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14 Essential Local SEO & Listing Management Tools



14 Essential Local SEO & Listing Management Tools

Whether you operate locally or globally, a strong local SEO presence is key to driving more customers to your store, especially when your business has physical locations.

It may seem strange for brick-and-mortar stores to focus on developing their online presence until you realize that the majority of customers use the internet to learn about a company.

For instance, at the height of the pandemic in March 2020, more than 50% of shoppers searched online for open or closed stores.

Local SEO is now part of the “new normal.”

The good news is, there are local SEO tools you can use to help make keeping your business relevant and improving its visibility in organic and Map Pack results a lot more efficient.

Partner these with local listing management tools, and you’ll be ahead of the competition.

Local SEO tools help you:

  • Automate rank tracking.
  • Conduct local keyword research.
  • Discover competitor insights.
  • Monitor performance.

In addition, local listings management tools give businesses with brick-and-mortar locations a single space to manage and update location data on their online platforms.

Here’s a selection of local SEO tools and local listings management tools for businesses of all sizes that you’ll want to check out.

Local SEO & Listings Management Tools

1. Whitespark

Once a web design agency, Whitespark also offers SEO software tools to help businesses with local search marketing.

The Citation Finder tool is Whitespark’s most popular offering. It helps you find the citation opportunities you’re missing to improve relevant local search rankings.

The tool is free to use for three searches/day and limited search results – perfect for those exploring the tool.

Paid subscriptions start at $33/month when billed annually for five campaigns, 20 searches/day, and unlimited search results.

Other notable Whitespark local SEO tools include:

Local Rank Tracker

This uses precise location settings to give insight into overall SEO performance.

Whitespark’s local rank tracker gives you insight into the top 100 positions in local search – giving you a fuller picture of how you stack up against competitors and how you rank across popular search engines – as well as how you rank in different result types.

Reputation Builder

This prompts customers (via email or SMS) to share reviews on your review sites of choice (Whitespark supports over 100 online review websites).

It also calculates NPS (Net Promoter Score), a business indicator of your customer’s experiences with your business.

Moreover, the feature also lets you respond directly to Google reviews and Facebook recommendations.

Review Monitoring

This alerts you if and when you get a bad review so you can immediately take action.

2. Yext

Yext provides various solutions to help brands improve local SEO.

Yext integrates with hundreds of directories to ensure your business information and data are always up-to-date.

Some of Yext’s popular local SEO tools include:

Knowledge Manager

Answers to consumers’ common questions about your business, including staff, store hours, locations, and promotions.

Yext Pages

A system for updating listings to ensure the information provided is accurate.

Yext Pages are optimized to appear in search engines to help give customers more information about your brand’s nearest locations.

Yext Listings

Yext’s local listings management tool integrates with a large network of maps, apps, search engines, and social networks so customers can easily find your business.

You can use this feature for scheduled and real-time updates, analytics, finding listing improvement suggestions, and setting up integrations with other tools.

Additionally, Yext’s services and solutions include:

  • Analytics: Collecting insights, activity, and data for easier reporting.
  • Duplicate listing prevention.
  • Data cleansing to keep facts consistent.
  • Google Business Profile (GBP) and Listings management. Make updates through the platform and publish to GBP at any time.

Plans start at $199/year.

3. ReviewTrackers

Trusted by brands like Benihana and American Family Insurance, ReviewTrackers is a customer review software tool that sends alerts regarding customer feedback on various review websites, compiling the information in one helpful dashboard.

Using ReviewTrackers, you can:

  • Solicit feedback from customers.
  • Monitor reviews from various sources (e.g., Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp).
  • Track location performance.

Prices available upon request.

4. Moz Local

Moz Local is perhaps the most popular local SEO tool on this list.

You can trust its data and methodologies after being in business for over 10 years and trailblazing the SEO software market.

Moz Local works for small and enterprise businesses, ensuring online listings are correct and consistent, which helps to boost website visibility.

When you use Moz as a local listing management tool, you only must create a listing once – it automates the rest of the process for you.

Moz works by sending your listings to major search engines, apps, directories, and business data aggregators. If you ever need to edit your listing, log back into Moz Local to make a change – you don’t have to edit listings on each directory individually.

