Category: PPC Advertising

Google Instant Previews – Impact on SEO and PPC?

As a quest to provide its audience with a better user experience – and to some extent catch up with Bing – Google unveiled its new search feature: Instant previews.  The new feature provides a snapshot image preview of the web page on the SERP when hovering over a magnifying glass icon next to the search listing.

The idea is to provide searchers with a visual overview of the search results to help them choose the most relevant result faster.  As Google Instant previews lets users have a quick view of a web page before they visit it, this makes having visually appealing pages more important if you would like to improve your CTR.

The idea is not that new.  Bing has already been providing a form of text preview on its SERPs and Ask used to offer the preview option.  Google has combined and enhanced the ideas by storing a screenshot of the websites it indexes and displaying them on the SERPs. They also highlight the most relevant text from the page together with the image.

How Google Instant Preview Look Like

Google Instant Previews

When you click on the magnifying glass, the preview will appear on the right of the search result.  Even though the preview does not cover the organic search results, it does cover the PPC ads.   So, this can have an impact on the CTR for PPC Ads which probably Google is evaluating as well to see how it will impact their ad revenue and might make some adjustments accordingly.

Google Instant Previews will also have an impact on how companies deal with their site design and SEO.  Moving forward web page appearance will have an impact on getting a click.  The page title and Meta description tags still matter but now a web page’s visual appeal is a new contributing factor.  If your site is poorly designed searchers will simply skip your site and move to the next search result.

As Google will handpick the most relevant content on the page and highlights it on the Instant Preview, as always you need to make sure you have integrated relevant keywords into your web pages.   Some of important places to implant your keywords are titles, opening sentences, subheadings and closing paragraphs.

Even though Google Instant Previews will not affect your page ranking directly, your CTR overtime can have an indirect positive or negative impact on your site.

Google Boost – Advertising for Local Businesses

To help those who search for local businesses, Google has been offering local vertical and to help local businesses to promote their businesses provided them with local business center (renamed to Google Places).

Recently Google introduced a new feature called Google Boost which allows businesses to create search ads directly from their Google Places account eliminating the need to create and run local ads using Google AdWords.

With Google Boost, businesses set up their ads once and do not need to manage their ads on an ongoing basis after the initial set up. The ads added to Google Places, may appear either in the Sponsored Links section of Google or Google Maps results pages.

Google Boost

Google Boost for Local Businesses

Google Boost can have major impact both on SEO and PPC Advertising. As Google boost will take over most of the SERPs, small businesses need to pay more attention to their Google Places account and add as much information about their business as possible and optimize their listings.

It will also entice more small businesses to get sponsored links through Google Boost making the local phrases more competitive.

Of course this is a beta feature which is being tested in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago. Interested businesses outside these locations can request to receive notification when Google Boost becomes available in their area by filling out this form.

Account Transition – Smooth Landing for Search Alliance

In my previous articles, Yahoo & Microsoft Alliance and Optimizing for Bing, I mentioned about the plans of Microsoft and Yahoo to merge and its impact on natural search results and search engine optimization.

The other major impact of search alliance will be on pay per click (PPC) advertising on both Yahoo and Bing.  Microsoft adCenter will become the search advertising platform that will be used by both companies and will manage the search advertising marketplace, including the API platform for bid management and reporting tools for big search marketers and SEM agencies.

Yahoo and Bing Search Alliance

Yahoo and Bing Search Alliance

Account history (reporting and scoring) will not be carried over from the Yahoo Search Marketing platform to Microsoft adCenter during transition.  Nevertheless, Yahoo will continue to provide access to the last 13 months of Yahoo Search Marketing account reporting and history after the transition.

Advertisers starting new accounts on Microsoft adCenter will need to re-establish their keyword and account histories. Naturally, the marketplace will shift when the Yahoo traffic is added to Bing, so you need to monitor and optimize your account to ensure that everything works smoothly.

If you are already managing keywords on the adCenter platform, that account will retain its reporting and performance history.

