SEM News, The Ultimate Guide To Search Marketing Optimization Part 2, & SpyFu Competitive SEM Karate

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 Ultimate Guide to Search Marketing Optimization Part 2 – Reference Guide, SpyFu competitive research tool, and […]

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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 Ultimate Guide to Search Marketing Optimization Part 2 – Reference Guide, SpyFu competitive research tool, and this week’s free tips and tools.

News from the search engines

Google AdWords: Use keywords and placements together on the content network

The news was posted on the Google Inside AdWords last week and I think this is a GREAT change. I may not merge all of my campaigns together as the tool now allows because leaving them silo’d does give me more control. However, I could see situations on small accounts where this will be a great time saver.

Here’s some key points from the blog:

Starting today, you can target keywords and placements together in the same ad group. The key benefit (other than not needed multiple campaigns) is that you can use content and placement together to have a stronger account.

Set custom bids for specific placements. So here’s how placement helps content: if you are running on content, you can pull a Placement report and see which sites are working and which aren’t. Then, you can migrate those sites over to the placement targeting part of the campaign and set individual bids. This way you have more control over which sites your ads run.

Show your ad only when both keywords and placements match. This is how content helps placement. You can use the keywords in the account to only have your ads show on those placements when they are contextually relevant to the keywords in the campaign. Great new feature!

Check out this really great page at Google AdWords Help for more info and a huge list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Here’s Google’s image from that page which highlights how this works:


I have a gut feeling that this will be the start of many core shifts to come. Search Engine Marketing via PPC is a very new field within the online marketing industry which is an infant itself. A lot of necessary changes have been made to the tools in the last six or seven years to accommodate the exponential growth, but it’s all been tweaking the original idea. I could foresee a major overhaul in the next few years in SEM that addresses integration, convergence, social media, behavioral targeting, etc…

Yahoo Search Marketing:

I received an email from Yahoo regarding a change to their keyword mapping feature:

We wanted to let you know that a limited number of keywords that are currently linked to synonyms, or “mapped,” will soon become unmapped to give advertisers more control over their keywords. As you may know, we use various matching technologies to link some bidded keywords to other terms that a searcher might use synonymously to look for them. This mapping connects some keywords with related synonyms, such as “car insurance” with “auto insurance.” Recently, advertisers have voiced a need to manage some of these synonyms separately, so that they can use separate bidding and creative strategies, tracking URLs and business goals. To give advertisers more control over their ads, we plan to remove a limited number of keyword mappings on July 29, 2008.

You can check out the YSM Technology Solutions Portal for a full list of terms that will be unmapped. I downloaded the workbook and got a better idea of what’s to come. Check it out for yourself.

Microsoft: Microsoft adCenter Community Web Site Survey

Surfing through the adCenter Community Web Site, I found a link to a survey on their homepage:

The adCenter Community Web site provides forums, blogs, videos, and webcasts in which Microsoft and adCenter customers can share helpful information about adCenter. This survey is seeking ideas for improving the adCenter Community site. Thank you for participating in our survey. Your feedback is important.

Be part of the SEM community and share your thoughts. It can only help you if they take your suggestions to heart and change the tool to meet your needs.

In depth: The Ultimate Guide to Search Marketing Optimization Part 2 – Reference Guide

As stated in last week’s column, I was inspired by the AdCenter Optimization Quick Reference Guide on the adCenter Community Site by Shefali Singla. I reviewed some of the first things to think about when optimizing, what settings you have at your fingertips in order to perform optimizations, and went through some standard situations that every SEM pro has encountered.

In Part 2, I’d like to expand upon Shefali’s post with a non-platform specific optimization guide. There will be some overlap but I’m hoping that readers will find this tool valuable.

