Monthly Archives: April 2011

What Visible Quality Score Isn’t Telling You


Today we have a guest post from one of our PPC Hero allies! Craig Danuloff is doing a ‘Blog Tour’ to promote his upcoming book ‘Quality Score in High Resolution‘ which will be released in May and is now available for discounted pre-order. In this post he explains some of the lesser-known facts of the quality score metric reported by AdWords


Ready for a simple PPC question?

True or False: Quality Score is a number between one and ten that is assigned to every keyword in your AdWords account.

<Play that Jeopardy music in your head and decide.>

Got your answer?

Sorry, trick question. The answer depends on which quality score you mean.

There is a metric named ‘quality score’ that appears for every keyword in your account. In terms of that quality score, the statement above is true.

But there are other ‘quality scores’ that are used inside the AdWords system to determine whether or not your ads are eligible for auctions, which position they appear in, and even how much you pay per click. The above statements are not true for those versions of quality score.

I’ve taken to calling the first quality score, the one that is a number between one and ten and is assigned at the keyword level, visible quality score. Because you can see it.

More About Visible Quality Score

Visible quality score is a simplified proxy for the average ‘real’ quality scores for a keyword. It is based on a simpler formula than the one used by the real quality scores. It’s also expressed in a different numerical range and distribution.

Visible quality score gives you an idea of how the keyword is performing in terms of quality score. But it doesn’t consider all of the factors that go into the more critical quality score values, so there are things it can’t tell you.

One of the reasons why quality score is so confusing is that people try to answer a lot of the questions they have about quality score, or understand the quality score issues in their account, based on what they see in the visible quality scores. But in many cases visible quality scores lack the level of detail necessary to answer or explain those issues.

Google exacerbates the issue by calling two different things by the same name. Suppose you read a help file that says ‘quality score considers the relevance of your search queries to your keywords’ and so you decide to review query performance in your account. But when you look at your search query reports, and then look at the column in your reports that is named ‘quality score’ it isn’t clear that the quality score you can see isn’t the one that is effected by search queries. It’s easy to get frustrated or confused.

Here’s a few facts that will help you to understand the limits of visible quality score:

  • It only considers performance of search queries that are identical to the keyword. If a broad match keyword was shown in response to 100 different search queries, but only 5 of them were identical to the keyword, the visible quality score only reflects the CTR from those five instances. Match type never matters, just if the query is identical to the keyword.
  • There is only one visible quality score per instance of a keyword in your account. If you buy the keyword three times in three different match types, the aggregate performance from instances where the query was identical to that keyword is used to calculate a single visible quality score that is shown for each instance of that keyword. If you put that keyword in 10 different geographically targeted campaigns, again the aggregate performance of all instances is rolled up to a single visible quality score that is shown for each of them.
  • Visible quality score also ignores the geography of the searchers. This should be clear from the prior example – the keyword will get the same visible quality score in a geo-targeted campaign that has a high CTR as it will in another geo-targeted campaign where it has a low CTR.
  • Visible quality score blends the performance of all text ad creatives and display URLs. The various text ads in your ad groups often earn a broad range of different quality scores, ad copy can be edited or new versions introduced at any time. The impact of these on CTR are all blended into the visible quality score for any given keyword.

Working Beyond Visible Quality Score

Visible quality score has limitations, but it is useful for understanding how your keywords are performing and for managing and improving quality score. It is highly correlated with CTR (another metric where what is reported is an average giving less detail than we might want) which isn’t surprising given that’s effectively what it is tracking.

Visible quality score provides a great warning system. Since visible quality score only reflects queries that are identical to the search query, it probably reflects a relatively positive view of actual quality scores. So if it’s a low number – anything below 6 – you should worry and take corrective action.

