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How to Perfectly Manage a PPC Campaign [Template]

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How to Perfectly Manage a PPC Campaign [Template]

In the world of search engine marketing (SEM), more and more marketers are buying into PPC campaigns. Google Ads specifically has increased its revenue from year to year. In 2021, Google advertising revenue accounted for $53.1 billion — 81% of Alphabet’s overall sales.

Properly investing in PPC can result in nearly guaranteed ad placement in the search engine result pages of their choice. And this placement can help generate leads. If your ads tool is tightly integrated with your CRM, you can even leverage ads data to nurture these leads across their buyer’s journey.

As you prepare to create a PPC campaign, it’s important to get a rundown of what a successful campaign entails and identify management missteps that you’ll want to avoid.

Building a successful PPC campaign includes a few key steps:

  1. Determine your PPC campaign structure.
  2. Identify, build, and refine your campaign’s landing pages.
  3. Create a keyword strategy based on your research.
  4. Create ads based on insights from the steps above.
  5. Share your campaign plan with stakeholders.

The problem is, many marketers have poor PPC campaign management, which ends up costing them way more money than they need to spend and delivering underwhelming lead generation results.

Here are a few ways marketers could go wrong with PPC campaign management:

  • Coming up with keywords on the fly without doing prior research.
  • Only building one basic campaign without utilizing Google Ads’ Ad Groups tool.
  • Attaching unengaging landing pages — or a homepage that generates no leads — to the campaign.
  • Not adding “negative keywords” or monitoring campaigns to avoid wasting budget.
  • Creating campaigns, setting budget caps, and going live without telling internal or external stakeholders.

So, how do you manage a PPC campaign properly so that you get leads at a reasonable cost? It comes down to intelligent campaign structure.

How do you master intelligent campaign structure? You use a template!

You can get started managing your own PPC campaign by using our template.

PPC Campaign Management Template

HubSpot PPC campaign management template

We’ve created a free PPC campaign management template that will help you and your clients set up a full-funnel campaign structure that follows PPC best practices. Once you do that, you’ll be better positioned to maximize the return on your PPC investment. The template is broken down into two sections: Ads Planner and Ads Results.

Ads Planner Template

In this section of the template, you’ll record all of your ad campaign information. In the first 3 columns on the left-hand side, input your campaign name, keywords, and negative keywords (keywords you don’t want ads shown for).

HubSpot Ads Planner TemplateThe next section to right will hold all of your ad variations. There’s room for multiple headlines, descriptions, and URL paths to help you keep track of all of the ads you’re running.

Ads Results Template

This part of the template will easily allow you to track all of the campaign metrics you need. Total cost, impressions, conversions, cost per click information, and more can be recorded here to help you analyze performance.

HubSpot Ads Results template

Now that you’re familiar with our template components, let’s look at managing your PPC campaign.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign

If you’re running PPC campaigns for someone who doesn’t understand the importance of an organized campaign structure, this template will also act as a PPC campaign management task checklist that will enlighten your boss or clients.

PPC Campaign Management Template

We’re going to show you how to use that PPC template in this blog post — so download it now and follow along.

Before we get started, let’s go over a few tips that’ll make using this template even easier:

  • You will want to clear out the example data I have in the template such as keywords, campaign and AdGroup names, ads, and destination URLs.
  • Be careful not to erase columns E, G, and I. They contain formulas that will help you in subsequent steps.
  • Click on the red markers in the top corners of the cells. They contain helpful tips and FAQs. If you ever forget what a cell is used for, they will remind you.

Step 1: Choose your PPC campaign management tools and software.

There are several places to begin your PPC campaign strategy, but my advice would be to start with one platform and expand to another until you cover each channel your audience visits. This tactic works because it keeps your costs low in the initial stages of PPC planning. Rather than paying for an external campaign management tool, you can manage your campaigns natively within the platform on which you’re running the ads.

However, as you expand your strategy to include more sites, you’ll want to scale to a PPC campaign management software that can help you keep track of each platform, each budget, and each set of creative all in one place.

