Grow Leads 17% By Segmenting Search Partners During Bid Changes

By Amanda West-Bookwalter | @Amanda_WestBook | Senior Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing

Bid changes are a very routine optimization in any account. So routine, in fact, you might have most if not all of it automated. I know in a lot of my accounts I could write out my process for how I perform bid changes to the point that I could replicate that process with automated rules in AdWords or through a bid management system like Acquisio. However, there is something that automated bid rules, and even most people doing manual bid changes don’t account for: the difference in metrics between Google Search and Google Search Partners.

Let me go ahead and qualify this now: this is most applicable/important for accounts that have found being in top ad positions is important for their conversion volume and the return or cost-per-conversion at those positions are within goal for you. Specifically, the account I used for the case study on this generates real estate leads. Their keywords are highly targeted and quality; all exact and modified broad match. Their account structure is great. I ran their account through the WordStream AdWords Grader, and they got a 99%. Therefore, anytime they can be in the top ad position usually results in more conversions still within goal cost-per-conversion. This may not be the case for your account, so be careful!

Why Segment?

When looking at the segmented data for this account, I found the following:

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An astounding 88% of our impressions came from Search Partners, but only 17% of our conversions did. This means our average position of 1.4 for the account was mostly due to the impressions coming from Search Partners. The problem with that is we can see Google Search has an average position of 1.9. It’s influencing the aggregated average position much less, but due to it’s high volume of conversions, its’ actually more important. So, when we are looking at a keyword’s average position during a bid change, we’re looking at an aggregated average position, which tells us more about Search Partners than Google Search. This is a problem, since we want to strive for higher average positions on Google Search due to the high conversion volume there.

How To Segment For A Bid Change

  1. Go to the keyword tab. Set your date range for whatever your preference is when pulling bid reports. Download a keyword report for that date range without segmenting anything. Create a second tab on that report.
  2. Go back to your AdWords interface and set-up to download the same report. This time, select to segment “network (with search partners)” and download the file. Paste this data into the second tab of the other report. Delete everything that reads as “search partners” so you only have Google Search data. Then, delete all metrics except the keyword, match type, campaign, ad group, and avg. position data.
  3. Create a column in the first, aggregated data tab next to avg. position that reads “Google Search Avg. Pos”. Use the V-Lookup function to pull in the the Google Search Network avg. position into this column. I’ve included a video of what this looks like, but here are the instructions for this:
    1. Under “Insert”, select “function” and then “Vlookup”.
    2. Select the aggregated keyword column on the first tab for the first argument.
    3. Select the range of data that includes the keyword data and avg. position data on the second, Google Only, tab for the second argument.
    4. The third argument is a number, which represents the number the avg. position column is within that range. You can see me in the video counting this with my cursor!
    5. Just put FALSE for the last argument.
    6. Hit “enter”, and then drag the formula down.

If you have any results that read “N/A”, then that means that keyword didn’t have any Google Search impressions even though you had Search Network impressions.  If you’re interested in knowing more about what the heck that means and how it could happen, check out our own Sam Owen’s article that looks into it here.

Now, do your normal bid optimizations however you normally do them, but you can look at the avg. position for “google only” instead of the search partner one. You can see, sometimes there’s a difference that warrants a difference in your bid change:

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If I’d just looked at the aggregated data, I would have thought that 5th keyword was at position 1 and not changed it at all. However, I can see it’s actually at position 1.6 in Google Search, so I will want to increase its bid if my goal is to get to position 1 on Google search. You can also perform this Vlookup for Google Only conversions if that interests you to see.

The Case Study Results

So, here are the results!

This data is for the week before the first time we did a bid change this way:

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Here is the data for two weeks later:

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While we see an increase in CPA and cost, it’s still well within our goal CPA. Our goal here was to increase conversions, which we did by 17% overall. You can see we grew conversions on Google Search by 17% and on Search Partners by 15%. We grew conversions more on Google Search because of the concentration on its average position in our bid changes!

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