There are at least three main issues that visible quality score doesn’t reflect that you should monitor yourself:

  • Search Query Performance – Create new keywords from high volume or important search queries, so they get their own visible quality scores. This is the only way to see how they’re really performing.
  • Geographic Performance – This is a tougher one but if you geo-target campaigns, you can compare CTRs for the same keywords in different geographies. Any areas where a keyword is significantly under-performing may be weighing down visible quality score for that keyword.
  • Ad copy differences – When one text ad underperforms other ads in the same ad group in terms of CTR, it can significantly weigh down visible quality scores. Writing and testing a lot of ad copy versions is always important, but don’t neglect the step where you pause the losers. Letting them run once they’ve proven statistically significantly worse is harmful.

The quality score calculations Google performs to determine eligibility, ad rank, and CPC are complex and done in real time. It would be very difficult for Google to share this data with advertisers.

Visible quality score is not a bad compromise, but like any summary it lacks some of the important details contained in the raw data. By understanding the limitations you can get the most out of visible quality score but also know when it’s time to look past this metric to other clues to tune and improve the performance of your account.


Craig Danuloff is founder and president of ClickEquations, and author of ‘Quality Score in High Resolution‘. The book is scheduled for release in June 2011, but discount pre-orders are available until May 26, 2011.

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Hello, AdWords Topic Targeting!


As you wander through your AdWords account, you may come across an interesting option you haven’t noticed before in the drop-down menu that allows you to add/remove tabs from the interface’s main navigational screen.

What’s that last option? It’s the topics tab! And if display advertising has a significant role in your PPC advertising strategy, you’re probably going to want to figure out how it works.

A few months ago, I talked about my initial experiences with interest category targeting on the Google display network, and, well, topic targeting is…very similar.

Unfortunately, topic targeting does not have the “custom combination” option available with audience targeting which allows you to specify that a person must be a member of more than one group, or one group and not another, to be qualified to see your ads, but that’s probably okay. For one, I am not 100% sure how well Google can determine who is in a given interest category but NOT another, or who was in multiple interest categories, and as a result of this how accurate my custom combination audiences were in their targeting. Adding custom audiences with multiple interest category types also made the traffic in the ad groups to which I applied them nearly nonexistent, so it basically severely restricted the audience to the extent that the ad groups were useless. In summary: there are probably more effective ways to specialize and exclude traffic to a broader topic or audience than making a custom combination audience anyway.

Fortunately I’ve learned a few things about audience targeting since then and those same best practices will apply to topic targeting as well. So we’ll discuss them here, and whether you use audience or topic targeting, you can apply them.

The basic best practices are easy:

Make new campaigns for topic targeted ad groups. Why? Because you want to be able to set your campaign settings to “Relevant pages only on the placements, audiences, and topics I manage” or else you’re basically just running on automatic display network placements just like any basic display campaigns, and that will probably not get you the specialized traffic you’re looking for by targeting topics. I’ve read Google’s description of how automatic, keyword-based contextual targeting works when you have topics in an ad group as well, and the summary is they’ll match you based on your keywords as per normal contextual targeting but if the page matches one of your topics, use your topic bid instead of your keyword bid. This sounds nearly identical to “normal” keyword based contextual targeting and since my goal is to determine the efficacy of more restricted topic targeting, I’m keeping my campaigns set to “Relevant pages only on the placements, audiences, and topics I manage”.

As I said in the interest category post, you might also want to separate each topic into its own ad group, because you won’t be able to see which topics drive your appearance on which websites any other way within AdWords. I also don’t know if multiple topics added to the same ad group interact with one another in some way or if they are just additive, so within my topic targeting campaign I’ve set up ad groups that combine 2 topics plus ad groups that contain each of those topics individually to see what types of traffic differences they see.

Selecting topics is fairly straightforward. You can either type in a keyword and it’ll give you matching topics, give it the URL you’re trying to find topics for, manually search through the topics yourself, or use the codes provided by Google to add them in bulk (you can do this in the interface or via the Placements tab in Adwords Editor). Just remember it’s ultimately your job to determine which topics might drive relevant and useful traffic- topics that seem related might be completely useless in terms of generating leads, whereas tangentially related topics can reach the right type of user.

