Publishers

Last week, Google announced on its blog that moving forward “search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google.” This change is a major shift for Google as the company looks to expand its marketplace play as an alternative (dare we say, “competitor”) to Amazon’s dominance.



What do we expect to happen next:

More shoppers - COVID-19 and a surge in online shopping likely forced Google to make this move sooner than it was planning. As Amazon found itself struggling to keep up with order fulfillment, shoppers really took to exercising their shopping options across the internet, comparing to see who had what and how soon they were able to get it. As a marketer, now is the time to evaluate messaging, put your best foot forward, and meet new customers at the marketplace.

Impression share will be a key metric to focus on - Take a snapshot of where you were prior to the advent of free listings and keep this in mind as a benchmark or target to work toward. With a huge influx of new listings (and impression volume), impression shares for existing Shopping advertisers are most likely going to drop. Using impression share as an optimization goal is a wise option once you know what the adjusted range is.





Product feed optimization will become more meaningful - Now that Google Shopping is not “pay-to-play” only, there is a more important emphasis on having really high quality product content. With a growing field of competition, relevance is paramount. Listed below are a few of the more important must-do’s to get the most out of your feed:

  1. Building out strong, relevant product titles
  2. Ensuring your products are indexed into the most accurate categories
  3. Including high quality, clearly formatted product images
  4. Presenting current prices for products and promoting discounts


Learn More


It’s a unique time to be in online retail, and any business that advertises products on Google should evaluate its own response to this change. If you are confident that your business can satisfy fulfillment with an expansion to Google Shopping, see Google’s help center for more details on how to get started. Google’s Shopping Insights page can also be a useful resource to understand trends and benchmarking numbers. Maybe it makes sense to expand step-by-step by listing select products or categories and adding more over time. It really depends on your goals and priorities.

As a reminder, you can always subscribe to our blog to get more tips on how to stay ahead of the game with your advertising efforts.







The Publisher Spotlight is a series where we introduce premium publishers who are using Partner Connect to develop business relationships with relevant and interested advertisers. In this post, we spoke with Kirk Ciarrocchi, Paid Search Marketing Manager at The Sharper Image, an American brand that offers consumers home electronics, air purifiers, gifts and other high-tech lifestyle products.

Where people find creative gifts for all occasions



The Sharper Image is the online place to go for cutting edge gadgets and electronics, as well as luxury home and lifestyle products. Our unique products add style and comfort to any home and also make great gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, weddings, and the holidays. No matter what the occasion is, our customers visit our website to find original and creative gifts. Our top categories include drones, hover boards, air purifiers, massage chairs, audio and sound, travel accessories, and sleep solutions.

With over 500,000 unique visitors per month and over 3 million unique visitors during the November–December holiday season, our website reflects the popularity of our brand.

The Sharper Image audience is made up of avid and
active shoppers



Our users tend to be very affluent, are not price-sensitive, and are consistently active shoppers. As far as connecting with complementary partners goes, we’ve done similar strategies with our catalog mailing lists, and found a strong connection between our customers and the customers of other luxury living brands.

For instance, we’ve partnered with brands offering goods and services such as wine subscriptions, travel merchandise, performance bicycles, finance and insurance, and home décor. We think that our customer base would be a great fit with a number of different types of retailers.

Other important stats to note are that 91% of our users live in the United States, with a 50/50 split between males and females. Additionally, 92% of our users are over the age of 25, and 72% are over the age of 35.

How did you learn about Partner Connect?



In developing a more advanced display strategy, our Marin team recommended Partner Connect as a way to share and find highly qualified and targeted audiences. After finding huge success with Marin in our search efforts, being able to leverage Marin in other areas seemed like a no-brainer because we’ve already proven that the technology works, and works well.

What goals are you looking to achieve with
Partner Connect?



We’d love to be able to share our data with other non-competing brands. While benefiting our partners, we hope to learn even more about our customers and their interests.

Interested in targeting The Sharper Image’s audience? Learn more about audience extension with Partner Connect!

The Publisher Spotlight is a series where we introduce premium publishers who are using Partner Connect to develop business relationships with relevant and interested advertisers. In this post, we spoke with Shehzad Daredia, co-founder and CEO of bop.fm, a music aggregator service that simplifies music discovery and playback across the web, about the unique qualities and benefits of targeting the bop.fm audience.

bop.fm makes it incredibly easy for music lovers to discover new music


bop.fm is a music service aggregator. We let people focus on the music they love, and not worry about where it comes from, by allowing them to connect their favorite music services into one unified interface. Listeners can connect subscription services like Spotify, Deezer, or Rdio; download stores like iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play; or even the unstructured, “free” services like YouTube and SoundCloud. Once they do so, we handle all the hard work of finding songs and ensuring playback. All the user has to do is search for a song and press play. With Bop, users can also build playlists and share songs with their friends, and it all happens seamlessly.

