How to test (and perfect) nearly everything in PPC

PPC (pay per click) is a key component of many online marketing campaigns. And while it can drive significant revenue, it’s also one of the most expensive ongoing costs in a campaign. Therefore, it’s key that you test your ads regularly, to make sure you aren’t letting any conversions slip through the cracks.
Testing and optimizing is an important part of our job as digital marketers. And I’m not just talking about perfecting your ad copy.
At SMX London earlier this year, I gave a talk on how we design and implement tests at Crealytics for both Text and Shopping ads.
Carrying on from that, this post will cover three methods you can use for successful testing, two types of testing to help you take performance to the next level, and five common pitfalls that testers often run into. I’ll also illustrate these points with examples from our own internal testing efforts.
Deciding which method to use
Designing a good experiment is

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Got amazing content but no leads? 5 ways to rethink your paid strategy

In the digital marketing world, there is an overabundance of content about content marketing. If you’re marketing a business, the promise of consistent, top-of-funnel organic traffic growth from content marketing is extremely promising!
So you digest content about creating content, open your blog subdomain and check the proverbial check boxes for SEO optimization, keyword targeting, and a strategic call-to-action to generate leads. Maybe you even outsource the design to take it to the next level.
What happens when you press publish? It’s like a ceremonial ribbon-cutting: People might show up, but they’re really just friends of the person holding the big scissors or passive onlookers who were walking by when they saw someone with large scissors.
That’s what creating good content can feel like. You put in a bunch of upfront work that feels worthy of a great launch party, only to realize you didn’t invest nearly enough in the next step: distribution.
More often, the next step turns into complaining that “content marketing is

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How to navigate the somewhat rocky transition to expanded text ads

Google has been transitioning advertisers to larger text ads for about a year now. And, as of February 2017, it became impossible to create, copy and paste or edit the old style (or “standard”) text ads. You can pause and unpause them, but that’s about all you can do with them.
This has really accelerated the push to the new format; even if all you’re doing is changing a landing page URL, you have little choice at this point but to write a brand-new ad to go with it.
I have seen many expanded text ads perform better than standard text ads — and many perform worse. Based on other published articles, clearly some advertisers have struggled with the process somewhat and seen mixed results. In retrospect, I think a slightly rocky road for this transition should have been predictable.
This article runs through why I think some have struggled and details my recommendations for overcoming these difficulties with ad writing.
First: What I think is behind the

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Study of 4 million Google searches charts the CTR payoff that came from eliminating right-side ads

On February 19, 2016, Google confirmed it was eliminating text ads from the right rail of search results on desktop. Early results indicated that the change was a boon for click-through rates (CTR) in the four top spots. A year after the change, a new study illustrates just how significant the move has been for Google.
UK-based digital marketing agency Accuracast analyzed 2 million searches in the 12 months before and 2 million searches in the 12 months after the change to compare desktop click-through rates for text ads in positions one through five.
Not surprisingly, positions three and four have been the biggest beneficiaries of the change, with CTR increases of 72.4 percent and 51.9 percent, respectively. Position five, now shown at the bottom of the page instead of on the right side, saw CTR decline by just 7.6 percent after the change.
On the whole, CTRs for the top four ad slots have risen 49 percent since the change.

With text ads only

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Eight insider tips for exceptional price extensions

Extensions are important — super important, in fact. I’ve written about them before, and I’m sure I’ll write about them again.
They make ads better, and people like them. They’re a part of Ad Rank. They get you more clicks. One extension in particular, price extensions, is approaching its one-year birthday. If you offer anything (and I mean anything) that has a price, you should hop aboard the price extensions train.
In case you’ve missed any of Ginny Marvin’s excellent price extension updates over the past 12 months, here’s a quick rundown:

They’re intended to show off prices alongside your products and services.
People can scroll through them to see if they like what you have to offer.
They serve on Google.com for all devices and all positions.
They’re a lot of fun (meaning they’re very clickable).