Once you’ve set up your topic targeting campaign, the topics you’ve chosen will appear in your AdWords Editor under the Placements tab, and you can download stats there and manage them much as you do your managed placements.

Now on to some of the more interesting options:

You can exclude the same topics you can target! One of the more frustrating things about Google’s Display network is that excluding traffic via negative keyword addition and individual site/URL exclusion or the Site and Category Exclusion tool is helpful but can be less effective than we would like.  This is especially true for advertisers who perform well on sites that are more wide-reaching in nature and contain some very relevant pages and many less-relevant pages that are difficult to exclude with any of the available exclusion options. However, with topic targeting, you can exclude any of the audiences that are available to target. Note that this is a much-expanded function as compared to the “topics” available for exclusion within the Site and Category exclusion too. In combination with the other exclusion tools, I think the addition of topic-based exclusion (which looks like it’s available for all types of display campaigns, not just topic-targeted campaigns) should help further decrease irrelevant impressions and clicks. I couldn’t find anything that explicitly says Google will respect those topic exclusions for automatically contextually targeted display campaigns, but since the option is there, I think they will.

At the bottom of the topics tab, you can find this topic exclusion availability for all display campaigns.

Google gives us a handy chart of how topics, placements, and audiences (in this case remarketing audiences) interact with each other and keywords that you should consult while setting up any experimental ad groups you’d like to try to make sure you’re actually targeting who you want to be targeting, as it gets kind of confusing. That said, we’ve been trying a couple of topic/placement/keyword targeting combinations which I’ll describe and justify.

Using topics and keywords together could, potentially, help you reach some relevant users who would be hard to reach with either individually. For example, selecting the topic Fashion Design but adding school-type keywords will allow you to reach users on fashion sites on pages that mention school, so if you are advertising a school, this might allow you a larger reach than placement targeting with more specialization than automatic contextual targeting or topic targeting alone. We are testing ad groups with only topics as well as the same targets plus keywords to see how much traffic is reduced in by targeting both vs. only the topic, and also to see what the difference in ROI is when the specialization is more targeted vs. reaching a wider audience. There does come a point at which further specialization can damage return if you can’t reach enough users so I think it’s worth running these types of ad groups at the same time to test their comparative performance.

Using topics and managed placements together is also an interesting possibility for the right type of advertiser. If you’ve read my posts it’s not a secret that I’m not the hugest managed placement advocate but I think that’s starting to change as I currently have some clients who they’re working well for (using only high-conversion, low cost per lead sites who have a long high-performance history helps and you have to bid more aggressively than you might expect). If you want to target broad-reaching managed placements ( anyone?) rather than niche managed placements but specialize your traffic to a degree, using topics could help you with that endeavor. I’ll create managed placement campaign and ad groups with keywords OR topics to compare how well each works and report back, but I don’t have data on how well it works yet.

And that’s all she wrote for now- if you have any experience with topic targeting and would like to share, I’d love to hear, otherwise, I’ll break down how these various setups work out when they’ve received enough traffic to give me some real data.

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News Update: Hasta La Vista…Search?


Today’s News Update covers an article by Erez Barak of Search Engine Watch: Social Has Crossed the Marketing Budget Chasm; Will It Drown Search?

So, why the cheese-ball 80’s cinema reference? Because according to Barak, there have been a few reports and surveys recently released that show small businesses leaning toward an emphasis on social media marketing instead of the “traditional” search marketing. The first survey he supplies shows that small business use of social media has doubled from 2009 to 2010 and is still on the rise today. Another report tells us small business owners perceive word-of-mouth marketing to be the most critical and they will accordingly allot more money to social media marketing in coming months and/or years than to search or print marketing. Barak explains that this trend is being further supported by larger, more recognizable brands using non-traditional social media to market their products, which allows consumers to trust the smaller businesses using the same tactics and strategies to reach their goals. If Pepsi is doing it, it can’t be that

Barak asks what this change might mean for search marketing and online marketing in general, and he concludes his post with a few tips to help stay on top. But what could you do specifically to maintain relevance and visibility in this ever-changing marketing world?

