When it comes to using Google search, meaning Google.com and their search partners, including search engines like AOL.com and ASK.com, Google is focused on one thing, creating the best experience possible so users will prefer their search engine over all others. To accomplish this, they build their algorithms to reward advertisers for one thing, relevance. How relevant is your keyword, ad copy, landing page and website to what the user is searching for? I discuss this in more detail in my article titled A chain of success.
When advertisers play by Google’s rules, meaning they build their AdWords campaigns and websites according to Google AdWords best practices, they are rewarded with things like; higher ad ranking, lower CPCs and more ad exposure. Google calls this Impression Share.
But what if there were relatively few searches for what you offer or if the best keyword for you (personal injury attorney) is extremely expensive? You might feel that if users saw your ad, even when searching for something else, there is a good chance they will be interested? Then what you are trying to do is known as interruption marketing or branding, which is quite different from direct-response search engine advertising, which by the way is the generic definition of Google AdWords search.
If that is the case, then what you are trying to accomplish runs completely counter to how Google search (organic or paid) is designed to work and you have some real challenges ahead of you. Just as an aside, interruption marketing is precisely what the Google display network is all about, but that’s a topic for another day. See my post titled Display network advertising.
Let me provide a quick example. You sell car insurance. This is a fiercely competitive market and in order to maintain a Cost-Per-Click you can afford, you want to advertise for related searches that are less costly, but still relevant to car insurance buyers. You know users are searching for a “Chevy Tahoe”, but you hope that when they see your ad for “Great deals on car insurance”, they will click on your ad, go to your website and request a quote for auto insurance. We call that a conversion.
The first step in this process is to create campaigns and optimize them according to Google’s best practices for the terms that you feel are most relevant to what you offer. In the example above, this would be for “car insurance”. This means creating campaigns and fine-tuning them to achieve a sustainable CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition) that you want. How you do this is basically how you master AdWords. When you do this, you will be taking the competition head-on. Not a trivial task for sure. This is basically what I do for clients every day.
Another quick sidebar, whether we are talking about the traditional way of building AdWords search campaigns or the non-traditional way I’ll be explaining, there is one important common thread. You must have accurate and reliable conversion tracking. Your ability to optimize your campaign will be directly related to how well you link a conversion back to the things you can control; keywords, matching options, ad copy, landing pages and website content. If you can’t do that, you are leaving a lot to chance. You are essentially flying blind and that’s not good.
In order to appreciate what I’m about to explain, you need to understand how Google has evolved over the past few years, since they went public and became accountable to Wall Street. Once they became a public company, they were expected to continually increase revenue and profits. By the way, Google AdWords accounts for 95% of Google’s profits. Google needed a way to drive up revenue, meaning click charges, in an equitable way. The method they used was to create a Quality Score. I call it Google’s profit dial because a relatively minor adjustment to the quality score algorithm can generate huge additional profits for Google.
Quality score is the part of Google’s algorithm that determines if your ad gets shown, when, where and how much a click costs you. The quality score has over 100 elements to it and Google is intentionally vague about how it works. It’s their secret sauce.
There simply isn’t any way around it. When it comes to Google search, you are bound by Google’s rules. If you are attempting to trick Google or the user, the best you can hope for is to simply stay in the game and get your ad shown as often as possible to qualified prospects who will be intrigued enough to click on your ad and convert. Staying in the game requires that you achieve a minimum level of performance for quality score, at least a score of 1. Anything higher is even better. A score of 0 and your ad does not see the light of day.
The degree to which you are able to obtain a higher quality score will determine how much impression share you receive and what your minimum bid must be. But there is a delicate balancing act required. You must maintain enough relevance in your ad copy and landing page to achieve minimum levels of quality, while at the same time being clear about what you offer. Relevance will determine how often your ad is displayed. The amount of competition will determine the keyword’s first page bid price and how truthful you are in the ad copy will have a major impact on your conversion rate.
The SNIM plan
Strategy – Display ads to users searching for related products or services, but not what you actually offer. Interrupt their search process with a related offer they can’t refuse. However, your ad must be relevant to what they are searching for.