To Increase Click Thru Rate

  • Pause low CTR ads/keywords
  • Increase max bids to get higher positions…historically, the higher the position, the higher the CTR
  • Use Phrase or Exact match instead of Broad Match (which casts too wide of a net to users that aren’t interested in your ad)
  • Improve creative by using dynamic keyword insertion, catchier headlines, etc. As well, find trends on the ads that are performing well and add new creative with those insights
  • Tighter geotargeting to areas that have high CTRs
  • Tighter dayparting to times of the day/week that have high CTRs
  • Take steps to increase your quality scores, which will raise your position rankings
  • Turn off Content targeting
  • Use negative words to be sure your ads aren’t shown to the “wrong people,” even though the keywords seem viable. Classic example is “cruise”. You may be selling tickets to a cruise ship but your ad is appearing every time a user searches for “Tom Cruise”
  • Split ad groups up into tighter keyword groups so you can use more specific ads

To Lower CPCs

  • Lower your max bids…okay, I know that’s obvious, right?
  • Increase your quality scores which lowers costs
  • Add content which can normally get clicks at lower costs
  • Use more tail terms vs. general terms. “Buy Used Cars” and “Buy Cars Online” will be cheaper than “Cars”
  • Build out separate campaigns for geotargeting. If you’re running nationally, you may be paying too much in some markets. By building out separate campaigns, you can control your bids better
  • Daypart during times of the day/week when competition is lower, such as at night when other advertisers are on pause because they’ve hit their daily caps
  • Gap Surf – find position changes that don’t move you down too far in position but have huge cost savings…
  • Use 2nd tier engines that have lower competition

To Increase Traffic

  • Increase bids
  • Increase budget
  • Use Content (and/or Placement in AdWords)
  • Use more Broad Match to create a “wider net”
  • Wider geotargeting, dayparting, etc
  • Expand your keywords. How about topics similar to yours but not specific to you? For example, if you’re selling surfing gear, what about bidding on “Hawaii Travel” or “Beach Vacations”
  • Raise your CTRs on your ads to get the most clicks from the available impressions (see above on raising CTRS)
  • Use other engines such as Ask
  • Take out negative words (when it makes sense to do so)
  • More general ads vs. specific but don’t kill your quality scores by doing so

Increase your Conversions/Return on Investment (ROI)

  • Lower CPCs to get the most clicks as you can for your budget…twice the traffic could mean twice the orders (see above on lowering CPCS)
  • Pause poor performing keywords. Be careful! Sometimes it’s easy to look at the general words that aren’t generating conversions and your instinct is to pause them. However, it’s very possible that users are finding you on general terms during their research phase and then coming back to buy.
  • Test creative/keyword combos to find the highest converting matches. Ads with the highest CTRs are not necessarily the ones with the highest conversion rates
  • Find the highest performing geotargeting, dayparting, etc and put more of your budget into those segments
  • Use negative words to filter our poor performing topics
  • Not inside the SEM account, but better landing pages can always help

Next week I’ll be wrapping up with Part 3: Optimization Resources & Tools.

Free tool of the week: SpyFu

SpyFu is not a huge secret to the SEM pros, but I figured I’d pass the word along to any of you who have never used it or haven’t used it recently.

Here’s the official blurb from their site:

SpyFu lets you see which keywords your competitors are buying and which ones they optimize their site for. Once you understand the competition, you can beat them at their own game or you can exploit their weaknesses. We get our data directly from the source; there are no middlemen. Every month, we extract 125 million ads and search results directly…

There is a much more powerful paid version, but the free version has great stats and is easy to use. Just type in a website or keyword into their search bar and you are immediately provided stats such as Daily Ad Budget, Avg Clicks/day, Avg CPC, Ad Competitors, and more. You’re also shown the organic and paid search terms the site is bidding on.

Of course, with any of these competitive tools, you have to take the results with a grain of salt. They don’t access these accounts but rather track search engines. However, feel free to start by checking out your own site/keywords and benchmark the results. If the numbers match up, you should feel fairly confident in what you’re provided. If anything, SpyFu is a great directional tool to get a quick window into your competitors.

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 [email protected]. The In The Trenches column appears Fridays at Search Engine Land.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Josh Dreller
Josh Dreller 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. Josh is currently the Director of Content Marketing at Kenshoo.

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