As a result of each company continuing to own its own consumer search experience, there may be variances in the number of ads that are displayed in each location on the page.

Moving forward, your ad rank on Yahoo and Bing SERPs will be the same based on several factors including the amount you bid, your ad’s relevance, and your ad’s click-through rate.

Yahoo and Microsoft will enforce their jointly created editorial guidelines.  So, advertisers need to review the updated editorial guidelines to see if their ads and keywords are affected as some ads in your account may get disapproved during the transition to adCenter,.

After the search alliance, Yahoo and Microsoft will have a combined market share of 20% – 30% (depending on the market/vertical).  If you only run ads on only one of these engines, you should be expecting an increase in your traffic and ad spend.  If you currently running ads on both Yahoo and MSN, your overall traffic should theoretically stay the same though Yahoo and MSN believe it will increase.

Search Alliance Market Share

Search Alliance Market Share

Depending on the market, the situation might be different.  However, in most cases, you should be expecting an increase in overall CPC as you will be facing with more competition.

Soon, you will be able to access a transition portal from within your Yahoo Search Marketing account, which will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating a Microsoft Advertising adCenter account and importing your campaigns, or linking an existing adCenter account you may already have.

As a search engine marketing agency, we have been working with Yahoo and Microsoft account teams to plan the transition. The three main options are:

Search Alliance Transition Plan

Search Alliance Transition Options

Yahoo & Microsoft Search Alliance

It seems that the Yahoo and Microsoft Search Alliance is going to happen as planned in October and we are not going to wait until the end of holiday season.  As announced back in February, Yahoo and Microsoft forged an alliance to provide their users with a new search experience by providing relevant results faster and offering more value for advertisers and in the process challenge Google’s supremacy.

Once the search alliance is in place, the organic search results pages will be served by Bing and paid search listings will be served by Microsoft adCenter instead of Yahoo Search Marketing platform.  Nevertheless, Yahoo will continue to enhance the search results by providing relevant content from Yahoo content properties, vertical search and search tools and filters.  So, both companies will continue to have differentiated consumer search experiences.

Yahoo and Microsoft search alliance does not cover companies’ display advertising and other web properties such as email and instant messaging.

In the upcoming posts I will talk about the impacts of Yahoo and Microsoft search alliance on PPC campaigns on Yahoo and Bing (MSN) as well as what needs to be done as far as SEO is concerned.

Broad Match Modifier Was Rolled Out

Back in May, Google introduced AdWords Broad Match Modifier by launching the beta version in Canada and UK.  The broad match modifier is a targeting feature that lets advertisers create keyword phrases in their AdWords accounts which have greater reach than phrase match and more control than broad match.  Google has now rolled out the broad match modifier globally.

The earlier test I did, in some of the niche accounts, the new match type has proven successful.  The challenge I had earlier with these niche B2B accounts was that with the phrase or exact match types I was not getting enough traffic and with the broad match, I was getting a lot of not-so-relevant impressions and clicks.  So, on a daily basis I had to add negative keywords to my Google AdWords Ad Groups and Campaigns.

With the new modified broad match, I was able to create a balance between getting enough traffic and keeping the need to add so many negative keywords to minimum and improve the overall ROI.

Depending on the type of campaign, this new AdWords matching type might or might not become handy. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth trying.

Google AdWords Testing New Ad Delivery

Google has been trying a new format of ad delivery for AdWords.  It seems that Google is testing showing ads under different headings.

The ads with the higher quality score, most likely triggered by exact match keywords, seems to rank high.  Then Google shows the other ads under different relevant headings most like triggered by broad match keywords.

Google Testing New Ad Delivery Format

Google Testing New Way to Serve AdWords Ads

Google AdWords Search Funnel Reports

One of the challenges search engine marketers had been facing was that the only way they had to analyze, optimize and measure the success of an SEM campaign solely based on the last click conversion.

Even though considering the contribution of the last click conversion to the success of a campaign is important, ignoring the attribution of other keywords that have contributed to the search funnel, including the first click, can prevent you from seeing the full picture. This is due to the fact that people perform multiple searches before they make a decision and covert.

