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Advanced Location Targeting for AdWords

AdWords provides search marketers with many location targeting options. For campaigns promoting specific business locations, determining how to reach your target market is a crucial step in optimizing your PPC campaigns.

These are a few examples for advanced users. If you’re looking for basics, Scott Dunroe’s post in the AdWords Community is a must read.

Display Targeting: Regional vs. National

A client wanted to promote a new property. We developed a campaign on Google’s Display Network to target people searching for apartments in a specific city.

Targeting Clicks Impressions CTR Conv. Rate
National 112 31,439 0.36% 9.82%
Regional 20 5,409 0.37% 5.00%

The “National” campaign was set to target the entire U.S. on pages that mentioned the targeted city. This was done with a combination of managed placements and keyword targeting. The “Regional” campaign used the same list of managed placements but instead of keywords, location targeting was used. This allowed the campaign to reach anyone looking for apartments in the target city.

The National campaign was expected to generate more impressions since it targeted a larger area. In this example, clicks from the National campaign also converted at a higher rate. While there are many contributing factors, it is important to test different methods of location targeting to determine which is most effective for that specific campaign.

Targeting Nearby Locations

AdWords typically does a good job determining the geographic area a search is referring to. Sometimes a business may have a mailing address just outside a larger town or city. The target area could also have a low population. While this can complicate your location targeting, experimenting with multiple locations can lead you to the best geographic settings.

Targeting Clicks Impressions CTR Conv. Rate
Nearby Town 1 13 251 5.18% 9.09%
Town 264 2,940 8.98% 18.50%
Nearby Town 2 569 5,998 9.49% 19.71%
Town Zipcode 0 11 0.00% 0.00%
Nearby Zipcode 1 18 5.56% 0.00%

The above example shows results for five locations entered into one campaign. The business’ mailing address is the same as the “Town” targeting. You can see that even though the business is in one town, people searching for the second nearby town converted at a higher rate. This is not uncommon. If the location you target in AdWords has a low population, target other nearby towns or zip codes.

Using Location Bid Adjustments

With AdWords Enhanced campaigns, bid adjustments can now be added to different locations. Incorporating location extensions allows you to increase bids if a search is performed close to the business’ location.

Targeting Clicks Impressions CTR Conv. Rate
National 481 35,482 1.36% 1.67%
National +20% 1,230 53,564 2.30% 1.87%

The two targeting methods are from the same campaign. “National +20%” increased the maximum bid by twenty percent if the search was performed within three miles of the property. This specific method of targeting generated a higher CTR and conversion rate.

There are many more location targeting methods PPC managers can use within AdWords. Try experimenting to see what works best.

Three Reasons Your Agency Should Hire Recent College Grads

Alright, here’s a quick rundown of why it’s a bright idea to hire recent grads to work at your marketing agency. A lot of this comes from my own agency experience, some of it comes from logic, and some of it comes from ancient mathematical equations known only by eldritch sorcerers such as myself. Anyways, here goes:

Masters of Switching Between Tasks

The average full-time college student takes four or five courses at a time and has to learn to switch between the different subject matters and projects. In many agencies, having four or five clients at a time is fairly common.

Both in undergrad and grad school, I often found myself managing two projects, three papers and a presentation simultaneously. And at first, this was overwhelming. But like most things, you adapt to it, and it just becomes the norm. Transitioning from this sort of lifestyle into marketing agency life felt natural.

I remember spending my college-era summers at in-house digital marketing positions and being bored to tears. There was a seemingly infinite backlog of recommendations to be implemented, and things moved slowly. Each day I would be looking at the same website, seeing the same problems, and growing more impatient. Agency life was a cure for this, as working with multiple clients allowed for each of them to stay fresh and exciting.

TLDR: The level of task-switching in college life is similar to that of agency life, so hiring recent college grads makes sense for agencies.

All Deadlines, All the Time

Meeting multiple deadlines and dealing with confounding variables – time management issues, unavoidable delays, the occasional crashing of Microsoft Word – is right in the recent grad’s wheelhouse.

The college experience forces you to get good at this. While many freshmen may wait until the night before to write a 10-page paper on Kant, by the time senior year rolls around, they’ve straightened themselves out. They know how long tasks are going to take, in what conditions they work most efficiently, and how to prioritize.

TLDR: Recent grads are used to deadlines. Agency life is filled with deadlines. Do the math.