One really cool benefit is that since users can connect multiple music services within their bop.fm accounts, they can listen to artists and songs that may not be available through a particular streaming service. For example, someone might be a Spotify user, but have to open a different app to listen to artists like the Beatles or Taylor Swift, or maybe the latest Drake mixtape. But with Bop, they won’t need to worry about it, they simply pick the song they want to hear, and we’ll automatically find where it’s available.

bop.fm’s reach goes beyond its website


In addition to the bop.fm website, we syndicate our technology out to partners. These partners include major entertainment publishers like Billboard, artist websites like Arianna Grande, lyric sites like Rap Genius, music blogs like Complex, and even news outlets like Huffington Post.

We power playback for them, giving them a 3rd party player widget they can embed to their site to make it really easy to add music playback that’ll work for all their visitors, regardless of what music service they’re subscribed to.

We also have an iOS app that lets users do everything they can on the desktop – listen to songs, create playlists, connect music services – all on the go.

bop.fm’s audience is incredibly diverse and the data they capture comprehensive


We receive millions of visitors each month, and our user base is very diverse. They span a wide range of demographics, geographies, and genre interests. The tie that binds all our visitors is that they’re all music fans and pretty technologically savvy – we have a good distribution of visitors across desktop, phone, and tablet devices.
We collect data at a very granular level. We can capture audience data at the artist, genre, and even song level, and can pass all that data into the Marin Display platform. For the moment, we’ve built audiences at a higher level, by genre, but we’re starting to pass artist-level data through, too.

Additionally, one of the most unique aspects of our data is that we can detect which music service a user is subscribed to and allow advertisers to target that attribute. You won’t be able to find this elsewhere. So for example, if a brand is currently running advertising targeting Spotify users, they can extend that reach by finding that audience outside of the Spotify experience, and targeting them on the web and Facebook.

Why target bop.fm’s audience?


There are a lot of potential targeting applications for our audience.

One obvious type of advertiser is a company in the music industry, like a music festival looking to reach relevant audiences, or an artist or label trying to promote a new album. We’ve found that a lot of retail brands are interested in reaching our audience as well. Sometimes they see an overlap of a particular genre or artist and their own audience – for example, a jeans brand going after country music fans, or a footware/athletic apparel brand going after hip hop fans. Other times, they may be trying to take a more cultural or artistic approach to connecting with their audiences. The prototypical example would be if Pepsi does a big campaign with Beyonce, and they can easily reach Beyonce fans across the web through us.

What goals are you looking to achieve with Partner Connect?


This is a new concept for us, so we’re eager to see how brands can leverage the data we collect. We think there’s a ton of opportunities to leverage the data that we collect and make available for targeting within Partner Connect. Our goal is to get a better idea of demand, including the types of companies, the audiences they’re interested in, and the ways they’re using that data, to get a better idea of the overall revenue potential.

Interested in targeting bop.fm’s audience? Learn more about audience extension with Partner Connect!

The Publisher Spotlight is a series in which we’ll be introducing premium publishers who are using Partner Connect to develop business relationships with relevant and interested advertisers. In this post, Eric Simons, co-founder of the open source developer-focused education platform Thinkster (and also famously known as the AOL Squatter), speaks about his success with the Partner Connect Publisher Exchange.

Can you tell me about Thinkster and its audience?


Thinkster is a learning platform for developers who are interested in continuing their education and skill development by learning about some of the more bleeding edge JavaScript technologies. Our course structures are a mix between blogging and course platforms.

Our user base consists mainly of experienced front-end JavaScript developers with a wide range of coding interests and experience. Generally, these are professionals who have been working for several years at technology companies or startups, and are very good at what they’re doing. Currently, we receive about 120-150K unique visitors per month and are growing 30% monthly.

We have already engaged in several partnerships within the past month. Since we have a more technical user base, the advertisers that are most interested in our audience tend to be B2B companies with a strong technology focus: enterprise software, software analytics, and cloud infrastructure companies.

How did Partner Connect help you address your business needs?


There are a couple really interesting benefits we’ve found with Partner Connect. First, it’s given us an opportunity to create an advertising-based revenue stream without degrading the user experience on our site by cluttering it with ads. Second, and more interestingly, creating that revenue stream has given us the freedom to think about our product offering and to take different approaches with our pricing. For example, by knowing we can rely on the Partner Connect revenue stream, we can offer courses at a lower price or even for free.