Other notable Moz Local features include:

  • Google and Facebook integration.
  • Automated duplicate deletion.
  • Social posting.

Moz Local will notify you when you receive new reviews on major platforms, thus empowering you to reply to customers promptly.

Besides the features that help boost your brand name in local search, Moz also gives you location-centric reports to help track your growth and determine key consumer interactions on your listings.

Pricing for Moz Local starts at $129/year – note that this pricing doesn’t include access to Moz’s popular SEO services.

5. Synup

Synup is an all-in-one local SEO tool tailored to help your marketing efforts. It lets you manage listings, monitor analytics, and create reports.

Specifically, Synup facilitates unlimited listing updates and immediately notifies you when your business receives new reviews. You can also automatically respond to reviews from within the tool.

Synup’s features also include:

  • Automatically syncs business and location data across websites.
  • It lets you manage industry and niche-specific sites.
  • Crawls over 200 local search engines and directories to catch inconsistencies.

Synup costs $30 per location for the first 25 locations at the time of publication, with pricing scaling down as you add on more locations.

6. Semrush Listing Management

Favored by eBay, HP, and Quora, Semrush is a popular search analytics and local SEO software tool.

Semrush developed a local listing management tool in collaboration with Yext. You can use it to manage your listings, reviews, and local pages.

Semrush’s tool uses Yext’s Knowledge Network to publish data across platforms like Facebook, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.

You can manage information from the Semrush listing management dashboard.

The tool is easy to use. You first have to input the data and find your location.

The tool will present a list of your listings and their status per directory website. After you make any necessary edits, Semrush will automatically update your listings accordingly.

The listings tool is only available to Semrush users in five countries – U.S., U.K., Australia, Germany, and France.

To sign up for this new Semrush feature, you’ll need a Semrush plan (which starts at $99.95/month), then add $20/month per location.

7. BrightLocal

BrightLocal is a popular local SEO tool used by more than 62,000 agencies, businesses, and freelancers for analytics and reporting functions.

Top features of BrightLocal include:

  • Customized location dashboard to monitor data.
  • Track organic, local, and mobile search rankings.
  • Clean up and build citations.
  • Monitor online reviews across 20+ websites.
  • Scan and audit directory sites to determine necessary updates.
  • GBP and NAP audit.
  • White label solution for agencies.

Prices start at $29/month for a single business.

8. Advice Local

Advice Local is another local listings management tool that competes with the likes of Yext for the most number of directories supported.

It also offers standard digital agency services (SEO, digital marketing, and website development).

But the company typically works with agencies, resellers, and partners, instead of directly with local businesses.

That said, Advice Local’s advantage over Yext is you can manually build out local citations while Yext uses an API.

However, it takes a bit longer for Advice Local to get above an 80% score for local directory submissions, and the information supported is limited to the basics of NAP (name, address, phone number).

Moreover, Advice Local is a complete all-in-one local SEO solution (unlike Yext, which is more directory-focused).

Prices available upon request.

9. Birdeye

Trusted by 70,000+ businesses, including BMW and Nissan, Birdeye offers multi-location enterprise businesses a bird’s-eye view to local SEO. Businesses can monitor the customer experience and manage reviews.

What makes Birdeye different from other local SEO tools is its messaging platform, which supports multiple modes of communication.

That enables businesses to take an omnichannel approach to attract leads and convert and delight customers.

Birdeye’s features include:

  • Data integration: Collate data from several websites into one dashboard for more efficient monitoring.
  • Review management: Collate and handle reviews from 200+ platforms.
  • Messaging platform: Birdeye supports text messaging, email, webchat, live chat, and chatbots. All messages come in through one inbox to manage all customer experiences.

Prices available upon request.

10. Rio SEO

Rio SEO is a local SEO tool that increases your online visibility, grows ecommerce, and drives in-store revenue for enterprise brands worldwide.

This local listings management tool is powered by its Open Local Platform, which boasts one of the largest directory support.

Businesses can integrate with over 170 top directories while giving brands insight and control.