Here are some of our favorite tools for the job:

  • Marin Software: Integrates with Google and Facebook — two of the most popular PPC platforms.
  • Wordstream Advisor: Analyzes Google and Facebook ad spend for you to keep you on budget.
  • SpyFu: Analyze your competitor’s campaigns to build a well-rounded strategy.

Step 2: Understand PPC campaign structure.

Before we do anything with this template, it’s important to understand PPC campaign structure. Far too many marketers will just set up an account, create an ad, direct the ad to their home page, pick some keywords and hit go. This is not the way to do things.

With Google Ads, you have the opportunity to create multiple campaigns. Each campaign may contain several AdGroups, and each AdGroup may contain a few ads and multiple, similar keywords.

It’s wise to create multiple campaigns because you can set daily budget caps, day-parting, and select geo-targeted regions at the campaign level. If you’re bidding on generic keywords and branded keywords, you’ll want to put these in separate campaigns because the economics around these two types of keywords will likely be very different.

As you can see, your template reflects these best practices, providing space for several different campaigns, AdGroups, and ad variations within those AdGroups.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Understand PPC campaign structureDownload this Template Free

Step 3: Identify your landing pages.

The “Destination URL” is the place on your website where you want the PPC traffic to end up. Because there is a marginal cost associated with each PPC visitor you attract, I recommend you choose a landing page URL as your destination URL.

Do not drive them to your home page or a blog in hopes that they will stumble upon a lead generation form. That’s the job of organic search. Drive them to a landing page with a form on it. Don’t forget to put in a tracking token so you know where these leads are coming from.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Identify Your Landing Pages in the PPC Campaign Template

You will notice that the Destination URL within the AdGroup is the same regardless of the keyword or ad. If you really want to drive a keyword to a different landing page, then create another AdGroup. If you want to get even more specific, create another campaign for that keyword.

You should also keep your sales funnel in mind when you identify these landing pages. Think about which part of the sales funnel each landing page and offer speaks to.

For example, an educational PDF about an industry concept would be appropriate for a top-of-the-funnel offer, while a coupon or a demo would be at the bottom of the funnel.

Manage and create separate campaigns for each part of the funnel. If you scroll down in your template, you’ll see that there’s dedicated space allotted for campaigns in all of these funnel stages.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Manage and create separate campaigns for each part of the funnel

Step 4: Build your keyword strategy.

Next, select the keywords that are relevant to the landing page and offer. Make sure to keep them as relevant as possible to increase the chance that each visitor you pay for completes the form on the landing page.

Yes, it would be nice to rank for certain keywords, but if the landing page doesn’t answer the keyword query, think twice. Or better yet, create another offer and landing page that speaks more directly to the keyword.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Build your keyword strategy

Download this Template Free

To understand search volumes and costs around each keyword you want to select, you can use free tools like the Google Ads Keyword Tool or — if you’re a HubSpot customer — our keywords tool.

If this is your first time managing a PPC campaign, it would be wise to read up on how to design a keyword strategy. In the case of Google Ads, you might also want to learn more about keyword quality scores.

Step 5: Create your ads.

This is the fun part! Both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads allow you to create more than one ad for each Ad Group (hence the “group” terminology). The service will rotate them until it notices that one appears to drive a higher clickthrough rate (CTR). This is how A/B (and C and D) testing works. While this is optional, you should take advantage of the ability to create more than one ad.

Keep in mind that you are allotted 25 characters for the title of the ad, 35 characters for the display URL (the URL that’s displayed in the ad, not to be confused with the destination URL), and 35 characters for each line of copy. But if you’re using this template, we’ll keep track of that for you.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Create your ad

In my experience, the title has the greatest influence on an ad’s CTR. It’s wise to include a keyword in the headline to draw a user’s attention to your ad. An even better practice would be to use dynamic keyword insertion.

A good rule of thumb is to simply try to provide a cohesive experience for searchers — from seeing your ad in the search engine results to completing the form on your landing page — everything should align with the goal of getting them to click through.

How to Manage a PPC Campaign: Create a display URL

Finally, there’s the tricky matter of the display URL. You’re only allowed 35 characters here, but it’s unlikely that your destination URL, the actual URL for your landing page, will be that short. So the search engines allow you to create a display URL, which may not even be an actual URL on your website. The domain in your display URL must be the same as the domain in your destination URL so that users end up in the right place when they click.

