Bing Ads now supports call conversion imports

Marketers running Bing Ads campaigns can now import call conversion data so they can tie calls back to campaign efforts for attribution.

Third-party call-tracking systems can integrate directly with Bing Ads via the Offline Conversion Import tool or APIs.

CallTrackingMetrics is among the first call-tracking services to participate in the program. The system can automatically send session and conversion data to Bing Ads campaigns.

Bing Ads first began supporting offline conversion imports in September of this year, enabling advertisers to attribute offline conversion events captured in their CRM systems.

Is holiday paid search more competitive in 2017 than 2016?

The busy 2017 holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and we’ve already witnessed impressive Y/Y sales growth on key shopping days.

As advertisers dig into their own performance, many are taking stock of the competition to get a sense for what other brands are doing. This was a key topic for a #ppcchat Twitter conversation immediately following Cyber Weekend, in which host Kirk Williams posed the following question to chat-goers.

As you can see, most brands felt they saw more competition this year than last year, though 39 percent felt it was about the same. Zero respondents felt that there was less competition this year than last.

Taking a look at Auction Insights reports from Google for a sample of large Merkle retail advertisers, we can get a sense for how many brands were bidding on paid search keywords this year compared to last. As always, the metrics found in these reports and the stories they tell will differ significantly from advertiser to advertiser, but the following gives some quantification of what the paid search competitive landscape looks like this year compared to last.

It also illuminates at least one important 2017 change that advertisers should take into account when comparing these metrics Y/Y.

More shopping competitors than last year

Taking a look at the period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday Y/Y, we find that the average number of Google Shopping competitors included in Google Auction Insights increased pretty significantly for each day. The largest increase came on Black Friday, with a 42 percent increase in average numbers of competitors featured.

That’s a lot of additional competitors gobbling up impressions this year compared to last year!

However, one issue that might have increased the number of competitors without any actual change in the number of competitors is Google’s mid-May 2017 update to impression share calculation. With this change, Google increased “the universe of total impressions” it looks at for impression share.

Per Google’s communications, brands might have seen their own impression share decline in May with the increase in total impression volume taken into account in impression share calculations. However, Merkle brands actually saw a modest increase in Shopping impression share beginning in May relative to early 2017 and have continued to see higher impression share.

Taking a look at the number of competitors included in Google Shopping Auction Insights by month since last November, we find that the number increased steadily from November 2016 to April 2017. In May, the number of competitors jumped significantly, and this figure has held roughly steady since late summer.

Thus, it seems like Google’s impression share calculation change might be the culprit of much of the increase we’re seeing in Cyber Weekend competition this year compared to last. It’s possible that the jump in competitors is unrelated to Google’s change and actually does represent an influx of competition in May, but the timing makes me think the two are related.

Looking at competitors by device, phones and tablets saw the biggest jump in the number of competitors Y/Y for most days. Desktop saw its biggest jump on Black Friday and its smallest jump on Cyber Monday.

Number of text ad competitors slightly down

On the text ad side, we actually find that the number of competitors included in Auction Insights declined slightly Y/Y for each day from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.

Broken down by device, we find that phones saw the largest declines Y/Y in the number of competitors.

Conclusion

So what does all this mean?

There are definitely more competitors in Shopping Auction Insights this year compared to last. However, we observed a jump in May at a time when Google changed how it measures impression share. Thus, at least some of the increased competition might be the result of reporting changes.

Text ad auction insights show no signs of increased competition over Cyber Weekend this year compared to last on average for the sample studied, and in fact indicate slight declines in the number of brands competing.

Answering the question posed by the title of this post, I think it’s fair to say that Google Shopping is seeing more competition this year than last year, especially since we know at least one massive brand is now involved that wasn’t at this time last year. However, there’s reason to believe that competition might not have heated up quite as much as Auction Insights indicates.

On the text ad side, the decline in the total number of competitors isn’t massive but does seem to be consistent enough to represent a real change from last year to this year. Was the change a real decline in the number of competitors or a shift in something on Google’s end? That’s tough to answer, but the indicators at least point to a conclusion that there was not significantly more competition in text ads this year compared to last over Cyber Weekend.

As mentioned earlier, the competition observed in Auction Insights varies significantly by advertiser, and, as this post shows, also by device and ad format. What is your brand seeing this year?

