Quality Score and other leverage points

As you are no doubt aware, Google recently added additional reporting and transparency to the Quality Score (QS) metric that’s all-important in terms of calculating Ad Rank. (If you’ve never watched the updated Ad Rank explanation video by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, I recommend you take a look.)

Determining the relative importance of Quality Score components

Google has provided advertisers with data on Quality Score for some time; what’s new here is historical trend data visibility into three key QS components: expected click-through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience.

While being able to inspect these new, granular metrics is great, it’s important to realize that all we’re gaining is an estimated importance of each of these QS components. And just as in cooking or baking, the mere fact that you’ve got some ingredients on hand, plus a vague idea of how much of each ingredient to use, doesn’t predict (or result in) the best possible outcome.

Think about these factors and scores as indicating the quality of each ingredient in a given dish (for example, meatloaf). While great ingredients are necessary for a great outcome, knowing the quality of each ingredient alone isn’t sufficient. To create a world-class meatloaf, we also need an understanding of their relative importance. Unfortunately, Google’s latest tweak doesn’t tell us anything about this.

But while we don’t know for certain the rank order of the quality factors that have the highest impact on the final Quality Score, we do have a pretty good (anecdotally derived) idea that predicted CTR is the most important one (the others count as well, but likely less so). Expected CTR is likely to remain the most important for many reasons, not the least of which is that it makes Google the most money per search for them to calculate QS based heavily on that data.

It’s important to remember that — as Varian indicates — it’s in Google’s best interest to incentivize marketers to do things that improve their ads’ relevance (or CTR) while also making the post-click user experience suck less. (Admit it, there’s still a lot of room for improvement out there — and not just on your site!) We also have to remember that higher CTRs and relevance make Google (and Bing, too) more money in the long run, so these incentives are completely aligned.

TIP: If you’ve seen a historical jump in cost per click (CPC) required to maintain historical position, being able to inspect the historical Quality Score is a great way to determine whether the surge in CPC was based on a QS fluctuation on your end, or if it’s due to increased auction pressure in the AdWords marketplace.

Quality Score and other points of marketing leverage

Google continues to make it clear that we should pay attention to improving Quality Score. One of the great things about obtaining Quality Score improvements is that these provide you with leverage. Leverage is key — not just to achieving the high positions for the searches that can drive substantial profitable volume for you, but also because if you don’t have it, your competition does (which means they’ll kick your butt).

But improving your Quality Score isn’t the only way to ensure your ability to remain in top positions profitably. Improvement in other areas can make a huge difference in your long-term success. My favorites are (starting from the things you can do at the AdWords side of things):

  • Reorganize your accounts. Having poorly structured campaigns and ad groups will depress your Quality Score. This is a change you can make at the AdWords side of the equation.
  • Fix lousy ad copy or creative. When ad copy resonates against the keywords in an ad group, your CTR goes up (and CTR is the biggest component of QS).
  • Improve targeting. This includes anything from using the right negative keywords to eliminating poorly targeted ad impressions to using audiences and dayparting to be there in the SERP when your most targeted customers are itching to click.
  • Improve conversion rate. Whether you’re an e-commerce or multichannel merchant business, B-to-B, lead gen or services business, anything you can do to get a greater percentage of site visitors to take actions you value is a leverage point. If more of your clicks convert, your allowable bid goes up.
  • Strive for mobile-friendliness. This factor is related to improving conversion rate. Remember, the mobile site visitor is increasingly important to Google, and so Google is grading you on mobile-friendliness. (TIP: While using the Google Search Console can identify the more glaring problems, also make sure you walk around the office, grab a bunch of devices and test your site yourself.)
  • Increase average shopping cart size (for retail). This includes getting high gross profit customers to call in and get upsold by reps.
  • Increase social media engagement of clicks that come in through search. Social can have a multiplier effect on marketing.
  • Improve your own response rate or fulfillment rate. Customers like speed. That’s why Amazon Prime rocks. But speed in follow-up is also important in any service business.

Don’t forget that all of the above strategies will help your overall business, not just your performance in search. They will eliminate friction, make your other media more effective and deliver conversions at higher values, thus delivering a win to your company’s top and bottom line.

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Source: SEland

Micro-wins: The true secret to AdWords success

“8 Google AdWords Hacks that Will Double Your Conversion Rate!”

“AdWords Tricks That Increased Customer Acquisition by 20%!”

“An AdWords Campaign Tweak to Increase PPC Leads 200%!”

These days, it seems like everywhere you look, someone is suggesting a new AdWords hack, trick or tweak that will transform your AdWords accounts. I’ll admit that I’ve even written these types of articles myself.