Step 6: Share the completed template with stakeholders.

Whether you’re doing PPC for your business or a client, your completed template will ensure alignment between the stakeholders’ expectations with the realities of a productive PPC campaign. If you’re the stakeholder of a PPC campaign, this template will help you think about what you’re doing with the money you’re spending on PPC.

By doing so, you’ll have created a congruous user experience that search engines like to see. This can benefit you in terms of your positioning in the SERPs and, ultimately, your costs. It will also grant you the agility you need to swiftly reallocate and modify your budget as you respond to changes in the marketplace, and drive the maximum return on your PPC spend.

How to Optimize Your PPC Campaign

PPC campaign management isn’t as easy as using a one-time strategy. You’ll need to continually adjust your methods for optimized results. Here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your campaigns are performing their best.

Location

Geographic targeting is used often in PPC management. You can analyze performance based on location by examining where your resources are being used and whether or not they are profitable. This way you can exclude areas that don’t perform.

For example, if you own a bike shop, targeting areas that are more urban and densely populated may be a better use of your funds than targeting rural areas where most folks need a car to get around.

Performance by Device

Campaigns that are effective on desktop users may not perform as well on mobile users. Consider targeting each group separately to see if there are differences in conversion rate.

If you find that a particular campaign works better on mobile versus desktop, consider allocating funds towards your moble efforts and try a different campaign for desktop users. This way you can ensure that your budget is being spent in areas that have proven to be successful.

Removing Keywords

When running campaigns, not all keywords chosen will prove useful. You’ll need to remove the low performers. These could be keywords that:

  • Are converting at a very high cost
  • Have a quality score rating of “below average”
  • Not converting

Keywords with the above traits should be removed in favor of ones that are performing well so you can ensure that your budget is being spent wisely.

Examine Keyword Bids

When bidding for keywords, you’ll want to determine how much you can pay for each conversion and still make a profit. Google Ads has several tools to help you optimize your bids including:

  • Bid simulator: This allows you to see how bidding higher or lower can affect the ad’s performance.
  • First-page bid estimates: This shows how much you likely need to bid to get your ads within the first page of Google search results.

Once you determine the max you can pay for a particular keyword, these tools will help you make the most of your budget.

Performance by Day and Time

Campaign performance will fluctuate depending on the time of day or day of the week. You’ll want to take note of when they perform well and when they don’t. If they aren’t performing during a certain timeframe, you can adjust so that you are only bidding on the most profitable times.

Now that you know how to optimize your campaigns to get the best results, let’s explore the platforms available for running your PPC campaigns.

PPC Campaign Management

Understanding where your audience is spending most of their time online is key, in addition to figuring out what kind of ads work best for your business. It’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the different platforms available to run your PPC campaigns. Let’s continue by looking at some of the most prominent online ad platforms: Google, Microsoft (Bing), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Google PPC Campaign Management

Google has been the dominant player in the search engine space for more than 20 years and it still produces some of the most innovative ad experiences on the market. Here’s a look at a couple of the most popular ways to serve ads on Google.

Google Adwords PPC campaign creation dashboardImage Source

Google Search Ads

One of the most popular types of Google Ads is the search ad. These ads appear at the top and bottom of the search results for specific keywords that you bid on. Google search ad campaigns are usually run with the goal of driving traffic to a specific webpage — like a landing or product page.

Google Display Ads

Have you ever visited a website that has advertising on the banner, sidebar, or footer of the page? Then you’ve probably crossed paths with a Google display ad. These types of ads are typically visual, featuring colorful graphics, videos, and sometimes audio. Google display ads are helpful for retargeting customers who have visited your website before without making a purchase.

Microsoft Ads (Formerly Bing Ads) PPC Campaign Management

Overall, Microsoft Ads works very similarly to Google Ads. However, here are a few tips that can help get the most out of your PPC campaign strategy for Microsoft Ads.