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

The importance of targeting branded searches

Search experts understand the importance of targeting non-branded search terms: Optimizing for high-volume, non-branded terms can drive a significant amount of traffic to your brand’s site.

While targeting non-branded search terms plays an essential role in your overall search strategy, many brands still underestimate and neglect the power of branded search terms. By relying on the strength of a brand and integrating branded search tactics with current non-branded search strategies, your business can discover more qualified leads — and, as a result, increase conversions.

The role of branded search in consumer behavior

For many established companies, their branded terms make up a majority of their keyword profile. If people are searching for your brand or products by name, they’re likely deeper within the sales funnel. In fact, Google has found that branded keywords have over two times higher conversion rates when compared to non-branded terms. So why would brands shy away from increasing or stepping up their branded search efforts?

Let’s flip the script and put you in the customer’s shoes. Say you’re searching for a fitness tracker your brother would love this holiday season. When you begin your gift hunt, are you more likely to search for “best fitness tracker for men,” or for “best Fitbit for men”?

Data from Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Due to the Fitbit’s brand awareness efforts, the product is iconic enough that consumers search for it more often than non-branded terms. Search engines like Google, Bing and Amazon recognize the strength of the brand — SERP layouts and competitive pricing reflect this.

Brands working to improve their conversions need to work the entire marketing funnel. For brands or products well-known enough for branded search terms to be relevant to audiences, it’s important to know how audiences discover your products so you can target these branded search terms. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table for competitors and review sites to take for themselves.

Integrating branded search tactics into marketing strategy

With a strong brand, and thus stronger branded search terms, bread-and-butter search tactics will have some incredible advantages. These advantages span both paid search and organic search tactics, affecting every aspect of search from the page rankings, search boxes, knowledge panel, and even map results. With branded search, search engines will recognize your main site, if optimized for best practices, as the most relevant site for searching by potential customers.

Organic search

Your home page and (if applicable) product category pages should rank the best for high-traffic branded search terms. Your title tags and meta descriptions should clearly display these branded search terms and relevant context that encourages searchers to make the decision to click. Once they do, the site should match the promise the SERP listing made with this copy.

Your goal should always be to dominate the first page and to obtain the highest positions with optimal branded search efforts. Brands should not only focus on their branded terms at the user’s research and consideration phases of the funnel, but also the post-purchase phase.

In the research phase, searchers will find strong, relevant brands first and foremost. Consider that they will also be looking for reviews, pricing and where to buy the product. This information should be available to users prior to their converting.

But the job isn’t done after converting. Post-purchase, many users will search for more information about the product using branded terms — installation instructions, how-to guides, proper cleaning and maintenance techniques, general product help and more — and these searches should lead to your website.

All of the brand-related terms throughout the sales funnel have heightened search term relevance to affect consideration, conversion and continued use.

Paid search

If you plan to own as much real estate on the SERPs as possible, paid search is an essential tactic to earn qualified leads. Even if you have obtained the top ranking in organic search results, research suggests that having an ad can produce incremental clicks. With little competition, it’s pretty easy (and cheap) to own these paid search spaces.

With branded search ads, you should be making use of ad extensions. These will provide more information to searchers, which can make your ad stand out and entice users to click. Certain extensions — such as sitelink, location or price extensions — can also increase your listing’s SERP real estate, particularly on mobile.

Keep in mind that Google factors ad extensions into its Ad Rank calculation, so proper use of extensions can give you an edge over competitors who may be running conquest campaigns on your brand name.

Other branded search considerations

Beyond the basics of SERPs with organic and paid search listings, you should be taking advantage of additional branded search real estate options that should be taken advantage of, including:

Organic sitelinks, the links that are displayed under the top organic search result. They’re important since they occupy a lot of SERP real estate and can function as an outline of your site, helping users to navigate to your other top pages. Google determines whether it will provide sitelinks or not, so you don’t have direct control over this — but you can help Google out by submitting an XML sitemap and having your site set up with a logical hierarchy.

Apple shows six organic sitelinks for a branded search. Note the site search box, too.

You want to make sure map results are showing up for you if your brand or business has physical locations. To do this, you need to ensure that you’ve set up Google My Business listings with the correct NAP (name, address and phone) information.If your site has an internal search function, you then have a solid chance of a search box showing up on Google. If it doesn’t display within the SERPs, you can utilize structured data markup per Google’s guidelines.The Knowledge Graph helps users discover business information quickly and easily. Google will pull this information automatically from trustworthy sites like Wikipedia or WebMD. With the right mix of search tactics, you can obtain a Knowledge Graph result for your brand. Make sure that you have all social channels, a solid description, reviews and accurate information correctly displaying in the eye-catching Knowledge Graph.

