For this month’s series on PPC Hero, we’re taking a look back through our archives and revisiting some ideas we’ve talked about in the past and how the past year or more has changed our thinking about them. Things are always changing in PPC, and our views and opinions about it are no exception.
This month we’re looking at the exciting world of changes. More specifically changes in the past 12 months that have affected the way we manage our PPC accounts. While planning for this blog post I noted down a ton of things that have changed for me personally in terms of how I do PPC, and wanted to start the series by talking about all of those changes. Over the next few days some other PPC Heroes will take a more in-depth look at a few of these items, so hold on for those!
I’ve tried to break the following changes up by themes: Account Structure, Settings, Analysis, Bidding, Conversions and Technology. If there are any other major changes you think you’ve noticed in the past 12 months, feel free to share in the comments below!
1. The most obvious major change of the past 12 months is that Enhanced Campaigns now impact the way I set up my accounts. In particular, I no longer have separate Desktop, Tablet and Mobile campaigns, but merge them all into one.
2. I’ve changed the way I deal with Match Types in PPC. First, I now prefer to have separate ad groups for each of Exact, Phrase and Modified Broad matches, because I feel like this makes the data (particularly CTR) easier to look at and also allows me to be more flexible with my use of keywords. Second, I have almost completely abandoned regular broad match for new campaigns in favour of Modified Broad. I still use Broad, but when I do it is in a separate campaign (in order to control budgets) and it has a specific purpose of being for mining new search queries only.
3. I have far fewer campaigns broken out for Geotargeting. This is also a result of the improved bid adjustment options from Enhanced Campaigns. Whereas before I knew that I’d have to have my campaigns spun out to bid accurately, now I can keep my account a lot cleaner and still do it.
4. Display Campaigns are now layered differently. Whereas before I would keep everything in one display campaign (per theme), now I separate Contextual, Topic, Interests and Remarketing. The reason for this is that you can only have one of these as your main bidding option. I like to then have ad groups which layer each of these on top of one another. For example my Contextual campaign might have a ‘keywords only’, a ‘keywords + topics’, and a ‘keywords + ICM’ ad group within it. Coupling this with demographic data has allowed me to be a lot more thorough in analyzing which particular targeting options are working best, and what my bids should be set to.
5. Product Listing Ads (or PLAs) are now a huge deal for any eCommerce account and have completely altered the way you need to prioritize getting your PPC accounts set up. For more info on these see our mini series on PLAs.
6. I’ve reduced my ad Impression Frequency, particularly for remarketing. I now gather data to help work out where the tipping point is between extra conversions, wasted spend and being annoying (generally 5-10 impressions, per user, per day) – see this video for more info on this!
7. I’m much more active in speaking with Google reps about potential AdWords Betas than I used to be. While I can’t disclose any specific info, I have seen some really positive results this year from some new opportunities and I’m always on the lookout for new ones. For more info on betas look here.
8. I take a more proactive approach to having my Account Budgets optimally set using Excel Solver.
9. Bing have done a great job in the past 12 months at improving their interface. I’m much more active at getting clients set up in Bing, especially with how easy it is to import directly from Google through the interface nowadays. Remember you will need to do separate analysis still, but getting nicely constructed accounts copied is a piece of cake.
10. I’ve been looking to make a much better use of Sitelinks since Enhanced Campaigns came in. It turns out that people actually do click them, so making sure you are linking to specific relevant products with strong landing pages is key. Having ad group level sitelinks has also really improved the way I can lay out my branded campaigns, by allowing me to be much more specific to areas of a website.
11. I make use of a much wider selection of Keyword Research Tools than I did 12 months ago: AdWords, Bing, Wordstream, Wordtracker, WordNet, Word Hippo, Uber Suggest, SEM Rush, Spyfu, Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com and more. See here for more info on these tools.
