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Back to basics: Understanding your paid search metrics

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One of the great things about paid search is the fact that you can track everything. If someone visits your store after seeing your billboard or TV spot, there’s no real way to trace that. 

However, if someone sees your paid search ad and visits your website, you know how they got to your site. You know which ad they saw, what copy they responded to and even what search term triggered your ad.

There’s so much data that it can be hard to figure out what it all means or what to do with it. Impression counts, clickthrough rates, cost-per-click…how do you sort through it all and use your paid search metrics to make intelligent decisions?

I mean, what’s the point of having all of that data if you don’t know what to do with it?

To make matters worse, a lot of this data can be hard to properly interpret, so even experienced online marketers often draw the wrong conclusions from their data or focus on the wrong metrics in their accounts. So, if you’ve ever stared at your paid search account and wondered, “What am I missing?”, this article is for you.

Are you focused on the right paid search metrics?

If you’re like most online marketers, you probably have several campaigns running, at least a dozen ads and over a hundred keywords to keep track of. And that’s if your account is on the small side.

Every one of those campaigns, ads, ad groups and keywords can give you a wealth of information about your audience and how effective your advertising is…but only if you know how to use your data.

These days, paid search is so competitive that it isn’t enough to simply set up Google Analytics and keep an eye on your cost-per-click. You need to know how to interpret every aspect of your paid search data and use it to optimize the performance of your account.

Now, while that might sound like a daunting task, most of the information in your paid search account can be broken down into three manageable pieces: information about your traffic, information about conversions and information about sales.

Let’s take a look at each of these three types of data and how you can use them to interpret what’s happening in your paid search account.

What sort of traffic are you getting?

When it comes to paid search advertising, most marketers tend to focus on traffic-related metrics like impressions, cost-per-click (CPC) or click-through rate (CTR). After all, the main reason why you run paid search campaigns is to drive more traffic to your website.

And, not surprisingly, paid search platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads are full of traffic-related information: device segmentation data, keyword info, impression share insights, and more. For Google and Bing, this info is incredibly easy to track and supply and it’s what most of their users are interested in.

What you can learn from traffic data

While all of this traffic data is certainly handy, it’s only useful if you know what to do with it. That being said, your traffic data tells you a lot about how well your campaigns are working for your target audience.

If no one is clicking on your ads, there’s a good chance that your ad copy needs some work…or you’re targeting the wrong keywords. If your cost-per-click is too high, you might need to rethink your bidding strategy. If you’re not getting enough impression share on your best campaigns, you probably need to consider shifting your budget around.

For example, say you’re running paid search ads for a local attorney. On average, this client makes $3,200 from a new client and spends about $1,200 taking care of them.

In your most recent review of your campaigns, you review your traffic data and put the following report together:

From the data above, it’s easy to see which campaign is generating the best results. Campaign #3 produces more clicks at a lower cost-per-click than any of your other campaigns. In contrast, while you spent over twice as much on campaign #4, you got one-third of the clicks you got from campaign #3.

Clearly, you either need to shut down campaign #4 and put its budget into a better campaign like #3 or invest some time into figuring out why campaign #4 is performing so poorly.

However, before you make any decisions, we should probably talk about the other two types of data in your account. After all, your attorney friend doesn’t make money from clicks. To make money, she needs leads…and none of this data tells you whether or not all of those clicks are actually turning into leads.

Is your traffic converting?

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about conversion data. Because Google and Bing often can’t tell what a conversion is for your website, it takes some extra work to set up conversion tracking for your site. And, as a result, almost half of paid search advertisers don’t track their campaigns beyond traffic data.

But here’s the thing, without conversion data, you can’t answer the following two critical questions about your paid search campaigns.

1. Is my website (or landing page) a good fit for my traffic?

Paid search marketing is intent-based marketing. When someone searches for something on Google or Bing and clicks on your ad, they’re actively looking for a solution to a problem…a problem they think your business can help them with.

Their click is an act of faith in your business and the page they land on after clicking shows them whether or not their faith was justified. If your landing page or website meets their expectations, a decent percentage of people should convert. If not, they’ll leave.

So, if your conversion rate is high, then your destination page is a good fit for your traffic. However, if your conversion rate is low, it means that something is off. Your landing page or site isn’t working for your traffic, so they’re leaving to find something better.

If you find yourself in the latter situation, you may want to take a hard look at the page you’re sending traffic to. You may need to rethink your page and site experience to bring it into closer alignment with the expectations of your traffic.

2. Is your traffic a good fit for your landing page?

Of course, the opposite might be true, too. If your landing page seems like it should be converting traffic, but it isn’t, your ads may be sending the wrong people to your page.

If people click on your ads because they want a divorce attorney, but you’re a personal injury firm, will they convert? The wrong traffic never converts, regardless of how good your site is.