Final thoughts

Branded searches are imperative and shouldn’t be overlooked. Many assume that search queries involving your brand will naturally lead to your website, but that’s simply not the case. Without optimizing your paid and organic search efforts to capture branded searches throughout the entire purchase cycle, you’ll be missing out on tons of potential new traffic and conversions. Owning as much real estate as possible for your brand is crucial, especially during high-traffic seasonality.

Oftentimes, branded search terms can be the last channel touch point for consumers who are about ready to convert on one of your products or services. By incorporating branded search into your overall digital marketing strategy, you can quickly accelerate your brand, helping it stand out on the SERPs and provide a better experience to audiences.

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

Omnichannel shoppers collide with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, setting new records

Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to gain cultural significance across the US and the globe as shoppers and retailers deepen their relationships through enhanced technology, stronger/more personalized deals and a singular online-offline approach. As for 2017, all major metrics trended up, including click volume, mobile purchases, foot traffic and overall sales. Cyber Monday 2017 marked the biggest shopping day in US history, with over $6.59B in sales, including a record-breaking $2B in mobile sales.

Bing (my employer) also saw strong positive trends, with a YOY jump in clicks across Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the entire month of November. In the US, clicks were up 9 percent (cross-device) between Black Friday and Cyber Monday when compared with the same time period in 2016, and we also saw clicks up 12 percent YOY for the month of November. The rise in clicks is likely due to large retailers who extend Black Friday deals earlier and later — a trend US consumers have come to expect as retailers like Walmart and Toyota offered week-long Black Friday deals.

This increase in clicks YOY wasn’t just a trend we saw in the US, but also around the world, as Black Friday and Cyber Monday become a global phenomenon. Bing’s international clicks across all devices were up over 17 percent for Black Friday and 20 percent for Cyber Monday.

The holiday numbers also support a strong omnichannel approach throughout the 2017 season. According to Matt Shay, CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), 51 million Americans shopped exclusively in stores throughout the holiday weekend, 58 million Americans shopped exclusively online, and a majority 65 million shopped both, representing the new sweet spot for leading retailers.

The online, mobile and in-store experience needs to work in harmony if retailers are going to continue in the new economy. The NRF reported that over 174 million Americans showed up in stores over the holiday weekend as retailers wooed consumers with free coffee bars, foot massages and cosmetic samples. As the numbers show, these same shoppers went home to buy online, many of them making purchases on their phones. The Home Depot even reported seeing more mobile traffic than desktop.

Black Friday deals also popped up in some new places, such as the Amazon Alexa, where users could find early deals starting November 22 through voice shopping. In classic omnichannel form, Amazon leveraged their Whole Foods brick-and-mortars to promote their Alexa devices. Every retailer should be following suit, combining their online and offline forces for maximum impact.

Bing’s Black Friday to Cyber Monday search trends

I love digging into the query reports post-Black Friday and Cyber Monday to highlight a few trends and see what has changed in consumer behavior as users search for deals this holiday season. Here are the insights I uncovered based on search trend data from the 2017 Black Friday to Cyber Monday shopping period:

Don’t forget to add year-modified keywords

We continued to see the trend where consumers are adding the calendar year to their search queries when looking for specific deals and offers. The top Black Friday and Cyber Monday intent-related keywords can be summarized in the following query combinations:

‘Tis the season for tech and entertainment

As in previous years, we saw a surge in tech-related queries as consumers searched for the latest phones and gaming consoles. It’s no surprise to me that the most-searched-for tech items are the two that are almost impossible to find with a discount: the iPhone X and Xbox One X.

We’re also seeing search trends that point to this year’s hottest toys. Last year, Hatchimals were the toy du jour; this year, Fingerlings have taken over. There was also a surge in searches for Yu-Gi-Oh! Dueling Nexus.

It’s also the time of the year to be entertained, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the movie “Bad Moms Christmas” as one of the top new queries over the holiday weekend.

