Matt Rafferty is the Head of Paid Search at AZoNetwork with a keen eye for discovering trends in big data. Below is an adapted transcript from the Marketing Science Podcast.
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How do you stay sane when working from home?
Keep your mind and body fresh, improve on hobbies or skills you already have, become the best and most skilled version of yourself out there.
How have businesses reacted to the current situation?
Most places have had to close their manufacturing down initially to comply with the local requirements. Once they took advice, all of the workers who could work from home, did so.
A lot of people have seen it in a positive light to force the hand of their superiors into a much-needed digital presence and drag them out of the industrial revolution and into the digital revolution. It has also enabled them to ask more questions on what is being done internally and how we can help them, as they now have the time to get to things like Google Ads.
Have you seen a pull back, or doubling down?
Everyone has just continued as normal, if people aren’t searching, then people aren’t clicking and it isn’t costing as much, so you win there. If you have a lower volume of traffic, you can’t remarket to as many people and if you have sensible limits and targets set up, it’s not going to cost as much. So there hasn’t been much to change or push, just increasing tactical awareness.
Which metrics are most important when evaluating how your ads are performing?
Primarily if you want leads, then conversions and cost per conversion will be your most important metrics and making sure that your ad spend is not greater than the possible income. If you want visibility and to reach a lot a people and create a large a possibly indiscriminate audience quickly, then you need to be looking at your impression rate, cost per click and make sure you’re paying low for clicks and viewability.
To maximize clicks, you need to focus on the number of possible clicks and the CTR from that, however, if you want 10,000 clicks and aren’t bothered about their quality just focusing on the clicks is fine.
Ideally you want to strike a fine balance of impressions, clicks, cost and conversions where as you go on you will dial in on the language and behaviour used by your audience so that you can decrease your cost while simultaneously increasing conversions which would mean an increase in CTR and decrease in impressions.
What are the best Google Ads strategies which you employ?
So you have a few different cases: Those who have an e-commerce site who can quickly bid on product names, competitors, key terms etc. using a good combination of shopping, search and remarketing campaigns to reach their audience.
Your second type of scientific company will have expensive products or be a service based business which uses a lead form style enquiry to get the prospect into their internal sales cycle. These will primarily be focused on search or remarketing on behavioural triggers analysed from the analytics.
A third type is for relatively new companies who want to rank alongside their much larger competitors in the same field. They will use search impressions share to increase the amount of times they are seen and the display network to target people searching for similar competitors’ products and names.
Tell us about a typical case study or customer what’s the journey they’ll go through?
We sit down to establish objectives with the client to make sure that we are all have reasonable expectations.
We then do keyword research into the areas that they want to target and what is an effective way to do so. Next, we suggest some ideal landing pages from their existing site to use for their chosen way of targeting.
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We then set everything live and monitor performance of the google ads and the sites overall performance too and from that start improving the campaigns and work on conversion rate optimisation.
What is CRO?
Put simply conversion rate optimisation or CRO is streamlining the process by which you find a user/they find you and how they then become a customer. You often analyse behaviours of existing conversion pathways and work out why this is popular and then do some AB tests on existing content and pathways.
A very simple way to do this yourself is outline what you see as the ideal pathway that you would like your customers to take, what steps can be missed and then look at what pathway people who convert are taking and then analyse the disconnect there.
Review your Google Ads Strategy
You can also look at AB testing in things such as google optimise, very useful if you have set up google analytics and tag manager and google ads as they all can connect with each other and as you’d expect there is a huge help network out there if you do run into problems. I’ve personally used this one for analysing form fill drop out audience and working out why certain pages have a lot lower click through rate to the forms in question.
Form fill drop out audience
So these are the people that are finding your forms but not completing it, this can be for a variety of reasons: Your form is too complicated, they’re not ready to fill the form in and you just directed them straight to it with no value proposition.
You can look at remarketing to these people and see if they want to fill in the form, however if there is still no joy, that is when you need to look at optimising that page.
This is a very useful tool accessible for everyone and a good starting point to get into the whole world of CRO and site optimisation. IF nothing else you can use it to prove a point: You think the colour of the CTA should be X or it should be top right instead of top left, then do a split test to experiment with the colour and location, unfortunately if you are wrong it will also show that.
How does re-marketing compare to normal paid search?
Compared to normal paid search, remarketing is relatively cheap and you know that your audience is already interested in your product or service. It will hopefully therefore have a higher conversion rate than your standard search campaigns.
What is the benefit of connecting Google Ads with Google Analytics?
It’s really useful for a having a quick place to compare things and import audiences from and analyse your different types of traffic in one area. However there are limitations as google ads dashboards remove the fraudulent clicks and attacks from within them however in analytics they are still visible.