Microsoft Ads PPC campaign management dashboardImage Source

Bing Keyword Suggestions

If the bulk of your PPC efforts live in Google Ads and you decide to start bidding on Microsoft Ads, you might be tempted to use the same keywords that you’re already bidding on in Google. The issue here is that Google and Bing are different search engines and it’s possible that your Google keywords won’t see the same search volume in Bing.

Bing’s keyword research and suggestion tool will give you more accurate search volumes for your keywords. You can still use your original list of keywords from Google to start with, but utilize this tool to verify whether you should be bidding on the same keywords, or something similar that yields more traffic.

Lower CPC

Ad bids can end up being quite costly for a business so many marketers are constantly working to decrease ad spend. Wordstream tested the cost of running ads on both search engines and found that Bing’s average CPC was 33% lower than Google’s. Since bidding on Microsoft Ads is less competitive in comparison to Google, it’s likely that you won’t end up spending as much of your budget on this platform.

So if you’re able to find a high MSV keyword to bid on there’s a good chance that you’ll see a positive shift in your return on investment. This may be especially true for specific industries. The table below shows the average industry CPC according to Microsoft Ads.

Microsoft Ads average industry CPC chart

Image Source

For a deeper dive into Microsoft Ads check out this tutorial.

Facebook PPC Campaign Management

Facebook Ads Manager is a platform that connects 1.6 billion people worldwide to businesses on Facebook. It’s a great tool to target specific audiences and to promote brand presence.

Facebook PPC campaign management audience dashboardImage Source

Some of the most popular ads you can incorporate into your Facebook campaigns are:

Story Ads

Stories are thriving on social media platforms, so why not develop a few ads to meet your audience where they’re already spending time?

Stories are only posted for 24 hours so these types of ads are best to use when you have a specific promotion occurring. Like personal stories, story ads can be shared in the form of a video with a link or a series of still photos that lead the viewer to take a specific action.

Playable Ads

Gamification is always an innovative way to catch a lead’s attention. Facebook’s playable ads allow you to create a brief interactive version of a game or app so users can get a feel for what your product is like.

You’ll want to keep the functionality as simple as possible, so you won’t deter any potential customers, and of course, make it fun!

Messenger Ads

If you’ve ever used Facebook’s messenger tool, you’ve probably seen an ad appear among your conversations. The great thing about this is that a potential customer could choose to instantly connect with your business directly from their messages.

So, if you have a sales customer service team that connects with people via chat this is a great way to establish an instant connection. You can also send a lead to your site or a specific landing page from the ad.

To start building your own ad campaign on Facebook check out HubSpot’s Facebook Ads Training Course.

Twitter PPC Campaign Management

Twitter Ads Manager makes it easy to plan the ad you’d like to run on Twitter while providing reporting on campaign performance.

Twitter PPC campaign managerImage Source

People spend 26% more time viewing ads on Twitter than on any other leading platform, so you’ll want your ads to be catchy enough to stop someone mid-scroll. Some of the types of ads you can include in your Twitter campaign are:

Promoted Tweets

The only difference between a regular tweet and a promoted tweet is that you’re spending money for the promoted tweet to appear in the feeds of people who aren’t following your business. This allows your business to convert users, or simply gain new followers which will help with your brand’s awareness

Promoted Moments

Twitter moments are several tweets that focus on a specific topic or event. Essentially you want this collection of tweets to communicate a story for your audience. These are great for more fun or trendy topics since Moments includes categories such as trending, sports, entertainment, and more.

Promoted Trends

If you’re someone that loves seeing what’s trending on Twitter you may want to experiment with promoting a trend for your target audience to interact with. This will be displayed in the timeline, the explore tab, and the “Trends for you section.”

Once someone clicks on the promoted trend they’ll see various search results for the specific trend or topic and your brand’s promoted Tweet. If your business has identified an engaged Twitter audience you may be sitting on an untapped goldmine.

Learn more about Twitter Ads Manager for your business and get to tweeting!

YouTube PPC Campaign Management

Including YouTube in your ad campaign strategies is a must. If your business can create something catchy enough to convince someone not to click ‘skip,’ you’re already winning.

