There’s money to be had on the Internet and we want all of it. In this month’s series, PPC Hero will be talking about ways to grow your account to increase its reach while maximizing profits. We can’t have it all, but we can try and try to get ever more of it.

As Star Trek tells us, space is the final frontier.  As working in AdWords and BingAds tells us, betas are the final frontier.  There are things that we haven’t even thought about yet that are going on right now in other people’s accounts.  Some betas fail (like demographic targeting back in the day), others are runaway successes that are now mainstays (like remarketing), but the more that you can include your accounts the better.  (Also, since we’re talking about betas, I wanted to share that this song has been stuck in my head ever since this article was commissioned.)

Betas are a great opportunity to expand your account, but managing them can be a bit trickier.  Due to non-disclosure agreements, we can’t even talk about any of them specifically (which will be the case with pretty much any advertiser that’s involved in them).  Betas have the ability to basically turn us all into Jodie Foster in Nell, who is described by IMDb as a “beautiful young hermit woman with many secrets.”  She also has her own weird language that she made up with her twin sister or something while she was living in the forest.

Discussing and managing betas makes it really hard not to wind up like Nell and say things like the below quotes pulled from the Nell quotes page on IMDb:

Google Betas as Described by NellGoogle Betas As Told by Nell

If you want to grow your account and stay at the front edge of the industry, getting into all of the betas that make sense for your account is imperative, but how do you do that?

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Screen shots are your friend.  Search well, search often and be ready to send your rep a screen grab of the neat little things that you notice or that look new.  Our reps are hard working people with tons of accounts to juggle, so there have been times where they haven’t even heard of stuff that’s going on.  If you’ve seen something, ask about it and see where it takes you.

Talk to People

This is a little weird for us people who spend all day on the Internet, but I’ve found the best source of information on things that the engines are testing is word of mouth.  You know, actually talking to someone?  And almost all of the time it’s not a beta that someone’s actually in, but they’ve heard about it and they’ll ask you if you’re in it.  Which I would never divulge because I love my reps and I value our secret beta friendship, but it does give me fodder for our next call.

You should also know that your clients or bosses are also talking to people about this stuff at conferences and at whatever else clients/bosses meet up at.  (I heard ClientBossExpoCon is going to be killer this year.  {I’m not invited.})  They’re going to hear about things, so it’s imperative that you also keep your ear to the ground.

You could also just go the super simple route and ask your rep.  After reviewing our monthly call rundown they always give the polite “is there anything else?” (that I give at the end of each call with my clients) I always remember to ask “are there any new betas that you’ve heard about?”  We love testing around here, and testing new targeting methods is one of the most exciting testing opportunities of all.

So you get into a beta.  Now what?

  • Double check your settings

In almost all cases, there is something that you won’t have the ability to change on your end.  It’s going to be some sort of collaboration with you and the people on the other side (Google/Bing).  Nobody knows your account like you, so make sure to check all of those little details before pushing it live.  Don’t let something silly in the setup process translate to bad results that then make you think the beta itself is flawed.  Since the entire foundation of that campaign is being tested, all of the details have to be in place.

  • Allocate the right amount of budget

While it’d be nice to think that we can all spend as much money as we want, almost all of us can’t.  Even some people with unlimited money end up running out eventually.  I setup my accounts to maximize top performers and then allocate the remainder of my budget as is appropriate across some of the more marginal campaigns (either in terms of CPL or ROAS).

Within those fringe campaigns, there is going to be one with a high spend potential that can be pulled back as needed.  I think of that campaign (or group of campaigns) as my packing peanuts.  They fill the volume I need to keep everything secure, but they can be removed if there’s something else I want to put into the box.  And a promising beta is something that I want to put into the box.

Decide beforehand what thresholds you’re going to use for your test.  Just as you wouldn’t be willing to let a keyword run for months of poor performance, you don’t want a new targeting method to run indefinitely.  Set achievable goals and make sure to cycle back often.

Also know that sometimes there isn’t volume there.  Don’t assume that a beta will be like a goldfish (or, dare I say, a betta fish) and will grow to fit whatever budget you have assigned to it.  I have some active betas that get an impression or two a day, but that’s not really something I can bank on for my lead-hungry clients.

  • Be prepared for things to change
The Fluctuating Impressions of a Beta Campaign
The Fluctuating Impressions of a Beta Campaign

This is a graph of impressions for a beta that I or someone that I know may or may not be involved in.  The peaks and valleys of this chart have nothing to do with changes on my end, as the campaign hasn’t received any structural changes (lots and lots of maintenance, but nothing that would fundamentally reflect the highs and lows).

One of the biggest reasons that Google and Bing roll things out via beta first is because they’re still figuring things out.  That process involves making changes to their systems, which can really change performance around on our end.  Know that heading into any beta and be prepared accordingly.

Betas are a tremendous way to expand your account, but you have to do it slowly and it takes a lot of help from the good people working at the engines.  Over that last 10 months in one of my accounts, two of my top six campaigns in volume are betas or former betas.

Betas are a great chance to expand your account (and also impress your clients), but they are exceedingly difficult to manage since we are contractually prohibited from discussing them with other people.  Stay on top of the industry to know what’s available, and once you’ve been allowed behind the velvet rope make sure that you act appopriately.  Be prepared for change and learn along the way, and then when it’s released to the open market you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.