What’s one thing about Partner Connect that surprised you?


We couldn’t believe how easy it was to get set up. It’s hard to beat just dropping a JavaScript tag on our site. I actually checked in with the Perfect Audience team (who’ve been awesome and amazingly helpful) just to make sure that it was that simple and that we weren’t missing anything. Once we had the tracking tag installed, all we had to do was wait for our audience pools to build up, and we were generating revenue.

Interested in targeting Thinkster's audience? Learn more about audience extension with Partner Connect!

About the Author


eric simons

Eric Simons is the co-founder of Thinkster, an open source developer-focused education platform.

The Publisher Spotlight is a series in which we’ll be introducing premium publishers who are using Partner Connect to develop business relationships with relevant and interested advertisers. In this post, Eric Simons, co-founder of the open source developer-focused education platform Thinkster (and also famously known as the AOL Squatter), speaks about his success with the Partner Connect Publisher Exchange.

Can you tell me about Thinkster and its audience?


Thinkster is a learning platform for developers who are interested in continuing their education and skill development by learning about some of the more bleeding edge JavaScript technologies. Our course structures are a mix between blogging and course platforms.

Our user base consists mainly of experienced front-end JavaScript developers with a wide range of coding interests and experience. Generally, these are professionals who have been working for several years at technology companies or startups, and are very good at what they’re doing. Currently, we receive about 120-150K unique visitors per month and are growing 30% monthly.

We have already engaged in several partnerships within the past month. Since we have a more technical user base, the advertisers that are most interested in our audience tend to be B2B companies with a strong technology focus: enterprise software, software analytics, and cloud infrastructure companies.

How did Partner Connect help you address your business needs?


There are a couple really interesting benefits we’ve found with Partner Connect. First, it’s given us an opportunity to create an advertising-based revenue stream without degrading the user experience on our site by cluttering it with ads. Second, and more interestingly, creating that revenue stream has given us the freedom to think about our product offering and to take different approaches with our pricing. For example, by knowing we can rely on the Partner Connect revenue stream, we can offer courses at a lower price or even for free.

What’s one thing about Partner Connect that surprised you?


We couldn’t believe how easy it was to get set up. It’s hard to beat just dropping a JavaScript tag on our site. I actually checked in with the Perfect Audience team (who’ve been awesome and amazingly helpful) just to make sure that it was that simple and that we weren’t missing anything. Once we had the tracking tag installed, all we had to do was wait for our audience pools to build up, and we were generating revenue.

Interested in targeting Thinkster's audience? Learn more about audience extension with Partner Connect!

About the Author


eric simons

Eric Simons is the co-founder of Thinkster, an open source developer-focused education platform.

When marketers talk about their Search strategies, one can expect to hear the usual suspects mentioned: “combining traditional search with social is big”, “don’t forget about optimizing for mobile search”, but few ever expect to hear about native ads in their Search conversations. Native ads usually fall under the category of display advertising, but today they are joining forces with mobile search for the first time through Yahoo’s innovative advertising solution called Gemini.

Native ads have always appealed to advertisers with the way they blend into the natural flow of editorial content and their high engagement factor with consumers. With native advertising boasting a 3.6x lift over traditional display ads for branded search activity and 6x lift for generic search activity according to Yahoo, it’s not surprising advertisers want to include native ads into their advertising strategy. For advertisers new to native, Gemini makes it easy to get started, as it allows advertisers to buy, manage, and optimize their native and mobile search ads all in one place. By combining the power of native ads with the popularity of mobile search ads, advertisers are able to not only reach targeted audience across desktop, mobile and tablets, but also provide them with a compelling ad experience.

To help advertisers get started with Yahoo Gemini, we’ve provided three helpful tips:

1. Reap the benefits of an early start


Early adopters of Gemini are already seeing great results. One major hotel brand raves about generating more leads and revenues in just one week from advertising on Gemini. Gemini provides advertisers access to the majority of Yahoo’s mobile inventory, with mobile accounting for 39% of Yahoo’s searches. As more advertisers learn about the substantial opportunity that is Gemini, it makes sense to get in early to beat your competition to the punch, take advantage of lower CPCs, and have more time to fine-tune your ad performance.

2. Understand your audience


With the combination of native and mobile search, advertisers have the ability to hit audiences at different parts of the marketing funnel. Native content on Gemini is displayed on the Yahoo homepage as well as Yahoo properties like Mail, Mobile Search, News, Sports, Finance, Celebrity, Movies, TV, Music, Travel, Autos, and My Yahoo. This reach allows you to hit a broader audience and it may make sense to create ads that are geared towards creating brand awareness. Mobile search ads on the other hand appear according to keyword searches, making it a good place to display more customized ads that are focused on specific products or information that you believe your targeted audience is interested in.