Its local marketing content creation and optimization tools drive online visibility and engage consumers throughout the local search ecosystem.

Rio SEO has also analyzed aggregate Google Business performance metrics from over 200,000 U.S. business locations managed in its platform.

It releases notifications with benchmarks for metrics like Search Views and Clicks to Call each month.

Prices available upon request.

11. Chatmeter

Chatmeter is a local SEO tool that helps multi-location brands monitor their online listings, reviews, and social media.

Its local listings management tool helps you identify the areas that need improvement.

It empowers you to add photos, menus, services, and other Google attributes to enhance your listings. You can also edit your listings in bulk.

Other features include:

  • Local SEO tracking tool to execute your local “near me” strategy.
  • Local Brand Visibility (LBV) score to measure your brand’s online presence against competitors.
  • Pulse, a text and sentiment analysis engine that lets you measure customers’ sentiments.
  • Voice optimization.

Prices available upon request.

12. SOCi

SOCi is an enterprise platform built for multi-location marketers.

It serves as a central command platform that lets marketers manage local search, social, reputation, and messaging across multiple locations.

SOCi’s features include:

  • Manage multiple listings using a single login.
  • Keep and deliver on-brand social content from one location.
  • Track reviews and monitor competition.
  • Manage local social ads.

Prices available upon request.

13. Uberall

Uberall uses digital technology to help innovative brick-and-mortar businesses stay relevant, competitive, and profitable.

Uberall helps businesses build local online visibility through listings and citations on platforms where customers search.

You can also track the customer journey from discovery to repeat purchases using Uberall CoreX.

Other features include:

  • Optimize data for local search ranking factors.
  • Maintain brand location data for 125+ websites.
  • Build online communities by creating engaging local social content.

Prices available upon request.

14. Surfer Local

Surfer Local optimizes, manages, and positions GBP listings. It’s great for competitor analysis and improving local SEO strategy.

At $348/location/year, Surfer Local’s top tools include its Local Rank Tracker and GBP SEO audit feature.

The GBP audit feature helps you improve your business listing at least 10x faster by telling you what to change to achieve a higher Google rank.

Other features include:

  • Local Rank Tracker to keep track of your SEO efforts.
  • Free position checker to track multiple spots in the area.
  • Keyword research tool that provides information and suggestions.


Brick-and-mortar businesses can’t ignore local SEO anymore.

The good news is several local SEO and listing management tools are available to help you prevent the most common local SEO mistakes.

These tools help your business track rankings, update location and business information, find SEO-optimized keywords, and monitor customer reviews.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds




Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.

Featured Image: DIA TV/Shutterstock

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10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget




10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget

Many advertisers have a tight budget for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, making it challenging to maximize results.

One of the first questions that often looms large is, “How much should we spend?” It’s a pivotal question, one that sets the stage for the entire PPC strategy.

Read on for tips to get started or further optimize budgets for your PPC program to maximize every dollar spent.

1. Set Expectations For The Account

With a smaller budget, managing expectations for the size and scope of the account will allow you to keep focus.

A very common question is: How much should our company spend on PPC?

To start, you must balance your company’s PPC budget with the cost, volume, and competition of keyword searches in your industry.

You’ll also want to implement a well-balanced PPC strategy with display and video formats to engage consumers.

First, determine your daily budget. For example, if the monthly budget is $2,000, the daily budget would be set at $66 per day for the entire account.

The daily budget will also determine how many campaigns you can run at the same time in the account because that $66 will be divided up among all campaigns.

Be aware that Google Ads and Microsoft Ads may occasionally exceed the daily budget to maximize results. The overall monthly budget, however, should not exceed the Daily x Number of Days in the Month.

Now that we know our daily budget, we can focus on prioritizing our goals.

2. Prioritize Goals

Advertisers often have multiple goals per account. A limited budget will also limit the number of campaigns – and the number of goals – you should focus on.

Some common goals include:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Leads.
  • Sales.
  • Repeat sales.

In the example below, the advertiser uses a small budget to promote a scholarship program.

They are using a combination of leads (search campaign) and awareness (display campaign) to divide up a daily budget of $82.

