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3 Smartest Ways to Spend Your Google Ad Credits

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Google issued ad credits as part of their COVID-19 relief effort.

If your account qualified and you recently got the credit, what are some good ways to use it?

I’ll share a prioritized list of ideas, along with tips on how to turn a temporary gain of some free money into a long-term proven way to get more from your investment in Google Ads.

Priority 1: Get 100% of What Works for You

During uncertain times, it’s wise to focus limited resources on things that have already been proven.

So if you have Google Ads campaigns that were delivering the results you wanted before, get more of that with your free money from Google.

The easiest place to start is to make sure you are not losing Impression Share due to budget for campaigns that are meeting your targets.

And just as a reminder, a budget optimization even applies to campaigns that are automated with Smart Bidding or Smart Campaigns.

Remember that automation in PPC doesn’t mean set-it-and-forget-it so don’t overlook opportunities for automated campaign types.

Here’s how to get 100% of what drives profitable sales and leads:

  • Filter campaigns so you are left only with those meeting your targets for CPA or ROAS.
  • Sort the remaining campaigns from best to worst CPA or ROAS.
  • Now go down that list and make sure “Search lost impression share (budget)” is a low number.
  • If Lost IS due to budget is high, refer to the status column and use the “Budget Explorer” to estimate the additional traffic you could get with different budgets.
  • Increase the budget if you like what the Budget Explorer forecasts.

” alt=”Budget Explorer” width=”2120″ height=”1502″ data-src=”https://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/budget-explorer-5ef13ff7c3642.jpg” data-=”” />The Google Ads Budget Explorer shows the difference in performance by changing the budget

If you only want to increase budgets until you’ve spent your ad credits, divide the ad credit by the amount you increased daily budgets and set yourself a reminder to restore the previous budget levels after that many days.

Approximate days until budgets should be set back to old levels

=

Amount of ad credit / Amount of daily budget increase

Better yet, create an automated rule that will change the average daily budget back to the old amount on the day when your ad credits are supposed to run out.

” alt=”Automated rule from Google Ads” width=”2088″ height=”2284″ data-src=”https://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/automated-budgets-5ef13ffdf0646.jpg” data-=”” />An automated rule in Google Ads can be set up to restore the previous budget setting on a specified future date

Hopefully, you’ll drive enough new leads and sales to convince your stakeholders to permanently increase budgets.

But even if they don’t want to continue spending at these new levels, consider doing the same optimization I just covered by shifting budgets away from campaigns with lower performance.

So for every dollar added to the daily budget of a well-performing campaign, remove a dollar from the daily budget of an underperforming campaign.

Overall account performance should improve when you do this.

If your client is budget sensitive, be sure to use a tool or an ad script to help you stay within the allotted budget for your client or company.

Priority 2: Try Something Different

If you’re already capturing most of the Impression Share for your campaigns, the ad credits can be useful to test a new strategy on an existing campaign.

The goal here is to spend the extra money from the credits on a slightly more aggressive strategy, one that you may have been reluctant to test with your own money.

A more aggressive strategy may lead to discovering new pockets of valuable traffic that you can continue to benefit from long after your credits run out.

Here are ways to target growth for existing campaigns:

  • Increase geotargeting.
  • Increase CPC or target CPA.
  • Decrease target ROAS.
  • Add query coverage with looser match types.
  • Test responsive ad formats.

The first three amount to relatively quick settings you can change.

The last two require a bit more work but are still relatively quick compared to creating an entirely new campaign.

More aggressive bids allow Google to show your ads for a larger set of search terms (the change in bid causes a change in query mix).

Looser match types achieve a similar change in query mix.

Adding responsive ad formats, somewhat counterintuitively, also lead to incremental gains to leads and sales because they help Google achieve a higher Quality Score for search terms where expanded text ads weren’t relevant enough.

As a result, responsive ads can increase ad rank and make your ads eligible to show on queries that were unattainable with a lower rank.

Priority 3: Try Something New

The third way I recommend using the ad credits is to test something entirely new.

If you’re already capturing all the impressions for profitable campaigns, and you’ve exhausted your immediate options for optimizing them, try something entirely new.

It can be a great way to use Google’s money to test something your boss or client never even considered.

Unlike tweaking existing campaigns, this strategy requires new campaigns that may take a bit more time to set up correctly.

New campaign types you can try:

The amount of the credits Google is issuing is limited so you’ll have to be focused.

Use it in a way that delivers enough data to make a decision on whether to continue running the new strategy with your own money after the ad credits are depleted.

This means you should keep your efforts pretty focused, even with a new campaign type.

Dynamic search ads are the easiest to try.

They can be set up as a campaign or a new ad group that automatically finds relevant queries for pages on your website.

Google handles the targeting and part of the ad text, and with automatic bidding, they’ll also handle bids.

Shopping ads are an absolute must for retailers.

Thanks to their engaging format and the inclusion of a price, they are responsible for 63% of paid search clicks for retailers in the U.S., according to Merkle.

As an added benefit, Google is now offering some free listings on their shopping search pages to any company that has their data in Merchant Center and who have enabled their products to be shown across all surfaces on Google.

” alt=”Google Shopping Tab” width=”2560″ height=”1965″ data-src=”https://cdn.searchenginejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/adidas_sneakers_-_google_shopping-5ef141737200b-scaled.jpg” data-=”” />Retailers who submit their product data to the Merchant Center and enable all surfaces across Google can get free listings on the Google Shopping tab

Finally, consider a YouTube video ads campaign focused on performance.

You could start with an in-stream ad format, with a goal to get sales and leads for your site.

Not having any video ads is no longer an excuse not to try video ads since YouTube recently launched a free and easier way to create video ads, called the Video Builder.

A recent PPC Town Hall with video ad experts Cory Henke and Joe Martinez covered several tips related to video advertising.

Try It with an Experiment

If you’re using the ad credits to try something new or different, make sure you come away with reliable results about the performance of what you tried.

If you’re creating an entirely new type of campaign, the results of that campaign relative to your other campaigns will be your main indicator of whether it makes sense to keep the new campaigns turned on when your own money is at stake.

But if you’re testing something new in an existing campaign, don’t rely on before-and-after metrics to make a decision about how well the test went.

PPC is too volatile, especially now, to make a decision based on test data where you don’t have a control group.

The better way to get reliable data is to use Drafts and Experiments where you can split test your results.

I recently shared some ideas and a script for running better experiments on Google Ads.

Conclusion

Usually, we only get free ad credits when we test a new ad platform for the first time.

But Google Ads has evolved quite a bit since most of us started using it so it’s almost like a new platform.

Along the way of Google Ads’ evolution, we may have skipped trying some new capabilities because we couldn’t justify the potential cost if the experiment didn’t go well.

But thanks to the COVID-19 relief ad credits Google has issued, we now have some free money in our accounts to test new strategies.

Clearly, Google will benefit from us discovering new things that work well, but in the end, we will benefit too so it’s worth putting that free money to good use.

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Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, June 2020

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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