Fact: Google spoils us when it comes to free tools to optimize our search campaigns. Over the past few years, they’ve released a ton of really useful products that allow us to mine for keywords, auto-bid our campaigns, test ad copy and more.

It’s true that Google doesn’t strike gold every time it releases something new into the wild (Google Radio Ads, anyone?) but when it comes to tools for optimizing your AdWords campaigns, they normally get things pretty dead-on.

Here are three of my favorite AdWords tools for retailers, along with some hints and tips on how to leverage them for your campaigns.

Conversion Optimizer

Paid search bid tools have been the topic of hot debate over the years. When they first started coming out, they were hailed as the savior of search marketers everywhere, promising to save hours of campaign management time and increase efficiencies many times over.

Later, when Google introduced “Quality Score” into its paid search algorithm – and bidding was no longer just a simple case of getting $0.01 above the next guy – people declared bid tools were dead.  This new “opaque” landscape was too complex for the tools…there were too many variables.

Well, this has proven not to be the case. Paid bid tools like Marin, Kenshoo and DoubleClick are being used to great effect by search marketers around the globe. However, there’s a free bid tool out there that’s also very powerful, and is contained right within the AdWords interface – Conversion Optimizer.

Conversion Optimizer is very easy to use. You simply go into your campaign settings, select edit bidding option, select the radio button next to “Focus on Conversions”, then whether you’d like to use a max CPA or an average CPA (think keyword vs. portfolio bidding here).

Within the UI, you will then notice your bid amount is now at ad group level, not keyword, and it’s your CPA you’re inputting, not your CPC. Once this is done, the system will then start auto-optimizing all ad groups within that campaign to hit that goal.

One thing to keep in mind here is that you must have recorded 15 conversions in that campaign over the last 30 days to be eligible for Conversion Optimizer (that’s the minimum amount of data required to make bidding decisions in the system)

What makes Conversion Optimizer different from other bid tools? Aside from being free? Well, it’s the depth of data available.

In addition to historic CPC, position, cost, orders, revenue and all that other good “surface” data, Conversion Optimizer has access to additional data points like user location, user search history, actual search query used (vs. just the triggering keyword), and whether the search is being done on Google.com or a partner site.

All this data helps the system make more educated decisions, and further reduce that cost per sale.

AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE)

Continuous testing is one of the most important aspects of paid search management. Ad copy, landing pages, bids, budgets, ad positions, match types–you can test almost anything within your campaigns. However, the flipside to this great breadth of testing opportunity is that you can easily find yourself drowning in data and overloaded with variables.

So, with this in mind, how can you keep tests manageable, valid, and really measure the impact your changes are having on your results? The answer is AdWords Campaign Experiments, or “ACE”, as the kids are calling it.

This handy little tool can be used to split test ad copy, landing pages, identify the most profitable positions for keywords, and more.  It does this by splitting the number of impressions and clicks that go through a “Control” group, versus an “Experiment” group. No need for separate ad groups, moving keywords around, or any of the other nonsense.

Initiating an ACE test is actually quite simple. Start by clicking the Settings tab in the desired campaign, scroll down to Advanced settings and click the + Specify experiment settings button to name your experiment.

Then, select the desired traffic split between control and experiment, and set desired start and end dates or start manually.

To add keywords to the experiment, under the Keywords tab click Add Keywords enter keywords as you normally would, though check the Add as experiment only keywords box at the bottom of the page and save.

To adjust bids and compare results, simply click the Segment drop-down and then Experiment.

ACE testing gives marketers the ability to conduct highly valuable, statistically relevant A/B testing with accurate and easily accessible results. Like the Conversion Optimizer, ACE testing is also free and, if you’re lucky, your Google account team will aid you in identifying prime testing candidates.

Use ACE testing to identify the most profitable positions for KW’s, highest converting landing pages, optimal ad copy elements and more.

Google Insights For Search

For forecasting, trend analysis and competitive insights, Google Insights for Search is just a great tool. Its core function is comparing search volume patterns over time. You can compare up to five keywords at a time, and see how their search popularity has trended – all the way back to 2004.

Some key questions Google Insights can help with include:

  • Is my offline or online display marketing effective? If searches for your brand terms rise while you’re investing, chances are that marketing campaign is the catalyst. If they don’t, perhaps you need to adjust your strategy.
  • Am I making market share gains on my competitors, or am I falling behind? Search volumes are a great way to assess brand demand and popularity. Comparing your own brand search demand to your closest competitors will provide context to results, and alert you to trending competitors in your space.
  • How much budget do I need to allocate to my non-brand campaigns during the next quarter? Knowing whether search demand goes up, down or stays consistent in the coming months can be a great budget and forecasting tool. The below graph shows that demand for laptops is highest during back to school and holiday, but that May/June are also key research periods.
  • Why are clicks or conversions up/down within a certain category in my AdWords account? This could of course be down to a number of reasons, but if you haven’t changed your site or pricing, then a seasonal or market-wide drop in search demand could be to blame. Our laptops example below shows that search demand for laptop computers is down in 2011 vs. 2009 and 2010, which could explain a decline in recent performance on that group of terms.

Arming yourself with this knowledge will help you not only optimize your campaigns, forecast traffic, sales and spend volumes, but it’ll also be a huge help when you (or your boss!) are looking for answers when a certain category within your AdWords account is trending a certain direction.

If you haven’t tried the above tools, I’d recommend starting now. Once you do, you might just find they become a staple in your campaign management strategy.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Beginner | Channel: Analytics | How To | How To: PPC | Search & Analytics

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About The Author: is a Client Services Director for iProspect. He specializes in fully integrated digital campaigns, drawing from years of experience across multiple channels, including paid search, SEO, display media, mobile and social.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/marykaylofurno Mary Kay Lofurno

    Are you kidding me? Really..wow..talk about integrity and unbiased 3rd party advice. Not.

    I have thoroughly tested conversion optimizer and I have found that it does not work for certain types of products and kwp strategies. I have found it drives up spend not reduces it. I have found it reduces conversion and profit, not increases it. It works in some cases but you need to test.

    Have not tested ACE but on its premise it sounds like a good thing. I do use Google Insights.

    I know I am old school.and I believe in test…test…test..

 

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