The attribution model was one of the reasons Microsoft introduced Search Funnels in Microsoft adCenter Labs when they tried to push MSN adCenter. This tool helps advertisers in visualizing and analyzing the customers’ search sequences. However, the shortcoming of this tool is that it is not specific to your campaign.

Google AdWords Search Funnel report helps search marketers make more informed decisions when it comes to bidding or deciding whether or not to keep a keyword in the account by giving you insight into the decision making process your customers go through before converting. Without knowing the attribution of a keyword to the conversion path, you might delete a keyword and hurt your overall performance.

Google AdWords Search Funnels include reports such as Top Conversions, Assisted Conversions, First Click Analysis, Last Click Analysis, Time Lag and Path Length. Here is an overview of Search Funnel Reports:

Google AdWords Search Funnels

In order for Google AdWords to show these reports, you need to have AdWords conversion tracking code in place or import goals from your Google Analytics to your Adwords account. Keep in mind that Search Funnels only show data from and only for those keywords that show up in at least one conversion path and for ad impressions and clicks within 30 days of the conversion.

Broad Match Modifier – AdWords Broad Match Modified

Google just announced a new modifier to its broad match.  AdWords has been offering 4 main types of keyword matches for quite a while: Broad match, phrase match, exact match and negative match.

Broad match: night stand can trigger ads for Cheap Night Stand, Night Stand Deals, Stand For Night Lamps, One Night Stand!

Phrase match: “night stand” can trigger ads for Cheap Night Stand and Night Stand Store

Exact match: [night stand] will only trigger ads for Night Stand

Over years Google has made some adjustments to broad and negative matche types.  As for broad match, they started offering extended matching meaning Google AdWords could show the ads for phrases that Google thinks are relevant. For example showing your ads for Night Stand when people search for Bedroom Furniture.

The advantage this matching type has is that it helps advertiser reach a broader audience as it triggers your ads for close variants and synonyms of their keywords. However, the challenge is that it can also trigger your ads for some irrelevant search queries.  So, it is important to continuously run Search Query Reports to identify possible negative keywords to add to the campaign.

Google also added phrase and exact negative matches to help advertisers better control what phrases trigger their ads.

The recent addition to Google AdWords match types is the broad match modifier that lets PPC advertisers create keywords which have greater reach than exact and phrase match while giving them more control than broad match. If you only use exact and phrase match keywords in your account, adding modified broad match keywords to your pay per click campaign can help you get more clicks and possibly more conversions at an attractive ROI.  However, if you use broad match, using the broad match modifier will mostly likely reduce your traffic and number of conversions.

You can implement the modifier by putting a plus sign (+) in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. Only if the word or its close variants (e.g., singular, plural, abbreviation, past participle and other stemming variations) after the + sign is part of the user’s search query, the ad will be triggered.  Synonyms are not considered as close variants.  

As usual, the keyword match does not have any major impact on keyword Quality Score.  The Quality Score depends on the relevance of your keyword to the user’s search query, ad copy and landing page. The Quality Score is often higher if CTR is higher.

If the same keyword exists with different match types in the same ad group, then the keyword with the most specific match type will trigger.   However, if the same keyword exists with different match types in different ad groups or campaigns, then the keyword with the highest Ad Rank will be triggering the ads.

CPA Bid Management – Google AdWords Conversion Optimizer

Google just announced the addition of Target CPA Bidding to its conversion optimizer tool.  With this feature, you can set the Target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) Bidding at the campaign level which lets Google AdWords know the average amount you are ready to pay for a conversion.

When Google first introduced Conversion Optimizer, the tool had some shortcomings and in few occasions that I tried it, it did not have the results I was expecting and I had to move back to the manual bidding to keep the Cost per Conversion (CPA) in check.   However, over time Google’s bid management tool improved.

