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Audit Google Display Placements Like a Boss

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Auditing your display campaign is something that when I started out in the PPC world, I had no idea why or what to do. “It’s getting tons of impressions! Why stop the campaign from doing it’s thing? Don’t we want to get our brand out there?” Now I’m a seasoned newbie and understand the importance of being diligent on display campaigns and that auditing is my very best friend in search.

So Why Audit Your Display Campaigns?

According to Google, the Display Network reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites. TWO. MILLION. SITES. Those numbers are so massive that I can’t even begin to comprehend what that looks like, but this gives me all the more reason to audit and to stay on top of those placements.

Auditing your display campaign, especially for places that your ad has shown, makes it easy to reduce wasted spend, gather quality data, and narrow down your target audiences to create new audiences for remarketing or other display campaigns. Not only that, but if you have no idea where your image ads are showing, you’re gearing yourself up to hurting your brand image and reputation by showing up on a site that you really should be excluding.

First Things First: Check Your Settings

Knowing what you’re excluding and what you’re potentially running your display ads on will help make this audit easy peasy.

Content Exclusions

Content exclusions are extremely (and I can’t stress this enough) extremely important when you’re running a display campaign. Display campaigns will throw your ads wherever they can get the most views and the most clicks. Depending on your product or your brand, you’ll most likely want to check every box in the middle to avoid having your brand showing on sites that could seriously damage your brand.

This display campaign for a travel industry client above not only has all sensitive content excluded, but also has exclusions on Live Streaming Youtube videos, Below-the-fold, and Parked domains, as well as Mature audience and not yet labeled content. This is because we do not want our client’s brand showing up on domains that are underdeveloped and unregistered, content in which we do not know if any of the other 5 sensitive content categories could show up on, and we do not want our ads showing on live stream as they would cost a lot of money and could be included on videos that we do not know the contents of the video.

Website Exclusions

Now we move to see what websites, and overall theme of websites, have been blocked from our campaign. Although we want to cast a wide net to gather audience data, and use this campaign for remarketing, we want to ensure that our client’s content isn’t showing up on anything related to spam, inappropriate, or irrelevant sites. You’ve heard the phrase, “Right place at the right time?” You don’t want your ad, say for a great deal to book a trip to Europe, to show up on a site related to bad news in the travel industry.

Finding Your Placements & Auditing Tips

Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this blog post – auditing your display placements. Auditing your placements is especially beneficial if you’ve had your campaign running for a bit and have had no exclusions, or bare minimum exclusions, in your campaign. Click into your display campaign in Google Ads and you’ll go to the placements tab on the left side of the interface:

Google Ads Placements tab

Here is where you can see any placements that you selected for your display campaign, where your ads showed, and any exclusions that are already set for the campaign. I typically do not put any specific placements on our display campaigns, and rely more on our exclusions, as I try to cast the net as carefully as I can with including content and site exclusions to gather audience data. That doesn’t mean that automatic placements for ads don’t work – check this neat case study about automatic placements and the arguments for it. But now we’re ready to sort through this data and refine our exclusions, since Google doesn’t guarantee that all exclusions from the content settings will not house our ad.

Placements for the last 3 months

I like to start looking at exclusions based on performance. I download my data into a Google Sheet to sort through and include metrics such as impressions, clicks, cost, average CPC, and conversions. I then sort through my data, starting with domains with high impressions and little to no clicks. Excluding anything that has a high amount of impressions but little-to-no clicks, ones with abnormally high click-through rates, and ones that are costing money but not performing. For example, you can see below that some of these placements are being shown quite a lot, but have under 20 clicks and no conversions:

High impressions with no conversions.

Then I like to go through the list and see if there are any themes to exclude. I typically don’t like to have my ads on kids games and apps, as it’s a waste of money for us, kids can’t book flights to vacation in Europe! With apps, these ads are typically a waste in spend because it’s either 1. Someone trying to get through the ad just to go back and play their game or 2. the ad just hangs out in the game, never to be clicked on (on purpose) and heard from again.

Since this display campaign is targeting the United States and the English language only, I also like to check for foreign website domains that may pop up. Example website domains I look at are .ro, .es, .de, .nl, .io, .cc et cetera and add them as an exclusion as well. But this depends on the targeting of your campaign, so just know that if you’re targeting outside of the United States, you’ll see different domains outside of .org, .com, and .net.

Foreign website domains.

And there you have it! A very simple audit that can help reduce your spend and up the quality of your data.

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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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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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