12. I’ve started working with AdWords Scripts to improve the way I mine data from my accounts. These are relatively new in PPC, but very powerful for helping with specific tasks that other automation software might not have exactly the right tools for. For example, we wrote a script to create a bidding matrix, which tells us which keywords are bid way too high, need to be paused, have low conversion numbers etc. While these things are all possible without Scripts, it definitely improves speed and reliability to automate a few of these processes. See here for more info on AdWords Scripts.
13. Emailing AdWords Reports at the start of every month automatically has made me much better at checking all the information I need to in my accounts. Whereas before I would check things like geography, time of day and search partner data on a fairly ad hoc basis, I’m much more organized and prepared to spot errors in my accounts. These are pretty simple to set up under the download button in AdWords but can be a real time saver.
14. I make much better use of Call Tracking this year than I have done previously. Being able to track booked calls back to specific AdWords and Bing campaigns has allowed me to be much more effective with my bidding strategies. For more info on call tracking, see here.
15. Being able to use CPA bidding with Many-Per-Click data has brought me back into the camp of liking to use the Conversion Optimizer.
16. Almost contradictorily to point 15, I’ve actually swung back slightly in favour of more Manual Bidding in some accounts. This entirely depends on the account performance, but I’ve found becoming entirely detached from bidding can mean I don’t catch as many errors and am limited to the bidding software being used. There are a lot of clever options that can be done within AdWords that I’d like to highlight:
17. Using Google Analytics data for bid changes has improved the way I bid on non-converting keywords, or in accounts that for some reason can’t get conversion tracking. By looking at things like time-on-site and pages per visit, I’m able to add a new layer of complexity to the values I assign visits from specific words. For info on how to link this data to your AdWords account see here.
18. Day Parting used to be one of my favourite tricks in a PPC account, but my opinion of it has waned fairly strongly. This came about from a couple of case studies where Day-Parting was strongly harming my results, and I concluded that this has a lot to do with the changing nature of internet usage. Particularly, with more people checking information on their phones at night or on their commutes to work, those times that I had been thinking were wasting money were actually valuable research hours. In one case, I saw a 27% drop in overall conversions from removing times that had no history of converting! Until Analytics gets better at cross platform attribution I will be much more wary of it.
19. Focusing on Assists is much more at the front of my mind. Google gives us much more detail from our Search Funnels than ever before, and making sure we use information about which keywords are leading to conversions down the line has become even more important in handling bid management. Please use search funnels!
20. CRO has become much more intrinsic to my PPC work than it was 12 months ago. Making sure that ad copy and landing page message line up, and that we get the right message for each keyword is increasingly important, particularly against overall rising CPCs and competition from PPC. I aim to get each of my clients a 25% boost in their conversion rates from working on these items, which then allows me to reinvest extra money into PPC.
21. Using an Ad Testing Matrix has really improved the structure and frequency of my ad copy testing. Essentially this means that I plan and record all of my ad tests, and that I conduct meaningful ad tests that are planned in advance – no more ‘let’s test headlines this week’. Good ads also = better conversion numbers.
22. I now use Impressions Until Conversion as my main ad testing metric. One of the big problems I used to have was trying to figure out the best ad between one with a high CTR and low C/R and a low CTR and high C/R. Instead of setting my ads for ‘focus on clicks’ or ‘focus on conversions’ I now pull the data and work out how many impressions it would take for each of those ads to convert. This ensures I’m always showing the ad most able to generate the maximum number of leads/sales. For more info see here.
23. Making use of a technology platform (in our case Acquisio) has saved a ton of time with reporting. By making use of these available tools I’ve added valuable time to my week to spend on other areas of PPC.
24. Integrating some of my clients with Google Tag Manager has been another beneficial change over the past 12 months. It enables me to place or change Analytics/Remarketing codes without having to wait for clients with slow developer response times.
25. Attribution Modelling has become easier thanks to some of the technology platforms out there. I’m now able to assign value to impressions and clicks in the conversion cycle depending on the network they came from and how long ago they were.
So there you have it, my top 25 changes in PPC since June 2012! If there are any that have particularly impacted your working processes, please let us know below!