — Search queries that match the keyword exactlyNegative match — Search queries that won’t trigger your ad

In my opinion, for PPC beginners starting out fresh, “Exact match” is typically the best option. You won’t cast as wide a net, but you’ll also avoid paying for clicks that are irrelevant and don’t contribute to your bottom line.

Keep in mind that different match types can cost you a different amount per click, so be sure to pay attention to the CPC.

When you enter a keyword, you also have the option to bid an amount for that keyword. Fortunately, Bing will provide you with a suggested amount to bid.

You can bid lower than the suggested bid, of course, but that means your ad might not show up very often (if at all). If you bid higher, your ad will probably show up more often, but you’ll eat into your return.

You can also select where you want your ad to appear. Of course, the more prominently you want to display your ad, the more money you’ll spend. You’re dealing with supply and demand here.

Other settings

Once you’ve set up your keywords, it’s time to select a few other settings.

The first thing you’ll want to look at is “Advanced targeting options.” There, you can set demographic info and establish a schedule for your ads.

Pro tip: Depending on your product(s)/service(s), consider running your ad when it’s not business hours in your time zone. That’s because people who are surfing the internet at work aren’t likely to whip out a credit card and make a purchase in their own cubicle. Instead, try to market to people when they’re home, during non-business hours and on weekends. The success of this all depends on the type of business you are in.

You also have the opportunity to decide where you want your ads to run. You might want to run them exclusively on Microsoft properties, or perhaps you want them to appear on Microsoft search partners’ sites as well. That’s something you may want to experiment with.

When you’re done with the other settings, click the “Save and add payment” button. You’ll go through another familiar (although not enjoyable) process of entering payment info.

Don’t be impatient

Once you’ve launched your Bing Ads campaign, you might be tempted to check on its status after a couple of hours. Don’t be surprised if you don’t see any activity.

Sometimes, it takes Bing Ads a while to update its stats. It’s best to wait a full day before checking on anything. Even after a full day, though, you’re not likely to get a good overview of how well your ad is performing. Give it some time to see how searchers are responding to it.

Once you’ve given it some time, then you need to start running tests. Display a couple of different ads with different copy, and see which one gives you the best CTR. Also, run ads with different targeting techniques to determine which audience gives you the best ROI.

No PPC campaign is complete without testing. You must run tests to determine what’s working and, more importantly, what’s not working.

You’ll probably also find that, over time, you need to start adding negative keywords. Those are the keywords that will prevent your ad from appearing. It’s perfectly normal to have several negative keywords per campaign.

Get started now

If you’ve got money to spend on online advertising, it’s a good idea to add Bing Ads to the list of services you use. You’ll reach people who, for whatever reason, aren’t using Google for their online searches. You can also target your audience by keywords and demographics so that you can narrowly define your target market.

Bing Ads is a great way to reach people you haven’t reached yet. Why not set up a campaign today?

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Keyword tiering: A systematic way to juggle your AdWords priorities

Ever feel like AdWords is one giant juggling act? You cut your cost per click, only to watch your conversion rate drop. You increase lead volume, but those leads don’t turn into sales. You finally boost sales, but now your cost per click is unprofitably high…

When does the madness stop?

With all of these apparently conflicting priorities, it can be easy to drop the ball a few times. Or, worse still, you might feel like AdWords isn’t worth the effort, throw your hands in the air and quit.

However, there is a way to juggle all of your marketing goals — a way to balance clicks, conversions, sales and return on investment (ROI).

The secret to this juggling act is… keyword tiering.

Keyword tiering

The idea behind “keyword tiering” (coining a new term here, I guess) is fairly simple: you categorize your AdWords keywords into different tiers based on the results they generate. Then, as your business needs change, all you have to do is turn tiers on and off to meet your goals.

So, if leads are more important than sales today, all you have to do is turn on a few more tiers. If profitability is more important than sales volume tomorrow, turn off a few tiers.