I suggest two things: start a consumer-relevant blog and a Facebook page. There may be some weekly upkeep on both to make sure your information is staying up-to-date, but the benefits are worth it. From an SEO standpoint, the back links you could provide your website via these two mediums could help bridge the gap between search marketing and social media. If you’re looking at it from the PPC side, Facebook campaigns are extremely useful tools when it comes to consumer products and services (take a look at this article from Abby at PPC Hero about the benefits to advertising on Facebook!) What’s fascinating about the social media world is there are always new outlets to discover, so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to Facebook or Twitter.

What ideas do you have about how to integrate social media into your marketing plan, without counting out search? We want to hear your thoughts on how social media has affected your marketing strategies, or how you think it will continue to change the marketing world from here,. Post your ideas below in the comments section!

For further information about this topic, check out the following links:

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more news updates from PPC Hero and SEO Boy!

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Four Tips to Liven Up Your Facebook Marketing


Many relationship therapists will tell you that the key to a successful long-term relationship is keeping things new, exciting, and fresh. The same is true for our online relationships – if you want to keep your Facebook fans happy, you’ll need to add new content regularly. While you can’t join a French cooking class with your fans, you can still show them you care by treating them to regular updates to your fan page.

Here are a few quick ways to keep your Facebook fan pages and advertising programs fresh.

Create Unique and Dynamic Tabs

Instead of sticking solely to the default tabs, add custom tabs to your fan page so that visitors have a variety of places to explore and interact with your brand.

Make your pages visually dynamic with cool graphics or photographs.

Here are a few great examples of dynamic Facebook landing pages:

Social Rank

Immediately we are asked to “like” this page through the use of a colorful graphic rather than plain text. They’ve also bulleted out some advantages of becoming a fan.

Diesel Landing Page

Diesel’s extremely self-aware landing page makes me smile. Begging for our attention is certainly one way to get it.

Diesel Facebook

Immediately upon “liking” Diesel, we are taken to a new page that invites us to join in on a fun little game by naming the thing you would not want to bring with you to a desert island. They also cleverly incorporated an original “Dislike” icon, integrating their brand into the language of Facebook.

‘Tis the Season for Profile Pictures

Be sure to change your profile picture from time to time. Try to match the season: adding snowflakes to your background at Christmas, pumpkins around Halloween, etc. Although it seems like a small touch, it’s a refreshing surprise for users.

Bigelow Tea Facebook

Bigelow has a plethora of profile pics, each changing with the season. There’s even a Valentine’s Day themed pic. (Because nothing says “You are the pearl of my world, the love and treasure of my life” like a box of tea bags.)

Keep Your Friends Close & Your Enemies Closer

Make sure you’re utilizing your fan page to its full potential. There are lots of good examples of excellent fan pages. Try browsing other company fan pages—especially those of your competitors! Take note of what they do well and where you could improve yourself.

Know how to do damage control – play around with Facebook’s Blocklist options. The Profanity Blocklist filters posts with curse words to a secret Hidden Posts tab that only an admin can see. The Moderation Blocklist allows you to automatically filter posts with certain keywords to the Hidden Posts tab. Blocking certain negative words and competitor names helps ensure that only positive content appears on your Page. The admin can access the Hidden Posts tab and look at any posts that were filtered out. If the admin wants to put the hidden post back on the Page’s wall, they can click the X button next to it and click “Unhide post.”

Generally, it’s a smart idea to set your profanity blocklist to “Strong,” add a range of terms to the Moderation Blocklist, and regularly check out the Hidden Posts section and unhide the appropriate posts.

Be Creative with Your Ad Targeting

If you advertise on Facebook, think about sneaky ways you can improve your targeting. For example, while Facebook doesn’t ask for income information from users, many businesses want to get their ads in front of affluent users.