Learning, Duh

Even if you hire someone who has been in the industry for quite some time, there will always be something new to learn during the first couple of weeks on the job. For me, it was BrightEdge and Majestic SEO. And Basecamp. And a whole lot of other stuff. Invariably, a new job means new skills.

Recent grads are still in information-absorption mode. College students have no fear of acquiring and applying new information. They’re not stuck in a routine drilled into them from years in a position somewhere else, and they don’t hold onto any stubborn opinions or previously-obtained misinformation. They are clean slates.

TLDR: Learnin’. College grads are in the right mindset for it.

AdWords Ad Testing: Simpson’s Paradox and Aggregating Stats

Typically with A/B ad testing it is necessary to aggregate statistics across ad groups in order to come up with statistically significant conclusions. Unfortunately, when doing this, if your ads are not being displayed evenly, you can run into Simpson’s Paradox.

According to Wikipedia, Simpson’s Paradox is “a paradox in which a trend that appears in different groups of data disappears when these groups are combined, and the reverse trend appears for the aggregate data.” Simply put, when you combine data for ad groups, you may draw the opposite conclusion than you should, picking poorer performing ads over better performing ads.

As an example, say you are testing ads for greater clickthrough rates. You created two variations, with different description 1 lines, and have applied them to two different ad groups (four ads total). At the end of the test you aggregate data for the two variations to find a winner:

Aggregate Data

Impressions Clicks CTR
Ad1 10,600 125 1.18%
Ad2 7,500 125 1.67%

From this data, you’d conclude that Ad2 is the winning ad because it has the best CTR. But say you decide to look at individual statistics by ad group:

Ad Group 1 data

Impressions Clicks CTR
Ad1 600 25 4.20%
Ad2 2,500 100 4.00%

Ad Group 2 data

Impressions Clicks CTR
Ad1 10,000 100 1.00%
Ad2 5,000 25 0.50%

Now you see that Ad1 has the best CTR in both ad groups. Because Ad Group 2 tends to have lower CTRs and Ad1 gets displayed there much more, it has skewed your results. Ad2 is not the best ad even though it appears to be when you look at aggregate stats.

This is made-up data, so it’s important to consider whether it’s possible to actually see numbers like these inside of AdWords. Based on experience, you’d be most likely to see numbers like these with optimized ad serving turned on (“optimize for clicks” or “optimize for conversions”). Optimized ad serving distributes ads more frequently when they have greater CTRs; this is the case for Ad Group 2. It is also possible to see ads with greater CTRs distributed less by ad group if the data is not significant and occasionally if the better performing ad has such a different quality score that it gets distributed much more frequently for generalized queries. This would be the case for Ad Group 1. When optimized ad serving is turned on, aggregate statistics can be misleading in reporting.

If you’d like to see which ad is winning overall, you can still do so by looking at which ads are getting distributed more frequently. It may be possible for poorer performing ads to have greater overall distribution if the ad groups in the test are not similar. Another method is to look at ad groups individually and label which ad wins in the most ad groups; however, the reason why stats are aggregated in the first place is because individual ad groups are not providing statistically significant data. The best solution is to look at overall stats and ad group stats in pivot tables to check whether there are any anomalies or if there really does appear to be a winner across the board. It’s common to see one variation winning in some of the ad groups but not others; it’s rarer to see very dominant winners unless you haven’t followed best practices in the initial drafting of your ads. Seeing mixed results in ad groups can mean that your ads all perform very similarly. It can also mean that you aren’t looking at significant data in a lot of your ad groups.

Reducing the Risks of Simpson’s Paradox

If your ads are distributed evenly across ad groups, and your ad groups are closely themed, there’s no risk of falling into the Simpson’s Paradox trap. Google has an ad serving option for “rotating ads indefinitely.” This option can be useful if you’re interested in aggregating statistics to draw broad conclusions about what types of ads work for your account. There are a few drawbacks to doing this:

  • Optimized ad serving automatically adjusts serving to maximize performance at the ad group level. You lose this automation when you turn on even rotation.
  • Certain ads may perform better in some ad groups but not in others while another ad does better overall. When you apply ad changes universally across ad groups, you can lose optimization at the ad group-level that automatically takes place with optimized serving.
  • Rotating ads don’t actually rotate ads evenly – just approximately. If you have two ads that perform very differently, they are going to have different quality scores. The ad with the higher quality score will get distributed more frequently because it will be eligible for more auctions.