In this situation, it’s often a good idea to look at the search terms people are using to find your ads and the actual ad copy that you’re using. If it seems like you’re attracting clicks from the wrong people, you may need to rework your advertising strategy to target the right audience.

What you can learn from conversion data

Once you have set up conversion tracking, look beyond traffic data and see how your campaigns did in terms of conversions.

Although it doesn’t have the best conversion rate (CR), campaign #3 gets enough cheap clicks that it still has the best cost-per-lead. And, as before, campaign #4 is still a lost cause. Between a low conversion rate and high cost-per-click, it’s producing leads at almost ten times the cost of a lead from campaign #3.

With an 8 percent conversion rate, it doesn’t seem like either of these campaigns are targeting the wrong traffic, but they could probably both benefit from a little conversion rate optimization on their destination pages.

However, while this data paints a clearer picture, your attorney friend still doesn’t make money off of leads. She needs to close new clients. To get at that information, we need to look at our sales data.

Are you making sales?

As helpful as traffic and conversion data are, they still don’t tell you whether or not your campaigns are making money. And, if your campaigns aren’t making money, why are you running them?

Unfortunately, tracking your paid search campaigns clear through to sales data can be tricky. E-commerce is pretty straightforward, but once you get beyond that, it can be hard to connect your actual sales data to your campaign performance. You often need some sort of CRM like Salesforce and you have to figure out how to connect all of the dots.

But is it worth it? Absolutely. Let’s take a look at what the sales data for our hypothetical law firm’s campaigns shows.

All of sudden, campaign #4 just went from zero to hero. It might not have a great CPC or conversion rate, but its return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) is almost twice the ROAS of any other campaign.

So what does this actually tell us? Well, for one thing, it’s clear that campaign #4 appeals to people who are much more likely to buy than the people in any of the other campaigns. Campaign #3 might drive a lot more traffic, but that traffic is far less likely to sign up for our attorney friend’s services.

Does this mean that campaign #3 is bad? With a ROAS of 92 percent, it’s certainly losing money right now, but it has a lot going for it on the traffic and data front. Before you can pass judgement on it, you’ll need to dive into that data and see if there is any way to turn all of that potential into actual sales.

Maybe you need to change your ad messaging to filter out people who aren’t likely to actually become a client. Maybe you could tweak the landing page to better appeal to potential clients. Maybe your attorney friend just needs some coaching on how to respond to leads from this campaign.

In any case, without this sales data, it would have been easy to assume that campaign #4 was a complete loss and campaign #3 deserved more of your budget – when, in fact, the opposite was actually true. This is why sales data is so important. Traffic and conversion data teach you useful things about your campaigns, but only sales data answers the question, “Are my ads actually making money?”

Conclusion

Your paid search account is full of valuable information, but turning all of that data into actionable information can sometimes seem overwhelming. The trick is making sure that you have access to all of the data that you need to make educated decisions and then knowing what each type of data tells you.

Now that you know how to interpret your data, all you have to do is start digging through your paid search metrics. Opportunities to improve your account should quickly become apparent. Good luck!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jacob is passionate entrepreneur on a mission to grow businesses using PPC & CRO. As the Founder & CEO of Disruptive Advertising, Jacob has developed an award-winning and world-class organization that has now helped over 2,000 businesses grow their online revenue. Connect with him on Twitter.



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Google brings ‘Interpreter Mode’ language translation to the Assistant on smartphones

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Google introduced its real-time translation feature, “Interpreter Mode,” for Google Home and smart displays earlier this year. It tested the feature in several hotels in Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco at concierge and registration desks.

Now the company is more broadly rolling out Interpreter Mode to Android devices and iPhones. Where there were 26 languages available on Google Home, there are now 44 on the smartphone Assistant.

Google Translate also works. While the capability is impressive, people have been using Google Translate in real-world travel or foreign-language contexts like this for some time. This is just a more elegant and enhanced presentation of Google’s underlying machine translation capabilities.

‘Help me speak [language].’ In order to invoke Interpreter Mode, users say something along the lines of “Hey Google, help me translate [foreign language].” It will then enable real-time translation. Google also says the Assistant “may present Smart Replies, giving you suggestions that let you quickly respond without speaking.”

Interpreter Mode works automatically on Android, but iPhone users will need to install or update the Google Assistant app. Without updating the app, I tried to invoke it on the iPhone, and it prompted me to use the Google Translate app instead. Indeed, real-time translation can be accomplished with Google Translate, though somewhat more awkwardly.

Why we care. As Google continues to add capabilities and features to the Assistant, it reinforces usage and loyalty. The Assistant is Google’s cross-platform UI that spans multiple channels and hardware devices.

Yet we still don’t know how frequently consumers are using the Assistant on smartphones or whether there’s any substitution of the Assistant for more traditional Google Search on mobile devices. I suspect the Assistant as a search alternative is still a small minority use case. Earlier this year Google tested ads in Assistant smartphone search results.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.