3. Work with a third party platform to see it all


While Gemini allows advertisers to bring together native ads with mobile search ads, advertisers can gain even more insight by combining their Gemini campaigns with the rest of their advertising campaigns. By having all their search, social and display campaigns consolidated in one place, advertisers are provided with a truly comprehensive picture of how their advertising efforts are performing. Additionally, third party platforms allow advertisers to easily clone ads from one publisher to another and also sync between publishers and the platform to ensure consistency across both and minimize errors.

Earlier this week, Marin announced an exclusive partnership with Yahoo Gemini. For more information on how Marin can help with your Gemini campaigns, click here.

While Google has long been (and still remains) the dominant search engine in the US market, there are signs that Bing is becoming more of a contender - at least in a few key verticals. Due to our curious nature, we decided to examine Google vs Bing US data over the last five quarters to see how much headway Bing has made in capturing click and spend share.

From our data gathering, we were able to see three verticals that have seen significant gains in click share since Q2 2013: B2B services, healthcare, and travel. While other verticals have seen minor fluctuations, we saw click share grow by at least 10% for these three verticals, compared to an average of 4%. In addition, we saw at least 12% spend share growth for these three industries, versus an overall spend share growth of 4% year over year.


Why is this happening?


It could be for a variety of reasons. One, Bing’s users have always skewed older than Google’s, favoring 35 and up, and especially 55-64 year olds. From this, we can infer that these users would show more interest in these three verticals than Google’s. As the economy picks up, it also makes sense that Bing’s user-base would be searching and clicking more often on ads within these verticals than on Google. People searching for B2B services would exclude a large audience of students and junior employees, who are more likely Google users. With the Affordable Care Act in play, we can surmise that the large jump in healthcare clicks is, again, an older user-base searching for information and signing up in the middle of this period, causing a sharp increase in Bing healthcare click-share. Similarly, travel may be more affordable to those with disposable income further in their careers, or heads of households, who are more likely to use Bing. In addition, these three verticals cover topics that require extensive research before a purchase decision is made, which may show that online searchers are going across multiple search platforms to do thorough research before any decisions.

What do YOU think? Feel free to leave a comment below to continue the Google vs Bing conversation.

We all know it can be challenging to distribute content to the right audience, which is where LinkedIn's Sponsored Updates come to play. Sponsored Updates is a marketing solution that allows you to create targeted native ads, published directly into the LinkedIn feed. With over 313 million members in over 200 countries, it makes them the largest professional network in the world.

LinkedIn has become a great hub for discovering insightful content and many brands have seen great success through marketing on Sponsored Updates. In this quick read, you will learn 5 best practices, from how to properly setup your campaigns to understanding the performance per audience segment, and some tips that will help you increase engagement and gain higher quality leads.

1.Split Your Audience Targets & Create Relevant Ad Copy.

LinkedIn offers many targeting options from location, companies, job title, school, skills, groups, etc. It's important to target people who you think will be interested in your content by narrowing down your targeting options. You can improve conversions, engagement, and click-through rate by creating messages that are relevant to your target audience.

For example, if you wanted to promote a small business guide for marketing on Pinterest, it may be wise to create two campaigns targeting for job titles containing "marketing" and "social media", separately, and then layer on company size of less than 50. You can also create a third campaign to target social media related groups. At the very high level, your setup on LinkedIn should look something like this:



2. Track Performance with Analytics.

You cannot optimize on LinkedIn for conversions, so it is extremely crucial to add tracking parameters that will work with your analytics platform to the landing pages you want to use with your ads. This will help evaluate whether or not your ad is effective for that audience. Here's an example of how I would setup tracking for the scenario given in the last example, using Salesforce and Google Analytics tags:

Guide to Pinterest Marketing - Groups
Guide to Pinterest Marketing - Marketing Title
Guide to Pinterest Marketing - Social Media Title

When you click on these URLS, you can see that utm_source=linkedin-sponsoredupdates, utm_mediun=cpc (the advertising model used), utm_campaign=PinterestGuide (the content I'm using), and utm_content is populated with my target group.

From here, I can run a report on Salesforce (trackid) to determine how many leads I've generated, in addition to the quality of those leads based on an internal algorithm. I'll also use Google Analytics to understand the different levels of engagement (time on page, bounce rate, etc) to see the relationship between my target audience with my actual offer.