Youtube PPC campaign creation dashboardImage Source

As part of the Google Display Network, YouTube has become a core part of marketers’ ad strategies. With over a billion active users and the ability to be accessed in 76 languages, there’s no denying that YouTube is reaching a massive amount of people on a daily basis.

Let’s take a look at some of the different types of Youtube ads.

Skippable In-Stream Ads

These are probably the ads that you’re most familiar with already because we’ve all clicked that magical little button that says “skip ads” to start viewing what we searched for as soon as possible.

The ads can play before the ad even begins, which means the viewer never sees it, or they’ll have to wait five seconds before they can skip. Five seconds isn’t much time to convince some not to hit skip, so make sure the hook of your ad is immediately enticing. The good thing about this is that if they skip within those first five seconds, you don’t have to pay for the ad.

Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads (Including Bumper Ads)

Since so many people opt to skip ads on YouTube, advertisers have the option to create non-skippable ads. If you’ve developed a strong creative as you feel will resonate with your target audience this may be the option for you.

However, make sure that you’re avidly measuring results to ensure you’re getting what you’re paying for. If the results aren’t in your favor, you may want to revert to a skippable ad instead.

Video Discovery Ads (Formerly Known as In-Display Ads)

Discovery ads are what users see in the search results. Remember, YouTube is the second largest search engine and shows more than 1 billion hours of video to users each day – so you’ll want those ads appearing in search results too!

These ads will include a thumbnail and a few lines of text as a description. Since many people prefer visuals over text this is an opportunity to get someone to view your video instead of reading a competitor’s textual resource.

Start Your PPC Campaign Today

PPC management is all about researching, budgeting, testing, reporting, and doing it over until you get the results you need. You don’t have to do it alone, though. With the right tools and instructions outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to implement a PPC campaign that yields results for your business.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

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Is Twitter Still a Thing for Content Marketers in 2023?

The world survived the first three months of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover.

But what are marketers doing now? Did your brand follow the shift Dennis Shiao made for his personal brand? As he recently shared, he switched his primary platform from Twitter to LinkedIn after the 2022 ownership change. (He still uses Twitter but posts less frequently.)

Are those brands that altered their strategy after the new ownership maintaining that plan? What impact do Twitter’s service changes (think Twitter Blue subscriptions) have?

We took those questions to the marketing community. No big surprise? Most still use Twitter. But from there, their responses vary from doing nothing to moving away from the platform.

Lowest points

At the beginning of the Elon era, more than 500 big-name advertisers stopped buying from the platform. Some (like Amazon and Apple) resumed their buys before the end of 2022. Brand accounts’ organic activity seems similar.

In November, Emplifi research found a 26% dip in organic posting behavior by U.S. and Canadian brands the week following a significant spike in the negative sentiment of an Elon tweet. But that drop in posting wasn’t a one-time thing.

Kyle Wong, chief strategy officer at Emplifi, shares a longer analysis of well-known fast-food brands. When comparing December 2021 to December 2022 activity, the brands posted 74% less, and December was the least active month of 2022.

Fast-food brands posted 74% less on @Twitter in December 2022 than they did in December 2021, according to @emplifi_io analysis via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

When Emplifi analyzed brand accounts across industries (2,330 from U.S. and Canada and 6,991 elsewhere in the world), their weekly Twitter activity also fell to low points in November and December. But by the end of the year, their activity was inching up.

“While the percentage of brands posting weekly is on the rise once again, the number is still lower than the consistent posting seen in earlier months,” Kyle says.

Quiet-quitting Twitter

Lacey Reichwald, marketing manager at Aha Media Group, says the company has been quiet-quitting Twitter for two months, simply monitoring and posting the occasional link. “It seems like the turmoil has settled down, but the overall impact of Twitter for brands has not recovered,” she says.

@ahamediagroup quietly quit @Twitter for two months and saw their follower count go up, says Lacey Reichwald via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

She points to their firm’s experience as a potential explanation. Though they haven’t been posting, their follower count has gone up, and many of those new follower accounts don’t seem relevant to their topic or botty. At the same time, Aha Media saw engagement and follows from active accounts in the customer segment drop.

