5 Secrets to a Tip Top PLA Campaign

Product Listing Ads (PLAs) provide a richer and more engaging search experience for shoppers. With the share of spend on PLA campaigns increasing, online retailers are investing more time and budget towards this ad format.


Thanks to the targeting functions available within PLA groups, a whole new world has opened up in terms of how we can optimise PLAs and Google Shopping pages. This in turn is helping advertisers to drive more performance from their PLA campaigns.


In this article we share our top five tips for managing and optimising your PLA campaigns;


1. Don’t underestimate the importance of structure – Use the Product Data Feed

As a starting point, use the Product Data Feed as the foundation for your PLA campaign structure. This is essential because Google directly interacts with the product feed to decide where and when an ad is shown. We would recommend that you continually monitor your data feed to make sure it is correct and fully up-to-date with your product inventory. This will ensure that your PLAs show the correct products and description details in response to relevant search queries.


2. Set up the right targeting method – Target by category, not brand

One of the first goals of a PLA campaign is to have the right bid set depending on the product being sold. Instead of using keywords, PLAs use targets which provide more flexibility over how and when you want your ads to serve. It is important to have a targeting structure that relates to profitability and provides the maximum ROI. Therefore, we would recommend grouping products together that are similar in type and price, rather than targeting each category purely by brand. Grouping each by AOV rather than purely by brand will ensure that each bid placed is appropriate to the expected return of each sale.


3. Place the right bid – A good baseline

In the same vein as top tip two, it is important to set a suitable bid according to the product you are advertising. We would recommend that you firstly organise your products into similar categories and prices. Then you will be able to use data on their average price per product, expected conversion rate and your target profit to find an appropriate entry bid. As the AOV and CR change, you can amend your bids accordingly to drive performance.


4. Have a safety net – Use a ‘catch all’ target

Websites change constantly. Therefore it is vital to ensure that new products don’t slip through your net and fail to appear when relevant search queries are made. We would recommend that you create an ad group targeting all products set on the lowest bid. This is a simple and low maintenance solution to enable you to profit from newly added products.


5. Narrow your targeting

With time and data you will be able to see what is working and what is not. Using these insights, we would recommend that you then optimise your campaign to a more granular level. This may be to take one category and create a new campaign targeting specific products. Or alternatively using your own custom made Adwords groupings in the Product Data Feed or simply adding certain negatives…it’s up to you!



We hope that you found these tips useful!


Good luck with your PLA campaigns and if you have any further questions on PLA set up and optimisation please do call us on 020 7186 2100.


Understanding the new Extended sitelinks


Google first introduced Extended sitelinks in beta back in early 2012 (originally called Enhanced sitelinks), and these have been slowly rolling out across the UK since.


In mid-June Google introduced a brand new upgrade within the feature which allows advertisers to improve the control of sitelink specificity within their ads. The feature, available on Enhanced campaigns, is an interesting new option and provides new testing ground for campaign optimisation. In this blog we explain the latest changes to Extended sitelinks and explore how they can be used to help drive Paid Search performance.


A quick recap – What are Google Extended sitelinks?

Extended sitelinks are a feature that enables multiple sitelinks to appear below your Paid Search ad by combining up to four traditional sitelinks with text that closely relates to your ad, in a larger nested format. As a result, Extended sitelinks can help drive more qualified leads to your site, and also enable your audience to discover more interesting pages on your website beyond the landing page.


Until recently Extended sitelinks worked by Google taking the single line sitelinks that advertisers specified at the campaign level (Figure 1), and then crawling the rest of the Google account for additional ad copies with the same destination URL as each sitelink. The two description lines that Google deemed most relevant were then automatically added below each sitelink on the Search Engine results page. In some cases giving a similar look to natural search listings (Figure 2).


Figure 1



Figure 2


However, the appearance of sitelinks was, and still is, dependent on your ad showing above the organic results, usually with no other competitors appearing on the same search term.