And why not? Big wins are exciting and fun. They’re the thrilling result of clever tactics and brilliant customer insights that inspire us to take our paid search accounts to the next level.

At least, that’s how they’re supposed to work. In reality, most hacks, tricks and tweaks become something of a crutch. We all want big wins, so we hungrily search for the next idea that will cut our cost-per-click, boost our ROI, or deliver whatever result we’re currently looking for.

Then, to our great frustration, that incredible tweak that made company X’s campaigns crazy profitable doesn’t work for us. Maybe it delivers decent results, but our results are nothing compared to what company X saw in their case study.

What went wrong? Are you just bad at AdWords? Was the case study a lie?

Unfortunately, with our fixation on big wins and AdWords hacks, we sometimes forget that the most successful AdWords accounts aren’t built on a single win. They are the cumulative result of hundreds to thousands of micro-wins. Those micro-wins are hard to write case studies about, but they ultimately make a much bigger difference than most hacks, tricks or tweaks.

Focusing on micro-wins

With all that in mind, then, let’s take a look at a micro-win case study.

Now, I could easily have titled this article, “The Simple AdWords Hack That Tripled Lead Volume” and probably gotten a lot of clicks. However, there was no simple hack. Yes, we more than tripled this particular client’s lead volume and simultaneously boosted lead quality, but we didn’t hack our way to success. In fact, it took two years and thousands of mini-tweaks to get these results.

Yet that doesn’t mean that this case study doesn’t have an interesting story to tell. In fact, for most AdWords advertisers, this is the sort of success story that they should expect from their own accounts:

In the beginning

When we first started working with this client, their account was performing decently well. It was nothing to write a case study about, but it wasn’t losing money hand over fist the way some accounts are.

In fact, since this was a B2B company with a large lifetime value, we were able to test quite a few different tactics in their account without putting their profit margin at serious risk.

So, for the next 10 months, we tried all sorts of different advertising strategies. We experimented with various keywords and remarketing strategies and tested a whole alphabet soup of AdWords options (e.g., GDN, GSPs and RLSA).

After exploring all of our options, we had increased click volume by 500 percent and lead volume by 240 percent:

Not bad, eh? Overall, our grab-bag of tactics was delivering good value for the client.

Finding our champions

At a certain point, however, we had tried just about everything that it made sense to try. To make matters worse, every time we tried to push the envelope with something new, we ended up wasting money.

Clearly, we needed to change our focus.

So, we switched from exploration mode to refinement mode. We dug into the client’s analytics data and discovered that not all of the clicks we were driving were created equal. For example, paid search clicks from certain keywords were producing lots of leads. In contrast, clicks on our Display Network ads rarely converted.

Using this data, we started to make changes to the account. We cut our Display Network budget and eliminated other campaigns that weren’t producing profitable sales.

It took about four months, but we eliminated 20 percent of our clicks without really reducing lead volume. More importantly, this reduced our cost per lead by 13 percent.

Now, after a little over a year, the client was getting 3x the leads at 90 percent of their original cost per lead. As with our exploration phase, this improvement wasn’t the result of any particular major change — it was the sum of countless micro-improvements to the account.

Polishing things up

Eventually, however, we hit another plateau. We knew which channels and campaigns were driving the best clicks, and those clicks were converting at a pretty good rate.

However, a high-converting campaign isn’t always the same thing as a highly profitable campaign.

To really get the most out of the account, we dug into the client’s sales data. As it turned out, we were bidding on a lot of keywords that were driving conversions… but few to no sales.

In this situation, we realized that we were facing a couple of potential problems: (1) we were bidding on the wrong keywords; or (2) our ads and landing pages weren’t a good fit for our keywords.

So, we started aggressively testing our ad copy and landing pages. After a few tests, if the keyword still wasn’t producing sales at a decent rate, we got rid of it. And, as it turned out, that was the case for 89 percent of the keywords.

At first glance, you would think that eliminating 89 percent of your keywords would kill lead volume; however, that didn’t prove to be the case. Instead, because we were able to redirect ad spend from our poorly performing keywords to our best keywords, lead volume only dropped by 10 percent. Lead quality went through the roof.

Altogether, this meant that we ended up spending 43 percent less on AdWords while producing more sales. Not too shabby!

Micro-wins for the win

After two years, we had tripled lead volume, dramatically improved close rates and cut overall ad spend. It was a huge win for the client, but it wasn’t the result of any particular tweak or hack. Instead, it was the end result of thousands of micro-wins.

When you get right down to it, this is how most AdWords accounts achieve true success. Yes, advertisers tend to make a big deal out of the big wins, but headline-worthy hacks are the exception, not the norm.