Blue bonus

One change at Twitter has piqued some brands’ interest in the platform, says Dan Gray, CEO of Vendry, a platform for helping companies find agency partners to help them scale.

“Now that getting a blue checkmark is as easy as paying a monthly fee, brands are seeing this as an opportunity to build thought leadership quickly,” he says.

Though it remains to be seen if that strategy is viable in the long term, some companies, particularly those in the SaaS and tech space, are reallocating resources to energize their previously dormant accounts.

Automatic verification for @TwitterBlue subscribers led some brands to renew their interest in the platform, says Dan Gray of Vendry via @AnnGynn @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

These reenergized accounts also are seeing an increase in followers, though Dan says it’s difficult to tell if it’s an effect of the blue checkmark or their renewed emphasis on content. “Engagement is definitely up, and clients and agencies have both noted the algorithm seems to be favoring their content more,” he says.

New horizon

Faizan Fahim, marketing manager at Breeze, is focused on the future. They’re producing videos for small screens as part of their Twitter strategy. “We are guessing soon Elon Musk is going to turn Twitter into TikTok/YouTube to create more buzz,” he says. “We would get the first moving advantage in our niche.”

He’s not the only one who thinks video is Twitter’s next bet. Bradley Thompson, director of marketing at DigiHype Media and marketing professor at Conestoga College, thinks video content will be the next big thing. Until then, text remains king.

“The approach is the same, which is a focus on creating and sharing high-quality content relevant to the industry,” Bradley says. “Until Twitter comes out with drastically new features, then marketing and managing brands on Twitter will remain the same.

James Coulter, digital marketing director at Sole Strategies, says, “Twitter definitely still has a space in the game. The question is can they keep it, or will they be phased out in favor of a more reliable platform.”

Interestingly given the thoughts of Faizan and Bradley, James sees businesses turning to video as they limit their reliance on Twitter and diversify their social media platforms. They are now willing to invest in the resource-intensive format given the exploding popularity of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content.

“We’ve seen a really big push on getting vendors to help curate video content with the help of staff. Requesting so much media requires building a new (social media) infrastructure, but once the expectations and deliverables are in place, it quickly becomes engrained in the weekly workflow,” James says.

What now

“We are waiting to see what happens before making any strong decisions,” says Baruch Labunski, CEO at Rank Secure. But they aren’t sitting idly by. “We’ve moved a lot of our social media efforts to other platforms while some of these things iron themselves out.”

What is your brand doing with Twitter? Are you stepping up, stepping out, or standing still? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

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45 Free Content Writing Tools to Love [for Writing, Editing & Content Creation]

Creating content isn’t always a walk in the park. (In fact, it can sometimes feel more like trying to swim against the current.)

While other parts of business and marketing are becoming increasingly automated, content creation is still a very manual job. (more…)

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

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How data clean rooms might help keep the internet open

Are data clean rooms the solution to what IAB CEO David Cohen has called the “slow-motion train wreck” of addressability? Voices at the IAB will tell you that they have a big role to play.

“The issue with addressability is that once cookies go away, and with the loss of identifiers, about 80% of the addressable market will become unknown audiences which is why there is a need for privacy-centric consent and a better consent-value exchange,” said Jeffrey Bustos, VP, measurement, addressability and data at the IAB.

“Everyone’s talking about first-party data, and it is very valuable,” he explained, “but most publishers who don’t have sign-on, they have about 3 to 10% of their readership’s first-party data.” First-party data, from the perspective of advertisers who want to reach relevant and audiences, and publishers who want to offer valuable inventory, just isn’t enough.

Why we care. Two years ago, who was talking about data clean rooms? The surge of interest is recent and significant, according to the IAB. DCRs have the potential, at least, to keep brands in touch with their audiences on the open internet; to maintain viability for publishers’ inventories; and to provide sophisticated measurement capabilities.

How data clean rooms can help. DCRs are a type of privacy-enhancing technology that allows data owners (including brands and publishers) to share customer first-party data in a privacy-compliant way. Clean rooms are secure spaces where first-party data from a number of sources can be resolved to the same customer’s profile while that profile remains anonymized.

In other words, a DCR is a kind of Switzerland — a space where a truce is called on competition while first-party data is enriched without compromising privacy.

