In The Trenches is a 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: a guide to taking over an existing paid search account, a tip to look above the funnel to reach your target, and this week’s free tips and tools.
News from the search engines:
Google AdWords: Improvements to ad quality
Oh no! Another change in the Quality Score “secret formula”. I’m scared to look! However, my fears were addressed on the Inside AdWords Blog:
More precise Quality Score calculation. As you probably have observed, ads in high positions typically earn better CTR than those in low positions, because ads in high positions are more visible to searchers. In the coming days, we’ll update the portion of the Quality Score algorithm that accounts for ad position. This will result in more accurate Quality Scores, ensure that ads compete fairly for position based on their quality and bid, and enable Google to show the most relevant ads to searchers by rewarding high-quality advertisers with better ad positions.
Higher quality ads above the search results. To appear above the search results, ads must meet a certain quality threshold. In the past, if the ad with the highest Ad Rank did not meet the quality threshold, we may not have shown any ads above the search results. With this update, we’ll allow an ad that meets the quality threshold to appear above the search results even if it has to jump over other ads to do so.
Interesting… I thought these two factors were already in the Quality Score algorithm. I guess Google felt that these data points weren’t being weighted heavily enough so everyone should see the affect of these changes very soon. Please keep an eye on your accounts as there could be some positive and, more importantly, negative effects on your account.
Yahoo Search Marketing: Measuring search and display for success
In a very insightful post on the Yahoo! Search Marketing blog, Matt Lillig of the Yahoo! Analytics Team dives into the misconception that display is less measurable than search. I would certainly agree that statement is completely false. In fact, as a full service digital guy that does both search and display, I would argue that display is actually more measurable than search.
The biggest factor being that I get complete transparency on my view-thrus (unclicked display impressions) versus almost zero information on impressions from the engines. Not only do I have the unique [anonymous] user info on each display impression (such as geolocation, URL of the display, time of day, etc), but I also cookie those view-thru’ers so that I know if those view-thrus eventually influenced a conversion.
Another one of the key points in Matt’s post is which converts better, search or display? The answer is actually both when used together. In a recent campaign, more than 40% of all of my search conversions had been influenced by a banner ad. For all of you search-only pros out there, you’re missing out. If you want to really get high success rates and understand your accounts, buddy up with the display guy/gal and make sure you are tracking/optimizing together.
Microsoft: What’s new with adCenter?
Ah…my favorite topics to cover in this column are new features to the top tier SEM platforms. The fall additions to adCenter are in place and here’s what’s new straight from Microsoft:
- A Clearer, More Efficient Editorial Experience to Help Your Approved Ads and Keywords Go Live Faster. We can now review your ads and keywords more quickly, and your approved ads and keywords can go live faster than before.
- More Control and Flexibility as You Manage Your Campaigns. You can now pause individual ads and keywords at any time and then resume them whenever you want. With the pause and resume feature no longer limited to campaigns and ad groups, you have much greater control over your advertising efforts.
- Options to Easily Create Multiple Account Users and Assign User Permissions. If you previously were able to create only one user for your adCenter account, now you can create and define roles for as many as 15 users on your account. If you were already able to create multiple users for your adCenter account, now you will notice updated account user role names that are easier for you to understand and keep organized.
- Download the US adCenter Fall Upgrade 2008 Feature Guide (1.2 MB, PDF).
In depth: The SEM Pro’s Guide to Taking Over a Paid Search Account
On one hand, transitioning a paid search account from either a client or a previous agency has its advantages, as opposed to starting an account from scratch. You will have some of the initial work done in terms of basic keyword/creative generation and historical data to point you in the right direction. However, there can be some pitfalls as well…it could be lead you in the wrong direction or just be a complete mess to deal with.
There are many articles dealing with starting up a new account from scratch, but not many resources for transitioning onto an existing account which happens every day. Having just gone through a major account hand-off myself, I thought it would be timely to share my transition checklist.
- Hello. My Name is… Get acquainted: with your new account. Check it out. Take a test drive. Kick the tires. Basically, check out the account in terms of campaign/ad group structure, daily budgets, CTRs, etc.
- Do the deep dive. Once you have a good grasp of whet you’re dealing with, now its time to really get into the account. Hit the reports tab and pull some historical data such as:
- How old is the account?
- What have been the average daily, weekly, monthly spend levels?
- What are your top, high-volume Keywords?
- What one your top campaigns and ad groups?
- what are the CPCs and Avg Positions of your top account elements?