If you’re interested in finding potential customers in this tax bracket, consider targeting specific high-profile job titles such as President, CEO, and Partner. Target those who “like” classier travel destinations such as “Ibiza” or “The Hamptons,” and don’t forget the expensive hobbies like “horseback riding” or “yachting.” You can also target the geographic location of the wealthy by picking out specific neighborhoods and suburbs belonging to the upper crust.

In the new “Broad Category” targeting, you can target luxury goods. If someone’s spending big bucks on mink coats and sports cars, chances are they have some money to throw your way too!

About the Author: Megan Marrs is a marketing associate at WordStream, a provider of PPC management software and services, as well as a new Keyword Research Suite for discovering and organizing keywords for SEO and PPC.

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Developing a Pay-Per-Click Strategy


We spend a lot of time writing about the do’s, don’ts, and how to’s of PPC but I thought it would be a good opportunity to write about the bigger picture.  All marketing plans have to start somewhere and it certainly isn’t without research and loads of planning. This article is aimed at helping you to understand and devise a strategy for your pay per click accounts.  Without further adieu let’s begin by discussing the differences in goals, strategy, and tactics.

Goals vs. Strategy vs. Tactics

Goals are what you are working toward.   Each brand should have a clear, measurable goal.  If you don’t have a goal it is hard to determine what you should be doing long-term to further the account.

To develop a goal, answer these questions:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • By what time do you want this to happen?
  • Is this attainable? (Seriously, it’s great to have high goals but don’t hurt yourself by making impossible goals.  If your goal is impossible, it will throw off all of your benchmarks.)
  • On that note, what are your benchmarks?  (Create objective checkpoints that you can measure your progress with.)

Write down your goals and share them with the team.  If the goal isn’t easily understood, it may need to be revised.  Above all, make sure that the whole team is clear on the account goals.

Once you have a clear goal, you need to devise a strategy.  Your strategy should be an idea that addresses the goal.  Sit down with your team and brainstorm ways to achieve your goal, consider as many ideas as possible before deciding on one.

Lastly, tactics are the day-to-day activities that are taken to execute the strategy.   Without a clear strategy, tactics are sometimes used as quick fixes, instead of as part of a greater plan.  We all use tactics to optimize and maintain our accounts but without a strategy, the account will not progress.  At best, it will maintain its performance.

As an example, your goal might be to generate 100 more leads in May.  To meet that goal, your strategy might be to create more campaigns, such as Display network, Retargeting, and another product campaign.  Some of your tactics regarding the new product campaign might be to do keyword research surrounding the product, create landing pages, and write ads.  You’d also want to add to your retargeting tactical plan: create audience targeting, determine which pages to retarget, place the code on those pages, create the retargeting campaign, and write the ads for the retargeting campaign.  Lastly, for the display network campaign, your tactics might be to do keyword research, break the keywords up into ad groups, do market research on images and copy, develop image ads, create landing pages, and implement the campaign.

To devise the best strategy there are some things to review:

  • Understand the brand
    • What services or products do they offer?
    • Do an analysis of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (S.W.O.T.)
      • What are they known for? (Positive or negative)
      • What do they pride themselves on?
      • How are they already marketing themselves?
  • Understand the competition
    • Who are they?
    • What are they doing?
    • How are they different?
  • Know your target market
    • Who are they?
    • What do they want to achieve?
    • What matters to them?
    • Use the above questions to develop an avatar of your target customer and create a scenario such as:
      • (Insert name here [male or female?]) is trying to do this____________.
      • (He/She) wants to accomplish ____________.
      • (Name) values ________________.
      • (Name) (has/hasn’t) heard of the brand.
      • (He/She) enjoys ___________ and likes to look online for ideas.
      • (He/She) (is/isn’t) afraid to make purchases online and (is/isn’t) internet savvy.
      • (Name) may be concerned about ______________ this.  The implications these concerns will have on our marketing are ___________, ____________, and ______________.
      • May sacrifice (price/quality/quantity/____________) for the sake of (convenience/time/money/brand trust/__________).

