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AI For PPC Is Only Useful If You Use External Tools

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Using AI (Artificial Intelligence) for PPC is no longer an option. It’s a necessity. 

This was a topic that we ran with when we wrote for Search Engine Land. But generally, saying that AI is essential is only half the story.

When it comes to managing your PPC campaigns, you don’t just need AI. You need the best tools and strategies that are available. You can’t just stick the ‘AI’ label on it and expect them all to perform the same way.

Here’s the thing. Most advertising platforms have their own AI strategies and features integrated and ready for you to use. But when you look at AI tools to help you out, they’re all external. Why? Because internal tools aren’t good enough.

It’s a bold statement to make. So, we’re here to back it up, using Google Ads as an example. Here are some of the most popular AI-powered tools they offer and an unbiased assessment of how good they are.

Not-so-smart bidding

Okay, we had to start this article up with Google’s Ads smart bidding. There’s a good reason for this, as it’s one of the most hotly debated topics amongst PPC-ers. Right, let’s jump in.

Smart bidding is Google’s automated bidding strategy. You’re supposed to set your goal, including maximizing conversions or ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) and Google will automatically set and adjust your budgets to achieve this. These changes are powered by an AI that can analyze 70 million signals in 100 milliseconds. Wow.

The reality is a little far from this. 

We’re not denying that for some companies, smart bidding has been paramount to increasing ROAS. But at the minute, it’s notoriously underdeveloped. The functionality just isn’t what it should be and it’s a complete no go for those who haven’t got the past data to work off.

They’ve added features like campaign level conversions and even got rid of accelerated ad delivery in an attempt to push advertisers towards it. But it’s not enough right now.

Google ads smart bidding graphicDynamic Search Ads that lack creativity 

DSA (Dynamic Search Ads) are adverts that are automatically created for you. Well, within certain parameters of course.

Instead of using keywords, you submit your website or product feed to Google. When someone searches for a relevant term, an advert is generated with text pulled from the website.

But automatic creation means you lose creative control. You’ll end up with adverts that lack personality and soul, like this example:

Example of a google adBut if you created the campaigns yourself, you could add a touch of personality to create something like this:

Example of a google adI know which one I’d click on. 

That’s not the only downside. If your website isn’t up to date, you risk serving broken adverts that do not work. Which means, your quality score will plummet potentially damaging other campaigns you might have running.

DSAs are useful for large businesses with huge catalogs. But for everyone else? It might be more hassle than it’s worth.

Time-consuming Responsive Search Ads

RSAs (Responsive Search Ads) are where you input up to 15 adaptive headlines and descriptions to test which one works best.

Unlike DSA, you’ll retain creative control over the exact text you use. The AI just ‘learns’ which variations perform best and then puts these out to up your clicks and conversions.

The downside? It takes a lot of time to set it up.

Let’s say you’ve got 5 campaigns, all with 10 ad groups inside of it. If you run RSAs for these, that’s 750 adaptative headlines you need to create. That’s what, a week of your time to set up what is essentially AI-powered ad testing?

Automated rules falling short of the throne

Automated rules are the AI leaders of the PPC marketing world

They work like this: when a certain event happens, like your CPC (cost-per-click) dropping below a certain amount, your keyword, ad or campaign will be automatically changed in response.

This saves so much manual time and surveillance doing it yourself. There are a few hoops you have to jump through to get these working on Google. And, annoyingly enough there isn’t a single screen that they’re all displayed in and managed from.

Secondly, the time they run limits the benefits you get. For example, if you set them to run at 9am and your action was triggered at 2am the night before, your campaigns will be running for 7 hours under the wrong bid or status.

Lastly, email is the only notification that Google support, which isn’t useful for all businesses.

The premise is good. The actual execution? Not so.

Adzooma platform automated rule exampleBridging the gap with external automated PPC scripts 

PPC scripts are coded scripts that are supposed to automate part of your management. One of the best examples is the Zero Impressions Alarm, which alerts you if your impressions fall to 0.