As long as what you’re selling has a price (even if that price is $0.00), you can use them. For example, if you offer a free trial,

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Attack of the clones: Here’s a script to fight duplicated ads

You know those nightmares where your reflection comes out of the mirror and steals your life? Just me? Well, anyway, this is like that — but in AdWords.
Sometimes you make a mistake with AdWords Editor, but instead of changing the existing ad, you create a new one. Or you’re overzealous in converting your old standard ads and make two expanded text ads (ETAs) instead of one.
Suddenly, you’ve got multiple ads that are exactly the same. That means your ad testing isn’t working right, because the traffic isn’t being served evenly between the different ad variants; instead of an A/B test, it becomes an A/A/B test. Even if your testing works, the data is split out between the doppelgängers (that’s German for “ghostly twin,” or something).
On top of this, it’s adding needless complication to managing your account. If you’re labeling up different variants, you might catch one but not the other. If you want to pause ads and

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Your 6 new ways to use location targeting

As advertising platforms diversify the targeting options they provide, we are challenged to become more and more creative with exactly how we find and appeal to our customer bases.
Years ago, simply targeting the geographic region of interest was an easy win for improved relevance and reach. But times have changed, and so have the stakes.
Although location/geographic targeting is particularly advantageous to those with storefronts, there are improved tactics that impact those of us advertising goods and services that aren’t in a traditional retail space. Provided below are six new approaches to geographic targeting to boost your digital marketing strategies.
For those with brick-and-mortar operations, it’s presumed that you target a healthy radius around your stores. This should be square one.
For any moderate or advanced advertiser, it’s also expected that you target your high-performing geographic areas with location-specific campaigns or layered geo bids. But there is more that can be done to emphasize your presence to the existing or prospective

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2017 SEM growth hacks: Monster growth from brand protection

Today’s article presents one of the more powerful search growth attack strategies for 2017: PPC (pay per click) brand protection.
This article is the first in my eight-part series presenting SEM marketers with the most effective growth hacks for 2017.
As CEO of the ad monitoring company, The Search Monitor, I see the ads, campaign strategies and performance results from agency and brand clients. In this series, I will use this data to present the best growth hacks for 2017.
Why does brand protection matter?
An ongoing and serious problem threatening your SEM revenue is competition from affiliates and competitors bidding on your valuable, high-converting branded keywords. The result of the increased number of advertisers competing against you is obvious: higher CPCs (costs per click), lower clicks and a lower click-through rate (CTR). We estimate that each competitor with ads running on your brand or brand-plus keyword terms costs you a 10 percent loss in clicks and a 20 percent increase in

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Getting the most bang for your buck: 11 CRO opportunities

Improving marketing performance often involves a lot of spot treatment: you spend some time working on your paid search campaigns, then you spend some time working on your organic search, and so on and so forth. One of my favorite things about conversion rate optimization (CRO) is that so much of it is channel-agnostic. How often do we get the chance to work on one central project that stands to improve the performance of all of our channels at once?! Not often enough!
Plus, no matter how well your channels are already performing, there’s always opportunity to generate more business by facilitating conversion. Check out the suggestions below to uncover pain points and actionable tips for increasing conversion rate.
Put your best foot forward
The likelihood of conversion begins before a prospect even reaches the website. We all know that different keywords are likely to perform differently; that’s why advertisers bid differently on different keywords. But this understanding isn’t often translated

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Report: Google earns 78% of $36.7B US search ad revenues, soon to be 80%

Google’s domination of the US search ad market isn’t letting up. Thanks to mobile in particular, Google will take 77.8 percent of US search ad revenues this year. By next year, for every dollar spent on search advertising in the US, an even eight dimes will go to Google. The remaining 20 cents will be split up among Microsoft, Yahoo, Yelp, Amazon, Ask and AOL, according to eMarketer’s latest report on the US digital ad market.
“Google’s dominance in search, especially mobile search, is largely coming from the growing tendency of consumers to turn to their smartphones to look up everything from the details of a product to directions,” said eMarketer forecasting analyst Monica Peart. “Google and mobile search as a whole will continue to benefit from this behavioral shift.”
Overall, search spending in the US is expected to increase 24 percent over the next three years, from $36.69 billion in 2017 to $45.63 billion in 2019.
Microsoft’s US search ad

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