Speaking to this last point, here is real data from a campaign with ads set to rotate evenly:

Impressions Clicks CTR
Ad1 9,284 307 3.3%
Ad2 3,235 58 1.8%

These ads performed so differently in terms of CTR that one got distributed a lot more. The bids were set too low for the second ad to be eligible for the same number of auctions.

While even rotation may seem like the way to go, you can still run into distribution problems, lose more granular optimization, and lose out on automatic optimization.

Using Conversion Metrics for Optimization

Most of this post talks about using CTR as the metric for optimizing ads. It’s possible to use alternative metrics like conversion per impression or profit per impression. Most of these concepts still apply when using these other methods for optimizing ads – perhaps more so because you’ll be more likely to group data when analyzing less frequently occurring events like conversions and sales. Using these other metrics does not solve Simpson’s Paradox (and in fact, they have many drawbacks, but that is outside the scope of this post).

When looking up statistics across very different entities, be careful that you are reporting the results correctly. Besides wasting a lot of testing time, you can even make your account worse off!

International SEO Infographic

Hey everyone! I wanted to explore a new service called Infogr.am that creates semi-interactive infographics. I needed a topic to play around with, so I chose to create a quick introduction to the concepts and themes of international SEO. Embedded below is my first creation:

Well, I hope you enjoyed the infographic. Keep in mind this is only the most basic introduction to international SEO – more information can be found by Googling these strategies. And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to drop us a line.

Communications: simple, easy, and stress-free!

This quarter, 2013 Q2, we at PV spent many fruitful hours exploring different communication influencers like gender, generation, and behavior. Each of these lunch and learn sessions added new value and dimension to the art of interacting with internal teams and external clients.  Personally I enjoyed and participated in all these sessions, although I must admit the ‘behavior session’ was my favorite!

Basically, the entire team took the DiSC assessment, which outlines four major behavior styles:

  • Dominance: direct, results-oriented, and firm
  • Influence: outgoing, enthusiastic, and optimistic
  • Steadiness: analytical, reserved, and precise
  • Conscientiousness: even-tempered, accommodating, and patient

What is so special about DiSC, given a whole slew of similar tests employed by human resources teams?

DiSC quadrant of our team: each dot represents one team member's behavior style

Individual team member’s behavior style plotted on the DiSC quadrant.

First of all, everyone has a primary style; most people have a secondary style as well – at the most two letters. For example, I am CS style (Conscientiousness / Steadiness) compared to an INJF in Myers-Briggs.  This is not just a matter of being lazy and cutting down letters; it does reduce the number of possibilities, thereby allowing for more generalization without discounting accuracy. This allows the subjects to think more generally about their behavior, rather than nitpick about details.

Additionally, at this session, we were sent off armed with a lot more applicable information like:

  1. Our own behavior profile: detailing our primary and secondary styles,
  2. A diagram of how everyone else (1-2 letters per person) on the team fit in the DiSC quadrant,
  3. A simple cheat sheet to help us assess a new person’s natural behavior style,
  4. (Some of us got) A ‘comparison report’ when we had other styles in the group that were drastically different from ours.

Right, how’s this different from the outcome of other such sessions?

For me personally, it was immensely helpful to have #2, #3, and #4:

An 'i' style!

Enthusiastic, passionate, and loves team bonding: ‘i’ style – also our resident ‘happy hour’ co-ordinator!

  • Item # 2 helped me plan internal conversations, difficult or otherwise, knowing the other person’s natural style. Does the person enjoy a bit of small talk or should we hit the meeting topic straight off? On the flip side, being an introvert, I have a natural tendency to be quiet and invisible in large group settings. Also, with my CS style, I take my time to share my opinions: especially in  technical matter until I am confident in the subject. Since this session, I have noticed my colleagues take the time to bring me out of my shell and let me sharemy opinions.
  • Item # 3 is fantastic to have, given the number of people we get to meet and interact with in our field. The cheat sheet lets me prepare for prospect calls or client meetings. Detail-oriented person or high-level visual picture? Loves to share or would like to run through the agenda? Again, given my natural tendency to be shy, this is such a useful tool in easing myself into new situations.
  • Item # 4 works like a nice individualized cheat sheet to interact with certain styles, especially if you are working with them on a daily basis and on challenging projects. A couple of us with these polar styles met in a coffee shop togo over our reports and to work towards adapting to each other styles which proved productive and lasting.

Not to say that #1 was not useful, it was more for myself – validating my strengths and accepting myself for who I am and what I bring to my team everyday.

The 'C' profiles working quietly in their corner!