There are a couple of other challenges with Extended sitelinks worth noting here too, firstly, it was not possible to guarantee that Extended sitelinks would appear even when the above criteria was met, and you had active ads in the account with the same destination URLs as the sitelinks. Secondly, advertisers had little control over the messages that would appear as the sitelinks would be automatically drawn from any ad within the account with the same URL match.


As a result Extended sitelinks have been seen infrequently in the search space compared to the standard one, two or three line sitelink formats.


How Extended sitelinks have changed

Extended sitelinks have been upgraded to make it possible to add specific description lines. When creating a new sitelink, on Enhanced campaigns, you will now be able to specify the text that can appear in both lines of the description field. You will be given the option of adding extra text to your sitelinks – simply fill out both lines of the “Description” field when creating a new sitelink or editing an existing sitelink.


This upgrade will give advertisers much more control over what messaging is displayed in the Extended sitelinks. Furthermore, from what we have seen so far, it will increase the likelihood of your ads appearing in this format compared to allowing Google to automatically choose the description lines for you.


When updating an existing sitelink or creating a new one, you will see the new options to input optional description lines, as shown in Figure 3 below:

Figure 3


Remember though, that when creating your new Extended sitelinks you must adhere to the core sitelink guidelines or this will result in sitelink disapprovals. The policy requires that;

  • Sitelinks do not violate the duplicate sitelink URL policy
  • Sitelink text does not use keyword insertion
  • Sitelink text is not the same as other sitelinks in the same campaign or the main adcopy that’s being served


The benefits of Extended sitelinks

As with most Google updates the aim of this new option is to improve CTR by allowing advertisers to dominate the search results.


Advertisers will also have greater control over the promotional messaging that can be displayed, opening up opportunities for far more advanced sitelink split testing. Furthermore, consumers will benefit by being shown more relevant information such as delivery costs and sale information.


Next Steps

On the Enhanced campaigns platform, start testing sitelink descriptions in your campaigns. We are currently carrying out a number of tests on these sitelinks to better understand the impact that these can have on campaign performance. We will share our findings in a follow on blog post, in the meantime enjoying testing the new sitelink options!




‘Mad Men’ versus PPC Men

On occasion I have found myself longing to be a “Mad Men” style advertising executive from the 1950s. It isn’t just the Bourbon at 10am, or the glamorous PAs, it’s the blissful ignorance that advertising lived in. This was a time before data and analytics, where the sharply dressed creative director could hypnotise his clients with an intriguing story and have them sold, hook, line and sinker on a single catchy tag line.


Alas, those days are gone. Now clients, correctly, ask their marketing agencies to do more than simply sell them on intelligent strategy. A typical PPC monthly review meeting will not only outline the overall results of the activity, but will dig into the exact details behind performance, identifying the definite reasons behind any fluctuations.


The level of transparency that Net Media Planet can provide within reporting would have been unthinkable ten years ago let alone sixty. All of our clients can now see total sales and revenue down to the specific keyword, meaning there are no question marks concerning the nuances of their results. The vast array of data and insight that we provide has led to our clients becoming ever more confident in their marketing decisions.


Increasingly the issue is not whether the data is available, but how we draw the correct conclusions from what we are seeing. A mistake that is often made is to assume that the story the data is telling on the face of it is an accurate portrayal of what is really happening. For example within the realm of PPC clients often look at generic keywords and immediately ascertain that because the data indicates they are not profitable they are not valuable. This has led to clients incorrectly taking the decision to cut back spend on generic keywords, usually resulting in a negative impact on overall performance.


The key for marketing professionals is to look beyond the early indications from the data and dig into the core of what is really happening. Most reporting from PPC campaigns still centres on a “last click wins” model. Through this method the keyword that receives the last click before a sale is made is assumed to have been responsible for the entire sale. Measuring campaign performance through this model is deeply flawed. For a start numerous studies have shown that the path to conversion almost always includes more than one click, with consumers usually starting their journey with broader generic keywords before narrowing down their search to the brand name.