You can also view pathways more easily and workout when your paid audience fails when clicking on your site and this you can then link to optimise or other CRO software and reconnect your user with becoming a customer.
Connect your search console to pick up on queries from different acquisition sources and address these in google ads to see if you have missed anything. It also enables you to effectively analyse the right attribution channels for your reporting to use.
What are the most effective PPC campaigns which you have seen work?
Generally the most effective are those where the manager of it sticks to the goals they initially sets and keeps an eye on how it fits in with the overall plan, there is no point getting too granular and forgetting that google ads is only one arm of an overall marketing plan.
I always like a three pronged attack:
- a precise search campaign
- a behavioural based remarketing campaign
- a visibility campaign on specific placement websites, within those I use scripts to monitor and change the parameters for those to make it more manageable and filter out noise.
From there you can easily look at conversion rate optimisation and improving the organic SEO of the site, which, in turn, improves your landing page quality, UX and your rankings within the organic SERPs.
What are the most common mistakes which you see businesses making?
A common mistake is click and forget, now you’ve identified the search criteria you would like to be found for and you have the visuals down to a tee and your remarketing seems to be working, you just its perfect, it is done, but no.
It is always far from done unfortunately, as google likes to mess around with it’s product of search, your SERPs can quickly change meaning, an example of this is RBF, this actually in scientific terms is renal blood flow or riboflavin, however when you actually search for this or in fact rbf science it comes up with “resting bitch face” or scientists say “resting bitch face” is real and as you can imagine if you are in the life science industry working on products in that area, rbf is probably a great keyword for you, however in the SERPs it has a completely different meaning now.
When this happens,even on a small error and your running some related keywords off it, it will then throw your remarketing out, which in turn throws your data sets, models and your visuals will appear all over the wrong content. So it’s worth keeping an eye on this to make sure the world doesn’t change around without you being aware of the change and adapt with it.
What about when it goes wrong?
The easiest horror stories to relay are often quite simple mistakes that you don’t think about, your worldwide call only ads don’t have an answerphone or automated system connected, or even a timetable for when these ads will appear - so people from all over the world call you and you they disconnect - It's not a great look for your business.
You have your conversion set as landing on the contact us page. You then add one of your extensions as a contact us link so in effect when someone clicks on this they’re automatically a conversion which can be wildly misleading. This can be done where your think you’ve imported your goals from analytics and then set them up tracking through adwords too: so it now records one form fill twice, massively inflating your numbers and this can cause further calamity when paired with a maximise conversions style automated bidding strategy.
Google Ad Extension
Google Ad extensions encourage people to visit your business by showing you extra details. I like to put in the blog, FAQs and some contact details.
Ad Extensions allow you to display a range of different types of content to engage with your audience.
Describe the cookie legislation impacting PPC advertising
In terms of the standard search marketing it will have zero impact on it, there are no cookie based behavioural tracking elements going on there so it will be fine. However as soon as you get into remarketing and behavioural based tracking and ads that use that, you will end up in a world of pain.
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There is already the impact that GDPR has had on the advertising industry. This is a knock-on effect on that ensures that Google is compliant from their side of things. I think that it may move everyone to the adsense style platform and make advertisers approach sites directly asking for placements on specific content.
However, it will kill cookie based remarketing, and push people back towards more expensive, search based advertising etc. it will also kill A/B testing that relies on cookie-ing visitors. We already know the effect it has based on them not being used in Mozilla and safari so it will just compound the issues created by them.
How will the PPC industry react?
It is bad for advertisers and good for publishers if they have been able to tag their site effectively on the content that they provide and have a good organic footprint and direct users.
It will push advertisers towards more outbound marketing such as customised email and newsletter campaigns and improving their organic standing with “EAT” style protocols from all over the web.
What will happen to programmatic?
Programmatic advertising is going to be dead in the water, if your agency only uses programmatic advertising and has no websites or other options, now would be a time to jump ship or make an acquisition of a site that you can use to sell advertising on using your own website analytics and internal behavioural analysis.
What you will see is brokerage style places with existing agreements in place with certain websites to advertise on their platform and the advertiser will have to go through them.
What do you think Google have up their sleeve?
It forces people to go to it’s other, more expensive forms of advertising and owned websites and cleaning itself off from being close to untouchable on the GDPR front with removing the sketchy third party tracking from it’s books.
What will happen over the next 3-5 years?
Maybe google will incorporate those cookies internally into it’s user agreements if you use your chrome when logged into your google account and then be able to get around it that way as it would be a savvy way to get people to opt it, but I’m not sure what will happen fully.