Once you have effective keyword tiers in place, you can instantly adapt to the needs of your company. It’s a straightforward way to match your AdWords advertising to your business goals. And the good news is, it’s fairly easy to implement:

Step 1: Make sure you’re tracking the right metrics

As great as keyword tiering is, it does come with one caveat. In order to set up meaningful keyword tiers, you need to know which keywords are producing which results.

If you’re optimizing for leads, you need to be tracking leads. If you’re optimizing for sales, you need to be tracking sales. If you’re optimizing for ROI, you need to be tracking revenue. Depending on which metrics you’re tracking, that may mean you need to implement conversion tracking on your site or ensure that your CRM is tracking sales at the keyword level.

Unfortunately, only 29 percent of AdWords advertisers are even tracking conversions effectively enough to use keyword tiering. Far fewer are tracking sales and revenue at the keyword level.

If that describes your business, now is the time to fix things. A full description of how to track AdWords performance through to sales is beyond the scope of this article, but this article should help you get started.

Step 2: Define your keyword tiers

Once you are tracking all of your relevant metrics and have keyword data for a couple of sales cycles, you can define your keyword tiers. How you define your tiers will depend on your specific business and marketing goals, but it’s often easiest to start with four basic tiers.

For example, if you are using AdWords to drive leads for your business, you might set up your tiers as follows:

Tier 1: Highly profitable keywords

Tier 1 keywords are your all-stars. They have a proven track record of producing profitable sales — in fact, there are very few reasons why you should ever turn these keywords off.

These keywords should always get budget priority and should never have their impressions limited by budget. If a Tier 1 keyword isn’t profitable above a certain average ad rank, it’s okay to lose impressions to ad rank, but never let these keywords lose impressions to budget limitations.

Remember, Tier 1 keywords are always profitable, so if you aren’t bidding on these keywords, you are losing money.

Tier 2: Break-even to slightly profitable keywords

Your Tier 2 keywords aren’t quite as reliable as your Tier 1 keywords. They might deliver hit-and-miss leads or mildly profitable sales, but you can’t count on these keywords to always deliver.

There are a few different categories of keywords that can end up in Tier 2:

Promising keywords. These keywords look like they’ll be winners, but you don’t have enough data yet to be certain. For example, you may have a few profitable sales from these keywords, but you’ve also only had a few conversions, so it’s too early to tell.“Swingin’ for the fences” keywords. Some keywords aren’t particularly profitable most of the time, but every so often they deliver that insanely good lead or sale that makes it all worthwhile.Reliably average. You’ve got plenty of data on these keywords, but you can’t seem to make them produce at a Tier 1 level. However, you can count on them to be somewhat profitable.

The good news is, you can often turn a Tier 2 keyword into a Tier 1 keyword with a little time and effort. But until that happens, keep your Tier 2 keywords in Tier 2 — no matter how much potential you see in them.

Tier 3: Keywords with potential

Tier 3 keywords are usually more bark than bite. These are the keywords that produce a lot of interesting results (like good lead volume or putting a product in a shopping cart), but that’s as far as things typically go.

As a result, these keywords have potential, but since you haven’t really figured out how to capitalize on that potential, they aren’t the first place you should be spending your advertising budget.

However, if your business is trying to grow and you’ve already maxed impressions for Tier 1 and Tier 2, Tier 3 can usually get you in front of a lot of potential customers. All you have to do is figure out how to turn that potential into actual revenue.

Tier 4: Long-shot keywords

Sometimes, you simply need more clicks and conversions. Maybe you’ve got a sales team that is starting to lose momentum due to low lead volume. Maybe your business needs more sales to bring on potential investors — even if those sales aren’t particularly profitable.

Business is complex, and sometimes volume is more important than profitability.

Tier 4 keywords are a perfect fit for these sorts of situations. In general, Tier 4 keywords seem like a borderline lost cause (you’ve had lots of leads but no sales from these keywords). That doesn’t mean they can’t produce good results, but the odds aren’t in your favor.

In general, I prefer to leave Tier 4 keywords off most of the time, but it’s good to have them on hand for the occasional time when you really, really need to boost clicks and/or conversions.