3. CPC vs CPM: What's Your Advertising Model?

You can select to pay by a cost-per-click model or cost-per-thousand-impressions. Typically, brands looking to increase brand awareness go with the CPM model to gain a lot of exposure. If you're looking to spend your money efficiently, CPC is the way to go because you only pay when a user clicks on your update. Because it's different for everyone, if you do end up getting a lot of clicks on your ad and it performs well, it may be worth testing the CPM model to see if you gain more efficiency.

4. Test Multiple Ad Variations with Direct Sponsored Content.

This exciting new ad solution from LinkedIn launched in late July, allowing marketers to sponsor content without publishing the content first on company pages. This puts marketers in more direct control, being able test out multiple variations of ads and deliver personalized messages to their target audience. While there are many ways to use this, I'd recommend aiming for the low-hanging fruit first: copy, call-to-action, and image.

5. Optimize for Devices.

Unfortunately, there's no way to target for specific devices, or exclude mobile devices. When you create a sponsored update, it will be delivered on any device they are using. This means that your ad copy may be truncated. The first 300 characters are displayed on desktop, 160 on tablet, and 35 on mobile unless the member clicks “more” to see the additional text. The best practice is to make sure the first 100 characters of your update is eye-catching and to use images that will render well at any size, avoiding dark images that contain small text.

It’s an exciting day at Marin and for advertisers around the globe. Today we finalized our acquisition of Perfect Audience; an innovative San Francisco based retargeting company. We’re thrilled to have them join us and enhance our remarketing expertise and bolster our industry-leading search, social and display performance advertising platform.

With the acquisition of Perfect Audience, advertisers not only get powerful programmatic display capabilities across the web, but also direct access to Facebook Exchange (FBX), Google’s Doubleclick Ad Exchange, and Twitter. For marketers looking to move away from inefficient point solutions, Marin is the only platform that offers audience-based ad buying across devices and channels.

You know your first party data is your advantage to effectively measure, manage and optimize across channels to win more revenue. Your search data reveals purchase intent. Your social data shows valuable demographic info. Your retargeting offers a trove of behavioral data. Marin’s advertisers will be able to easily combine and analyze all three data streams in a single place to better inform and execute smarter audience buying across the vast search, display and social landscapes.

For example, Marin’s support of Google RLSA in conjunction with Perfect Audience enables advertisers to use their highly valuable first-party data to not only influence display retargeting but also improve search retargeting. Such a 360-degree approach to audience based retargeting in a single platform is a first for advertisers.

Marketers invest big $ to drive prospects to their websites, but generally less than five percent of this traffic becomes customers. Adding Perfect Audience’s retargeting capabilities enables Marin’s advertisers to target the 95% of their traffic that doesn’t convert, generating more revenue from their online advertising programs.

If you’re not familiar with Perfect Audience, we encourage you to check out their powerfully simple platform. In addition to integrating the Perfect Audience platform with Marin, Perfect Audience will also continue to be available as a standalone tool. So, it’s business as usual for current Perfect Audience customers.

Curious about more acquisition details, then check out the FAQ.

Yesterday Google announced a significant tweak to their “rotate evenly” creative rotation setting. Today, campaigns that are set to “rotate evenly” will have their creative rotated evenly for an indefinite amount of time. Starting next week, campaigns using this setting will only rotate creative evenly for 30 days after the last creative was enabled or edited. After the 30-day period, creative will automatically optimize for clicks (one of the three existing ad rotation settings). Keep in mind that the campaign will remain labeled “rotate evenly” even after the rotation period has ended for any or all of the groups within that campaign.

Though this tweak is said to provide users with more relevant ads and help advertisers achieve better performance, it forces search marketers to be more in-tune with their ongoing creative tests. When testing, hone in on creative that deliver statistically significant results for your business, whether that’s clicks or conversions. Focus on high traffic groups to reach significance within the 30-day rotation period. Once significance is reached, pause “losing” creative and test new iterations of the “winning” creative. This resets Google’s 30-day clock and preserves the continuity of your creative test.

Creative testing tools, like Marin’s AB Testing solution, automatically reveal “winning” and “losing” creative once statistical significance has been reached. This logic, coupled with a best practice focus on testing creative in top traffic groups, should make the new 30-day rotation period a reasonable time frame for testing. As a best practice, take note of start dates when engaging in creative testing. Marin users should continue leveraging Dimensions as part of their creative testing workflow. These tags will help alert you when a test is nearing the end of its 30-day rotation period.

