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SMX Overtime: When to use PPC automation (and when not to)

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Account structures, cross channel attribution, smart bidding and automation reporting were among the many questions during SMX East’s roundtable, “How automation really works and when to use it.” I wanted to take the time to answer a few additional questions from attendees after the event.

I understand it depends on the business, but how do you go about structuring your accounts? How do you set up campaigns?

I wrote a post about three years ago about decision trees for SEM segmentation that, for the most part, still outlines how we structure our accounts.

For each major element (audience or keyword for search, different audience types for YouTube) ask yourself two simple questions. Will performance be materially different? Does messaging need to be materially different? If the answer to either is yes you can assume that segmenting targeting elements is a good idea.

What’s changed over the years is the priority. When the post above was written, there was no punishment for over-segmentation and no upside for campaign consolidation. In modern search, I recommend keeping as much data together as possible. Yes, you can still optimize a group of campaigns together using a portfolio, but it’s best to keep similar performing ad groups/keywords together unless there’s a notable case to be made for segmenting.

Addressing a few common questions. Yes, we do still segment campaigns by match types but have tested moving them together – the results were neutral. No, I don’t recommend SKAG’s – there’s no point anymore. Yes, segmentation by device is okay, but I wouldn’t call it a “default.” Generally speaking the controls in place to bid or message by device is sufficient to control budget.

How can you use smart bidding when your CPA/ROAS goals change frequently (biweekly/monthly)?

First of all, I wouldn’t recommend see-sawing goals unless there’s an explicit reason. If there’s dramatic inventory swings or a lead at the end of the month worth more than one at the beginning, I’ll allow it. Otherwise, stay stable.

With that out of the way, it depends on how dramatic the goal shifts are and/or if they return to where they were. If the swings aren’t particularly dramatic (e.g. a CPA moves from $100 to $90) you should be totally fine nudging your bid targets without resetting the learning period. Usually, a shift of 5 to 10% won’t disrupt the system too much.

If you’re attacking big sale days, for example, seasonality adjustments will effectively “coach” the bidder and tell it to expect higher or lower swings.

How much time do you save with automation on a weekly basis? Are Supermetrics the go-to with automating reporting?

Tough to say as to how much time it saves since we inherently wind up “reinvesting” that time in our clients! You can look at it on a task-by-task basis to give you an idea of time savings:

  • My teams probably spent five to eight hours per month doing search queries. Since we’ve started (mostly) automating via n-gram scripts, that’s down to one or two hours.
  • Manual bidding? That’s AT LEAST an hour or two a week, now bid optimization or analysis is down to an hour a month.
  • The idea of pulling manual reports sends shivers down my spine. Even when we had a platform or “human automation,” the reports would still take about two hours per week per client. Now we’ve managed to automate QA (yep – it’s possible) which takes that time down to a half an hour or so.

With regard to reporting, it largely depends on your needs. We license Tableau for clients that warrant it which is a huge help to automate things like pacing etc. But, as the asker indicates, much, if not all, of that can be done via Supermetrics. We often use Supermetrics to parse additional data into Data Studio for cohesive reports. Just make sure to have an alerts system for when a query fails or times out.

How do you use cross channel attribution data for your bidding and optimization?

There are a few options here. Bear in mind that attribution data usually has a somewhat significant delay, or at the very least isn’t real-time.

  • Use your cross channel data to build in a “discount” factor for bidding. Say Google reports 100 conversions a month, but your attribution tool indicates only 60 of them were incremental. Aim your goals to somewhere in the middle, perhaps lower your CPA target (or increase ROAS target) by ~20%.
  • Feed data back into UI’s as a separate column – I wouldn’t recommend using offline data for real-time bidding (too many things can go wrong), but having the data readily available can make decisions easier
  • Use Google Analytics conversions in lieu of the Google Ads pixel – there are tradeoffs here that I won’t go into, but it is a simple way to ensure that the broader marketing picture is considered in Ads

Can you go around the data limitation for smart bidding by adding micro-conversions along the purchasing funnel with fixed values?

Absolutely! Going higher in the funnel has worked well for a number of our clients. Similar to the attribution challenge noted above, use these micro-conversions as directional data. Check your assumptions often to ensure that you’re not putting too much weight in a certain area. Additionally, make sure whatever actions you choose are unique. Don’t add weight to both time on site and page views (they’re one and the same) and don’t double up on different information capture points.

Will we ever be automated out of our jobs?

No. Though I suppose it depends on your job.

Look at it this way, humans are tremendous thinkers and strategists, but horrible automatons and calculators. The parts of our jobs that will be automated away is highly manual. It’s my (and many others’) outspoken opinion that there’s no reason to bid manually under the guise of control. We’re romanticizing the past, looking back at times when we were hand-picking what we thought were the most important signals (keywords, bids, and copy) while tuning out human signals like demographics, behavior and technological capacity.

