How to outdo the PPC robots in shopping ads

Automation driven by improvements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will bring significant changes to how we manage pay-per-click (PPC) in 2018 and beyond.
There’s still a role for humans to play, one of which is to use what we’ve learned from years of experience to bring an account as close to perfection as possible before letting the machines take it from there.
Shopping ad performance may appear to be largely dependent on how well the automated algorithms work, with little room for account managers to optimize things. This is because the targeting is done automatically by Google, based on whatever products are in the merchant feed and how those relate to shoppers’ queries.
But there are still ways for account managers to tweak things to move the needle in the right direction.
In today’s post, I’ll explain seven ways to improve the performance of shopping ads.
Eliminate ambiguous and expensive queries
I remember several years ago, one of our customers wrote about

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Waze launches ‘Local’ ads primarily aimed at SMBs and franchises

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Previewed roughly a year ago, Waze is now introducing “Waze Local,” map-based ads aimed primarily (though not exclusively) at small businesses. Designed to be simple to buy and set up, it features three ad units:

Branded Pin.
Promoted Search.
Zero-Speed Takeover.

Below are screen mockups of each type of ad.

The Branded Pin offers additional information when it’s clicked. Promoted Search gives priority rankings to advertisers in a search context (like AdWords), and the Zero-Speed Takeover is a banner that only appears during traffic stops.
In an internal study with 1,400 US advertisers during the beta period, Waze said advertisers saw “20.4 percent more monthly navigations when they started advertising with Waze Local.”
Beyond the ads themselves, there are two primary offerings that feature different pricing for different segments: “Starter” and “Plus.” Starter is for businesses with fewer than 10 locations. Plus is for businesses with up to 50 locations (e.g., franchises and regional chains). There’s also an enterprise offering for companies

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All About the GDPR

While deregulation has been a stateside trend over the past decade, the 28 members of the European Union are gearing up for a massive increase in regulations around data privacy in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — and this regulation will make a splash across the pond as well.
Briefly, virtually all personal information will be considered private and protected under these new rules, serving up a much more comprehensive approach than the US’s piecemeal protections of medical and financial data.
But what do these new rules mean — if anything — for US businesses?
The short answer: Plenty. Maybe. It depends.
The long answer requires some context and is worth taking the time to understand. And most providers are already making big strides to be ready for launch in May.
Internet privacy: The early years
The GDPR, set to go into effect on May 25, 2018, is the product of four years of debate and preparation — but

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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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How AI can uncover new insights and drive SEO performance

In 2015, Google announced that it had added RankBrain to its algorithm, cementing the importance of artificial intelligence (AI) in search. Fast-forward to 2018, and search marketers are starting to use AI, machine learning and deep learning systems to uncover new insights, automate labor-intensive tasks and provide a whole new level of personalization to guide website visitors through their purchase funnel. We have now fully entered the AI revolution.
For clarity and for context within this article, I find the following definitions helpful:

Artificial intelligence is a broad field, covering a range of machine applications to carry out tasks that typically require human intelligence. Human intelligence encompasses a broad range of behaviors, so it should be no surprise that the umbrella term “artificial intelligence” can be used to categorize natural language processing, chess playing, driverless cars and millions of examples in between.
Machine learning is often conflated with AI, but it is actually an application (and therefore a subfield) of artificial intelligence. In

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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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How much will privacy regulation disrupt the local search market in 2018?

Most marketing professionals don’t give much thought to the regulatory climate. In the US, unlike Europe, privacy laws are largely industry-specific and targeted toward healthcare and financial services. Thus, marketers have largely been able to rely on lawyers to provide privacy disclosures and then go on to business as usual.
Yet there are a number of indications that a tipping point may be near, giving way to new regulations that demand significant changes in business practice. These changes can have a disproportionate impact on small and medium-sized local businesses. And varying standards across state lines means that companies with local operations in different states may have to make multiple adjustments.
Below, I take a look at the current environment and indicators that major changes are due in 2018. Then I cover seven ways changing privacy laws will impact the local search market.
Deregulation on federal level driving changes on state level
With all the news on Net Neutrality last month, you

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A year in review: Search Engine Land’s top 10 columns of 2017

Another year is coming to a close, and search marketers of all stripes have had their work cut out for them over the last 12 months as the industry grappled with everything from fake news to mysterious algorithm updates to automation. Fortunately, our talented contributors were at the ready, helping our readers to navigate the shifting sands of the search marketing landscape.
Local had a strong showing in our top columns this year, as pieces with a local search focus accounted for three of the top 10 columns on Search Engine Land. These ranged from Joy Hawkins’s detailed account of the Google Hawk update to Wesley Young’s helpful tips on how to improve your Google My Business listing.
Top honors went to Sherry Bonelli for her comprehensive piece on how to rank well in YouTube’s search results. As digital video consumption continues to rise, brands are looking to take advantage of this trend by producing high-quality — and properly optimized —

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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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