6 AdWords strategies businesses can use to make love, not war on Valentine’s Day

If you’ve visited any local pharmacy recently, you have a pretty good idea of what holiday is coming up. Yup, that one with the hearts, chocolates, flowers and teddy bears.
It’s not Christmas or New Year’s, but Valentine’s Day is a huge opportunity for all businesses, not just flower delivery and giant teddy bear manufacturers. There’s just as much opportunity to optimize your return on investment (ROI) improvements if you know the right strategies.
Let’s dig into the following pay-per-click (PPC) tactics so you avoid situations like this one and learn how to maximize your advertising efforts on Valentine’s Day.
Is advertising on Valentine’s Day worth it?
Look, people aren’t only looking for flowers, chocolates and cute cards on Valentine’s Day; there are plenty of people who want to spend the day out treating themselves, reserving a nice day at the spa or grabbing a drink with friends. Using Google Trends and the Keyword Planner, we see there is a market

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Merkle Q4 2017: Search ad click growth fell, ad spend rose 23% across Google, Bing, Yahoo

Overall, in Q4 2017, search ad click volume growth slowed by 9 percent as the average cost per click (CPC) increased 14 percent. Spend rose 24 percent year over year. Engagement and conversion performance from search ads improved, however, and clicks from phones accounted for 50 percent of all clicks for the first time. Those are among the findings reported in Merkle’s Q4 2017 Digital Marketing Report.
Source: Merkle
These search ad trends are consistent with the Q4 performance trends reported by Marin Software last week.
Google ad spend growth slowed slightly from Q3
Spending on Google search ads increased 23 percent overall year over year in Q4 2017. Retail and consumer goods spending on search ads rose 24 percent during the holiday season, according to Merkle’s Q4 2017 Digital Marketing Report.
That growth in search ad spend is actually a slight deceleration from Q3. Search spend jumped 38 percent on mobile and 21 percent on desktop. Click volume growth slowed sharply to 8

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Insights from our 2017 holiday retail survey

By most accounts, the holiday shopping season was an e-commerce success, with final tallies beating analyst estimates. Earlier this month, we asked e-commerce teams about their holiday marketing strategies — planning, budgeting and expectations — and what they did differently this year from last year.
Nearly 100 respondents shared their feedback. The majority (57 percent) of respondents worked in-house, while 43 percent were at agencies. The client/company size represented skewed to the smaller end, with 60 percent of respondents working with companies with annual revenues below $25 million. Nearly 13 percent represented companies with annual revenues over $500 million.
There were several interesting findings from the survey. Here are some of the highlights from the final results.
Holiday budgets rose across most platforms
Overall, search and social budgets increased this holiday season over the previous year, with 70 percent of respondents saying they increased budgets on both channels. Display retargeting budgets for more than half of respondents (56 percent) also increased

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Marin: Search CPCs outpaced spend growth in Q4 2017

Paid search spending increased by just over 10 percent year over year in Q4 2017 across Marin Software’s customer base. CPC growth doubled that of overall spend with an increase of roughly 20 percent year over year.
Mobile CPCs increased 25 percent year over year, accounting for 53 percent of total spend. Google took 89 percent of search spend share, with 11 percent going to Bing. The findings are part of Marin’s Q4 2017 Digital Benchmarks Report highlighting some of the key metrics realized across the accounts running campaigns through the platform.
Click volume was off roughly 7.5 percent from Q4 2016, while click-through rates increased from roughly 1.75 percent to more than 2.5 percent.
Source: Marin Software
Given the holiday season, it’s not surprising to see investment and activity in Shopping ads increase. Marin saw Google Shopping ad click share increase by 31 percent from Q3 to Q4 2017.
Looking more closely at CPCs by industry, education continues to stand out,

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Google adds keyword functionality to the AdWords app

We haven’t heard much about development on the AdWords app lately, but there’s a new update out today that makes the app more useful.
Advertisers can now add, edit and remove keywords from their campaigns using the AdWords app.

You can now add, edit or remove keywords on the go using the AdWords app. Learn more: https://t.co/CHjsn1uZHr pic.twitter.com/ZhMzM6IaiL
— Google AdWords (@adwords) January 18, 2018

To add a keyword, simply click the new round blue “plus” button that appears in the bottom right corner of the various Keyword views in the app.
To delete existing keywords, click on the keyword you want to delete and then on the trash can icon in the upper right corner of the screen.
From that same specific keyword screen, advertisers can edit the word itself or change the match type. That’s also where advertisers can pause or enable a keyword and change manually set bids.

