In The Trenches is a weekly spotlight of tips, tricks, and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition. Today: News from the search engines, today’s in-depth look, “The Single Best Report in SEM,” and this week’s free tips and tools.

News from the search engines

MSN adCenter: Yes! They’ve listened! I’m not going to take all of the credit for the new additions to adCenter, but I certainly have voiced the concerns and issues of SEM pros here in this column enough. I’m sure Mr. Gates probably got tired of my whining and addressed some of these very [crucial] issues in the latest platform update.

Ok, seriously, Bill Gates may be off making the world a better place, but someone at MSN adCenter is certainly trying to make their platform a better place, too. You can read more about the recent additions on the adCenter Community Forum, but here are some quick hits of what you’ll see when you log into your account:

  • Performance totals on data tables – Finally, I can see what my monthly spend is without having to pull a report!

  • More date ranges in most tables – Okay, the “custom date range” is still eluding them, but I’m glad to have some of these basic functionalities added to the engine
  • Some more functionality to the Campaign and Ad Group settings pages – In the post, they state, “We’ve heard feedback from customers that it took too many clicks to complete tasks in adCenter, so we’ve streamlined these pages.” Thank you!
  • Consolidated Ad Group settings – Once again, for efficiency

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An example of the new data totals and default date ranges

Google AdWords: Not much going on with the Big Goo this week. I’ve gone back into their blog and reported on something from a few weeks ago that I wasn’t able to comment on when it first appeared–an upgrade to the Google Conversion Tracking tool that allows you to now track up to 30 conversion events AND name them specifically for what they are. This is a slight change, but it’s HUGE in my mind. Not long ago, you were only allowed one of 5 separate types: Purchase, Lead, Signup, Pageview, and Other. Every time we implemented the tracking, I had to send everyone an email with the “key” to decode the conversions later. For example, we had a client for which I had to tell everyone, “a Sign-Up is a Request for Information, a Lead is an Open House Registration, etc.” Then, four months later, no one could remember which conversion was which without looking at that email. Now, it’s easy…a Request for Information is a Request for Information.

This strengthens Google’s CPA (cost per acquisition) pricing and other conversion-based initiatives such as the reports, the conversion optimizer, the website optimizer, etc. It was a natural step in AdWords evolution and it definitely enhances the tool. You can read more about Google Conversion Tracking here on the Google AdWords Help Center page.

Yahoo Search Marketing: On their blog, the YSM team detailed some ways to help manage your bids in the wake of their recent minimum bid change. We attended their webinar last week to hear the corporate line about this change. One of my younger team members mentioned with hope later that “Yahoo said bids may drop below $.10.” I had to give him a razz on that one. Not to be negative here, but, as most of the veteran SEM pros remember a few years ago, we heard that before when all mins were a nickel on Google and they launched their revised minimum bid model. We saw some min bids raise to $15 or $20 within weeks. On the positive side, Google’s move to be more Quality Score focused has certainly “cleaned up” the space a bit and you don’t have as many deep-pocketed advertisers bidding on non-relevant popular words.

In depth: The single best SEM report

Ironically, the single best report in Search Engine Marketing is not even a report… it’s 4 available fields in a Google Campaign Report. They are the four Impression Share fields that can be activated in the Hide and Remove Columns section and can be used to gain insight into your AdWords campaign’s share of voice; specifically, whether or not your ads are showing 100% of the time when users search on your keywords.

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The four data points are:

Impression Share (IS). This represents the percentage of times your ads were shown (i.e., your accrued impressions) out of the total number of page impressions (i.e., pages where your ad appeared or could have appeared) in the market you were targeting. So, if you have 1 million impressions and a 50% impression share, that means you missed out on another 1 million impressions that could have been available to you.

Lost IS (Budget). Shows lost impression share due to an insufficient budget. Basically, either your budget capped out that day or it was “smoothed” down to spread evenly across the day because the system realized you were blowing through your budget too quickly (this setting can be changed, but you may run out of budget early in the day if you do).

Lost IS (Rank). The percentage of lost impressions due to low ranking. Google explains: “A poor Ad Rank (cost-per-click bid x Quality Score) could be reducing your impression share. You may want to try adjusting your keyword match type to achieve a higher impression share.”