The challenge with the tool was that it was looking at the Max CPA bids (the bid amount you were willing to pay for a conversion for each Ad Group) as opposed to the target CPA which was making the tool less flexible and as a result, in some situations, it was limiting the chance of maximizing the number of conversions.  Bidding with a target or average CPA allows for maximizing the number of conversions while keeping your target CPA in mind.

For the CPA bidding option to be available in the “Advance Options” under “Focus on Conversions” section of campaign settings, you need to have Google conversion tracking active, have received conversions at a similar rate for a while and have at least 15 conversions recorded in the 30 days.

Google AdWords takes into consideration various factors when trying to analyze, optimize and maximize the ROI of a campaign such as keyword matches, search partner sites, content site topics, user location, operating system, browser, language setting, and seasonality.

In order for Conversion Optimizer to work properly, Position Preference and Advanced Ad Scheduling needs to be turned off.

This tool will make the need for a third party bid management software for those who do not manage the bids for their PPC advertising manually less relevant.

Google Remarketing – Retargeting Strategies, Implementation & Reporting

As I mentioned earlier, Google introduced its new Remarketing feature. Google remarketing (a.k.a remessaging) can be used to develop and implement different strategies such as:

  • Retargeting all visitors to your site. For example, if you are an online publisher, you can choose to retarget those people who have visited your site and not subscribed to your publication with an attractive subscription offer they cannot refuse.
  • Retargeting those visitors to your site who have visited a specific section of your site. For example, retargeting people who visited your DSLR camera section of your online store with a Nikon DSLR D90 ad while retargeting who visited your binocular category with a Bushnell H2O ad.
  • Remarketing only to those visitors who did not convert and not those who have actually purchased from you.
  • Remarketing those audiences who have abandoned the shopping cart with a lucrative offer.
  • Retargeting your customers with an up-sell/cross-sell offer.
  • Remarket your customers after a certain period of time. For example if you know your customers need to buy your product again after 2 months, you can create a custom audience to retarget your audience around the time they need to repurchase your product.

In most cases, you need to create and manage multiple remarketing lists to reach your audience. You can use any of these combinations to target your desired audience:

  • AND operator (all these audiences)
  • OR operator (one or more of these audiences)
  • NOT operator (none of these audiences)

Membership of cookie Ids within custom combinations is updated by Google every few hours. Membership durations remain intact for each for each remarketing list in your created custom combination.

You can create various performance reports on Google AdWords such as Placement Performance report, Impression Share report and number of users in a list (number of unique users who viewed the pages tagged within the membership).

Google Introduces Remarketing Feature – Search Retargeting

Being an innovator might not necessarily mean you will be successful. In order for an innovative product to catch on, the market should be ready for accepting the product and you need to have the marketing arm that can push the product.

Yahoo was the first major search engine who got into behavioural marketing by acquiring BlueLithium (an online advertising network) back in 2007. The idea was to join behavioral targeting with advanced data analytics to improve campaign optimization over an advertising network for performance-based display advertisers while enhancing the value to the publishers.

Some visitors convert the first time around; however, many will visit your site once and may never come back. The way Behavioral targeting (BT) works is that visitors to your site are tagged by a cookie, which contains no personally identifiable information. Ad retargeting allows you to continue to advertise to and remarket those visitors while they browse other relevant websites utilizing uniquely customized banners created to fit your retargeting campaign.

Not only does retargeting builds brand awareness, but also helps direct marketers by improving conversion rates. As visitors are presented with multiple advertisements from your business, they begin to recognize your brand. Brand recognition earns trust and leads to higher conversion rates.

Search retargeting adds a layer of relevancy to banner served to searchers after they leave your site. This advertising technology recognizes users’ intents based on their original search queries. This theoretically should increase the value of search marketing ( SEM ) by increasing the likelihood of a conversion.

Through this behavioural targeting technology, advertisers can reach a target audience with display ads that are highly relevant to the way users search. For example if Visitor X comes to your site and browses for DSLR cameras but leaves without buying, you can use search retargeting to track Visitor X and serve and remarket DSLR cameras to him/her after s/he leaves your site with targeted ads with a 20% off offer.