Most PPC scripts require good Javascript knowledge to build and customize them to your exact needs.

Basically, people noticed the need for AI and the missing gap in the platforms. So, they created their own solutions for it, far before Google did. They’re ahead of the game and Google is behind.

The least Google could do was recognize this and integrate them directly into the platform. But that isn’t the case. PPC scripts remain distinctly separate. This is made obvious as soon as a Google update is pushed live and most scripts suddenly fail to work. Yet again, you’re back to the code.

Get the results you need from external tools

The internal AI tools that Google and other PPC platforms offer have their benefits. But they’re just not good enough… yet.

They feel like the great ideas from someone who was 5 years late to the party. Unfortunately, in the time it will take for them to catch up – external scripts and tools will be ahead of the crowd.

That’s because they were built to solve problems that people were already facing. They saw it from PPC managers perspective and knew how to use the AI to make life easier.
If you want to leverage AI, don’t stick to internal tools. Discover what other types of PPC software are out there and see how they compare. It might just make your life a whole lot easier.


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Amazon Announces Auction System for FBA Storage Space [What Sellers Need to Know]

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Amazon Announces Auction System for FBA Storage Space [What Sellers Need to Know]

Amazon’s FBA program is a tremendous asset for brands who sell products on the platform. With FBA, retailers can outsource the heavy lifting of logistics such as warehousing, fulfillment, and distribution for a fee. In the last few years, sellers have expressed the need for more capacity, predictability, and control over their inventory. Amazon’s recent update helps sellers tackle those challenges and so much more.

Amazon just announced a new streamlined FBA capacity management system that will go into effect on March 1, 2023. With this new system in place, Amazon FBA will be turned into an auction where sellers can bid for additional storage space.

The system will now incorporate a single, month-long FBA capacity limit rather than weekly restock limits that can make inventory planning challenging for sellers. Now, capacity limits for the upcoming month will be announced in the third full week of each month via the Capacity Monitor in Seller Central and email notification. According to Amazon, the majority of sellers will now have access to greater capacity volumes than before.

With this new update, Amazon also announced they will provide estimated limits for the following two months to help sellers plan over a longer period. In a recent blog post highlighting the announcement, Dharmesh Mehta, Vice President of Amazon Worldwide Selling Partner Services stated, “We will forecast how much space and labor we expect to have to provide these estimates, but these estimates may vary up or down based on how efficiently sellers are using their capacity, as measured by the Inventory Performance Index (IPI) score.”

With the new Capacity Manager in place, sellers will also be able to request additional capacity based on a reservation fee that they specify. Mehta noted…

“Requests are granted objectively, starting with the highest reservation fee per cubic foot until all capacity available under this program has been allocated. When additional capacity is granted, sellers’ reservation fees are offset by earning performance credits from the sales they generate using the extra capacity. Performance credits are designed to offset up to 100% of the reservation fee, so sellers don’t pay for the additional capacity as long as their products sell through.

 

Our goal is to provide sellers with more control over how much space they can have while limiting unproductive use. We’ve piloted this feature with certain US sellers, and we’re excited that with this launch, we will expand it so all sellers can request higher FBA capacity limits.”

 

The recent announcement also highlighted how Amazon will set capacity limits and measure sellers’ inventory usage in cubic feet (vs. number of units), which better represents the capacity sellers’ products use in our fulfillment centers and transportation vehicles. As many sellers prefer to plan in units, Amazon will continue to show inventory usage in units but will also provide an estimate of how many units specific cubic volume capacity limits are likely to permit.

 

Tinuiti’s Take on the New FBA Capacity System

 

Change is certainly on the horizon. Let’s hear from Tinuiti’s own Bjorn Johnson on tips for how you can prepare for the FBA change coming March 1st.