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Amazon ad spend rises over Cyber 5, but most efficient sales days still ahead

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On Cyber Monday alone, consumers spent $9.4B via online channels – that’s up $1.5B from just last year, according to Adobe, and another record-breaking figure in terms of e-commerce sales. For marketers, the entire five-day stretch known as Cyber 5, but dubbed “Turkey 5” by Amazon, was likely a banner sales weekend, but looking at year-over-year Amazon data, what’s clear is that your holiday fortunes are not made or broken on that period alone.

As part of the research my company conducted, it is clear that on a conversion rate and cost-per-conversion basis, some of the best sales days on Amazon come after Cyber Monday. To maximize your total sales, and potentially capture market share from competitors, your advertising budgets and strategy on the site needs to align with this reality.

As seen in the below graphs, which are drawn across a same-set of more than 700 Amazon sellers, ad conversion rates continue to rise from Cyber Monday all the way through the Dec. 22 shipping cutoff. Yet, the average cost-per-conversion declines over the same period.

Click to enlarge

This is likely due to two contributing factors.

Perhaps most impactfully, many brands budget to spend aggressively during that five-day period and, due to the extremely high volume of consumers on the site, blow through a fixed budget for the season. While those holiday period campaigns may have driven high sales volumes at profitable costs, those same brands now don’t have the ability to stay aggressive over the intervening days, substantially tapering down spend and bids through the remainder of the year and missing out on these additional profitable sales.

Secondly, when consumers are shopping on Amazon a matter of weeks or days before Christmas, they are less inclined to do a great deal of research when buying their gifts. Time is of the essence, and the data bears out that users are more likely to click and convert on a sponsored product ad during this period.

In 2019, that latter point may be even more important, as the time between Cyber Monday and Christmas nearly a full week shorter, lending itself to more “last minute” holiday gift buying.

The bottom line is that on Amazon, it’s imperative that you consider uncapping budgets around holiday periods and other high-traffic events on Amazon in particular, provided you have the ability to set and adjust bids to align with the value of a given sale after discounts, fees, etc.

This is driven home by the overarching trend over the five-day period itself. Even in the face of a large number of sellers aggressively advertising during this time, the massive amount of consumers coming to Amazon and subsequently clicking on ads outpaced that rate. Across gift-giving categories and more than 219,000 products, Amazon ad spend was up significantly, but CPCs either remained flat, declined, or rose at a level far below the corresponding spend increase – compared to the prior four-week average.

Click to enlarge

In a sense, it was easy for a brand to spend substantially more on Amazon advertising over “Turkey 5” – we saw a 92% increase from pre-holiday levels on average – but they were likely driving sales at a more profitable rate from that ad spend. With conversion rates remaining high following Cyber Monday, that efficiency is likely to increase, albeit with less traffic overall.

Maximizing the holiday home stretch and beyond

With some time still remaining until the Dec. 22 shipping cutoff, there are some tactical levers brands can pull to capture more of those profitable sales. We talked about the value in uncapping budgets through Dec. 22, but that needs to be paired with bids that are set in line with any promotional or non-promotional pricing which may be in place for a given product.

By consistently bidding to value on an individual product level, brands can bring in more profitable sales on Amazon during these high traffic periods. Additionally, this is a good practice year-round, as it minimizes the risk of wasting ad spend while allowing for scale when a bump in user purchase activity warrants additional investment.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Andrew Waber is the director of insights at retail optimization platform (ROP) provider Teikametrics. In his current role, Andrew manages the analysis, editorial direction and strategy for Teikametrics’ reporting on online retail advertising and the larger online retail marketplace. Prior to his time at Teikametrics, Andrew served as the manager of data insights and media relations at Salsify, the manager of market insights and media relations for advertising automation software provider Nanigans, and as the market analyst and lead author of reports for Chitika Insights, the research arm of the Chitika online ad network. Andrew’s commentary on online trends has been quoted by the New York Times, Re/Code and The Guardian, among other outlets.



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SMX Overtime: Managing your online business reviews

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Last month I spoke at SMX East about scaling online reputation management – specifically reviews. At the end of my presentation, “14 Tips to Scale Reviews Across Multiple Locations,” I fielded a number of fantastic questions from session attendees and wanted to follow-up on some additional ones.

How do I convince clients to respond to reviews on Google?

First and foremost, responding to customer reviews builds trust. When a business responds to reviews, it demonstrates that it cares enough about its customers to respond to them. Being responsive builds trust not only with the person who wrote the review but also with future customers who might be looking at reviews as they evaluate you against your competitors. 