It’s not too late

There’s still time to make the most of the 2017 holiday season. Here are five quick ways you should be using search to leverage your omnichannel strategy:

    Get ready for Green Monday. The 2016 comScore data rated the second Monday in December, or Green Monday, as one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Be sure your campaign budgets are high enough to accommodate a likely spike in traffic on Monday, December 11.Watch your budgets: Make sure you account for high-traffic shopping days. 2016 comScore data showed a string of 27 consecutive billion-dollar shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up from nine consecutive billion-dollar days in 2015. If this trend continues, it is worth keeping an eye on campaign budgets between Thanksgiving and Christmas, paying special attention to your top traffic days for the 2016 holiday season to make sure you don’t run out of budget before the end of the month.Know your shipping cutoff dates. Make it easy for your customers to understand the deadlines for ground shipping, two-day shipping, next-day shipping, or even same-day shipping, so their gifts can make it on time. I pulled together the dates from USPS, UPS and FedEx for you in the graphic below:
    Use ad extensions to call out shipping cutoffs and promotions. No one likes buying holiday presents only to miss the cutoff by a single day. Be sure to clearly communicate your shipping requirements with customers, including placing it in ad copy and site extensions. It’s not too late to use countdown ads customizers in your ad copy to call out shipping cutoffs or to call attention to those last-minute holiday promotions.If available, advertise free store pickup. Most of today’s leading retailers are offering free store pickup as a solution for busy holiday shoppers. If applicable, advertise free store pickup in ad copy and site extensions, especially after shipping cutoff dates pass.

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

Google’s all-new, quite counterintuitive guide to ad testing

Over 2 1/2 years ago, I wrote about how ad rotation works in AdWords. Since then, a whole lot has changed. Most recently, we’ve simplified the options for ad rotation. Let’s take a closer look at how ad rotation works now and what that means for ad testing.

How AdWords picks which ads to show

The goal of ad-serving in AdWords is to deliver a tailored message that meets a searcher’s needs. This means delivering ads that people want to click on and getting better results for your business.

In the new world of ad rotation, things are pretty straightforward. You have two options:

Optimize: Prefer best-performing ads.Do not optimize: Rotate ads indefinitely.

When you don’t optimize and rotate your ads indefinitely, the system will rotate ads from the ad group to choose which one enters the auction. If it’s that ad’s turn, then it’ll enter into whatever auction is happening at the time. A worse-performing ad will get its turn in that auction as long as you leave that ad running.

Optimized rotation — which both Google (my employer) and I recommend — considers a bunch of signals, none of which is “which ad’s turn is it?” I’m a firm believer in the optimize setting, and I think you might be one, too, after hearing how it works.

AdWords takes many things into account when predicting your CTR (click-through rate), such as the user’s query/device/location, the historical performance of your ad and factors which affect the visibility of your ad, such as position and extensions.

When you think about that pairing between ad and query, I think it’s easy to see why we also recommend more ads whenever possible. When you have more ads present in an ad group, you increase your chances of finding the right match across all of those variables we look at.

That’s the theory of it, and our internal numbers show the performance benefits are real. Going from one ad to a minimum of three ads in an ad group can give that ad group up to a 5 percent to 15 percent lift on average in both impressions and clicks (with incremental uplift for each additional creative).

Ad rotation in action

Let’s see some examples of ads in action. Imagine you’re advertising a hotel trying to generate bookings in New York. One of the keywords you’re bidding on is “hotels in New York.” From that one hard-working keyword, you’re matching to queries like “best hotels in NYC,” “cheap NYC hotels,” “new york hotels central park” and “hotel in new york tonight.”

For this simple example, I’m referring to a broad match keyword that can match to different queries. I don’t want to tackle account structure guidance here, but this advice about more ads applies even if you prefer more specific ad groups with a tighter match between keyword and ad. If you want to talk account structure, you can check out my previous post that touches on the problem of oversegmentation.

Anyway, here’s the ad you have in your ad group:

On the query “hotel in new york tonight,” this is a fantastic ad. Based on everything at play, that ad could show up in position one with an outstanding CTR. However, performance would be predicted to be much worse on queries that don’t mention booking for tonight. If a user is worried about saving some money or being near Central Park, the ad above doesn’t have a ton to offer. As such, you might lose impressions on those queries.

After looking at your search terms and performance overall, you decide to add some new ads to the ad group with new headlines. Here are the ads you implement:

You now have an ad group that is much more competitive on additional queries (“cheap NYC hotels” and “new york hotels central park”). You also might start to see additional impressions on new types of queries like “discount hotels new york.”