Quiet, independent and thoughtful: our team members with strong ‘C’ style working in their corner.

All in all, the DiSC session and the homework from the session proved to be hands-on and practical on a day-to-day basis. In so many ways, it has brought the team even closer together: it only gives us more opportunity to adhere to our core value ‘bring the fun’ – you’ll overhear the C types saying “Don’t make eye contact, he is an ‘i’ and won’t stop talking!”

Convinced yet? Want to invest in productive and professional team development? We chose the ‘Everything DiSC Management’ option that included individual assessments (and the aforementioned handy tools/reports) as well as a facilitator session. The session itself was about 3 hours and the assessment took about 20-30min from each individual.

Our facilitator: J Simpson and Associates, LLC [1.810.533.3410]

Here’s to fruitful ways to communicate!

Google Analytics: GDN Impressions Now Available!

Just earlier today, Google announced it will soon be reporting ad impressions from the Google Display Network, or GDN, in Google Analytics under the Multi-Channel Funnels report. This new feature is an effort by Google to give google display networkadvertisers visibility as to how their unclicked ads have an effect on users who eventually convert. Conveniently for Google, it will show advertisers and/or their clients how lucrative advertising in the GDN can be.

To enable this feature, you’ll need to have a linked AdWords and Analytics account. You’ll also need to change your code snippet, or check a box in the Tag Manager interface. If you haven’t switched over to Tag Manager, there’s no time like the present!

There is more information about settings and accessing the information in the Google Analytics interface over at the Google Analytics support site.

Happy Analyzing!

Keep It Simple – Explaining PPC to Clients

Experienced PPC’ers know how important it is for the client to understand what is happening with their account. The client may not be familiar with the Conversion Optimizer. Many digital marketing managers may not know exactly what remarketing codes are currently installed on their site. When pulling keyword reports, managing bids, and reading industry blogs about the latest Adwords features is part of your daily routine, it can be tough to remember that marketing managers may not get down to this level of detail within paid search. If you’ve ever heard a couple of friends talking about their World of Warcraft characters, you know what I’m talking about.

Tips for Communicating with Clients

  • Use the client’s goals to determine what they are interested in hearing about. The fact that they have a PPC account and have asked you to manage it, is an indicator that they understand PPC can help them improve a certain aspect of their business. They’re trusting you to do this, so never miss a chance to prove that your efforts are working. While it can be ok to surface some nitty gritty details of account optimization, you should always relate them back to how it’s going to help your client meet their goals.
  • Give your client talking points they can repeat back in their own meetings. It’s your job to make them look good in front of their boss. If they can’t explain the work you’re doing then it’s time to pull back and reassess your approach. Putting myself in this “talking point” mindset often helps when compiling monthly reports for my clients. It’s safe to assume that some of your report is going to be repurposed or literally “copy and pasted” into your client’s own presentation. Make it easy for them to do so.
  • Avoid technical jargon and buzz words whenever possible. Every marketer is guilty of this, in fact, it has become the subject of numerous BuzzFeed lists. Keep in mind, terms you are innately familiar with will more than likely be completely new to the client, especially at the beginning of your engagement. I’ve found it helpful to include a glossary of paid search terms at the beginning of the first few reports. Often the person receiving the information may not want to ask a seemingly obvious question, and having a list of terms defined can help alleviate this.
  • To piggy back off of the last point, you should recognize the generation gap that likely exists between business owners and marketing directors (clients), and those of us managing paid search accounts. PPC is still an extremely new advertising medium with many of it’s experts being men and women in their mid 20′s, or fresh out of college. Putting us in charge of six figure Adwords & Bing accounts can be an issue for many clients who have worked for years to build their businesses to where they are today. You’re going to have to work to build their trust and confidence in your ability to meet their goals. This will take time. Going into the first meeting with a ton of complicated stats about lost impression shares and view-through conversion rates is probably not the best approach.
  • Pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues your client is giving throughout your conversation about their account. Are they staring blankly back at you as you explain why their cost per lead has risen month over month? Take a step back and remind them how the cost per lead is figured and why it is an important indicator of how the account is doing. Are they stopping you every three sentences to ask a question, or did they just let you talk for twenty minutes without asking any questions? Either scenario probably means they aren’t taking in everything you’re saying, and need clarification. It’s especially important to be mindful of these cues over a conference call where you can’t see how the client is reacting to the material. Be sure to speak slower than normal and pause frequently for questions.