- Are things such as conversion tracking, Google Analytics, cost per conversion settings, position rules or any other advanced tools being used?
TIP – In Google, check out the Account Change Log to see the most recent optimizations/changes. You may find some insightful things there.
- What are the immediate expectations? Chances are, this account could be still running. So, until you’re able to complete the full overhaul, what kinds of things do you need to make sure you’re taking care of now? Get an immediate handle on the budget pacing and any other top level concerns ASAP.
- Do some housework. Deal with the basic account settings. Get the account linked to your internal tool and make sure everyone who needs access is addressed. As well, make sure to deny access to previous users who are not working on the account any more. Figure out how the account is being funded currently and make changes where needed. What could be more embarrassing than a previous cardholder canceling the SEM account and you have to drop everything (possibly on weekends or late at night) and focus to keep the account running.
- Scrap it or Keep it? It’s time to make the big decision to either keep the existing account or start from scratch. Normally, my first instinct is to start fresh. Generally, the reason the account is being moved in the first place is because it needs help, so starting from a blank slate tends to be my first option. However, if the account seems salvageable, then go with it. Just remember that poor quality scores can have lasting, negative effects – so if you detect any Quality Score issues… dump it!
- Collect info. Okay, now that you have a pretty good idea of the account and have decided whether to scrap it or start anew, now is the time to ask all the important questions. What have been the successes and failures? What has been tried in terms of tactics and strategies? Share some of your initial conclusions and see if they hold true with the marketing manager. You should come out of this round of research with some clear insights and know what your next plan of action will be.
- Project plan. Create a timetable with each major action and sub-task that is needed. It’s important to think everything through before you start as some tasks may hugely influence others and you don’t want to double your work via inefficiencies. If you have a team (even if it’s one other person), get them going on tasks while you figure out the details. There are obviously going to be things you cannot plan for, but having a solid plan at this point is a must.
- Set expectations. Even though this it not a new account, it is new to you. There are going to be changes you make that may affect the account performance. An example of this from my experience has been CTRs. Many marketing managers are still stuck on this metric as the key performance indicator of the account. If you start testing Content Ads or add more general terms, chances are your overall CTR could drop dramatically if the original account was just bidding on highly clicked branded terms. Make sure you let the marketing manager know what you’re doing at each step to make sure you don’t do anything that could be completely alien to what they’ve seen before unless you’ve received the green light.
- Best Practices are still in play. Just because the account is new doesn’t mean you can’t be aggressive with some best practices. Try brainstorming more keywords and creative. Do a competitive analysis of the space so you know what you’re dealing with. Test Content (and Placement Targeting on Google). Most importantly. set up the account structure to give you the most levers to control your account.
Follow this checklist and you ensure a nice, smooth transition. It could take days, weeks, or months depending on the size of the account, but the most important thing is to work smart, keep inline with the client goals, and make sure you’re setup for success.
Free tip of the week: Fly Above The Funnel
The concept of the search conversion funnel is widely known in our industry; basically, the goal of any account is to generate conversions whether they be sales, signups, downloads, etc. and the funnel represents where your keywords play in this process. Keywords at the top of the funnel tend to be general terms that reach users at the front of the buying cycle and get their attention to let them know you can serve their needs. Keywords towards the bottom represent more of the top converting words such as specific product names. Because there are more general terms (and usually the volume is greater as well) than specific ones, when plotted out, a funnel shape is born.
My tip this week is to fly above the funnel. It’s hard to grow the funnel downwards, so let’s grow it upwards. Let’s take for example the used car industry. Good top of the funnel terms may include “used cars”, “preowned car”, “used car loan”, or even just “car”. In fact, “car” may be just about at the top of the funnel, right?
What about reaching your target demographic on terms that coincide with their interests. You may find the “used car” demographic includes people looking for deals. So why not a “deals” campaign with ad groups focused at smaller segments such as coupons, promotions, etc. As well, what about users looking for bus or train information. Wouldn’t they be likely candidates for a used car ad? This is a Pay Per Click industry so, although your quality scores may take a hit, you won’t pay for impressions that don’t garner clicks.
So, try to think above the funnel and test some keywords that may at first seem unrelated, but turn out to reach your customers and influence conversions.
Bonus tip on top of the tip of the week: Google AdWords calculates out your Search and your Content Quality Scores independently. If you want to test above the funnel but don’t want to affect your search QS, then test on Content targeting first.
Well, that’s all for this week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.