How one easy tweak can lower your AdWords costs

AdWords Quality Score (QS) is a complex variable that is assigned to each of your keywords and ultimately influences both your ad position and your minimum bids. Exactly how your QS is calculated remains a closely guarded Google secret, but there are still many methods available that will help you improve your QS, and thus your ROI. Here's an easy one to implement that can have a direct impact on lowering your AdWords costs:

Include a link to a privacy policy on your landing pages.

The AdWords Learning Center indicates that the QS formula takes landing page quality into account when calculating minimum bids.

Furthermore, the Landing Page and Site Quality Guidelines clearly state that privacy is a factor:

"In order to build trust with users, your site should be explicit in three primary areas: the nature of your business; how your site interacts with a visitor's computer; and how you intend to use a visitor's personal information, if you request it… If you do request personal information, provide a privacy policy that discloses how the information will be used."

SEO Roundtable has suggested that lacking a privacy policy might contribute to a low Quality Score.

Quality Score improvements were also reported by Red Fly Marketing following an AdWords campaign overhaul that included the creation of a privacy policy.

It should be noted that a privacy policy is a legal document, and failing to abide by the terms you set out in it can leave you open to legal action. For this reason, you'll probably want to publish only a very general policy, unless you can have it reviewed by a legal professional.

Here's a handy tool that will generate a privacy policy for you.

The Quality Score formula is based on numerous factors, but adding a privacy policy link to your landing pages is a tweak that you can make with minimal effort, and can be an effective part of a larger strategy to lower your minimum bids. Personally, I'm a big fan of easy solutions that save cold hard cash. What about you?

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Are Google local results cutting into your CTR?

For certain search engine result pages at Google, local results are displayed at the top of the listings alongside a Google map:

Google SERPs with Local Map Results 

I'm running some ad groups right now that according to past results should be generating much higher CTRs than they are. Curiously, the SERPs for the keywords in these ad groups are all displaying these local map results. CTR is unaffected on pages without these results.

My suspicion then is that local results are stealing focus away from AdWords ads, which in turn negatively affects click-throughs. This wouldn't be surprising: the map, pointers and star ratings are visually demanding. Once the user is finished looking at the local results, the tendency would be to scroll down, not up.

Is anyone else noticing lower CTR on SERPs with these local map results? 

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Aim high with your daily budget

A common mistake that many new AdWords advertisers make is to set their daily budget too low. Remember, your daily budget instructs the AdWords system as to how often your ads should be displayed throughout the day. If your daily budget is low, AdWords will deliver your ads evenly throughout the day (provided you have not selected accelerated delivery), and depending on how low your budget is this could result in spotty delivery that will net only low returns. If you set your daily budget higher, you will generate more ad impressions (and more opportunity to generate leads or sales), as well as more market data to base your PPC strategies on, ensuring a more successful campaign.

There is a tendency to be stingy with daily budgets, usually driven by a fear of spending too much in a single day. This is justified, however low daily budgets simply don't generate enough data for analysis, and a key to being successful with AdWords is to test your campaign's performance by the numbers. Since AdWords follows the concept of the law of large numbers, it isn't possible to successfully analyze trends with only a handful of data, which is all that can be expected from a low budget campaign.

Instead, aim high with your daily budget! Even though it's a bit scary inputting a daily budget that feels outside of your financial reach, you can still monitor your spending throughout the day and pause the campaign if your spend is going beyond what you can afford. It's more likely however that your high daily budget won't be met.

For example, I manage a campaign where the maximum we can afford per day is $500. I get much better performance out of the campaign however if I set my daily budget at $1000. At the end of a day, my spend usually hovers around $400-500, fitting perfectly within the range of what we can afford. I monitor the account throughout the day to make sure we aren't going over budget, and if this is not something you can do, then it might be wise to stick with a lower budget. (Sorry, but the best AdWords accounts are not setup and then let loose to wander freely. Successful AdWords users have a finger on the pulse of their account activity on a daily basis.)

In the end, setting a higher daily budget will not only result in additional impressions, but will also provide you with the meaningful data you need to accurately project costs versus sales, and ultimately determine your daily profit (or loss). Knowing your average CPC and comparing it with your actual sales will allow you to adjust your daily budget and bids in an informed way, ensuring a profitable PPC campaign.

UPDATE: This information is now almost four years old so I can't speak to the accuracy of it, but check out the revered AdWords Advisor (a Google employee who provides AdWords tips & tricks in various marketing forums) on Google's calculation of the suggested daily budget. Note the daily budget optimization tip at the end: reduce the number of keywords by weeding out poor performers.

