Quiet Time = Audit Time!

With the majority of the world locked down, and some industries facing a period of diminished demand, digital marketers could be finding themselves as a loose end when it comes to how to be effective in their role.

If your budgets have been cut and your targets ripped up, how do you make yourself productive?

Well, at some point the lockdown will end. Or potentially before that happens, your market starts to crawl back into life and you need to be ready to be active again. The challenge is always the timescales, nobody right now can say when this might occur.

In this scenario the best thing to be doing is getting you house in order for the time when demand returns. The businesses that get the most out of the return of demand, will be the ones that are prepared and ready to be better than before.

And what better way to prepare than a thorough audit of your digital activity?

Audit…the very work conjures up visions of rigid suits, brief cases, and disapproving looks. But it doesn’t have to be this way, especially when it comes to PPC.

PPC Audit’s on the rise

Since lockdown in the UK, I have experienced an increasing demand for professionally conducted PPC and Paid Media audit’s. Business who are either in a good position during COVID-19, or those that want to be in a better on once they come out of it.

And these audits don’t have to be an onerous task. Think of them more of a health check. The objective is not to find what is wrong, but what could be done differently to achieve better results. And a good audit should also highlight the good things about PPC and advertising activity, as well as the areas for improvement.

What to audit

A good audit of your digital activity will cover everything from the top level down to the minutia. Often the contents of the final audit are dictated by findings as you go along, no two should be the same. There are however some standard areas that and places to start:

Overall digital approach audit

  • Budget allocation and split
  • Day of week performance and optimisation
  • Time of day performance and optimisation
  • Platform use and performance
  • Analytics and reporting accuracy
  • Performance goals and KPIs
  • Return on investment metrics

Google Ads audit items

  • Campaign/Adgroup structure
  • Match type use
  • Ad copy format utilisation (ETA’s & RTA)
  • Ad extension utilisation and/or improvements
  • Device approach and performance
  • Audience use and performance
  • Location targeting
  • General campaign settings
  • Bid strategies (current & Opportunities)
  • Conversion tracking
  • Search query performance
  • Quality score analysis

Paid Social Audit Items

  • Social platforms used in relation to target audience
  • Ad formats
  • Ads and messaging
  • Performance in line with business objectives
  • Campaign settings in line with business objectives
  • Optimisation targets and budget assignment
  • Audience settings
  • Audience segmentation
  • Audience performance
  • Budgets against potential opportunity
  • Conversion attribution settings

This list seems long and is far from conclusive, but each point may only be a small check and you may find everything is fine. Others send you down a rabbit whole that takes a little longer to unravel!

By the end of it you have an action plan and you know exactly the steps to take to make sure you are in perfect condition to either make the most of the market now, or be ready to when the demand comes back around.

If you think your paid activity could do with an audit, get in touch HERE and let’s see how I can help.

Its PPC, but not as we know it

Paid Search advertisers are this week working out how to operate in a new world. One presumably consisting of less traffic, more competition and higher pricing. Not an ideal combination.

The removal of the right hand side PPC ads over the weekend may seem like a surprising move by Google. Don’t more ads equal more money? But after an extensive period of testing, which undoubtedly proved the intensified auction (and therefore higher CPC) for top slots at a higher CTR outweighed the income from those on the right hand side of the page, each SERP now consists of a maximum of seven ads, four at the top and three at the bottom.

A combination of greater revenues from stagnant growth search terms, the streamlined layout for mobile and desktop and also the extra space for other ad formats and the decision makes sense both commercially and strategically.

But in doing this, Google has changed the face of PPC as we know it, above and beyond the amount of listings on a page.

The success of PPC and Google Adwords over the past 15 years has been down to a number of core redeeming features of the channel.

  • National exposure to potential customers for limited cost
  • Payment model based around ROI
  • Limited barriers to entry around cost
  • Unknown or small businesses can compete on a level playing field

In this latest move Google has removed the bulk of these features and fundamentally changed the Google Adwords channel for good.