Remember that SEO and PPC aren’t the entirety of the marketing plan (most likely), so it’s important to assess an overarching strategy for all mediums before developing a strategy for pay per click.   How are the other mediums working and how can you work together to achieve a common goal?  If the other mediums aren’t working, what can you do with PPC and SEO to fill the gap?

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WTQ?! 12 Weird Search Queries, and What They Say About Your Audience


Of all the routine tasks we do for PPC, updating our negative keyword lists is my favorite.  Why?  I’ll give you a hint: it’s not the CPC comparisons, nor analyzing an account’s keyword health.  It’s not even the satisfaction I get from telling Google that, actually, I’m the better judge of relevancy (thank you very much!).  No.  The true reason I love working with negatives is because it means I have an excuse to pour over our search queries.  And sometimes, those queries are worth their weight in gold.

Ah, search queries, those unedited moments of personality that come with a click.  Granted, because we work very hard to keep our keyword lists refined, most of the time there aren’t many surprises in an SQR.  But every now and then, you stumble across a word that makes you confused, amazed, amused, terrified, or all four at once.  I call those WTQs – “What The Query?!” – and I love them.

Sometimes, these WTQs reflect wishful thinking from searchers (“people should not wear unfroms to school”), or unusual tastes (“chicken decor inside the home”).  Other times, WTQs remind me that some people treat Google like a consultant (“I want to buy bicycle online and make monthly payment can I do that”), or even a secret confidant (“my boyfriend wants to adopt my 2 year old her dad is in preson”).  But my two favorite types of WTQs are those that make no sense when compared to the ad group they’re connected to, and those that, well, just make no sense at all.

So without further ado, here are my top 5 search query -> ad group connections from the last few months.  I promise, I’m not making this up.

5. “archery lessons” -> Art School

4. “fencing” -> Interior Design

3. “list of dirty things” -> Online Scheduling

2. “landscape companies” -> PPC Management

1. “dr dre beats laptop software” -> Business Continuity

And as a grand finale, here are my top 7 search queries that are just plain strange, no ad-group explanation needed.  Seriously, guys.  WTQ?!

7. “trombone fetish”

6. “how to wear a thong to school”

5. “how do i make a fashion desine with fabrick?”

4. “cocaine use and aortic dissection”

3. “how to ride a book”

2. “please google help me find a publisher”

1. “argeneau vampire family tree how to contact by phone emergency”

If anyone can explain #1, please, please, let me know.

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News Update: Google Instant–Win, Lose or Draw?


When Google asked users to buy-in to Google Instant, the general consensus was that PPC and SEO efforts would not be affected (though some felt SEO might indeed be dead). Matt McGee of Search Engine Land wrote his initial thoughts the same day as the Instant announcement, and he placed his bet with Instant. He emphasized that Google made it clear there were rules in place to determine what counted as an “impression” to keep any huge shift from occurring in SEO or PPC marketing. Some believed the effects of Instant would be negative, but they also weren’t folding until they knew for sure what those changes were.

So maybe I get caught up watching hours of the World Series of Poker unintentionally, and I may have picked up a few terms, but you get the point: everyone had opinions about what Instant might mean for PPC and SEO, but it was all speculation without data.

Now, it’s been more than seven months since Instant sat down at the table, and there’s data to look at, making this a hot topic at the SMX West conference last month. Jessica Lee of the Bruce Clay Blog attended the conference and wrote an article that relays what Google’s representatives were saying about Instant’s progress. There were reports that long-tail keywords were showing better overall organic click-through-rates on the SEO side. For PPC, users appeared to suffer from “shiny-object syndrome” and were clicking on ads 63% less due to distraction by the Instant feed (possible solutions to that problem were offered up).

It would appear there are benefits and drawbacks to Instant’s implementation in search, but how has it changed how you play your hand? We want to hear your thoughts on Instant now that you’ve had some time to see what effects it has had on your game plan, so share your opinions below in the comments section!

For further information about this topic, check out the following links:

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more news updates from PPC Hero and SEO Boy!