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Click fraud: A good reason to avoid Google's content network

A new study has come out that suggests that the problem with click fraud is much bigger than what Google and Yahoo! are admitting to. This article is an interesting read all the way through, but AdWords advertisers will want to pay especially close attention to the end of the piece:

Click fraud doesn't appear to be a major problem when the ads appear on Google's and Yahoo's respective websites, Milana said. The trouble starts cropping up once Google and Yahoo deliver the ads to other websites that are part of their vast marketing networks. "They just don't know what happens beyond their own firewalls," Milana said of Google and Yahoo.

What does this mean to you? Disable content network distribution of your ads! Surely, there are advertisers who are getting great returns from their ads being displayed on the AdWords content network, but it's not for the feint of heart.

A good practice is to run some tests with content network distribution, monitor the metrics of those tests, then judge your ROI form there. This is not recommended for new AdWords users–get your accounts tuned for performance first, then experiment with more advanced techniques such as this.

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AdWords should show keywords when creating text ads

When crafting your PPC ad copy, you should be incorporating your keywords into your text. Why? Because Google will highlight in bold the keywords in your ad that match the user's search query. For example, if your ad text is:

Blue Widgets
Great Prices on Blue Widgets
Free Blue Widget with Every Order
www.BlueWidgets.com

and the user searched for "blue widgets", then your ad will be displayed to the user like this:

Blue Widgets
Great Prices on Blue Widgets
Free Blue Widget with Every Order
www.BlueWidgets.com

As you can see, the bold text really makes the ad stand out! For this reason, including your keywords in your ad copy can drastically increase your CTR.

Google has some of the world's top geniuses on staff, but I dare say that their usability department at AdWords is under performing. Along with my other recent suggestions for improving the AdWords MCC interface, I'd like to point out that Google could really improve the usability of the interface with another simple modification: when creating a text ad, the Ad Group keywords should be visible on the same page! This simple change would encourage better quality ads, since advertisers would have their Ad Group keywords right in front of them, making it much easier to incorporate them into the ad copy. As it is, I have to keep two tabs open in Firefox to create good ad copy: one for the Create Text Ad page and another showing my Ad Group keywords.

I understand that when you're looking really closely at something it can be hard to see the obvious, so I'll continue to point out these little usability tweaks to Google AdWords support, because in addition to being really smart folks they're also pretty good at listening to suggestions.

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Which keyword matching option to use?

Google AdWords provides advertisers with four distinct types of keyword matching options to help you deliver your ads to searchers: broad, phrase, exact and negative. There are plenty of resources around that describe what each of these options are under the hood, and I imagine that many AdWords advertisers refer to Google's Learning Center page on the topic: Keyword Matching Options.

Now, some of you might have heard that Google now has the most powerful brand on the planet. Branding is rooted in eliciting trust, and so this news tells us that the majority of Internet users out there trust Google. When it comes to keyword matching options though, I advise you to be just a little suspicious of Google. Here's why…

The default keyword matching option in your AdWords account is broad match. Broad matching will definitely help you get the most impressions for your ads, but unless all you are after is clicks and traffic, broad matching is going to empty your pockets and leave you as one unhappy marketer. Broad matching is just too general to be of use on it's own. Negative keywords certainly help you more finely tune your broad matches, but in my experience it's simply not enough to filter out the large number of clicks from irrelevant searches. I've tested a handful of broad match terms accompanied by hundreds of negatives and still had this combination perform quite poorly when compared alongside exact matching. Google doesn't give you any warnings about the potential pitfalls of using broad matching though, and why should they? Google banks more cash when marketers use broad matching. Why would they share that helpful tidbit with us when it could potentially reduce their earnings?

My advice to new PPC advertisers is to only use exact matching–at first. I have generated excellent results using exact matching alone, with both CTR and conversions. When you're ready to open the gates a little more, do a test with one of your ad groups, adding one or two phrase matched keywords along with a very long list of negative keywords to filter out the undesirables. Using this cautious method, you'll quickly find out which keyword matching options will work best for your campaign. I recommend that broad matching be used only with very careful and regular testing.

Do read the materials in Google's Learning Center–it's an excellent and free resource–but also be aware that some of the content might be self-serving. Balance that out by regularly checking in with PPC blogs and forums, where you'll find that AdWords users are generally more than willing to share their tips and secrets for improving AdWords performance.