Here’s one thing to consider: You’re winning more impressions on those queries, but you might be branching out to areas where the competition is doing a great job. On those additional impressions you’re receiving, your position on the page is worse than what you’re used to. A lower position translates to a lower CTR on your ads. But you’re now competitive in more auctions, getting more impressions and clicks and reaching queries you might not have been able to before.

Don’t make decisions based on ad-level metrics (including ad-level CTR)

One ad’s CTR shouldn’t be the main way to decide how effective that ad is. Here’s what I’d propose instead: Use ad group-level metrics, particularly impressions, clicks, conversions and CTR. Those metrics are much more impactful for your bottom line than one ad’s overall CTR would ever be. Ad group-level impression share is another great thing to start reviewing before, during and after ad tests. (Ad-level impression share doesn’t exist for a variety of reasons.)

CTR alone can be misleading because ads show on all sorts of queries in all sorts of contexts. Different ads in the same ad group will show under totally different circumstances; there’s no way to control for all of the different devices, locations, situations and everything else that goes into one auction.

Think about the hypothetical Central Park ad I mentioned before. It might be the lowest CTR in your ad group, but if you pause the ad, those impressions aren’t being redistributed to another ad with a higher CTR. Those impressions are simply going away.

But I don’t want to stop testing my ads!

I like testing, too! I’m not suggesting it goes away entirely. I am, however, suggesting that you remove A/B ad testing from your standard operating procedure. Here’s a test I’d recommend if you really need to scratch your testing itch.

Test an ad group with one ad (A) against an experiment ad group with four ads (A, B, C and D) with rotation set to optimized. You can use drafts and experiments to create these two versions. That way, you’re testing to see whether or not more ads result in more impressions and clicks at the ad group level.

Keep in mind, though, that the whole point of the optimized setting is that you don’t need to test ads A and B against each other anymore. Those two ads now work together instead. As a result, you don’t need to discard ad text that has a “losing CTR.” Instead of choosing the winning option A and making the losing option B leave town, you should plan on having options A, B, C and D all active at any given time. Delete stuff whenever an ad stops seeing a large fraction of the impressions and therefore generates minimal to no clicks. Then add a new ad to the mix. It’s better to have options.

And here’s a quick note: No matter if you are using manual bidding with optimized rotation or Smart Bidding, our system is always working to find the best creative to serve. For the selected creative, Smart Bidding adjusts the bid based on the predicted conversion value. No matter what bidding you use, my advice about ad testing remains the same.

Conclusion

Ad rotation has been streamlined recently, but selecting which ad will receive an impression is a more involved process than it’s ever been. Add more ads to your ad group so that your optimized ad rotation can win more impressions, clicks and conversions for your account.

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

Google rolls out AdWords promotion extensions, custom intent audiences & ad variations for testing

Google made a few announcements for AdWords advertisers just in time, before Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season in the US next week.

About a year ago, Google started testing promotion extensions in text ads. That beta extended to the new AdWords interface this summer. Now, they are rolling out globally in all supported AdWords languages and currencies in the new AdWords interface (aka the new AdWords experience). Promotion extensions let advertisers display specific offers in their text ads without having to create new ads. They can include a percentage off, a promotion code and offer period.

Custom intent audiences

On the Google Display Network, Google is rolling out custom intent audiences to enable advertisers to target “people who want to buy the specific products you offer — based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.”

Anthony Chavez, director of product management for AdWords, explained in a phone interview yesterday that there are two flavors of custom intent audiences. In one variation, advertisers can create their own based on topics and URLs that people who are likely to be interested in their products read about and visit. The second variation is machine-learning based and automated. Google will create an audience based on the campaign and infer characteristics of target consumers.

The auto-generated custom intent audience lists will be surfaced to advertisers in the Audience Center as an auto-created audience. Google will show reach and performance estimates for each of these audiences.

Ad Variations

A new way to test ad variations is also rolling out in the new AdWords. Google says you can now test this across thousands of ads in a few clicks. Google will show the results of the test once they are statistically significant.

You’ll find an Ad Variations tab, along with Campaign Drafts and Campaign Experiments, in the new UI. The example below shows a headline test using “Happy Holidays,” but advertisers can also use ad variations to test display paths and descriptions.