“These changes are likely to be impactful, especially to sellers with larger products. Amazon reverting to cubic foot-based storage limits is likely to reintroduce previous issues for these clients in maintaining healthy inventory levels. Their difficulties look to be exacerbated by the addition of the bidding system. In order to keep their already high-fulfillment-fee products in stock, they’ll need to bid on large amounts of space. On the other hand, sellers with smaller products are likely to be able to store more units than before, and have the flexibility to bid on smaller amounts of space. The decision from Amazon looks like a clear effort to encourage small, light, easy-to-ship and fulfill products.”

– Bjorn Johnson, Operations Manager at Tinuiti

 

Want to Learn More About the New Auction System for FBA Storage Space?

 

We will continue to keep you informed as we learn more about the new FBA capacity system. If you’re interested in learning more about our Amazon offerings or if you have any questions concerning FBA, contact us today.

 

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How to optimize your online forms and checkouts

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How to optimize your online forms and checkouts



Forms are probably the most important part of your customer journey. They are the final step where the user entrusts you with their precious personal information in exchange for the goods or services you’ve promised.

And yet, too many companies spend minimal time on making sure their form experience is a good one for their users. They don’t use data to establish where the UX problems are on their forms, and they don’t run form-specific experiments to determine how to improve their conversion rate. As a result, too many forms are unnecessarily driving potential customers away, burning potential revenue and leads that could have been converted if they had only spent a little time and effort on optimization. Two-thirds of people who start a form don’t go on to complete it, meaning that a lot of money is being left on the table.

This article contains some of our top tips to help optimize your forms + checkouts with the goal of improving their conversion rate and delivering more customers and leads.

Use data to identify your problem fields

While user testing and session replay tools are useful in identifying possible form issues, you should also be using a specialist form analytics tool, as this will allow you to quantify the scale of the problem – where are most people dropping out – and prioritize improvements accordingly. A good form analytics tool will have advanced insights that will help work out what the problem is as well, giving you a head start on creating hypotheses for testing.

A/B test your forms

We’ve already mentioned how important it is to nurture your forms like any other part of your website. This also applies to experimentation. Your A/B testing tool such as Optimizely should allow you to easily put together a test to see if your hypothesis will improve your conversion rate. If there is also an integration with your form analytics tool you should then be able to push the test variants into it for further analysis.

Your analytics data and user testing should guide your test hypothesis, but some aspects you may want to look at are:

  • Changing the error validation timing (to trigger upon input rather than submission)
  • Breaking the form into multiple steps rather than a single page
  • Removing or simplifying problem fields
  • Manage user expectations by adding a progress bar and telling them how long the form will take upfront
  • Removing links to external sites so they are not distracted
  • Re-wording your error messages to make them more helpful

Focus on user behavior after a failed submission

Potential customers who work their way through their form, inputting their personal information, before clicking on the final ‘Submit’ button are your most valuable. They’ve committed time and effort to your form; they want what you are offering. If they click that button but can’t successfully complete the form, something has gone wrong, and you will be losing conversions that you could have made.

Fortunately, there are ways to use your form data to determine what has gone wrong so you can improve the issue.

Firstly, you should look at your error message data for this particular audience. Which messages are shown when they click ‘Submit? What do they do then? Do they immediately abandon, or do they try to fix the issue?

If you don’t have error message tracking (or even if you do), it is worth looking at a Sankey behavior flow for your user’s path after a failed submission. This audience will click the button then generally jump back to the field they are having a problem with. They’ll try to fix it, unsuccessfully, then perhaps bounce back and forth between the problem field a couple of times before abandoning in frustration. By looking at the flow data, you can determine the most problematic fields and focus your attention there.

Microcopy can make the checkout experience less stressful

If a user is confused, it makes their form/checkout experience much less smooth than it otherwise could be. Using microcopy – small pieces of explanatory information – can help reduce anxiety and make it more likely that they will complete the form.