The future is showing a job shift rather than a job replacement. Our job won’t be to pull every knob and push every button – it will be making sure the machines are working right. A key trait in paid search success comes from looking under the hood, understanding how the automation works and how to use it to its full potential.

Keywords are going to go away someday. I don’t know when that day is, but it will happen. Those who take the time to understand system quirks and features will win. Those who try to shoehorn their ways into the old way of thinking into the future will be automated out of a job.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Aaron has been in the industry for the better part of a decade, leading paid media campaigns with clients ranging from Fortune 50 companies to startups and local businesses. He’s the Group Director of SEM at Tinuiti, a full-service digital agency with offices across the US. Aaron’s role is to support a growing SEM team across the US, looking years ahead so his team can look days ahead. In addition to his day to day, Aaron’s a frequent industry speaker and instructor at Drexel and University of Vermont, working to grow the next generation of great marketers. He moonlights as a brewer, hockey player, slow cyclist and claims to be the industry’s top chef.

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MARKETING

What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

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What Is a White Paper? [FAQs]

The definition of a whitepaper varies heavily from industry to industry, which can be a little confusing for marketers looking to create one for their business.

The old-school definition comes from politics, where it means a legislative document explaining and supporting a particular political solution.

(more…)

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HubSpot to cut around 7% of workforce by end of Q1

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HubSpot to cut around 7% of workforce by end of Q1

This afternoon, HubSpot announced it would be making cuts in its workforce during Q1 2023. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing it put the scale of the cuts at 7%. This would mean losing around 500 employees from its workforce of over 7,000.

The reasons cited were a downward trend in business and a “faster deceleration” than expected following positive growth during the pandemic.

Layoffs follow swift growth. Indeed, the layoffs need to be seen against the background of very rapid growth at the company. The size of the workforce at HubSpot grew over 40% between the end of 2020 and today.

In 2022 it announced a major expansion of its international presence with new operations in Spain and the Netherlands and a plan to expand its Canadian presence in 2023.

Why we care. The current cool down in the martech space, and in tech generally, does need to be seen in the context of startling leaps forward made under pandemic conditions. As the importance of digital marketing and the digital environment in general grew at an unprecedented rate, vendors saw opportunities for growth.

The world is re-adjusting. We may not be seeing a bubble burst, but we are seeing a bubble undergoing some slight but predictable deflation.


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About the author

Kim Davis

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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Advocate | DigitalMarketer

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Advocate | DigitalMarketer

Happy customers love to share their experience, but sometimes they need some encouragement to do so. The cool thing is, once they do, they become even more loyal to your brand.

So, at this stage of the Customer Value Journey, ask people to share their positive experience with your brand by writing a review or sharing a social media post.

Once you get to stage seven, the Customer Value Journey is going to get a whole lot easier for you. This stage is all about learning your customer’s experience, and building up your testimonial database. 

The most important part of this step is asking these four questions. 

What Was Your Life Like Before Finding Our Solutions? What Challenges Were You Facing That Caused You to Consider Us? 

These questions are great not only because it gives you some really good stories, but because it gives you some insight on how you can provide similar prospects with that AHA moment. Understanding the average day of your clients is important in reflecting on your Customer Value Journey, and helps you understand what really set you apart from your competitors.

What Key Features Had the Biggest and/or Fastest Impact?

Not only is this going to get you to really specific stories, you will understand the specific things you provided that gave the biggest impact. The answers to these questions will not only give you great insight and testimonials, it will provide you with ideas for new lead magnets. This part is a new Entry Point Offer goldmine! 

What Has Been the Impact or Results in Your Life or Business Since Using Our Product or Service? 

This is a fairly broad question, and that’s why we put it after the others. You will have already gotten all of the specifics out of the way with #1 & #2. But when you ask this question, this is where you get the most valuable stories. You can use this part as testimonials, as an order form, as a sales page, this part is testimonial gold. 

If You Were Asked to Justify this Purchase to Your Boss or a Friend, What Would You Say? 

This is our favorite question by far. If you had to go back in time and justify this purchase, what would you say? I promise you what we’re going to find is a lot of great ideas for the jobs that your product or service has done. You’ll get a lot of great ideas for your core message canvas. This question is about backfilling all of the assets that you may not have. Here you’re going directly to the customer who are already happy, and using their justifications to help you sell to new customers. 

Hopefully you now understand just how valuable the Advocate stage could be, as well as the key questions you need to ask to get your customers talking. Here’s how it works for our example companies.

When it comes to fashion we all love to show off our outfits. So a good example for Hazel & Hems would be to have customers write reviews for a discount code or points towards their next purchase. 

Better yet, follow up with the customers to ask them to share and tag themselves wearing the items in a social media post and providing them with something valuable as a reward.

For Cyrus & Clark Media, hopping on zoom meetings or a streaming service for live talks about them and their business could generate valuable awareness for them, and a live case study for the agency. They can use the questions Ryan provided during this lesson to conduct the interview.



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