The nature of the “last click wins” model means that brand is regularly overvalued and generics undervalued as the branded search comes later in the search funnel than the generic search. It has always surprised me that so many clients, and indeed agencies, continue to base the majority of their decisions on a “last click wins” model. Giving 100% of the credit for a sale to a branded search is the equivalent of saying the sign above a shop was responsible for a sale rather than the friend who recommended them, or the TV advert that inspired you to leave your house in the first place.


The solution is to start looking at more than just the last click. What initiated the sale? Which media/keyword was present the most often throughout the path to conversion? Once you start asking these questions the data starts to tell a very different story. For example for one of our clients we found that the “last click wins” model was undervaluing their generic keywords by 120% when compared to a “first click wins” model.


The truth is that none of the “last click”, “first click” and “most present” models is perfect, and each will over or under value different elements of the campaign. Organisations that wish to see the most accurate interpretation of their performance must move to an “attributed” model. Within this model credit is assigned based on weightings in relation to the frequency, time and type of keyword used. Implementing this model with clients has helped us to demonstrate the true value of the keywords that we are using. Generic and competitor keywords that were once deemed too unprofitable to run have become some of the most valuable keywords within the account.


Using data correctly has allowed our clients to gain a crucial advantage over their competitors. Where their competitors are miss-assigning value due to incorrect measures we are helping clients to be truly confident in the strategies they are undertaking, allowing them to see where the true value within a PPC campaign is held.


Yes, Don Draper may have his slick hair, wit and charm, but we have the knowledge to be comfortable that the decisions we are making are the correct ones. Maybe working in advertising in the 2010s isn’t so bad after all, although the Bourbon still sounds attractive…What do you think?!


Image: http://i.marketingprofs.com


Last minute tips for a smooth upgrade to Enhanced campaigns

As all search marketers are aware on July 22nd, 2013, all Google AdWords accounts will be auto upgraded to the new Enhanced campaigns format.

Given the adverse coverage on Enhanced campaigns, there has understandably been some nervousness about the impact that the switch over will have on the performance of existing campaigns.


We have been upgrading campaigns across client accounts gradually over the past months, and have created an approach that works well for us. With time fast running out, we thought we would share our tried and tested process for any advertisers that are yet to make the move over. We hope this is useful!


5 key steps for a smooth campaign upgrade

1. Categorise your campaigns for upgrade

Campaigns that are device specific need to be categorised and then potentially merged so that they can be upgraded. Firstly, identify your primary campaigns, which are typically the campaigns targeting desktop devices that should be upgraded. Then identify your secondary campaigns, which for most advertisers will be the campaigns targeting tablet and mobile devices. Adgroups, keywords, creative, and other elements will be merged from these campaigns into the primary campaign during the upgrade.


2. Use historic performance data to manage campaign settings

Utilise the mass of historic performance data you have available to understand any keyword disparity across devices, and resolve any discrepancies. If your account is managed, Google is able to provide a keyword disparity report to support this process.

Once you have a better understanding of the historic performance of each keyword by device, you can then review the average CPCs and traffic volumes across desktops, tablets and mobiles. It is crucial to learn the differences in device CPCs and traffic volumes as this will help you to analyse performance post-upgrade.


3. Put together a new, effective bidding strategy

Bidding works differently with Enhanced campaigns, so a new bidding strategy should be developed based on recent performance data of keyword bids and daily budgets. This will enable you to easily create and apply mobile bid multipliers to ensure that keyword bids stay exactly the same as they were. We would recommend that at this stage, you review actual spend vs daily budgets and amalgamate daily budgets across all devices.


4. Upgrade the campaigns

This stage represents the actual upgrade of a Legacy campaign to an Enhanced campaign. Keep in mind that once a primary campaign is upgraded it cannot be undone! Adgroups, keywords, creative, and other secondary campaign elements will be merged into the primary campaign during this stage. Once you have started a merge, we recommend that you complete it, as partially merged campaigns will still be eligible to serve ads. Secondary campaigns will be paused or deleted once they are merged with their matching primary campaign.