Objective – Get as much impression share as you can, at the lowest CPC possible, but make sure the user is qualified. Quality score needs to be at least 3 and CTR is not critically important. However, a higher QS and CTR will produce better results.
- With just a few exceptions, the process for building campaigns for Search Network Interruption Marketing (SNIM) will be pretty much the same as it is for the search terms you want to compete head-on for. Meaning the search terms you want to get as close to 100% impression share, the highest quality scores and the best CTRs.
- For the purpose of SNIM, the more keywords you have, the more exposure you get, and this is a game of exposure, but only at the right price.
- Conversion tracking or some other similar tool that manages the campaign to CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) targets will significantly reduce the level of on-going effort.
- Build and test ad groups to achieve the objectives mentioned above. If you plan to test Conversion Optimizer, have at least 30 days of history with as many conversions as possible. The more, the better.
Search terms – Determine what search terms you want your ad to display for. This requires a good understanding of the business, the business model, what is being offered, what makes a good or bad prospect and more. If the person setting up the campaign does not have a good understanding of this, it undermines the entire strategy.
Keywords – Use keywords and matching options that will display your ad for the desired search terms. Use negative keywords to filter poor quality visitors. Longer-tail keywords will produce less competition and higher quality scores, but be aware of what I call The keyword conundrum. Be careful of broad-matched keywords because they will trigger for “synonyms or related searches”. The more broad-matched keywords you can use, the more exposure you will get. Remember, the objective is broad exposure so the more keywords you have, the better.
Ad copy – Ad copy needs to first be relevant to the keyword and secondly be truthful about what the visitor will see when they click through. Use the keyword in the ad copy, preferably the headline and the display URL. Create ads that tell the visitor what they will find when they click on the ad. Be honest. The click does little good if the visitor doesn’t convert. This is a case where all you want is a CTR good enough to keep your ad showing at a good impression share.
Ad groups – Construct ad groups with common themes that link search terms to keywords, keywords to ad copy and ad copy to your custom landing page. Create ad groups around core words or phrases of similar value to the business. This is important because even though conversion optimizer is implemented at the campaign level, you set your CPA at the ad group level.
Campaigns – Create campaigns around groups containing keywords of similar value to your business. Use AdWords conversion tracking to optimize performance to the desired CPA targets. Campaigns with higher value traffic are worth more and you can afford to pay more for a conversion.
Landing page – use the keyword in the URL, h1 tag, headline and throughout the page.
Monitor the search queries to insure the traffic is relevant. Use negative keywords to filter poor quality traffic.
Things you need to know:
- The devil is in the details. When this strategy is implemented properly it is a tedious and time-consuming process. There is a lot about what I have described that requires advanced knowledge of Google AdWords. This is not an advised course of action for the novice AdWords advertiser.
- If you have an existing account that consists of many campaigns, ad groups and keywords, and is generating business, you need to be extremely careful not to do anything that can’t be easily undone or you could jeopardize the business.
- If you have an existing account that is producing business and you don’t want to go through the time and expense of building and fine-tuning new campaigns, I suggest you simply focus on your search term reports and use negative keywords to filter the obviously poor quality traffic. This is far less costly to do and carries a lot less risk.
- There are actually many different quality scores associated with your account. However, the only one you can see is associated with an individual keyword. If you have a preponderance of low quality scores, they will have an effect on the campaign where you are striving for higher marks. See my article titled The elephant in Google.
- The AdWords Conversion Optimizer is a great tool when used properly. It uses historical conversion data to manipulate bid prices in real-time. However, when the historical data within the campaign indicates very little, if any correlation between the search query and a conversion, it makes it more difficult for CO to “learn” what works and what doesn’t. There is no guarantee CO will produce a better results than what you achieve by bidding manually.
In conclusion, I’d like to recognize that while this practice of SNIM runs counter to the fundamental intent of search advertising and Google AdWords, it is a viable advertising strategy and has produced enormous profits for advertisers who have done it successfully. But it is not to be entered into lightly. It will be a constant up-hill battle and you will remain at the mercy of Google and their ever-changing algorithms. Most noticeably, the quality score.