Yesterday, Google announced changes to the way phrase and exact match type keywords will behave in AdWords. Traditionally, advertisers have had to compile large keyword lists to account for misspellings, plurals and other keyword variations. Starting mid-May, AdWords’ phrase and exact match keywords will begin matching close variants, including:

  • Misspellings (“waterproof sunblock” will match “waterpoof sunblock”)
  • Singular/plural forms (“bollard cover” will match “bollard covers”)
  • Acronyms (“MLB” will match “Major League Baseball”)
  • Stemmings (“single serving coffee” will match “single serve coffee”)
  • Abbreviations (“st.” will match “street”)
  • Accents (“cliché” will match “cliche”)


AdWords Phrase Exact Match Type Matching Updates





















This level of matching is already baked into Google’s organic algorithm, but the impact it will have on search advertisers has yet to be seen. Initial Google testing yielded a 3% increase in clicks, with comparable CPCs, however those who don’t want the potential for more clicks have the option to opt out.

We love our mobile devices, and according to our recent study of mobile paid search, we love searching on them. In looking across our client base the trend was unanimous, mobile search is up, way up.

In the U.S., we saw ad clicks from mobile devices increase 132% during 2011, and by the end of this year mobile will comprise 25% of all paid search clicks. Similarly, in the UK mobile ended the year with 15% of all clicks in the UK. And, even though it’s not as significant a percentage, mobile clicks in the Eurozone more than doubled in 2011.

Things get even more interesting for marketers when looking at the differences between smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Generally (UK was the sole exception), smartphones carry higher CTRs and lower CPCs, but the lowest conversion rates. Tablets beat desktops in CTR and CPC, come close to trumping desktops in conversion rate, and edge all devices out in cost per conversion.


So, what’s this all mean?

Mobile devices are not only changing the way consumers search and shop, but how marketers advertise. The immediate response by advertisers is to devote more budget to mobile search (we project ad budgets will fall just a bit short of click volume in 2012). However, down the road as savvy marketers adapt to mobile search scenarios, click to call, location-based promos, and integration with social will all become common place. Furthermore, attribution becomes a much larger issue, particularly in a scenario where a mobile search directly leads to an in-store sale. Who gets the credit?

How do you foresee search marketing changing with the increased adoption and use of smartphones and tablets?

Whether you’re just starting out in paid search or have fully built out search campaigns, in order to be successful, you’ll want to know how to implement negative-keywords within your campaigns. Why? Actively managing negatives is possibly the single most impactful tool marketers have to increase revenues and lower costs. The virtuous circle of lowering costs while simultaneously increasing quality and position results in a win-win for the advertiser: increased revenue and ROI. Given the benefits, negative keywords should always be a top consideration for advertisers looking to optimize paid search.



In a recent white paper, Marin Software reviews the benefits of successful negatives strategies and presents a variety of best practices for deploying and managing negatives. Some of these best practices include:


  • Strategies for Identifying Negatives: Where does one start when identifying negative keywords? Learn 5 tactics for sourcing negatives, as well as tips and tricks for implementing these methods efficiently.
  • Using Negatives to Shape Traffic: One of the most common methods for shaping traffic with negatives is by creating match-type silos. Discover how match-type silos force search engines to trigger the correct keyword-match-type combination for each query and how to implement them in your campaigns.
  • Negative-Keyword Strategies for Yahoo! & Bing: Marketers should not assume that negatives in adCenter act the same way as negatives in AdWords. Find out the important differences in the treatment of negatives between the two search engines.


Gain a complete understanding of how to leverage negatives to maximize revenue and performance for online advertising programs. More importantly, become equipped with the techniques necessary to make a strategic implementation of negatives a reality.

Download the free white paper here.

Yesterday, Google released its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011. On the whole, it was a strong quarter for the digital advertising giant. But Wall Street reacted in a way that seems counterintuitive. Since the earnings' call, $18 billion has evaporated from Google's market cap as share prices fell ~8%. So, what’s happening here? Is there really cause for concern? Or are Wall Street's concerns overblown?

Google Earnings





To get a more complete picture, let's look at the relevant pieces of Google's business and performance.

The Big Picture


Google's revenue for the fourth quarter was $10.6 billion, representing a year-over-year (y/y) top line growth of 25%, and marking their first $10 billion plus quarter. Though I usually don't wax poetic over corporate financials, there is something strongly significant and symbolic about having hit the rarefied $10 billion quarter club. Way to go, Googlers!

Google’s Core Search Business


Click Volume - Paid clicks were up 34% annually (y/y), implying more users are more engaged with Google.

CPC - Cost per Click declined 8% on a y/y basis, implying customers are getting more volume (clicks) for their advertising spend. This dynamic is important to keep in mind as cheaper clicks are better for advertisers, and assuming click quality doesn't decline, will lead to increased investment in Google.