As with any other marketing campaign, to effectively utilize behavioral search retargeting, strong creative related to landing pages and search terms are crucial. Developing special offers and unique messages help entice and lure back visitors to your site. The challenge is for the search retargeting to work well you need to have enough traffic volume on your pages.

After almost a year of testing with, Google finally joined the list of companies who offer online ad retargeting by introducing their new Remarketing feature. Now, Google AdWords allows its advertisers use remarketing to reach their audience on sites within the Google Content Network based on their past interactions with their websites.

Now search marketers can then remarket to those visitors who reach their sites by showing them tailored ads on sites throughout the Google Content Network. You can set up your remarketing campaign through the new “Audiences” tab in Google AdWords interface.

Audience Retargeting through Search Remarketing

Google Remarketing Feature - Audience Tab

The way it works is that you put a piece of code (pixel) on your landing pages, website, or YouTube channel, which will let you later show relevant promotional ads to those audience who have visited those pages, as they browse sites within the Google Content Network.

The beauty of this remarketing feature is that you can run multiple remarketing campaigns at the same time based on audiences’ behavior. Remarketing allows businesses to reach those users who are more likely to be receptive to their text/banner ads and achieve a higher ROI.

AdWords Reach & Frequency Report

One of the less frequently used yet useful reports provided by Google AdWords is Reach and Frequency report. If you advertise using placement-targeted campaigns, AdWords’ Reach and Frequency Performance report helps you see how many users saw your placement-targeted ads and how frequently they viewed them over a period of time.

To generate this report, Google calculates data by estimating the frequency of your ads from a sample data and then extrapolating it to a full set of impressions to determine their estimated reach. The report also includes a metric called cost-per-head. The cost-per-head is the average cost for you ads to reach an individual audience.

This report will only go as far back as January 1, 2007 and does not include search network. Reports are available for daily, weekly, and monthly time periods, as well as for the cumulative daily statistics (summary).

The Reach and Frequency report lets you know how many unique visitors (IP addresses) you have reached, and how many times your ads have reached them. The report provides stats on two main metrics: reach and frequency.

In order to increase frequency you need to narrow down your targets, and in order to increase your reach, you need to broaden the networks your ad is showing on.

You can use frequency capping setting to limit the number of times your ads appear to the same unique user on the Content Network.

Frequency Capping - Google AdWords Display Ads

Frequency Capping Settings for Content Network

You can limit the number of times your ads are served to an individual user per day, per week, or per month by turning on frequency capping for a campaign. You can also choose if the cap applies to each ad, or to each ad group.

Measuring Display Banner Ads Performance – Google Campaign Insight

Display Ads were among the first form of online advertising. Since marketers started utilizing Internet as a platform for promoting their products/services, banner advertising became popular. The rational was that if they can target websites that attract the same audience as theirs, they can reach their target market through contextual advertising.

Banner ads have been traditionally priced on a CPM model. However, as visitors got more and more exposed to banner ads, they started developing banner blindness. As a result banner ads click-through rates (CTR) have been in decline. Low CTR rates on banner ads together with their CPM pricing models and traditionally low conversion rates has made them less attractive for direct marketers. Nevertheless, display advertising has been a popular choice for brand marketers as they have been able to benefit from the brand exposure banner ads generated for their brands.

With the market slowdown in the recent years, marketers have been urged to be more careful with their marketing dollars. As a result we were seeing a decline in the growth of web banner advertising as their effectiveness was under question.

When AdWords introduced Placement Targeting advertising, Google started changing the name of the game. There were two main benefits to Placement Targeting.

First, as an advertiser, you do not have to just stick to ad networks and commit yourself to the buy with no exact knowledge of where your ads were showing up and not being able to pull out of a site if it was not performing well for you. With Placement Targeting advertising, you can start with a small budget, hand pick the sites you would like your ads to show up on, monitor their performance, adjust your bids to control your exposure and stop running ads on websites that are not performing well.