Screenshot from author, May 2024

The next several features can help you laser-focus campaigns to allocate your budget to where you need it most.

Remember, these settings will restrict traffic to the campaign. If you aren’t getting enough traffic, loosen up/expand the settings.

3. Location Targeting

Location targeting is a core consideration in reaching the right audience and helps manage a small ad budget.

To maximize a limited budget, you should focus on only the essential target locations where your customers are located.

While that seems obvious, you should also consider how to refine that to direct the limited budget to core locations. For example:

  • You can refine location targeting by states, cities, ZIP codes, or even a radius around your business.
  • Choosing locations to target should be focused on results.
  • The smaller the geographic area, the less traffic you will get, so balance relevance with budget.
  • Consider adding negative locations where you do not do business to prevent irrelevant clicks that use up precious budget.

If the reporting reveals targeted locations where campaigns are ineffective, consider removing targeting to those areas. You can also try a location bid modifier to reduce ad serving in those areas.

managing ppc budget by location interactionScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

4. Ad Scheduling

Ad scheduling also helps to control budget by only running ads on certain days and at certain hours of the day.

With a smaller budget, it can help to limit ads to serve only during hours of business operation. You can choose to expand that a bit to accommodate time zones and for searchers doing research outside of business hours.

If you sell online, you are always open, but review reporting for hourly results over time to determine if there are hours of the day with a negative return on investment (ROI).

Limit running PPC ads if the reporting reveals hours of the day when campaigns are ineffective.

Manage a small ppc budget by hour of dayScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

5. Set Negative Keywords

A well-planned negative keyword list is a golden tactic for controlling budgets.

The purpose is to prevent your ad from showing on keyword searches and websites that are not a good match for your business.

  • Generate negative keywords proactively by brainstorming keyword concepts that may trigger ads erroneously.
  • Review query reports to find irrelevant searches that have already led to clicks.
  • Create lists and apply to the campaign.
  • Repeat on a regular basis because ad trends are always evolving!

6. Smart Bidding

Smart Bidding is a game-changer for efficient ad campaigns. Powered by Google AI, it automatically adjusts bids to serve ads to the right audience within budget.

The AI optimizes the bid for each auction, ideally maximizing conversions while staying within your budget constraints.

Smart bidding strategies available include:

  • Maximize Conversions: Automatically adjust bids to generate as many conversions as possible for the budget.
  • Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This method predicts the value of potential conversions and adjusts bids in real time to maximize return.
  • Target Cost Per Action (CPA): Advertisers set a target cost-per-action (CPA), and Google optimizes bids to get the most conversions within budget and the desired cost per action.

7. Try Display Only Campaigns

display ads for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

For branding and awareness, a display campaign can expand your reach to a wider audience affordably.

Audience targeting is an art in itself, so review the best options for your budget, including topics, placements, demographics, and more.

Remarketing to your website visitors is a smart targeting strategy to include in your display campaigns to re-engage your audience based on their behavior on your website.

Let your ad performance reporting by placements, audiences, and more guide your optimizations toward the best fit for your business.

audience targeting options for small ppc budgetScreenshot by Lisa Raehsler from Google Ads, May 2024

8. Performance Max Campaigns

Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are available in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

In short, automation is used to maximize conversion results by serving ads across channels and with automated ad formats.

This campaign type can be useful for limited budgets in that it uses AI to create assets, select channels, and audiences in a single campaign rather than you dividing the budget among multiple campaign types.

Since the success of the PMax campaign depends on the use of conversion data, that data will need to be available and reliable.

9. Target Less Competitive Keywords

Some keywords can have very high cost-per-click (CPC) in a competitive market. Research keywords to compete effectively on a smaller budget.

Use your analytics account to discover organic searches leading to your website, Google autocomplete, and tools like Google Keyword Planner in the Google Ads account to compare and get estimates.

In this example, a keyword such as “business accounting software” potentially has a lower CPC but also lower volume.

Ideally, you would test both keywords to see how they perform in a live campaign scenario.

comparing keywords for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

10. Manage Costly Keywords

High volume and competitive keywords can get expensive and put a real dent in the budget.