Testing tier

Okay, so this isn’t technically a tier, but I wanted to point out that new keywords you are actively testing should not be grouped into your regular tiers. The whole point of your tests is to determine whether or not a new keyword is viable, so you can’t exactly assign new keywords into a tier until you’ve finished your test.

Step 3: Create your tiers

Of course, simply tiering your keywords in a spreadsheet somewhere doesn’t do your business a whole lot of good. To really use your tiers, you have to be able to sort your keywords in AdWords.

To do that, you need to label your keywords.

Hopefully, you’ve used labels before, but just in case this is new to you, let me show you how to label your keywords by tier. First, open your AdWords account and click on “Keywords.” Check all the boxes next to your Tier 1 keywords:

Then, click on “Labels” and check the box next to the tier you want to assign your keyword to.

If you haven’t created your tier labels yet, click “Create new” and do it now. Guess what? You just assigned all of your checked keywords to Tier 1!

Now all you have to do is repeat the same process for all of your other tiers (you can also label keywords using the AdWords editor if you want to speed things up a bit).

As a quick side note, to see which keyword is assigned to which tier, you’ll need to make sure you’ve added the “Labels” column to your Keywords report. To do that, click “Column,” click on the double arrow by “Labels,” and hit “Apply.”

Congratulations! You just set up keyword tiering! Not too bad, eh?

Step 4. Use your tiers

Now that you’ve set up your tiers, it’s time to take your AdWords juggling skills from this…

To this…

First, you’ll need to create and save a filter for each keyword tier. If you’re still on the Keywords tab, click “Filter” and “Create filter.”

Set the drop-down menus in the filter to “Labels” and “contains any.” Then, click on the last drop-down menu and choose Tier 1 (or whatever you named your tier).

Give your filter a name, make sure “Save filter” is checked, and click “Apply.”

You can now pull up all of your Tier 1 keywords simply by running your custom filter. Use this same process to create filters for your other tiers, and you should be good to go.

Now that you have your tiers set up, the next time your boss says, “We need to cut our AdWords budget by 50 percent this month,” all you have to do is run your Tier 3 and Tier 4 filters, check the box to select all, and click “Edit” and “Pause.”

In no time flat, you’ve cut ad spend to all of your poorly performing keywords. You might still have to make some adjustments to get to that 50 percent budget cut, but you know that you’re spending that limited budget where it matters most.

This tactic might seem fairly straightforward, but the ability to quickly maximize AdWords performance in any given situation can have a huge impact on your business.

Just to show you how this works in real life, here’s what happened when we set up keyword tiering for a lead gen client last year:

In just three months, their cost per conversion dropped by 62 percent. To make things even better, this benefit filtered through to their cost per sale and tripled the profitability of their AdWords account!


If you set it up right, keyword tiering can allow you to juggle priorities in your AdWords account with ease. As a result, your AdWords campaigns will perform better, and your life will be easier.

Talk about a double win!

So, if you’re sick of dropping the ball on AdWords, try setting up keyword tiering. You might not end up in Cirque du Soleil, but life will certainly be easier!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

7 tips for small manufacturers thinking about using AdWords

In my 17 years as a B2B SEO and marketing consultant, I hadn’t really considered giving PPC a go until Google changed the layout for its search results to remove right-side ads on desktop and to increase the number of ads appearing above the organic results to as many as four.

Suddenly, SEO became a whole different ball game, especially since I work with small manufacturers, many of whom are SEO-challenged to begin with. Seeing the lower CTRs and my clients’ listings being pushed farther and farther down on the page, I realized it was time for me to learn AdWords so that I could offer it as a new service.

Thankfully, one of my manufacturing clients wanted to begin a small AdWords campaign, so we agreed I’d set it up and manage it — with the understanding that I was in “beta.”

Although I brought considerable skills to the table, including direct response copywriting, years of analytics and a deep knowledge of SEO and online marketing, I still found myself making mistakes and having to spend time researching to figure things out.

