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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Side by side: Comparing two performance marketing tools/agencies

As performance marketers, we’re conditioned to want to test everything. From the impact of feed titles to the incrementality of each channel, we want to be sure that we’re making the right choice before we commit all our resources to something.
That goes for deciding which tools/agency to use as well. Moving your performance marketing activities from one tool/agency to another (or picking one to start with) is a big commitment and not one you should take lightly.
Most (probably all) tools/ agencies claim to do the same basic thing: improve your campaign performance. The way they do this or the methods they use will differ, but with so much choice out there, how are you to know which one will actually deliver?
To help them make the right decision, many companies will ask for a side-by-side comparison test between two tools/agencies. We were recently asked to participate in a split comparison test against a Philadelphia-based product ad technology for

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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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How to reverse-engineer your online advertising strategy

Online advertising experts love to talk about the importance of matching your landing page content to your ads. And you’ll get no argument from me — it’s a great way to improve the performance of your online advertising.
I mean, it just makes sense. People click on your ad because the messaging resonates with them. If you have the same messaging on your landing page, that should resonate with these users and cause them to convert, right?
As great as this approach is, the success or failure of a “match your landing page to your ads” approach to advertising rides on one critically important assumption: that you’re using the right ad messaging.
Unfortunately, if your landing page strategy is based on your advertising strategy, there’s no easy way to test this assumption. You are fundamentally limited by your ability to predict what messaging will work for your target audience. If you’re way off-base, there’s no real way to know.
But what if

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6 ways ad agencies can thrive in an AI-first world

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have long been part of PPC — so why are AI and machine learning all of a sudden such hot topics? It is, in part, because exponential advances have now brought technology to the point where it can legitimately compete with the performance and precision of human account managers.
I recently covered the new roles humans should play in PPC as automation takes over. In this post, I’ll offer some ideas for what online marketing agencies should consider doing to remain successful in a world of AI-driven PPC management.
Be a master of process
According to the authors of the book “The Second Machine Age,” chess master Garry Kasparov offered an interesting insight into how humans and computers should work together after he became the first chess champion to be defeated by a computer in 1997. In matches after his loss to Deep Blue, he noticed a few things:

A human player aided by a machine

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What you learn from talking with Google’s largest advertisers all day, every day

There’s a position at Google called “Chief Search Evangelist.” It’s evolved in the years since Fred Vallaeys filled that role, now focusing on meeting with our advertisers in person when they come to visit Google on-site. I think my job is pretty cool, but I must admit that the idea of talking search ads day-in, day-out with people at the cutting edge of their craft makes me more than a bit jealous. Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, who currently fills the role of Chief Search Evangelist, is the man whose job turns me a light shade of green with professional envy.
I learn so much every time I talk with Nick, so I thought it would be fun to sit him down and pick his brain about all of those meetings he gets to have. Here’s an edited transcript of the wide-ranging conversation we had recently about automation, growth, keywords and more.
Nicolas Darveau-Garneau, Chief Search Evangelist at Google
Lawson: What are the

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Supercharge your email marketing with Google AdWords

I have a confession to make.
The odds of my instantly deleting one of the many marketing emails I receive each day are about as good as Tom Brady and the Patriots making the playoffs — meaning it’s pretty likely to happen.
Unfortunately for all you email marketers out there, I’m not alone. According to email marketing service MailChimp, the average email open rate across industries is below 25 percent, with a click rate of 2 to 3 percent. That means that, on average, you’d need to send 100 emails to get two or three people to take any action. All that time and energy spent crafting the perfect email marketing campaign will be wasted if you don’t create a complementary strategy to get more sales from your hard-earned email list.
The good news is that you can use Google AdWords as your complementary strategy by simply leveraging the existing data you have on your email subscribers. Let’s dive into

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Google’s new custom intent audiences and you

In mid-November, pre-empting the hellish holiday shopping season, Google unveiled a slew of new features designed to help advertisers maximize their AdWords budgets. While promotion extensions and ad variations are neat and all, the thing I’m most stoked about is the new custom intent audiences feature on Google Display Network (GDN).
If you haven’t checked out Ginny Marvin’s quick summary of what they are (linked above), here’s the gist: Custom intent audiences offer advertisers the opportunity to use the GDN to find “people who want to buy the specific products you offer — based on data from your campaigns, website and YouTube channel.” They come in two distinct flavors:

Create-your-own. Like a trip to your favorite pizza chain (but for the GDN), you can mash topics and URLs together like mushrooms and pepperoni in order to target net-new prospects who are probably into your product or service.
Auto-created. No idea where to start with the Display Network? Let your ol’ pal Google help!

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Is holiday paid search more competitive in 2017 than 2016?

The busy 2017 holiday shopping season is now in full swing, and we’ve already witnessed impressive Y/Y sales growth on key shopping days.
As advertisers dig into their own performance, many are taking stock of the competition to get a sense for what other brands are doing. This was a key topic for a #ppcchat Twitter conversation immediately following Cyber Weekend, in which host Kirk Williams posed the following question to chat-goers.

As you can see, most brands felt they saw more competition this year than last year, though 39 percent felt it was about the same. Zero respondents felt that there was less competition this year than last.
Taking a look at Auction Insights reports from Google for a sample of large Merkle retail advertisers, we can get a sense for how many brands were bidding on paid search keywords this year compared to last. As always, the metrics found in these reports and the stories they tell will

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The lowdown on driving app downloads with Universal App campaigns

Universal App campaigns (UAC) help you find new app users across Google’s largest properties: Google Play, Search, YouTube and Gmail, as well as millions of websites and apps across the Google Display Network. Back in August, Google (my employer) announced that all app install campaigns in AdWords are becoming UACs.
Whether you’re starting UACs for the first time or are looking to get the most out of existing UACs, here are some best practices that I’ve discovered from talking with a bunch of other Googlers.
Getting up and running with UAC
The first key step is defining your goal. You’ll need to set a target based on one of these key performance indicators:

If you care about different metrics in different situations, create separate campaigns for each desired outcome.
From there, you’ll need to set up a few more items:

A daily budget. When you’re driving installs, this should be your target CPI multiplied by the number of daily installs you want (shoot

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