Some good uses of microcopy on your forms could be:

  • Managing user expectations. Explain what information they need to enter in the form so they can have it on hand. For example, if they are going to need their driver’s licence, then tell them so.
  • Explain fields. Checkouts often ask for multiple addresses. Think “Current Address”, “Home Address” and “Delivery Address”. It’s always useful to make it clear exactly what you mean by these so there is no confusion.
  • Field conditions. If you have strict stipulations on password creation, make sure you tell the user. Don’t wait until they have submitted to tell them you need special characters, capital letters, etc.
  • You can often nudge the user in a certain direction with a well-placed line of copy.
  • Users are reluctant to give you personal information, so explaining why you need it and what you are going to do with it is a good idea.

A good example of reassuring microcopy

Be careful with discount codes

What is the first thing a customer does if they are presented with a discount code box on an ecommerce checkout? That’s right, they open a new browser tab and go searching for vouchers. Some of them never come back. If you are using discount codes, you could be driving customers away instead of converting them. Some studies show that users without a code are put off purchasing when they see the discount code box.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can continue to offer discount codes while mitigating the FOMO that users without one feel:

  • Use pre-discounted links. If you are offering a user a specific discount, email a link rather than giving them a code, which will only end up on a discount aggregator site.
  • Hide the coupon field. Make the user actively open the coupon box rather than presenting them with it smack in the middle of the flow.
  • Host your own offers. Let every user see all the offers that are live so they can be sure that they are not missing out.
  • Change the language. Follow Amazon’s lead and combine the Gift Card & Promotional Codes together to make it less obvious.

An example from Amazon on how to make the discount code field less prominent

Get error messages right

Error messages don’t have to be bad UX. If done right, they can help guide users through your form and get them to commit.

How do you make your error messages useful?

  • Be clear that they are errors. Make the messages standout from the form – there is a reason they are always in red.
  • Be helpful. Explain exactly what the issue is and tell the user how to fix it. Don’t be ambiguous.

Don’t do this!

  • Display the error next to the offending field. Don’t make the user have to jump back to the top of the form to find out what is wrong.
  • Use microcopy. As noted before, if you explain what they need to do early, they users are less likely to make mistakes.

Segment your data by user groups

Once you’ve identified an issue, you’ll want to check whether it affects all your users or just a specific group. Use your analytics tools to break down the audience and analyze this. Some of the segmentations you might want to look at are:

  • Device type. Do desktop and mobile users behave differently?
  • Operating system. Is there a problem with how a particular OS renders your form?
  • New vs. returning. Are returning users more or less likely to convert than first timers?
  • Do different product buyers have contrasting expectations of the checkout?
  • Traffic source. Do organic sources deliver users with higher intent than paid ones?

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About the author

Alun Lucas is the Managing Director of Zuko Analytics. Zuko is an Optimizely partner that provides form optimization software that can identify when, where and why users are abandoning webforms and help get more customers successfully completing your forms.


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3 Smart Bidding Strategies To Help You Get the Most Out of Your Google Ads

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3 Smart Bidding Strategies To Help You Get the Most Out of Your Google Ads

Now that we’ve officially settled into the new year, it’s important to reiterate that among the most effective ways to promote your business are Google Ads. Not only do Google Ads increase your brand visibility, but they also make it easier for you to sell your services and products while generating more traffic to your website.

The thing about Google Ads, though, is that setting up (and running) a Google Ads campaign isn’t easy – in fact, it’s pretty beginner-unfriendly and time-consuming. And yet, statistically speaking, no platform does what Google Ads can do when it comes to audience engagement and outreach. Therefore, it will be beneficial to learn about and adopt some smart bidding strategies that can help you get the most out of your Google Ads.

To that end, let’s check out a few different bidding strategies you can put behind your Google Ads campaigns, how these strategies can maximize the results of your Google Ads, and the biggest benefits of each strategy.

Smart bidding in Google Ads: what does it mean, anyway?

