As a search account manager of some pretty savvy clients, I frequently find myself brainstorming on unique optimization ideas and prospecting for innovative ways to improve search campaign performance. Unlike a prospector from the Alaskan days of old though, I enjoy sharing the nuggets of optimization gold that I find with colleagues and fellow search advertising professionals through discussion and articles like this one. Today’s article is a sharing session of a few deeper optimization strategies that I’ve used, which can help search marketers like you continue driving for results after exhausting surface-level strategies.
Golden Nugget Number One: Use high margin, high average order value or popular products as sitelinks in your general/non product-specific campaigns. In an earlier article I describe some of the ways in which you can optimize sitelinks for better performance, and one of those methods is to use products that are more valuable to your business model as sitelink extensions. Not only does this move imbue your ads with the increased ad real estate and CTR benefits that come from using sitelinks, but it is also a low risk, high reward method that, like the CRO (conversion rate optimization) strategy of placing top performing products on high traffic pages, can put your most successful products top of mind for searchers, thus increasing their likelihood of converting. Furthermore, this action can improve the ROI of your general or non-product-specific campaigns/ad groups by empowering them cross-pollinate and convert your top performers. Just make sure to use tracking parameters in your sitelinks for attribution accuracy.
Golden Nugget Number Two: Break out grouped product targets into individual product targets to manage bids and exclusions on an individual product-level. A fellow optimization expert friend of mine pointed out that, unlike with keywords, a business’s products typically will either perform well or won’t, and rarely will certain product ads suddenly begin outperforming. Breaking down your all products target into individual products and running a product target report will enable you to determine definitively which products do and which don’t perform so that you can exclude underperforming products, or raise bids for those that do perform to increase their impression share. Before giving a product line the exclusion axe though, you should make sure you’re giving those products a fair chance to succeed by ensuring they are in stock, you have an appealing picture and your price is competitive relative peer product ads. Additionally, you can use the search term report to identify irrelevant search queries and add negatives, just like traditional, keyword-based campaigns.
Golden Nugget Number Three: Optimize for the time of month that produces the best results.While most people are aware of and optimize for the macro, cyclical trends (i.e. holidays or the four seasons) and micro, cyclical trends (i.e. the days of the week or hours of the day), one area in which many business stand to benefit from a little more optimization effort is intra-month cyclical trends. For example the beginning of the month is a fresh start, and usually a good time to sell subscriptions like a gym membership. Also, the middle or end of the month is when many people receive paychecks, and is usually a good time to sell non-essential goods or services like clothes or accessories. By pulling daily-grain or weekly-grain monthly performance reports, you can see for yourself whether your business does indeed see recurring performance trends within each month. If you see recurring trends, you can optimize using a suitable strategy for your strategy, like raising bids to capture a higher share of impressions or clicks, running special sales to leverage the higher conversion rate and drive more profit, or raise your daily budget.
Golden Nugget Number Four: Make sure you are bidding on all three keyword match types! One optimization I often find lurking in the nooks and crannies of campaigns belonging to even the savviest clients is a lack of full match type coverage for some keywords; most shockingly, the missing match types that I often find are phrase and exact. One potential cause is that new keywords, when added without a match type specified default to broad match (similar to how negative keywords default to phrase match if not specified as exact). As a reminder: bidding on all match types for your desired keyword set is important because each match type brings a unique value to the table, and all are important.
- Exact match is important because it will produce the best results (CTR, conversion rate, CPA, quality score, impression share, etc.), which is critical for maximizing traffic from your core (exact) keyword.
- Phrase match is important because it extends the reach of your core keyword to additional, relevant impressions without sacrificing ROI; though there is a growing body of opinion that broad match modifier is preferable to phrase match because of its ability to catch word rearrangements.
- Broad match is important for maximizing your reach and volume; broad match’s purpose is to help you be more effective with your coverage and efficient with your time by not having to spend hours researching and guessing all of the potential keywords your customers could use. I have encountered several different business models and instances in which broad match has driven the majority of sales because of this very reason: people searching using obscure and ever-changing combinations of words, leaving broad match as the only viable option to reach many potential customers.
Phrase (or broad match modifier) and exact match should always be used, and you should run broad match for any keyword that is relevant to your business, and especially those that have proven performance. Optimize your campaigns by checking your keyword list to make sure that you are bidding on all three match types for every keyword.
Golden Nugget Number Five: Optimize for the top vs other position. One metric that is often misunderstood is average position; while average position indicates which ad spot in the SERP your ads are, on average occupying, it is actually dependent on the total number of ads displayed in the SERP for each impression.
While we have come to assume that position 1 indicates best position (mainline/top 1), and position 4 indicates the last position in the mainline (mainline/top 4), sometimes none of the ads in an auction have an ad rank high enough to win a top (mainline) impression and no ads will show there. If an ad doesn’t win a top impression, though, that doesn’t always mean it loses that auction overall. It may still have a high enough ad rank to win a spot in the other position (side bar or another page). In this case, the first ad (position 1) will be located in other 1 (sidebar 1), and the second ad will show in other position 2 (sidebar 2).
Another example is when one ad from the auction has a very high ad rank and wins a top (mainline) spot, but no other ads do; in this case this one ad will get top position 1, and the other ads will show other position 2, other position 3, etc. until there are no more ad spots left. This top vs other dynamic is why you may sometimes see a keyword delivery flag stating “below first page bid” when your average position is a 1 or 2: your keyword is showing in position 1 or 2 on another page for a subset of its impressions.
While you may feel as though you just stepped into an episode of the twilight zone, fear not for there is hope! There is an easy, surefire way to tell where your ads are showing: just run a performance report and include the top vs other attribute! This will tell you how many of your impressions are serving in the top (mainline) vs other (sidebar or another page) positions. Use this metric to determine which keywords you need to bid higher or improve your CTR in order to move into the top position. Don’t forget that enhanced sitelinks are eligible when your ads show in best position (top/mainline position 1), which is a nice additional incentive to secure that spot.
That wraps up today’s sharing session; thank you for following along and as always, feel free to comment with questions or additional thoughts. Happy optimizing!
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