5. Review and make the most of new features

We would recommend reviewing newly upgraded Enhanced campaigns to ensure quality and post-upgrade success. The next step is to optimise each campaign with the new features available in Enhanced campaigns. These include tailoring Adgroup level sitelinks for top performing ad groups and scheduling extensions in order to change which sitelinks show at which times. We would also recommend setting up location bid multipliers to maximise performance in areas where the conversion rate is high.


Achieving a smooth transition

We really believe that the key to a smooth upgrade is preparation! However it is important too, to remain agile and efficient in the on-going management and optimisation of your Enhanced campaigns. As more and more advertisers commence and complete their upgrade, anticipate shifts in competition and the bidding environment.


Our useful checklist to support your upgrade:

Preparing your campaigns for the upgrade

  • Ensure all keywords in device specific campaigns are included in the primary campaign
  • Identify current budget allocation across devices and incorporate into the primary campaign
  • Review all existing landing pages, particularly any that are device specific, and update them


During the upgrade

  • Review your budget and incorporate anticipated additional spend
  • Enable all of your devices
  • Set your mobile bids
  • Review your ad group default bid
  • Set up your geo-targeting bids
  • Add the new call extensions
  • Create or optimise your sitelinks with the new Enhanced sitelinks


After the upgrade

  • Monitor traffic across devices and adjust bids accordingly
  • Optimise the geo-targeting features by adjusting bids in high and low performing regions
  • Review the effectiveness of the new optimisation features to ensure that they are performing well
  • Review spend across all devices to better understand how your money is being spent, and if this is effective spend


3 small ways to drive bigger performance from your ads

It’s a competitive world out there, and here in the world of Search the competition on the SERPs (search engine results pages) has never been greater.


The messaging that you use in your ad is a vital tool to help ensure that you stand out above your competitors and drive traffic to your site.


When constructing your ad copy it’s really important to test different types of messaging to see what performs best for your target audience. For instance, do your consumers respond best to price-led messaging or more descriptive messaging? Are they looking for a cheap deal or for luxury products? The answers to these questions will vary across territories and industries, but should always form part of your split tests when setting up a new advertising campaign.


Once you know the type of messaging you should be using, there are some additional ways that can help drive more performance from your ads. Below we share four of our favourite examples:


1. Understand the prompts that get your customers to buy

In a recent test with a popular shoe retailer in the US we found that CTR was increased by +5.1% by adding a Registered Trademark symbol (®) to the headline of our ad copy. In a similar way US audiences respond particularly well to the use of the phrase ‘official’ terms in ad copy. This would indicate that buying from the official retailer is of particular value in the US, and should be considered when running US-specific campaigns.


2. Increase relevance with localisation

As well as local knowledge, it’s important to consider the quick ways that you can make your ad copy more relevant to your target market. One split test that we did in this area involved using the same messaging in two ad copies, with the only change being the addition of the country code to the headline of the ad, as shown below. The ad with the country code recorded a +16% higher CTR than the non-localised ad copy. We feel that this is particularly relevant for international advertisers trying to reach domestic audiences, as this example suggests that consumers want to feel reassured that they are buying from a brand that has a local presence.


3. Don’t under-estimate the power of punctuation

Staying with the theme of grammar, we found that using hyphens to separate words in ad copy can have a positive effect on CTR. For example in a test carried out with a well-known model of mobile phone, the CTR was increased by +15%. By rewording the same phrase with a hyphen, the call to action is punchier and stands out in the ever competitive PPC results.


In summary;

As our tests show, just small changes can add up to big changes in CTR and are well worth testing on your campaigns.


Importantly, we would recommend that you take the time to plan and test out your PPC campaign with simple, small variations to ad copy to see what performs well for your brand. By innovating and testing new out new approaches you can slowly but incrementally increase performance.


Good luck!