Google wants you to be excited about the new AdWords experience

If you aren’t a fan yet of the new AdWords experience, you’re going to find it increasingly hard to resist it as more new features are rolled out exclusively in the new interface. As an incentive for giving it a harder try, Chavez pointed out that the new interface has unified audience management in one place, improved the ads preview experience and beefed up what’s shown in the Opportunities tab — including an MCC view that enables managers to apply recommendations across accounts.

“We are trying to make it more assistive to help managers be more effective and efficient,” said Chavez. One example is that the campaign construction workflow now asks for the objective up front and then surfaces most relevant features in set-up workflow.

5 surprising paid-search insights to help you win the holidays

Whether you are ready or not, here come the holidays! Black Friday is only three Fridays away, and it — along with the holiday season more generally — is one of the best times of year to get your products in front of the millions of shoppers searching for the right gift at the right price.

Recently, my colleagues at Bing Ads and Merkle led an enlightening presentation on strategies for making the most of your paid search campaigns this holiday season. And they shared a few insights that may surprise you.

1. It’s not all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Bing Ads data reveals that many of us are procrastinators (no surprise there). But what you may not know is that Black Friday and Cyber Monday only comprise 17 percent of all holiday sales. Forty percent of gift purchases are made after these big days.

What does this mean for you? While you definitely want to reserve ample budget and bid early to capture Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, you’ll also want to budget for sales throughout December. And don’t forget to include a little extra budget for those post-Christmas shopping sprees. (That’s when you’ll see me doing my shopping!)

Tips:

Use a campaign planner to benchmark and project your seasonal traffic spikes.Set up automated rules and alerts to track ad spend in real time. That way, you’ll have plenty of budget in place to win sales late in the season.Make sure your titles include all the relevant details like brand, size and color. Be mindful of character limits, and test the order of product attributes to determine what drives the best traffic.

2. Early-bird shoppers account for 39% of holiday sales

Believe it or not, there are lots of early birds searching and buying well before Thanksgiving. In fact, while 30 percent of holiday purchases are made year-round, 9 percent of holiday purchases are made in the weeks before Thanksgiving. This means you need to plan early and have your campaigns ready by early November (Hint: that’s right now)!

November is a prime time for individuals who are researching their upcoming purchases and for those who don’t procrastinate (like me) to get their shopping done early. In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, you’ll want to be sure that you focus on building brand trust by making it easy for searchers to access product reviews and comparisons (and purchase, of course!).

Tips:

Use extensions to link to reviews and product comparisons.Expand keyword coverage to include research-centric terms like “ideas,” ”best,” “kids,” and “women’s.”Don’t forget about remarketing! They already came to look; make sure that they come back when they’re ready to buy.

3. One for you, two for me

Self-gifting is big this time of year. In fact, people shop for themselves 70 percent of the time during the holiday shopping season, especially when it comes to apparel. I know I have a hard time passing up on that amazing sale while shopping for my family. (What we don’t know is how many of these folks actually wrap their gifts to themselves!)

Tip:

Consider testing “treat yourself” ad copy for popular items with self-gifters.

4. There’s more to Thanksgiving Day than feasting and football

Like the turkey, search is hot on Thanksgiving. Shoppers are scouring the internet as they plan their Black Friday shopping sprees. What are they looking for? Deals, of course. The week of Thanksgiving, you’ll want to showcase your upcoming deals — then, on Black Friday, make it easy for customers to find your store and coupons.

Tips:

Adjust copy to include relevant keywords and seasonal attention-grabbers like “special holiday offer” and “Black Friday deals.”Use countdown ads to show the sense of urgency for great limited-time offers and deals.Make it easy for shoppers to click-and-call your business or find your nearest location from their mobile device.

5. Saturdays are popular with the hobby & leisure crowd

And hobby and leisure shoppers also generate more click volume earlier in the season. Think about the days that your audience might be searching. For example, if you sell products in the hobbies and leisure space, Bing data shows that Saturdays are a popular shopping day, although people begin their searches early in the season.

Tips:

Know your audience’s habits, and bid accordingly.Pay attention to trends, including the types of devices being searched on and the days of the week (and time of day) shoppers are clicking and buying.

Final thoughts

So, what are you waiting for? The holidays are literally right around the corner, and you’ve got just a few more weeks to get your products in front of holiday shoppers!