Exact Match IS. Reports the impression share of your campaigns as if your keywords were set to Exact Match. Since keyword match type can affect your impression share, Impression Share Exact Match can help you determine your share of voice for just the specific keywords you are targeting without requiring you to make adjustments to your campaigns.

One immediate insight is that your impression share + Lost IS (Budget) + Lost IS (Rank) = 100%. So, in the previous example, if you had a 50% impression share with 1 million impressions, your Budget and Rank Lost IS percentages will equal the other 50%. If you had a 50% Impression Share and a 30% Lost IS (Budget), Lost IS (Rank) will equal 20%. So, this means your campaign lost 600,000 impressions due to budgetary reasons and another 400,000 impression due to poor rank.

It’s important to understand “the market you were targeting” to really understand the data that you are seeing. Basically, it’s the targeting settings on the campaign each time an impression could have been served. So, if you were geo-targeting Florida, the impressions you lost were only in Florida, not anywhere else. If you were dayparting weekends, your impression share is only going to reflect impressions lost on weekends, not during weekdays. The Impression Share data only shows you impressions you missed that you could have received at each opportunity but didn’t due to Budget or Rank.

The Exact Match IS field is very interesting. It doesn’t show lost impressions, but rather the percentage of the impressions that were triggered by users typing in your keywords exactly. Let’s say you have the keyword “used cars” on broad match… if one user’s query string was “used cars” and another was “buy used cars in New York,” your ad could have been triggered both times. However, you would only get a 50% Exact Match IS on those two impressions because the latter example wasn’t your keyword typed in exactly. Why is this good data? If you are seeing a low Exact Match IS percentage, that probably means that you could be adding many new keywords to your account because most of your impressions are being triggered with broad match. Conversely, a high Exact Match IS percentage probably means that you’ve pinpointed an effective set of keywords for that topic.

Tip: Any campaign with less than a 20% Exact Share IS could probably use some optimization.

So, why is this the best report in SEM? Because you can finally get some great historical data into the search volume of your most important campaigns. One of the uses we’ve found Impression Share to be helpful at our agency is to plot out data models in order to understand the effect of other media on search volume. We consider search volume as a good indication of the “online discussion” of those keywords (and in the sense of branded terms, the online discussion of a company), so we have gathered a ton of insight to see how, for example, search volume increased when the TV or Print offline campaigns launched. As well, it helps us optimize our accounts. For example, if we find a top performing campaign that is reaching its daily budget caps, we can run an Impression Share report and calculate how many more impressions are available and then move more budget into it.

Impression Share was introduced last year into AdWords, so if you haven’t used it yet, I seriously would urge you to pull some samples and learn how this data can benefit your account. To me, it is truly the best SEM report in terms of insights and optimization opportunities. The only downside is that it is only currently available at the Campaign and Account levels. I’d love to see it at the Keyword and Ad Group level at some point.

Free tool of the week: Nielson’s BlogPulse Trend Search

BlogPulse Trend Search allows you to create graphs that visually track “buzz” over time for certain keywords, phrases, or links in the blogosphere. You can compare search terms/links in isolation, or use all three fields to compare search terms/links against others. It comes from Nielson, which I consider one of the trusted sources on the web.

Although this isn’t a true SEM-only tool, it’s yet another great tool for the SEM toolbox. As SEM pros, the heart of our business is words. We’re constantly trying to get into the minds of the users we want to attract and understand how they search, why they search, and what they’re searching on. Trend Search is a great way to stay on top of a topic and understand its popularity on the web. If, for example, a keyword term is growing in buzz, that probably means it will be growing in search volume and could be an important addition as an ad group or campaign for you or your client.

trend.jpg

In this example, I searched for the top three presidential candidates and looked for the “buzz” over the last two months.

Josh Dreller is the Director of Media Technology for Fuor Digital, an agency concentrated in the research, planning, buying and stewardship of digital media marketing campaigns. Josh can be reached at jdreller@fuor.net. The In The Trenches column appears Fridays at Search Engine Land.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox

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About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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