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Two beefs with the AdWords MCC interface

I'll admit that Google tends to do pretty well with usability, but I've got two beefs with the AdWords My Client Center interface:

  1. The lack of a Campaign drop down menu
  2. Inconsistent button labeling

The MCC has a drop down menu that lets me jump between client accounts. Why don't they have another drop down menu that allows me to jump between campaigns? If I'm looking at one campaign and then want to switch to view another, I have to go back to the Campaign Summary page and select again. Sure, you might say that a Campaign drop down menu would only save one click, but it sure would be more user-friendly (and every click I save has the potential to add up to a significant efficiency boost.)

Why is re-activating an Ad Group labeled "Resume", but re-activating an Ad Variation labeled "Unpause"? I'm pretty sure "unpause" is not a word–why doesn't Google just stick with one label and call the re-activating button "Resume" throughout the interface?

These two simple fixes would provide the MCC interface with a better score on usability.

UPDATE: Everything's better in three's, so here's another gripe about the AdWords MCC interface: When you generate a list of potential keywords with the keyword tool, there is a link that allows you to "add all" keywords to your list. I would like to see a link like this for the negative keywords as well. As it is, I have to click each individual negative keyword to add it to my list. What a waste of time! Come on Google, help us be more efficient and happier marketers!

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In Review: ClickMuse AdWords Optimizer

As a search marketer, I manage a large number of Google AdWords Ad Groups for my clients. Crunching the numbers to split test each and every one of those Ad Groups was once a laborious manual process, but no more!

I recently discovered the ClickMuse AdWords Optimizer does the heavy lifting for me, and it does it all automatically and for free. This extremely useful tool studies your clickthrough rates based on AdWords Reports and makes recommendations about which ad variations are performing better than others, giving you a clear and concise path to better CTR performance.

The AdWords Optimizer is a snap to setup and its recommendations are easy to understand, even for the new AdWords advertiser. Simply create a free account, then follow the step-by-step instructions to generate automatic reports within your AdWords account to be sent to your AdWords Optimizer account. Then, sit back and wait for the AdWords Optimizer to send you automatic optimization email alerts!

Its important to note that the AdWords Optimizer only analyzes your CTR–it does not take into account your conversion rate. As such, you shouldn't accept its recommendations blindly since a low CTR ad can generate high conversions. That being said, the AdWords Optimizer can still provide extremely useful insight into your campaigns.

When I think about how much time I've wasted manually drilling down through my AdWords stats to arrive at the same conclusions recommended by this free tool… well, needless to say the AdWords Optimizer has been an absolutely huge time-saver for me! If you only use one third-party AdWords tool for your next campaign, make it the ClickMuse AdWords Opitimizer!

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Google loses $1 billion a year to click fraud

According to a post over at Inside AdSense, Google loses about $1 billion US a year to click fraud. Google's business product manager for trust and safety, Shuman Ghosemajumder, also reported that the rate of click fraud is at less than 10 per cent and,

"We are disclosing these network-wide figures in order to provide greater transparency to Google advertisers and the marketplace as a whole… the figures illustrate the significant level of proactive protection we provide, and how this has resulted in minimizing the actual impact of click fraud on advertisers."

Ghosemajumder then reveals the inner workings of Google's 3 part click fraud detection system. This is worth a look for PPC advertisers everywhere.

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Google AdWords Editor version 3 is out!

Google quietly released a new version of their handy Google AdWords Editor tool last week (though they only blogged about the release today). If you're not already using this software to manage your AdWords account(s), go get it now!

AdWords Editor is Google's free, downloadable account management desktop application that allows you to make changes, then upload your revised campaigns. The biggest benefits of using AdWords Editor includes the ability to navigate your account(s) quickly and easily via the Mozilla-influenced interface, work offline on your campaigns (perhaps on your next flight?), import/export account snapshots, and collaborate on proposed campaign changes.

Version 3 adds the following features:

  • Add or edit site-targeted campaigns
  • Add or edit negative sites for keyword- and site-targeted campaigns
  • Edit another account while posting or checking your changes
  • Pause or resume individual ads, keywords, and sites
  • See the number of rows you've selected in the data view

You can switch between using the regular AdWords or My Client Center interfaces and AdWords Editor with ease–using the AdWords Editor doesn't mean that you're no longer able to access the regular interfaces.

The AdWords Editor, together with the My Client Center interface, combine to pack quite a 1-2 punch for Google's homegrown account management tools.

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