For full instructions, see the help center page.
The AdWords app can be downloaded

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Understanding AdWords keyword match types for manufacturers

In a previous column, I addressed the challenges paid search advertising can present to industrial manufacturers who sell capabilities versus stock products.
Another challenge is the AdWords help files themselves. As an advertising platform, AdWords is geared more to retailers — when a platform uses common retail products to illustrate keyword strategies, it’s often hard to see how the example relates to keywords for complex manufacturing capabilities.
For example, under Basic Tips for Building a Keyword List, AdWords uses the example of men’s shoes:

If you’re a manufacturer offering a capability or products manufactured to engineers’ specifications for use in unique applications, it can be tough to come up with multiple basic categories if you’re thinking in terms of clothing items. “Well,” you might think, “we make precision machined parts,” or, “we electropolish stainless steel parts. I can’t think of another category.”
This confusion then carries over into keyword match type. “If you sell hats,” says one of the help files,

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Google removes addiction treatment ads from UK search results

Google has removed search ads related to addiction treatment in the UK, following an investigation by The Sunday Times (registration required).
The investigation revealed an ongoing issue with middlemen bidding on the terms and receiving large kickbacks from the private centers where the searchers are ultimately referred to, in a practice called “patient brokering.”
The companies frequently masquerade as impartial help lines without disclosing their business model to the searchers that encounter them. The move to remove them from UK results follows an earlier change in the US. Google began removing ads from addiction treatment-related query results in the US starting in September of last year.
The practice of patient brokering is illegal in several states in the US, but it is not illegal in the UK. Critics of the practice cite this as one of the reasons for the increased cost of care, pointing out the high commissions paid out to the referral agents have to come from somewhere. Those

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There’s nothing stopping climate change deniers from using Google AdWords

Targeted, personalized ads have long been held up as a win-win-win, for consumers, advertisers and publishers. An article from The New York Times about climate change deniers using Google AdWords to promote their agenda pokes (more) holes in that optimistic vision.
In the Times article, Hiroko Tabuchi laid out how ads proclaiming climate change a hoax appeared at the top of Google search results when searching in private browsing mode. Yet, when the climate change reporter had private browsing mode on — and Google could access more signals such as past search and browsing history to target ads to users most likely to click — ads from environmental groups, not climate change denying groups, appeared.
The Times describes the climate change-denying advertisers as having figured out how to game Google’s system: “The climate denialist ads are an example of how contrarian groups can use the internet’s largest automated advertising systems to their advantage, gaming the system to find a

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New test prominently showcases Google Express in mobile search results

Image: Google
This week, we spotted a new treatment for Google Express in the search results. This included two new elements: a promotion for the program at the top of the results and a new look for Google Express ads in the Shopping carousel.
The “Get it with Google Express” promotion at the very top of the results, just below the navigation, touts the program’s easy checkout and free delivery. The Google Express Shopping ad features the program logo and displays the participating retailer name — in this case, Walmart — selling the product showcased in the ad.

These changes combine to make the Google Express program much more prominent on the page. Google typically displays these ads with “Google Express” in place of the retailer name and “Free shipping” in the promotion area of the ad. Here are examples of these ads in a Knowledge Panel and a regular Shopping carousel:
The test is quite limited. It’s running on mobile

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5 (less obvious) PPC trends to watch in 2018

In closing out our big recap of all the big 2017 trends and changes in PPC, I predict we’ll see trends in artificial intelligence, audience targeting, attribution and local marketing continue to develop in 2018.
Those are all exciting areas, but that’s not a particularly earth-shattering prediction. Here is a look at five trends that are related but slightly askew from the major themes that will play out in paid search over the coming year.
1. Structured data will matter even more
It’s not just for SEO, and I suspect we’ll be talking about structured data much more on the ads side in 2018. Cindy Krum makes the case in her (must-read) column on mobile SEO predictions for 2018 that structured data will become a bigger factor in the year ahead as the mobile-first index rolls out. Krum primarily discusses Schema markup, but advertisers also provide files of structured data via product feeds in Merchant Center and Business data feeds

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