In addition to the tip above, if the keyword is a high volume/high cost, consider restructuring these keywords into their own campaign to monitor and possibly set more restrictive targeting and budget.

Levers that can impact costs on this include experimenting with match types and any of the tips in this article. Explore the opportunity to write more relevant ad copy to these costly keywords to improve quality.

Every Click Counts

As you navigate these strategies, you will see that managing a PPC account with a limited budget isn’t just about monetary constraints.

Rocking your small PPC budgets involves strategic campaign management, data-driven decisions, and ongoing optimizations.

In the dynamic landscape of paid search advertising, every click counts, and with the right approach, every click can translate into meaningful results.

More resources: 

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What Are They Really Costing You?




What Are They Really Costing You?

This post was sponsored by Adpulse. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As managers of paid media, one question drives us all: “How do I improve paid ad performance?”. 

Given that our study found close variant search terms perform poorly, yet more than half of the average budget on Google & Microsoft Ads is being spent on them, managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in ROI. 

“Close variants help you connect with people who are looking for your business, despite slight variations in the way they search.”

Promising idea…but what about the execution?

We analyzed over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions to answer this question: With the rise in close variants (intent matching) search terms, what impact are they having on budgets and account performance? Spoiler alert, the impact is substantial. 

True Match Vs. Close Variants: How Do They Perform?

To understand close variant (CV) performance, we must first define the difference between a true match and a close variant. 


What Is a True Match? 

We still remember the good-old-days where keyword match types gave you control over the search terms they triggered, so for this study we used the literal match types to define ‘close variant’ vs ‘true match’. 

  • Exact match keyword => search term matches the keyword exactly. 
  • Phrase match keyword => search term must contain the keyword (same word order).
  • Broad match keyword => search term must contain every individual word in the keyword, but the word order does not matter (the way modified broad match keywords used to work).   


What Is a Close Variant? 

If you’re not familiar with close variants (intent matching) search terms, think of them as search terms that are ‘fuzzy matched’ to the keywords you are actually bidding on. 

Some of these close variants are highly relevant and represent a real opportunity to expand your keywords in a positive way. 

Some are close-ish, but the conversions are expensive. 

And (no shocks here) some are truly wasteful. 

….Both Google and Microsoft Ads do this, and you can’t opt-out.

To give an example: if you were a music therapist, you might bid on the phrase match keyword “music therapist”. An example of a true match search term would be ‘music therapist near me’ because it contains the keyword in its true form (phrase match in this case) and a CV might be ‘music and art therapy’.

How Do Close Variants Compare to True Match?

Short answer… poorly, on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Interestingly however, Google showed the worst performance on both metrics assessed, CPA and ROAS. 

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Want to see the data – jump to it here…

CVs have been embraced by both platforms with (as earlier stated), on average more than half of your budget being spent on CV variant matches. That’s a lot of expansion to reach searches you’re not directly bidding for, so it’s clearly a major driver of performance in your account and, therefore, deserving of your attention. 

We anticipated a difference in metrics between CVs and true match search terms, since the true match search terms directly align with the keywords you’re bidding on, derived from your intimate knowledge of the business offering. 

True match conversions should therefore be the low-hanging fruit, leaving the rest for the platforms to find via CVs. Depending on the cost and ROI, this isn’t inherently bad, but logically we would assume CVs would perform worse than true matches, which is exactly what we observed. 

How Can You Limit Wastage on Close Variants?

You can’t opt out of them, however, if your goal is to manage their impact on performance, you can use these three steps to move the needle in the right direction. And of course, if you’re relying on CVs to boost volume, you’ll need to take more of a ‘quality-screening’ rather than a hard-line ‘everything-must-go’ approach to your CV clean out!


Step 1: Diagnose Your CV Problem 

We’re a helpful bunch at Adpulse so while we were scoping our in-app solution, we built a simple spreadsheet that you can use to diagnose how healthy your CVs are. Just make a copy, paste in your keyword and search term data then run the analysis for yourself. Then you can start to clean up any wayward CVs identified. Of course, by virtue of technology, it’s both faster and more advanced in the Adpulse Close Variant Manager 😉.