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

Creating a B2B and B2C overlap strategy

B2B and B2C search marketing efforts are two different animals. From keyword development to prequalifying searchers through ad text, distinct strategies need to be developed for each audience.

In some cases, businesses have a need to market to both consumers and businesses. For example, the PC/laptop industry makes a significant amount of money from sales directly to the consumers but also generates a significant amount of revenue working with companies who supply their workforce with computers.

Segmenting keywords by audience

In cases where a business is pushing both B2B and B2C search marketing efforts, an “overlap strategy” needs to be developed. The overlap strategy outlines the rules of engagement for keyword segmentation between the two marketing efforts. For each keyword, one audience-focused effort will receive priority or ownership, depending on the audience to whom it is most relevant.

An example of this is as follows:

Keywords:

New touch screen laptops.Best laptop for college.Laptop for small businesses.

When looking at these keywords, each can potentially be segmented into one of three categories: B2C, B2B or overlap.

The keyword “best laptop for college” most likely fits well within the B2C segment, as it provides signals that someone is shopping for a new laptop as they head to college. The keyword “laptop for small businesses” clearly calls out businesses, pushing this toward the B2B segment. Finally, the keyword “new touch screen laptops,” while most likely falling under the B2C segment, theoretically could be an IT person or business owner looking for new touch screen laptops for their company — thus placing this keyword in the “overlap” segment.

For keywords that fall cleanly within the B2B or B2C segments, they receive “ownership” of the keyword. That means these keywords will only be utilized within that specific audience’s set of campaigns or account (more on this later). Keywords that fall within the overlap segment become prime opportunities for testing between audience accounts and, when possible, double serving.

Segmenting the keywords by audience can be a laborious process, but when done correctly, it can significantly increase efficiency in your online sales or lead generation process. Many elements go into the segmentation process, including but not limited to: historic performance data, primary or secondary research and qualitative insights from key audiences such as customers and internal stakeholders.

Strategically leveraging double serving

When it makes sense strategically, double serving can be a useful tactic to present both B2C and B2B text ads and prequalify your audience through specific callouts within the ad text. In order to double serve, the brand must use different domains for their B2B and B2C efforts and have contextually different websites. It is wise to not try to game Google or Bing in these cases, as they actively shut down mirrored websites attempting to take advantage of double serving.

As mentioned above, double serving can be used strategically and efficiently. While it will not make sense on every keyword, a keyword like “new touch screen laptops” may make sense for a company that just pushed out the latest and greatest touch screen laptop.

Double serving on this keyword may look something like this:

As you can see, callouts exist within the ad text to prequalify the searcher. The top ad specifically calls out “Home Laptops,” while the second ad mentions “Workforce” and “Make Your Team as Efficient as Possible.” Using language that speaks to a specific audience can help eliminate wasted clicks.

In some cases where the audiences are extremely specific, the title of the target audience can be used within the ad. For example, if you happen to be marketing a pharmaceutical drug, calling out “Official Patient Website” or “Official Physician Website” in your ad text can help prequalify the searcher.

Double serving can make sense in a few different situations. If your brand has a substantial amount of popularity, you may find both consumer and business audiences searching high-level brand terms. In cases like this, double serving makes sense. Of course, bid rules will need to be implemented to limit bid inflation. This tactic can also be utilized if competitive brands are bidding on your brand name. With higher Quality Scores, you should be able to push their ads down by taking up the top two spots.

Your strategy must continue to evolve

As consumer purchase behavior changes, so should your strategy. It will be very dependent on your product and how educated your audiences are, but in order to truly be successful, you must continue to test and optimize your overlap strategy.

By monitoring site traffic at the keyword level, you can review which keywords are converting well and which keywords are jumping from one site to another, and determine if keywords should be moved to different groupings. It does not hurt to pause a keyword in one audience-specific effort and test it in another. The point is to always review what the data and insights are telling you and ultimately improve.

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;}

Keep your paid search skills sharp. Get news and info direct to your inbox!

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.

Pinterest opens search ads to self-serve advertisers, adds ‘autotargeting’ option

Eight months after Pinterest rolled out search ads, the company is making the ad placement available to advertisers buying ads through its self-serve ad-buying tool, Pinterest Ads Manager, the company announced this week. Pinterest is also introducing a new option for brands to target their search ads beyond the traditional set of keywords.

[Read the full article on Marketing Land.]