Over the last decade, PPC marketing has evolved in unprecedented ways, allowing hyperlocal targeting and powerful ways to connect ad exposure with customer behavior.
And in a world where the same mobile devices that power consumer communication, entertainment, and product research also serve as the tools people use to reach out to service providers, ad platforms like Google have more data than ever about how and when an individual’s searches will lead to a potential sale for an advertiser. That’s why Google has developed new avenues of “smart” bidding and ad creation.
However, such “smart” campaigns and ads don’t get smart on their own, and they can easily lead to bad results if you’re not mindful of how to set them up. We’ll go over some strategies that we use at Service Direct for crafting smart campaigns and ads.
Over the past couple years, Google’s portfolio of “smart” bidding options has expanded.
The basic premise of smart campaigns is simple: You provide Google the appropriate ad assets and a goal, whether it be impression share or acquisition-based, and Google will use its proprietary technology to have your ads show up in front of users whomt Google deems likely will take your desired actions. This “likelihood” is based in part on data that Google has acquired regarding user interests, search patterns, and broader industry data, but is also highly optimized based on the performance of your account, as Google aims to replicate conditions accompanying the fulfillment of your desired interactions.
Some marketing professionals are wary about implementing smart campaigns, especially for SMB local service businesses. While large companies were the biggest early benefactors of smart bidding options — they were the ones with the budgets big enough to fuel Google’s data-hungry learning machines — smart bidding technologies have gotten increasingly better at optimizing for smaller budgets over a short period.
When launching smart campaigns, make sure to implement reliable conversion tracking and that you have a dedicated analyst capable of examining whether the reported conversions are good for your business. One of the biggest mistakes marketing managers make is “set and forget” a smart campaign; to get good results, you need to audit your traffic and conversions to ensure the campaign isn’t optimizing for undesirable results.
Though Google’s official documentation on smart bidding suggests that “campaigns without data of their own may see increased performance,” I don’t recommend this strategy. Instead, try to optimize your campaign manually to gather data, vet keyword, and ad copy quality, then turn on the smart bidding option that works best for your goals. That way, you can ensure that your smart campaigns have a good foundation for optimization
Just as Google’s smart bidding offerings have disrupted traditions of careful keyword bid layering to more dynamically connect user and advertiser needs, Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) have revolutionized text ad creation as we know it. Though RSAs are indistinguishable from vanilla user search ads, these complex ad assets are written as a collection of headlines and description lines formulated to instantly match user search queries in ways that best fit Google’s reading of user intent. If written properly, these ads can be suited to respond to thousands of different queries, each of which can carry signals of interests, intent, and values.
Since they can include up to fifteen headlines and four description line components, writing responsive search ads can be intimidating. So before writing the ads, develop a list of your most important product and service selling points, and try your best to craft each one into a unique 30-character headline. In your headlines, provide information highlighting the value of your offerings, special deals (if relevant), and deploy calls to action that appeal to different customer mindsets and values. Resist the urge to repeat the same selling point over and over; instead, focus on a variety of selling points that highlight the value of your brand and services, and what distinguishes you from your competitors.
Once you complete the headlines, write description lines that could work independently to encourage your potential customers to click. Then imagine them appearing two at a time, in various orders. If you feel that any two headlines or descriptions would appear redundant, revise the lines so that each potential juxtaposition is unique. By keeping each headline and description line unique, and speaking to different customer interests, you can craft a matrix of ad possibilities that fit user interests.
If you are concerned about the ads not having the mandatory information included in your advertisements (such as licensing information), “pin” a description line or headline to appear in each instance of the ad, with the rest of the ad text free to rotate. Do this sparingly, however, as Google’s algorithms can sometimes identify juxtapositions that yield spectacular results. Over time, you can receive data regarding how specific combinations get more engagements than others. If a particular arrangement is getting great results, you can use that ad as a basis for new responsive and non-responsive ads.
One of the most recently fleshed-out features for Google Search advertising is in-market audiences, which allows you to observe and target users based on hundreds of interest and demographic categories. Until recently, audience targeting was enabled only for remarketing lists, effectively helping you send more refined ads to people who previously visited your site. This newer form of search audience segmentation, however, allows you to get detailed information about everyone who sees or clicks on your ads. Moreover, if you are hesitant to hand the reins on bidding to Google, you can create your own audience-based bid adjustments to encourage people with specific interests to see your ads.
Perhaps the best feature of these audience interest groups is that they are based on fresh user data. According to Google, a user is deemed “interested” in a topic if they searched the topic within the last 24 hours. This freshness is in keeping with Google’s commitment to getting ads in front of consumers when they are most likely to make decisions, and also allows advertisers to gain insight into the concerns of their audience.
I recommend setting up audience-level observations for every interest and demographic category when you start your campaign. Over time, you will get data about which interest and demographic groups correlate with the best outcomes for your campaigns, The data you receive regarding who sees your ads, who clicks, who converts, and who doesn’t, can propel quality ad and landing-page optimizations.
If you are finding that smart bidding isn’t working for you, I also suggest giving audience bid adjustments a try. Once you have a good pool of audience data, you can decide to target certain interest categories more or less aggressively. You also can use combined audiences to raise bids for people who fulfill two categories simultaneously. For example, if you want to raise bids 50% for homeowners who are interested in financial services, but not for those whose highest attained education is “high school graduate,” you can get that precise!
In offering marketing tools that deploy machine learning and audience observations, Google is betting that they can drive more revenue to itself in a way that makes consumers and customers more satisfied. With the increased ubiquity of smart campaign options and responsive search ads, we are seeing increased opportunities to take advantage of machine learning automations. On the other hand, with the accessibility of new audience observation and targeting features, Google advertisers can have unprecedented control over who is seeing and engaging their ads.
By combining these methods in your marketing portfolio, and crafting ads with the dynamism that Responsive Search Ads allow, local service marketers can reach the right people in their area more effectively than ever.
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Ty Alyea, SEM Director at Service Direct
Service Direct (https://www.servicedirect.com) is an online advertising and technology company that offers local lead generation solutions via targeted search advertising for home and professional service-based businesses. Since 2006, Service Direct has helped hundreds of local businesses across North America grow by getting them new customers online.
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