Instead, it typically works best to follow the model we used with this client. Start by exploring your options. You might waste money on a few false starts, but you’ll learn what really works for your business.

After you’ve figured out which options deliver clicks and conversions, take a harder look at your campaigns. Identify which channels deliver profitable conversions and which ones simply make a lot of smoke and noise. Then, once you’ve narrowed your ad spend down to your most effective options, take a look at your sales data. Find the specific campaign elements that produce sales, and focus your spend on those elements.

It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, but this methodical approach delivers consistent micro-wins that add up to big wins over time. And ultimately, isn’t that what matters most?

The post Micro-wins: The true secret to AdWords success appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Source: SEland

Google: SEO Over Optimization Can Eventually Hurt Your Rankings

SEOs for almost a decade have been using the term “over optimization” for one reason why a site might start to not do well in the Google search results. Some call it the over optimization penalty. Well, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that over optimization exists and can hurt your rankings.

Gary said on Twitter that over optimization is “totally a thing.” He said that “it is literally optimizing so much that eventually it starts hurting.”

Here is the set of tweets:

Where does this come into play? Gary didn’t say but think about over doing it with links (Penguin) or spreading out too many pages with tons of keyword variations (Panda). You see the point?

Is there something specific that looks for over SEOing a site in Google? Well, probably many algorithms do that on some level.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Source: SEroundTable

Google: No Index Is A Directive, It Doesn't Control Crawling

There are many ways to control how Google crawls your web site but one of them is not the noindex tag. Google will still crawl your web site and web pages with the noindex tag on them. It needs to, in order to know what not to index. You can use robots.txt, nofollow, and other means to try to slow or prevent what Google picks up on but not the noindex tag.

John Mueller of Google said it again on Twitter saying the “noindex is an indexing directive, it doesn’t control crawling.”

Google has a huge help section on how you can control crawling of your web site. So read up on that for specifics.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Source: SEroundTable

Google's New AdWords Interface To Launch To All By End Of Year

Google announced they will be launching the new AdWords interface by the end of the year to all advertisers.

In March of 2016, Google announced the new AdWords interface and then in August we saw it live and shortly after they began selectively rolling it out to some users to test. They began pushing it for testing to more advertisers last month.

Google added that “starting today, we’re rolling out the new experience to millions of additional AdWords accounts and it will be available to all advertisers by the end of the year.”

Here are some new things they want you to see in this interface:

click for full size

click for full size

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Source: SEroundTable

Google Tests Clickable Hotel Prices In Map View

Google is now testing displaying hotel price labels directly in the map view for your local searches on mobile. This was first spotted by our man Sergey Alakov who shared it on Twitter.

Normally, the map just shows icons and pins of where the hotels are located. As of right now, all I see are pins for the hotel location on the map. But in Sergey’s screen shots, Google is showing the actual prices.

Here is a screen shot:

When you click on a price label in the maps result, it will select in red and load the hotel details below as illustrated in the image above.

Here is an animated GIF of it in action from Sergey as well.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Source: SEroundTable

Google Tests New People Also Search For Carousel Interface

Google’s people also search for feature is testing a new design on mobile. It looks like a carousel above the top stories AMP carousel. Mitchell Haw from Ignite Visibility shared a screen shot with me on @johnelincoln Twitter account.

Here is the test user interface for this design:

In comparison, this is what I see:

Google is frequently testing design interfaces around features like this. They tried other forms of carousels in the main snippets before. This new look seems much different.

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Source: SEroundTable

Daily Search Forum Recap: May 24, 2017

Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:

Other Great Search Forum Threads:

Source: SEroundTable

Spotted: AdWords reporting dashboards that can be scheduled & shared

Google is testing dashboards in AdWords Report Editor. Optmyzr’s Frederick Vallaeys noticed the dashboards on Tuesday.

After building tables or charts in the drag-and-drop Report Editor, advertisers can embed them to a modular and customizable dashboard. The dashboards can be edited, shared, downloaded as a PDF, and even set on a recurring schedule for sharing. A KPI widget and a text widget are available to include comments to accompany the reporting widgets.

The dashboard function only supports single account data at this point and is not compatible at the Manager Account (MCC) level.

Below are several screen shots Vallaeys shared with Search Engine Land.

This view shows the modular blocks in which the dashboards can be built, along with the text widget in use. Charts and tables can take up multiple blocks.

Here’s what the dashboard above looks like when completed. 

Dashboards can be scheduled to be emailed daily, on the first of the month or weekly. 

The test is quite limited at this point, so do not be surprised if you don’t see it in your accounts yet.

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Source: SEland