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PPC Hero Knows 4 Ways To Increase Your Display Traffic


Remember when we asked you to show us your PPC villains?  PPC Hero heard your cries and came rushing to the rescue!  This month’s culprit: declining Google display traffic, submitted by erikalynneparke. A worthy opponent indeed!

Question: I have seen a 30% decline in traffic from February to March in my placement campaign. What can I do to address this issue?

Check out PPC Hero’s response below. He took some time to offer four simple steps to increase display network traffic, all while taking care of some office “chores.”  Making coffee, catching thieves, answering your display advertising questions…it’s all in a day’s work for PPC Hero.


Question: I have seen a 30% decline in traffic from February to March in my placement campaign. What can I do to address this issue?

Answer: Well, there are two types of placements campaigns on the display network: one where you simply choose websites that you feel are relevant for your message, and another where you include keywords as well as managed placements to help you appear on relevant websites and pages.

If your display campaign is using placements only and your traffic has declined, first check your bids. On the display network, you have to out-bid your competitors for the ad spot so make sure your bids are high enough for your chosen sites. Secondly, did you exclude any placements in the last few months? If so, review your exclusions and make sure you aren’t eliminating sites that were bringing in substantial traffic.

If your display campaign is using placements as well as keywords for contextual targeting, do the same thing! Make sure your bids are high enough for your managed placements and make sure you’ve made the right site exclusions in the last couple months.

Another thing you can look into is how your campaigns’ ad groups are structured. Our best practice is 3-5 keywords per ad group. You want to treat ad groups more like keywords on the display network—have multiple ad groups with only 3-5 highly targeted keywords. Consider adding more ad groups to expand reach.

Also, have you recently added negative keywords? Go back and check them to be sure you aren’t excluding terms that actually are applicable to your site. We recommend using the placements and keywords tools on the content network to get your campaign as much exposure as possible on the display network.

Thank you for tuning into Hanapin Marketing’s video blog. For more news and information about the pay-per-click industry, check out our blog at, and our Twitter account, PPCHero.

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My Top 5 Excel Tips for PPC Managers


This post is in response to you, our readers!  In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve added a box at the bottom of the page where you can write to the PPC Hero team with ideas for us to write about next.  This is great as it allows us to give the people what they want and learn things that maybe we hadn’t thought of visiting before.  Thanks for all your responses!  Now on to my favorite Excel tricks…

When I first started working in PPC, I had some experience in Excel, but nothing beyond what the common person would use it for.  Sure Excel can add things together, and help me budget, but there’s so much value in this program that doing PPC without it is simply ridiculous.  Now a days, when I’m teaching people how to do a PPC task, I make it a point to make sure I’m contributing any Excel knowledge that I can to make it easier for them from the beginning.  The following Excel tools are things that I use on a regular basis that I think would have saved me a lot of time.  As always, there’s still more to learn – do you have an Excel trick that you absolutely love? Share it in the comments section!

1.) The VLookup Function: I love this little gem.  The Vlookup is no secret to PPCers, but it’s something that I didn’t know right away, and I’m thankful to have it in my arsenal.  This function is highly useful in PPC.  For one, you can use it to analyze your data over two different time frames or you can use it to compare a list of new keywords that you want to add to your account to keywords already in your account.

When an account starts to go on a downward spiral for no apparent reason, the best place to start is looking at where you were a month ago, six months ago, and a year prior.  Sometimes in PPC, we do things to accounts that can have long-term consequences that we didn’t think of beforehand.  Maybe you turned something off that was never activated again?  Maybe more competition has turned off in the market place and you need to bid more competitively.   Taking the time to pull data together and look at it side by side is the best place to start your research and come up with an action plan.  Check out Amy’s article on PPC Hero for some tips on analyzing a PPC account with a historical performance review.