Being mindful of these points can go a long way to strengthen the client-agency relationship. They are the ones paying you after all, and will always be interested in how the money is being spent. Remember to keep it simple, and save the jokes about the Bing Ads Editor for the office.

Facebook and Foursquare get into Local Search

Facebook and Foursquare are trying hard to enter the local search game. The two companies have been updating their mobile apps with features to help people discover new businesses to visit. Yelp and Google Maps may have a head start on the “nearby” and “recommendations” front, but the two social apps are gaining ground. Businesses looking to drive foot traffic should add Facebook and Foursquare to their local search efforts.

Facebook adds “Nearby” Feature to mobile app

Facebook Nearby

Note the “Places Nearby” search field and the stars for recommendations

Facebook began putting more emphasis on local search with the addition of the “Nearby” tab in within their mobile app. Clicking on this tab will display a map and business pages of nearby spots to check out. Facebook chooses what businesses to display based on your friends’ checkins, likes, and recommendations.

It is important to note that at this time Facebook does not provide support for all businesses that have multiple locations. Say your locally owned coffee shop has a location on the North, West, and East side of town. If you only have one Facebook business page for all locations, which is a best practice, Facebook will only display one location. This address is pulled from your company’s business page.

Facebook began testing a “parent-child” model back in July of 2011. This allows businesses to upload a list of all locations but still use one Facebook business page. It is currently available to a select number of large brands but expect this feature to be rolled out to all businesses as local search becomes a priority for the social network.

Foursquare’s “Super-specific” Search

Foursquare Search

Foursquare started way back when as “Dodgeball.” After being purchased by Google, ignored by Google, and leaving Google, the new app finally started collecting user data in 2009 by creating a location based checkin game. So what do you do after collecting data from over 3 billion checkins? You build a powerful recommendation search engine.

Foursquare beat Siri and Graph Search at their own game, providing search results for queries like a cheap sushi place that’s nearby and open now, but that I haven’t been to yet.” Foursquare was able to do this by changing how users converted through their app.

Step one was to get as many checkins as possible. This was done through a competitive points system and the ability to become the “mayor” of businesses. The app constantly showed you your score compared to your friends.

Foursquare eventually made the scoreboard harder to find. It instead asked users to write tips for places they frequented. “You’ve been here a lot! Why not leave a tip for your friends?” This common splash screen within the app helped Foursquare gather information about why people went to a business.

Foursquare now uses this data to help you find a good milkshake in town or the best place to get a bloody mary at brunch.

Yelp adds “Nearby” feature

Yelp Nearby

Facebook and Foursquare added features to try and compete with Yelp. One of the more popular apps for recommendations. Yelp responding with their new “Nearby” feature is a sign the “two f’s” are catching up.

What this means for your business

You should expect more local search features to be rolled out in 2013 within Facebook and Foursquare. Now is the time to ensure you have a presence on these two networks. Take advantage of all the currently available features such as Foursquare checkin-specials and Facebook business pages. Encourage your passionate customers to rate, recommend, and review your business. As the adoption rate for Facebook and Foursquare local search increases, your business will be ahead of the curve.

Smart Questions Drive Analytics

One of the most underutilized tools in analytics is the question.  Asking the right question can lead to new insights and a better understanding of how visitors use your site.  Asking the wrong question can lead to the wrong insights. Questions should be related to your business goals and KPIs.  Your answers should be actionable. If you can’t take action or make changes based on the data, you are probably wasting your time.

Here are some questions to ask before gathering any data:

What business question are you trying to answer with analytics data?

  • What impact have my AdWords campaigns had on site traffic and conversions?
  • How has the visitor trend changed over time for key pages?
  • Is there a significant difference in conversion rate between desktop and mobile/tablet visitors?

What data will provide me the answer to my question?

  • Your business question will be your guide to identifying the data needed for your analysis.

What tools are needed to gather the data?

  • Your data needs will determine the tool(s) needed to gather the data to answer your business question.

If I don’t have access to all data, how will I compensate for it in my reporting?

  • You will need to decide how to compensate in your reporting for missing data if you don’t have access to all the  data gathering tools.

What context can I add to the data to make it meaningful?

  • Numbers aren’t good storytellers, so it is important to add context around the data.
  • The context will provide the actionable insights.

Will my data lead to actionable insights?

  • Your data should help guide you in making optimization and marketing decisions.

Asking the right questions will help you focus on the metrics that correspond to your business objectives and provide a framework that is actionable and drives change.