Responding to reviews specifically on Google also improves your visibility. Reviews have been the fastest growing signal in Google local ranking factors for the past three years, according to the annual Moz Local Search Ranking Factors study. Review signals were overwhelming correlated with higher rankings in Local SEO Guide’s Local Search Ranking Study from two years ago. And Google itself cites managing and responding to customer reviews as an important ranking factor.

Strictly looking at GMB and reviews, wouldn’t negative reviews actually be helpful in rankings?

Google stresses that “High-quality, positive [emphasis mine] reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.” So, strictly speaking, negative reviews won’t help.

But the bigger question is this: how can negative reviews help your business beyond rankings? They can if you are willing to learn from them. No business is perfect. Negative feedback identifies vulnerabilities that you need to address before they mushroom into bigger problems.

Responding to reviews by improving your business creates a virtuous cycle: a better customer experience leads to more positive reviews, which leads to improved visibility online. So, long story short, indirectly negative reviews could help your rankings in local search by improving your business.”

Many of our clients like us to handle reviews on their behalf. Do you have any recommendations on how to monetize that as a service?

Don’t try to manage reviews manually – especially if your clients operate multiple locations. Trying to monitor and respond appropriately and quickly to reviews can be overwhelming unless you have a tool that does everything from sentiment analysis to natural language processing of the reviews as they come in. (Full disclosure: my company offers one.) But don’t take my word for it: ask someone who has tried to manage reviews manually at scale. They’ll tell you the same thing: you need the right tool to manage this process well.

What’s a typical workflow like when outsourcing reviews? How do you onboard the new people responding to reviews?

First, talk with your client and establish a protocol for how to respond to reviews. Is the client going to split duties with the outsourcing partner, or is the partner going to handle them all? In addition, what’s the protocol for writing original replies versus using some agreed-upon, preformatted replies? Those (and many others) are the types of questions you need to address. Get the protocol sorted out and documented. Once you do that, onboarding new people comes down to relying on the protocol to train them.

What’s your position on review gating? Only targeting people who give us the best feedback or would asking all be more beneficial?

Don’t do it. Review gating goes against Google’s terms of service and violating that can get you in hot water with the world’s most popular website. Incidentally, as reported in Search Engine Land, review gating won’t materially impact your business’ overall ratings anyway. It’s not worth the risk.

When businesses ask customers for reviews say, for urgent care, what ratio of positive to negative reviews might the business expect?

If you take good care of your customers, then expect a high ratio of positive reviews! The important thing is to ask for reviews. Don’t be afraid of negative ones happening. People who have a bad experience with your business are going to share negative reviews whether you ask them or not. It’s not like asking for reviews will trigger a flood of damaging feedback. Trust me – upset customers need no encouragement. But sometimes happy customers just need a little nudge to share the love online.

How do you combat fake reviews and irrelevant negative reviews? Flagging doesn’t do crap!

Fake reviews are a problem and no doubt that flagging reviews has little effect on having them removed. While there is no guarantee this will work, typically the best course of action to have reviews removed is to post to the GMB forums and hope Joy Hawkins or another Product Expert takes up your cause.

That said, what you can do is ask customers to review your business and make it easy for them to do so. The uptick in authentic reviews will counter the spammy ones.

How do we decide which platforms to focus our review asks on? Zillow? Google? Facebook? Especially given a limited number of transactions.

Focus first on the review amplifiers, Google and Facebook. Review amplifiers have an inordinate impact on your reputation because of their scale and influence. It’s better to focus on a small number of review amplifiers than spread yourself thin trying to be present on every location where someone leaves a review.

Start with Google. Google reviews have the biggest impact on your reputation and search rankings. Google owns 93 percent of the search market, and as noted earlier, reviews are one of the most important local search ranking signals on Google. Accumulating customer reviews on Google is most important for both your reputation and your visibility online.

Facebook remains an important number two choice to focus your time. Research from Vendasta shows that Facebook is a critical site for reviews owing to its traffic and review volume, which is true in my experience working with clients. After all, next to Google and YouTube, Facebook is the world’s most popular site – and its user base is growing.

After Google and Facebook, pick some vertical sites that pertain to your industry – such as TripAdvisor for travel and Zillow for real estate.

But in a world of limited resources and budget, you need to focus first on the review amplifiers: Google and Facebook.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Adam Dorfman is a technology and digital marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience. His expertise spans all aspects of product development as well as scaling product and engineering teams. He has been in the SEO and Local SEO space since 1999. In 2006, Adam co-founded SIM Partners and helped create a business that made it possible for companies to automate the process of attracting and growing customer relationships across multiple locations. Adam is currently director of product at Reputation where he and his teams are integrating location-based marketing with reputation management and customer experience. Adam contributes regularly to publications such as Search Engine Land, participates in Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and regularly speaks at search marketing events such as Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West and State of Search as well as industry-specific events such as HIMSS. Follow him on Twitter @phixed.



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