AdWords, I discovered, has a steep learning curve — and if I was struggling, I could only imagine what small business owners must be going through.

What follows are some of the things I learned — from an AdWords newbie perspective — that you can use if you’re considering an AdWords campaign for your small manufacturing business.

Tip #1: Take time to read the documentation

It’s deceptively easy to start an AdWords campaign and begin wasting, oops, I mean spending money immediately. Why? Google doesn’t let you complete your AdWords account setup without first creating an ad and making live.

It’s much more difficult, however, to make your campaign effective. AdWords has an incredible number of moving pieces. You have the Search and Display networks, remarketing, plus all the add-ons: extensions, dynamic insertion, bid adjustments by device and so on.

It really helps, therefore, to take the time before opening your account to read through Google’s documentation. That way, you can decide where you want to place your focus — and your budget.

Google does a nice job of explaining exactly how AdWords works. I advise taking at least a week or two to read through the Setup and Basics guides — and be sure to watch the videos, as they’re quite helpful. Do this learning in small chunks of time so that you retain what you read.

TIP: Once you’re ready to open your account, work through the setup process, which includes creating an ad, then put your now live campaign on pause until you’ve completed your strategy (Tip #2).

Tip #2: Create a simple strategy

The Google AdWords interface comes in two pieces, which can be a little confusing if you’re a newbie. One is the AdWords interface itself — the part you log into (Figure 1). The other is the downloadable AdWords Editor.

Figure 1: AdWords interface (all those tabs!)

A PPC colleague recommended I spend my time inside the AdWords interface first, especially since my campaign was so small, and ignore the Editor for the time being.

By walking myself through all the tabs, I was able to piece out the simple the strategy I’d be using for the client. This strategy included:

Daily budget — Easy enough since we had a fixed monthly budgetNetwork — Search only, no Display (in other words, just text ads)Time of day/Day of week — Standard business hours, Monday–FridayRegion — US onlyThree Ad Groups — Based on the keyword research I had doneTwo ads per Ad Group — To test ad copySitelinks — The pages to which we’d link using the AdWords sitelinks extension. (Figure 2 and an example only; not my client’s ad!)

Figure 2: Example of ad with sitelinks

Search Engine Land columnist Pauline Jakober has a great article, Sitelinks: The Swiss Army Knife of PPC, which I highly recommend you read. Without this information, I would have made a lot more errors.

TIP: Write your strategy out, then refer back to it as you set up your campaign. I recommend you block out a couple of hours of uninterrupted time. That way, you’ll make fewer mistakes.

Tip #3: Understand keyword matching options (huge!)

Because my client provides a custom service and works with companies across dozens of industries, figuring out who to target and how, and which keywords to use, was the most difficult part of figuring out how to make the campaign more effective.

Following Google’s advice, I initially set up the campaign using broad match — and very quickly realized that uh-oh, Houston, we have a problem. Yep, the ads got lots of clicks, but the search terms weren’t at all relevant to my client’s offerings.

At first, I added many of these queries to the Negative Keywords tab In the AdWords interface — but I could see this wasn’t the most effective solution. I also learned, thanks to Pauline again, that I didn’t have to use quite so many keywords (I had followed Google’s advice), so I cut those back as well.

To solve the non-relevant keywords problem, I began reading about keyword matching options — and thus began the short but crazed period of trying to figure out how exactly this all worked: broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, exact match. My brain hurt.

My PPC friend, who had now become something of a cheerleader and advisor due to the questions I was sending him, sent me the link to a WordStream article about modified broad match and why I should use it; the article also included a nice graphic. OK, now this made sense. Thank you!

TIP: Take the time to fully comprehend these options and how they work. Choosing the right option will help you save money and improve your campaign effectiveness.

Tip #4: Make changes based on data, but make one change at a time

Using AdWords was a real eye-opener because for the first time since Google implemented Not Set/Not Provided, I could see people’s search queries. Hot damn! Based on this data, I realized the ads I had initially created based on keyword research did not have the right ad copy.