Wall Street’s Reaction


There's probably more to dissect in these earnings, but this is probably a good place to pause and examine Wall Street's reaction.

To put it plainly, Wall Street didn't like any of the above. Shares plummeted ~8%. The big issue for Wall Street (based on the nature and frequency of analyst questions) was around the decline in Google's average cost per click.

But this shouldn't really be a factor because the marginal cost of a click (for Google) is zero. And assuming that click volumes are rising faster than changes in the cost per click, which they are in this case, Google's top line revenue shouldn't really see an impact.Net net, if cheaper clicks brings more advertisers on-board, than Google will more than make up on volume.

To be fair, I'm not looking at the slowdown in Europe or issues around currency (F/X) hedging in this blog post. (I'm also not looking at the positive impacts of mobile, social and display) But, those issues are a) extrinsic and b) volatile, and in retrospect, Wall Street may have over-reacted to Google's numbers.

As a very tech-savvy customer acquisition agency, we learned a long time ago the extraordinary value of having extremely close relationships with technology providers. Being a user of Marin Enterprise Edition for years, the resources and time we’ve put into this relationship has paid off in spades, giving us the capability to get the greatest value from Marin and therefore be the most effective for our clients.

For very basic tools that have limited functionality, mastering them is easy, but there’s very little you can do with them and you get minimal benefits. For extremely sophisticated and function-laden tools like Marin, taking advantage of their breadth and depth of training, onboarding options, contextual help and other services was something we eagerly embraced in a big way. Doing so has paid off: we’ve seen a quantum leap in terms of results.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other reasons that we chose to have a very close working relationship with Marin. Because acquirgy has a wide variety of direct response clients, with different business models, different metrics and different ROI goals, Marin’s desire to listen to our recommendations has led to numerous enhancements that we can confidently say has improved our ability to serve our clients. For example, using Marin’s Ad Testing feature, we were able to see dramatic differences between creative in a manner that was prudent and statistically significant.

It’s a win-win for Marin and acquirgy: Marin gets valuable feedback, leading to new features that benefits all their users; acquirgy gets new features that were developed based on our knowledge of our clients’ businesses.

Another example of the benefits of working closely with Marin is their close ties with Google. As clients we are among the first to learn about upcoming releases. This helps us plan for them so that we can take full advantage of them upon release. Marin’s ability to customize reporting and be a sounding board are two more reasons why our agency is proud to have developed such a close relationship with Marin.

Want to learn how we chose Marin from among all their competitors? Drop me a line (irv@acquirgy.com).

It is widely known that in Bing, the three separate match types are in fact the same entity, forcing advertisers to use the {matchtype} parameter to properly track. What causes confusion is the fact that Bing recommends something called ‘cascade bidding’ which allows users to analyze performance more easily and prevents the wrongful inheriting of bids across match types.

In Bing, match types can inherit the less specific match type bid. It is not uncommon for a user to set a bid for broad match, failing to set an explicit bid for the phrase and exact, thus causing all match types to have the same exact bid. For example, if an advertiser is bidding on the keyword “shoe” with a $1 bid on broad match and a bid isn’t specified for phrase and exact match types, they will both inherit the broad match bid. This results in Bing serving phrase and exact match queries as if they had been bid at $1 as well.

How do we get around this?


Bing recommends setting an implicit bid on all match types. The chart below will provide an example of AdCenter’s recommendation for dealing with this Bing intricacy. You’ll see that in the broad group, the other two match types are set to the group level minimum bid. The phrase will have exact bid set to $0.5 and so on.

bing_matchtypes



Since AdCenter does not allow advertisers to pause just one instance of the keyword in a group, advertisers will need to implement this solution. If all keywords resided in the same ad group, pausing one match type will cause the others to follow suit. Due to this behavior, Bing recommends the above: cascade bidding.

Cascade bidding is particularly useful for advertisers who do not have the luxury of tracking dynamic parameters like {matchtype} mentioned above. Even without tracking the dynamic parameter, advertisers can now report more accurately on keyword performance.

About a month ago, Google announced the global roll-out of an update to the AdWords algorithm that increases the value of landing page relevancy and quality when determining Quality Score. Google predicted with these changes, some campaigns would see variations in keyword Quality Scores and ad positions, but most would not see a significant change in overall performance. At Marin, we decided to investigate.

We sampled a population of 240 accounts across our Marin Enterprise client base that had limited average bid movements, consistent keyword counts, and consistently received greater than 1,000 impressions per day. For these 240 accounts, we examined the daily impression-weighted Quality Score at the publisher account level.

QS of Sample Accounts


From the sample accounts, we observed 12 accounts with an increase in Quality Score greater than 0.25.