Step 2: Suggested Campaign Structures for Easier CV Management  

Brand Campaigns

If you don’t want competitors or general searches being matched to your brand keywords, this strategy will solve for that. 

Set up one ad group with your exact brand keyword/s, and another ad group with phrase brand keyword/s, then employ the negative keyword strategies in Step 3 below. You might be surprised at how many CVs have nothing to do with your brand, and identifying variants (and adding negative keywords) becomes easy with this structure.

Don’t forget to add your phrase match brand negatives to non-brand campaigns (we love negative lists for this).

Non-Brand Campaigns with Larger Budgets

We suggest a campaign structure with one ad group per match type:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers – Exact
    • General Plumbers – Phrase
    • General Plumbers – Broad
    • Emergency Plumbers – Exact
    • Emergency Plumbers – Phrase
    • Emergency Plumbers – Broad

This allows you to more easily identify variants so you can eliminate them quickly. This also allows you to find new keyword themes based on good quality CVs, and add them easily to the campaign. 

Non-Brand Campaigns with Smaller Budgets

Smaller budgets mean the upside of having more data per ad group outweighs the upside of making it easier to trim unwanted CVs, so go for a simpler theme-based ad group structure:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers
    • Emergency Plumbers


Step 3: Ongoing Actions to Tame Close Variants

Adding great CVs as keywords and poor CVs as negatives on a regular basis is the only way to control their impact.

For exact match ad groups we suggest adding mainly root negative keywords. For example, if you were bidding on [buy mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for ‘mens joggers’, you could add the single word “joggers” as a phrase/broad match negative keyword, which would prevent all future searches that contain joggers. If you added mens joggers as a negative keyword, other searches that contain the word joggers would still be eligible to trigger. 

In ad groups that contain phrase or broad match keywords you shouldn’t use root negatives unless you’re REALLY sure that the root negative should never appear in any search term. You’ll probably find that you use the whole search term added as an exact match negative much more often than using root negs.

The Proof: What (and Why) We Analyzed

We know CVs are part of the conversations marketers frequently have, and by virtue of the number of conversations we have with agencies each week, we’ve witnessed the increase of CV driven frustration amongst marketers. 

Internally we reached a tipping point and decided to data dive to see if it just felt like a large problem, or if it actually IS a large enough problem that we should devote resources to solving it in-app. First stop…data. 

Our study of CV performance started with thousands of Google and Microsoft Ads accounts, using last 30-day data to May 2024, filtered to exclude:

  • Shopping or DSA campaigns/Ad Groups.
  • Accounts with less than 10 conversions.
  • Accounts with a conversion rate above 50%.
  • For ROAS comparisons, any accounts with a ROAS below 200% or above 2500%.

Search terms in the study are therefore from keyword-based search campaigns where those accounts appear to have a reliable conversion tracking setup and have enough conversion data to be individually meaningful.

The cleaned data set comprised over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions (over 30 days) across Google and Microsoft Ads; a large enough data set to answer questions about CV performance with confidence.

Interestingly, each platform appears to have a different driver for their lower CV performance. 

CPA Results:

Google Ads was able to maintain its conversion rate, but it chased more expensive clicks to achieve it…in fact, clicks at almost double the average CPC of true match! Result: their CPA of CVs worked out roughly double the CPA of true match.                 

Microsoft Ads only saw slightly poorer CPA performance within CVs; their conversion rate was much lower compared to true match, but their saving grace was that they had significantly lower CPCs, and you can afford to have a lower conversion rate if your click costs are also lower. End outcome? Microsoft Ads CPA on CVs was only slightly more expensive when compared to their CPA on true matches; a pleasant surprise 🙂.

What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

ROAS Results:

Both platforms showed a similar story; CVs delivered roughly half the ROAS of their true match cousins, with Microsoft Ads again being stronger overall. 


1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Underlying Data:

For the data nerds amongst us (at Adpulse we self-identify here !) 

1718772963 88 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024


Close variant search terms consume, on average, more than half an advertiser’s budget whilst in most cases, performing significantly worse than search terms that actually match the keywords. How much worse? Read above for details ^. Enough that managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in account ROI. 

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Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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