It’s really easy to accidentally add duplicate keywords in your account.  For the most part, if these keywords are in separated campaigns that are geotargeted differently and focus on separate areas (search vs. display), they won’t interact with one another.  However, adding duplicates to campaigns that are targeting the same area is a big no-no as you can end up increasing your own costs as your keywords compete with one another for positions.  By using a Vlookup function to compare additions to current keywords, you can avoid this conundrum and have a better functioning account overall.

2.) Find and Replace:  I’m pretty sure the first time I had a big list of Google tagged URLs that needed to be converted for use in Bing, I just generated a whole bunch of brand new URLs.  Live and learn, I suppose.  If you’re new to PPC and making the same sort of mistake, save yourself some time and use find/replace to your advantage.  Download all of your URLs from the Adwords Editor and replace Google for Bing, along with any other search engine specific tagging you’re using in your URLs, then spot check them.  It’s also beneficial to do a find for anything that might break your URLs (like slashes, commas, apostrophes, ampersands, etc.) so you can replace them.  Badabing, Badaboom – upload into Bing.

Find and Replace is also super useful in creating modified broad terms for Google.  It’s a bit time consuming, but it’s a whole lot better than manually adding a ‘+’ before each word.  You just highlight your keyword column and type the word for Excel to find, then replace it with a + in front of it.  Acquisio has a tool for creating modified broad, which works pretty well and bypasses Find/Replace altogether.  Unfortunately, I can’t get it to export correctly as it downloads as a .tsv.

3.) Concatenate: Here at Hanapin, we have a different URL builder for just about every client.  This way, we can generate hundreds of URLs quickly with just a few copy/paste commands.  Creating individual URL builders would be really difficult without the help of the Concatenate Function.

Concatenate essentially combines data from separate cells to form one combined product.  As you can see in the example from one of our URL builders below, it compiles all of the relevant information we need to track conversions and, for lack of a better word, mashes it all together.  In the example, we’re keeping track of leads that come from PPC, and specifically which keyword, campaign, ad group, and landing page they came from.

4.) Character Case Conversion Tricks: Snaps to Bethany for this trick.  One day, I found myself wishing I had a tool that could easily change my character cases, and she delivered on it.   You can use this for your Bing keywords, or when you need to quickly make changes to ad text in Excel.

=PROPER(cell) – Capitalizes the first letter of each word in a cell

=UPPER(cell) – Makes every letter uppercase in a cell

=Lower(cell) – Makes every letter lowercase in a cell

Most people are familiar with Dynamic Keyword Insertion in Google, where you use a special command in your ads to pull the actual query into an ad to make it more relevant to searchers.  Google makes it very easy to capitalize your text for DKI.  For example, in Google, {KeyWord:ad headline} will capitalize the first letter of each word for you, so your ad will look like (assuming it goes to default text because the keyword was longer than 25 characters):

Bing is a bit different.  When you use dynamic keywords in Bing, the way you capitalize {Keyword} won’t make a difference as to how your headline appears.  One way to combat this technicality is to upload your keywords into Bing in the case you would want them to be inserted in an ad.

5.) Conditional Formatting: This tool goes hand-in-hand with the Vlookup function.  When you use a Vlookup to conduct a historical performance review of your account, try using conditional formatting to quickly highlight increases or decreases in your data from the previous time frame.  Instead of searching for the data manually that has changed, you can simply color code.  In the example below, I’ve set the condition to anything in the column less than zero to be highlighted in pink.  From here, I can begin making decisions on how to proceed.

Well, there you have it!  These are my top 5 Excel tools that I use on a regular basis for my PPC tasks.  I hope that if you’re not currently implementing any of these, that you’ve learned something new!

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Search Marketing Madness Champion


After a month of tough competition, PPC Prospector has been named our 2011 Search Marketing Madness tournament champion! They will receive the new Kindle 3G to keep up on all the latest SEM news.

We want to thank all of our readers for casting their votes each round in support of their favorite blogs. All 64 nominated blogs provide a great source of search engine marketing information. If you want to check them out, here is a list of the blogs in each category:

Search Marketing Madness

Thank you and see you all next March!

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