“The value of a data clean room is that a publisher is able to collaborate with a brand across both their data sources and the brand is able to understand audience behavior,” said Bestos. For example, a brand selling eye-glasses might know nothing about their customers except basic transactional data — and that they wear glasses. Matching profiles with a publisher’s behavioral data provides enrichment.

“If you’re able to understand behavioral context, you’re able to understand what your customers are reading, what they’re interested in, what their hobbies are,” said Bustos. Armed with those insights, a brand has a better idea of what kind of content they want to advertise against.

The publisher does need to have a certain level of first-party data for the matching to take place, even if it doesn’t have a universal requirement for sign-ins like The New York Times. A publisher may be able to match only a small percentage of the eye-glass vendor’s customers, but if they like reading the sports and arts sections, at least that gives some directional guidance as to what audience the vendor should target.

Dig deeper: Why we care about data clean rooms

What counts as good matching? In its “State of Data 2023” report, which focuses almost exclusively on data clean rooms, concern is expressed that DCR efficacy might be threatened by poor match rates. Average match rates hover around 50% (less for some types of DCR).

Bustos is keen to put this into context. “When you are matching data from a cookie perspective, match rates are usually about 70-ish percent,” he said, so 50% isn’t terrible, although there’s room for improvement.

One obstacle is a persistent lack of interoperability between identity solutions — although it does exist; LiveRamp’s RampID is interoperable, for example, with The Trade Desk’s UID2.

Nevertheless, said Bustos, “it’s incredibly difficult for publishers. They have a bunch of identity pixels firing for all these different things. You don’t know which identity provider to use. Definitely a long road ahead to make sure there’s interoperability.”

Maintaining an open internet. If DCRs can contribute to solving the addressability problem they will also contribute to the challenge of keeping the internet open. Walled gardens like Facebook do have rich troves of first-party and behavioral data; brands can access those audiences, but with very limited visibility into them.

“The reason CTV is a really valuable proposition for advertisers is that you are able to identify the user 1:1 which is really powerful,” Bustos said. “Your standard news or editorial publisher doesn’t have that. I mean, the New York Times has moved to that and it’s been incredibly successful for them.” In order to compete with the walled gardens and streaming services, publishers need to offer some degree of addressability — and without relying on cookies.

But DCRs are a heavy lift. Data maturity is an important qualification for getting the most out of a DCR. The IAB report shows that, of the brands evaluating or using DCRs, over 70% have other data-related technologies like CDPs and DMPs.

“If you want a data clean room,” Bustos explained, “there are a lot of other technological solutions you have to have in place before. You need to make sure you have strong data assets.” He also recommends starting out by asking what you want to achieve, not what technology would be nice to have. “The first question is, what do you want to accomplish? You may not need a DCR. ‘I want to do this,’ then see what tools would get you to that.”

Understand also that implementation is going to require talent. “It is a demanding project in terms of the set-up,” said Bustos, “and there’s been significant growth in consulting companies and agencies helping set up these data clean rooms. You do need a lot of people, so it’s more efficient to hire outside help for the set up, and then just have a maintenance crew in-house.”

Underuse of measurement capabilities. One key finding in the IAB’s research is that DCR users are exploiting the audience matching capabilities much more than realizing the potential for measurement and attribution. “You need very strong data scientists and engineers to build advanced models,” Bustos said.

“A lot of brands that look into this say, ‘I want to be able to do a predictive analysis of my high lifetime value customers that are going to buy in the next 90 days.’ Or ‘I want to be able to measure which channels are driving the most incremental lift.’ It’s very complex analyses they want to do; but they don’t really have a reason as to why. What is the point? Understand your outcome and develop a sequential data strategy.”

Trying to understand incremental lift from your marketing can take a long time, he warned. “But you can easily do a reach and frequency and overlap analysis.” That will identify wasted investment in channels and as a by-product suggest where incremental lift is occurring. “There’s a need for companies to know what they want, identify what the outcome is, and then there are steps that are going to get you there. That’s also going to help to prove out ROI.”

Dig deeper: Failure to get the most out of data clean rooms is costing marketers money


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