SampAcctsWs


When taking a closer look at two of these accounts, we see the spike in Quality Score occurred on 10/2/2011 – 10/4/2011. Furthermore, there was little change to Click-Through Rates during this time, which suggests that the increase in Quality Score was related to the quality of their landing page.

SpecAcctsWs


We also identified 15 accounts that had a week-over-week drop in Quality Score of 0.25 or more.

SampAcctsLs


After further investigation into four of these accounts, we see the drop in Quality Score took place between 10/2/2011 – 10/4/2011, with minimal change in Click-Through Rates, indicating these accounts had landing pages that Google deemed to be less relevant, adversely impacting quality.

SpecAcctsLs


What our investigation and findings suggest:

  • The updated AdWords algorithm has had limited impact on Quality Scores.
  • Only about 11.25% of Google Accounts saw their Quality Score change by more than 0.25 as a result of the algorithm change.
  • If you did see a decrease in Quality Score during the 10/2/2011 – 10/4/2011 timeframe, with little or no change to Click-Through Rates, consider improving your landing pages to account for this change in Google’s algorithm.

Excited to introduce Marin Next, an innovative recommendation engine we designed to help advertisers uncover new areas for optimization. We realize advertisers have only so much time in the day and developing new creative, testing new target audiences, etc. is probably a better use of energy than spending hours crunching numbers to discover areas for optimization or expansion. So, leveraging a proprietary methodology based on our experience with hundreds of successful online advertisers, we developed Marin Next to help assess the state of campaigns and make optimization suggestions.

Marin Next is the first of its kind, providing advertisers recommendations in the areas of budgeting, bidding, creative optimization and campaign structure across search, display and social campaigns. Based on the actual performance and structure of their marketing programs, with Marin next marketers will gain insights previously hard to identify or prioritize.

Our recent whitepaper, “Taking Paid Search Performance to the Next Level” describes Marin’s optimization methodology and provides examples of the types of recommendations provided by Marin Next. Contact your Marin Online Marketing Manager for more information on leveraging Marin Next on your campaigns.

In January 2011, Microsoft adCenter owned a 30.7% core search market share. (Comscore Jan ’11) With adCenter now being the gateway to such an extensive amount of search traffic, running on AdWords and adCenter is now a must for any serious search marketer. Running on both advertising platforms comes with a good amount of intricacies that marketers should be cognizant of. Below is a breakdown of a few of the differences to be aware of when running on both platforms.


Negatives:


AdWords and adCenter treat negatives differently. In Google you can implement negatives at several different layers. Google allows advertisers to implement exact, phrase, and broad negative match types. This allows for a significant amount of flexibility for the advertiser when optimizing their campaigns.

When implementing negatives in adCenter, advertisers are only allowed to submit phrase negative matches which inhibits an advertiser’s options. It’s important to be cognizant of this constraint while managing your account. If an advertiser transfers over a campaign from AdWords to adCenter and observes an unusual trend in traffic, it’s good practice to see if the campaign had a broad negative match applied in AdWords which is now set to phrase. The same holds true for any keywords that may have been set on exact match previously.

Another important distinction in adCenter is that when you apply negative keywords at the ad group level, the campaign level negatives will not be applied to that ad group. The group level negatives will override all of the campaign negatives. This differs from Google where the excluded keywords set at multiple levels work together cumulatively.

Ad Character Limits:


In AdWords advertisers are constricted to 2 lines of 35 characters. This requires some level of optimization to fully take advantage of the allotted space. Additionally having 2 lines of 35 characters means descriptions can be up to 71 characters (with an implied space between Google creative lines). With adCenter, ads are constructed in a single field instead of two lines. This makes creating ads easier to fully leverage the allotted space, however; adCenter descriptions lose that implied space resulting in a limit of 70 characters.

When moving campaigns to AdCenter from AdWords, ensure that your creative isn’t cut off with the loss of a character. When moving from AdCenter to AdWords ensure that your creatives can be split into two lines and still work with the 35 character limits on each line.

Match Types:


Both adCenter and AdWords offer broad, negative and exact match types. The difference is with Google’s new match type – modified broad. Advertisers can implement modified broad by putting a plus symbol directly in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. Each word proceeded by a + must appear in the user’s search exactly or as a close variant. This modifier gives more reach than phrase and more control than just broad. This match type can prove useful for advertisers but unfortunately this match type is not offered in adCenter. This is important to be aware of when importing any campaigns from AdWords to adCenter. If you’re leveraging modified broad match in a campaign that you want to import to adCenter, you will need to make changes to match types. Advertisers will need to change their match type to either broad or phrase while considering the phrase negative option.

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