And I could see I needed to create some new landing pages in order to match the keywords people were actually using.

Instead of creating a bunch of new ads all at once, I created one new Ad Group, then created the landing page for that Ad Group. I did that because I wanted to test the Modified Broad Match option — as well as determine whether creating these more targeted ads would solicit inquiries.

Result: Within a day, the client received their first PPC inquiry and purchase order from this new Ad Group! Woo-hoo!

TIP: Continually educate yourself about AdWords and the options available. A few days after this first conversion, I read up on and then implemented dynamic keyword insertion. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You can always turn something off.

Tip #5: Make sure you can track mailto: clicks from your website

Most small manufacturing websites have RFQ forms, and the conversions for these are easily tracked in Google Analytics. (For further detail, see my column, Setting SEO KPIs for small manufacturing websites.)

The challenge with some of my clients, however, is that the majority of their inquiries come in via email. For a while I had clients track their email inquiries manually, but with the onboarding of my first AdWords client, I wanted to know if a method existed for tracking these inquires.

The WordPress developer I work with, Stephen Merriman of Cre8d Design, did research and suggested we start using Google Tag Manager, which he then configured for me.

With Tag Manager, you add special code to the website; then within Tag Manager, you set up triggers to track specific events, including PDF downloads, video plays, button clicks, and yep, mailto: clicks.

Once you have Tag Manager configured, you can then set up the mailto: click event as a Goal in Analytics, which you can see in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Mailto: Goal

Each click on the email address shows up as a conversion in the All Channels Report (Figure 4).

Figure 4: All Channels report showing Mailto conversions

Tip: To have your RFQ and mailto: click conversions show for Paid Search in Analytics, be sure to import your Analytics Goals into AdWords (Figure 5) rather than directly setting up your Goals in the AdWords interface. (Yep, I made that mistake.)

Figure 5: Google AdWords Tools screen

Tip #6: Track the source of all your inquiries

My client’s AdWords campaign slowly began to take shape. The ads were beginning to appear for the right kinds of search queries, the ads’ position on the SERP began to improve, and clicks began increasing.

However, conversions remained low — okay, non-existent — for the next couple of weeks. Argh! When I reported this to the sales manager, she replied, “But we are getting inquiries. I’ve had three calls, and they’re from the ad. I asked.”

Oh! Good to know! What this told me is that one, I needed to test adding the call extension to the ads, and two, I could stop wasting a sitelink for the RFQ form, since no one was using it.

TIP: Ignore what your competitors are doing. I originally included an RFQ sitelink because everyone else had one. The one thing I love about AdWords is that it’s so easy to test and verify these sometimes faulty assumptions.

Tip #7: Check your AdWords campaign several times during the week

When I first set up my client’s account, I checked the account every single day because I wanted to be sure nothing went awry. Now that things have smoothed out, I check the account every other day or so versus putting it on autopilot.

Checking your account regularly gives you a number of benefits:

You can monitor how your ads are doing in terms of position, clicks, spend and so on — especially in the first few days or after you’ve made a change.You learn quite a bit viewing your search queries — such as whether you have the right keyword match option, if you’re getting the right kind of clicks, or what people are searching for, which may give you some new business ideas.You can compare ad performance over time — I’ve been surprised by what works and what doesn’t.You can determine which next steps to take — e.g., creating a new Ad Group, fine-tuning landing pages, looking at bid adjustments, trying something new (e.g., keyword insertion).

TIP: Consider comparing your AdWords search query data with your Search Console organic query data. When I did this, I learned my AdWords landing pages could also do double duty for SEO.

Am I glad I made the move to AdWords? Yes!

If you’ve been thinking about setting up an AdWords campaign, I say go for it. Now that I’ve gotten over the initial hump, I can see the benefits of paying for clicks. But I still have much, much more to learn.

To help ensure your success and reduce frustration and wasted money, take the time to learn how to set things up properly, especially your Goals in Analytics. Then analyze your data regularly. Without this information, you won’t know if your ads are working!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.