Before we cover the bidding strategies that can get the most out of your Google Ads, let’s define what smart bidding means. Basically, it lets Google Ads optimize your bids for you. That doesn’t mean that Google replaces you when you leverage smart bidding, but it does let you free up time otherwise spent on keeping track of the when, how, and how much when bidding on keywords.

The bidding market is simply too big – and changing too rapidly – for any one person to keep constant tabs on it. There are more than 5.5 billion searches that Google handles every day, and most of those searches are subject to behind-the-scenes auctions that determine which ads display based on certain searches, all in a particular order.

That’s where smart bidding strategies come in: they’re a type of automated bidding strategy to generate more conversions and bring in more money, increasing your profits and cash flow. Smart bidding is your way of letting Google Ads know what your goals are (a greater number of conversions, a goal cost per conversion, more revenue, or a better ROAS), after which Google checks what it’s got on file for your current conversion data and then applies that data to the signals it gets from its auctions.

Types of smart bidding strategies

Now that you know what smart bidding in Google Ads is and why it’s important, let’s cover the best smart bidding strategies you can use to your advantage.

Maximize your conversions

The goal of this strategy is pretty straightforward: maximize your conversions and get the most out of your budget’s allocation toward said conversions. Your conversions, be they a form submission, a customer transaction, or a simple phone call, are something valuable that you want to track and, of course, maximize.

The bottom line here is simply generating the greatest possible number of conversions for your budget. This strategy can potentially become costly, so remember to keep an eye on your cost-per-click and how well your spending is staying inside your budget.

If you want to be extra vigilant about keeping conversion costs in a comfy range, you can define a CPA goal for your maximize conversions strategy (assuming you’ve got this feature available).

Target cost per acquisition

The purpose behind this strategy is to meet or surpass your cost-per-acquisition objective that’s tied to your daily budget. When it comes to this strategy, it’s important to determine what your cost-per-acquisition goal is for the strategy you’re pursuing.

In most cases, your target cost per acquisition goal will be similar to the 30-day average you’ve set for your Google Ads campaign. Even if this isn’t going to be your end-all-be-all CPA goal, you’ll want to use this as a starting point.

You’ll have lots of success by simply leveraging target cost per acquisition on a campaign-by-campaign basis, but you can take this one step further by creating a single tCPA bid strategy that you share between every single one of your campaigns. This makes the most sense when running campaigns with identical CPA objectives. That’s because you’ll be engaging with a bidding strategy that’s fortified with a lot of aggregate data from which Google’s algorithm can draw, subsequently endowing all of your campaigns with some much-needed experience.

Maximize clicks

As its name implies, this strategy centers around ad optimization to gain as many clicks as possible based on your budget. We recommend using the maximize clicks strategy if you’re trying to drive more traffic to your website. The best part? Getting this strategy off the ground is about as easy as it gets.

All you need to do to get started with maximizing clicks is settle on a maximum cost-per-click that you then earmark. Once that’s done, you can decide how much money you want to shell out every time you pay for a bid. You don’t actually even need to specify an amount per bid since Google will modify your bids for you to maximize your clicks automatically.

Picture this: you’ve got a website you’re running and want to drive more traffic to it. You decide to set your maximum bid per click at $2.5. Google looks at your ad, adjusts it to $3, and automatically starts driving more clicks per ad (and more traffic to your site), all without ever going over the budget you set for your Google Ads campaign.

Conclusion

If you’ve been using manual bidding until now, you probably can’t help but admit that you spend way too much time wrangling with it. There are plenty of other things you’d rather be – and should be – spending your time on. Plus, bids change so quickly that trying to keep up with them manually isn’t even worth it anymore.

Thankfully, you’ve now got a better grasp on automated and smart bidding after having read through this article, and you’re aware of some important options you have when it comes to strategies for automated bidding. Now’s a good time to explore even more Google Ads bidding strategies and see which ones make the most sense when it comes to your unique and long-term business objectives. Settle on a strategy and then give it a whirl – you’ll only know whether a strategy is right for you after you’ve tested it time and time again. Good luck!

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