Secondly, you do not have to stick to the CPM pricing model anymore as Google AdWords allows you run ads in AdSense content network on a CPC basis very much like search network. Running banner ads on a CPC model has made banner advertising much more cost effective. You can get a large number of impressions at a very low cost.

Of course there are some limitations to running Placement Targeting ads. You might not be able to get prominent ad placements on your favourite sites. The benefits ripped from CPC banner advertising by marketers is coming at the expense of web publishers as they see their ad revenue potentials are in decline on the Internet as more advertisers move to more cost effective CPC pricing model.

With more talks about the attribution models and the impact of display advertising on search engine marketing campaigns; it seems that banner advertising is getting a boost again. After acquiring DoubleClick, Google seems to push out various tools which help pump new blood into the display advertising industry.

Traditionally AdWords was providing conversion tracking based on the clicks on the banners. By introducing View-through conversion reporting, Google provided advertisers with the ability to track the indirect impact of banner ads.

Impact of Banner Ads on Search Engine Marketing

Impact of Display Ads on Search Engine Marketing

Google recently launched a new tool called Campaign Insights to measure the impact of display ads. Campaign Insights is available for larger display ad campaigns across the Google Content Network in the US and UK.

Campaign Insights can provide data about how a campaign has raised brand awareness in a particular product or service. It looks beyond the traditional measures of clicks and conversions to calculate the incremental lift in both online search activity and website visits that result from a display ad campaign.

Click to Call: Google Mobile Advertising

Google recently re-introduced its Click to Call ads feature. With the wide spread use of smart phones and the growth of mobile search, Google has decided to take another look at Click to Call advertising concept they introduced a couple of years ago. At the time, the focus was mostly on the desktop where calling was not as easy and maybe that is why it was shelved for a while.

Searchers are provided with two options: they can either click to call your business or click and visit your URL. When people search Google using their mobile phones, it is much easier for them to have a voice call with a business using their mobile phone than doing so on a desktop. Now it is possible to make it easier for prospects to reach you by adding a location-specific business phone number in Google ads. Searchers can click to call you the same way they click to visit your website. Google doesn’t charge users for clicks to place calls though the users’ standard carrier rates apply.

The best part of this is that even if you have multiple business locations, because mobile ads can be served based on user’s physical location, you can serve the ad with the closest store location.

You first need to add location extensions to your Google AdWords PPC campaign. You can then give each of your business locations its corresponding business phone number (this can be done in Google Local Business Center). AdWords will display the business phone of your nearest location to where the user is.

Location extensions are available for ads within Google properties such as Google and Google Maps, and some Google Search Network sites and work on mobile devices with full internet browser (e.g., iPhone, Andriod). Currently Click to Call does not appear in the Content Network or on AdSense for Mobile apps, but that might change. The cost of a click to call to your business is the same as the cost of a click to visit your website.

You can review how many calls you’ve received for each Keyword, Ad Group, or Campaign in the Campaigns interface within AdWords by selecting segment button to choose between website visits and phone calls.

Watch video on Click to Call.

Google Search Query Report – Negative Keyword Generator

Google AdWords offers a report called Search Query Performance report that can be a very powerful tool for improving your Google AdWords PPC campaign.

As I mentioned in my previous post on keyword research, keyword selection can make or break a SEM campaign. You can utilize keyword research tools such as Wordtracker, Google AdWords keyword tool and SKTool to identify keywords that you should add to your PPC campaign.

No matter how careful you are in selecting your phrases and identifying negative keywords in advance, if you use broad match, there is a good chance your ads show up for not so relevant search queries.

Create a Negative Keyword List Using Search Query Report

Google AdWords Search Query Performance Report

AdWords Search Query report can help you identify the exact phrases that have triggered your ads. You can use this Google report as a negative keyword generator which helps you suppress your ads from appearing for irrelevant search queries.  Excluding irrelevant keywords can help you improve your CTR, get more relevant traffic, improve your conversion rate and reduce your cost.