Small businesses, once the poster boys for Google, have been pretty much priced out of any ‘commercial queries’, which let’s face it, are any which are going to generate sales.

The barriers to entry around cost have well and truly been raised and in established market it is very much a big boy’s game now. The playing field is now far from level.

And more significantly maybe this move could have removed the ROI viability for everything but high ticket item products. In the past couple of years many businesses have been struggling with their dependence on PPC and its rising costs, this is only now going to get worse.

So the advertising channel where I cut my teeth all those years ago, and where I learnt much of my trade, is now to all intents and purposes dead.

RIP Paid Search, its been fun.

Posted in PPC

New Google Mobile Ad Label

As mobile search continues to grow in importance and steal share of overall search from desktop, it is Google’s number one objective to ensure they effectively monetise this channel.  As pointed out in a previous post they only have a couple of levers they can pull to maximise revenue through search assuming search volume is already taken care of.  These are average CPC generated per search, and CTR on revenue generating listings.

Whilst performing a few search on my mobile (iPhone) at the weekend I noticed a new display feature on the mobile paid search listings which I hadn’t seen before and a few tweets seemed to confirm that this was new and I was part of a test.

Historically Google has always labelled Adwords listings as ‘sponsored’ or ‘Ads’ and differentiated them with a (slightly) different background colour and a logo top right of the screen, as seen below in a screenshot taken this morning.

Google Mobile Listing

But on Saturday what I was getting was different.  The background colour has been removed and each paid listing had a gold/yellow icon next to it labelling it as an ad.

New Google Mobile AdwordsNew Google Mobile PPC

Now Google runs tests all the time so it may be this format never makes it beyond a test group however this change is a lot less subtle than those previous and could be looked at from a number of different angles.

  • Angle 1: Google is being more transparent in labelling which listings are paid and which are not therefore providing a more clear choice for the user.
  • Angle 2: Google is trying to increase CTR from their paid listings.  By placing them on the same background colour and including an eye catching logo which increases stand out.  Seller ratings and Google+ are said to increase CTR by anywhere between 5-20% through the inclusion or a differentiating icon.  Whilst this badge doesn’t provide the same by way way of recommendation, it could have a similar affect in terms of stand out.

What do you think? A good hearted move to be more transparent or a cynical move to increase CTR?

Posted in PPC

Microsoft Joins in the Favicons Trial

Reports on Search Engine Land this week suggest that Google isn’t the only one which is trialling the use of favicons in their PPC ads.  Matt McGee this week posted the below screenshot showing Microsoft displaying favicons alongside their PPC ads on Live search.  Apparently this is part of an internal trial and shouldn’t actually be seen outside of Microsoft IP addresses but a bug in the system has seen it shown to a lucky few in the outside world.

With both Google and Microsoft now prove to be trialling the use of imagery in their paid search listings it appears it should just be a matter of time before they become common place on the SERP.  Well, it should make for a more decorative and visually appealing search results page but, as mentioned in my Google post, I don’t envisage it affecting CTR in the long run as it will appear on all paid results once advertisers get the hang of it.  As a result, after the first few searches with the new results, users will become blind to the logos.  That is unless the great and the good of the search engine marketing world kind find ways of standing out from the crowd.

live search favicons

Google Trialling Favicons

The social world of Twitter and the Search Marketing blogging community has been buzzing today with screenshots of Google trialling the use of favicons in Adwords creative, presumably to judge the impact on CPC.  So far I have seen examples in the bingo and car insurance markets with numerous PPC. Ads showing a favicon alongside the display URL.  Que hundreds of search marketers testing positioning of favicons to try and get theirs included. 

Its an interesting test from Google but surely if it was to be deployed across Google Adwords companies would become wise to it and all 10 would have the favicon in place?  How about, as an interested alternative, allowing only the ads which achieve a CTR. above a certain threshold to show the favicon?  A reward for writing well targeted creative and following Adwords best practice, surely that’s more beneficial than introducing something which will become nothing more than decoration for the SERP in a few months.

favicon in google ppc

favicon in google adwords