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25 Top Movies About Social Media To Watch

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25 Top Movies About Social Media To Watch

Social media is a part of modern life, so, naturally, more movies should embrace it as central to the experiences of the characters in the movies.

An interesting trend with social media-based movies is more comedies and the mixture of comedy with horror.

Here’s a list of movies with some new additions, in no particular order.

1. Not Okay (2022)

Comedy/Drama – Hulu 

On the surface, “Not Okay” is a comedy about a misfit millennial anti-hero longing for social media fame who accidentally stumbles into it and subsequently becomes the internet’s most hated person. It’s also a gentle satire about the social media ecosystem.

British author Terry Pratchett observed that satire is best when it is aimed at the powerful.

In this movie, the powerful are the faceless social media consumers who both crown and cancel with brutal fickleness.

The movie’s star is Zoey Deutch, whose comedic performance had me laughing out loud from the very first minutes while also feeling dread because the outcome is known from the beginning of the movie.

It’s quite a feat to play an unlikable person in such a way the viewer can’t help but root for them, simultaneously cringing and laughing.

I enjoyed this movie very much.

2. Untraceable (2008)

Thriller – Hulu

“Untraceable” is a cat-and-mouse crime thriller starring Diane Lane as an FBI detective who is tracking down a killer who live streams murders while the faceless crowd eggs the killer on.

The movie subtly investigates empathy and society’s appetite for the gruesome. An early scene depicts a traffic jam caused by motorists pausing to glance at a body on a pavement beside the wreckage of an automobile accident.

A cop frantically waves his arms, yelling to the motorists to keep on driving, but the drivers ignore him and pause to gawk, a reminder of everyone’s capacity to be voyeurs of the macabre.

That scene is followed by another in which it is implied that a kitten is being tortured to death online. The detective and her boss watch the scene play out.

She is clearly distressed and disturbed by the lack of empathy expressed in the comments by the mob of digital rubberneckers. She speaks up and vows to take down the perpetrator.

Her boss scoffs and tells her to move on because it’s “just a kitten,” betraying his own lack of empathy.

The movie is about more than a quest to catch a killer. It explores the darkness of online social interactions and casual everyday cruelty.

A colleague of the detective later in the movie comments about the murder website that “it’s a jungle in there.” In an understated manner, his comment also hints that we’re all just a few clicks away from becoming part of that jungle.

If you like thrillers with serial killers, this is a good one that’ll scare you and leave you thinking.

3. Tragedy Girls (2017)

Horror Comedy – Amazon, Roku Channel, Tubi 

Surrealism is based on the insight that sparks happen when you join two things that wouldn’t ordinarily come together. The first surrealist combination was a sewing machine on an operating table.

There’s a similar quality to horror comedy.

A feature of horror comedy is that the plots are absolutely ridiculous and utterly realistic.

For example, “Freaky” (2020) is about a high school girl who switches bodies with a serial killer, and “Serial Mom” (1994) is about a sweet all-American mom who is secretly an unhinged psychopath.

“Tragedy Girls” continues in the comedy horror tradition of ridiculous plots and gore mixed with comedy. The plot is bonkers but in a good way.

It’s about two high school girls who want to become internet famous, so they devise a convoluted plan to serial-kill to provide content for their website and ultimately pin the blame on an actual serial killer.

“Tragedy Girls” stars Alexandra Shipp and Brianna Hildebrand.

Shipp starred in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Dark Phoenix,” and will be in the upcoming Margot Robbie’s “Barbie” movie. Hildebrand starred in “Deadpool,” “Deadpool 2,” and the TV show “Lucifer.”

“Tragedy Girls” also stars Craig Robinson (“The Office”/”Hot Tub Time Machine”), Jack Quaid (“The Boys” TV series), and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games,” “Future Man” TV show).

4. The Social Dilemma (2020)

Documentary – Netflix

A popular movie that can’t be recommended enough.

Even if you’re in the business, there are parts of this movie that will still startle.

Featuring interviews with people who invented various algorithms, this movie balances the shock factor of what’s going on behind the scenes of social media with insights into how social media can be improved.

5. Love, Guaranteed (2020)

Romantic Comedy – Netflix

Stars Rachael Leigh Cook, Damon Wayans Jr., Heather Graham, and Kandyse McClure (Dualla on “Battlestar Galactica”).

Social media is defined as a social network, and what kind of network is more social than a dating app?

This romantic comedy follows an attorney and her client who claims that a dating site that guarantees love is offering a false promise.

As evidence, he offers himself, who has engaged in a thousand dates and failed to find love.

6. The Hater (2020)

Thriller – Netflix

This is a great movie that you might never have heard of but should definitely check out.

It’s a fast-paced thriller and drama about using social media to settle personal scores.

The hero of the movie is both likable and worthy of loathing.

Don’t be put off because this is a Polish movie, and you might have to read subtitles.

This movie tells the story of harnessing the power of social media like a weapon against those who may or may not deserve it.

It’s highly relevant in today’s world of disinformation amplification, yet it’s not really about social media in the same way that a movie like “Taxi Driver” is not about guns.

Both movies, “Taxi Driver” and “The Hater,” share a theme of the misfit trying to fit in and not really able to find a way in until circumstances create an opportunity.

7. Emily In Paris, 2020

Comedy – Netflix

Ok, this isn’t a movie.

But so many who are interested in social media marketing and movies will find this so interesting that I had to fit it in.

The central character – Emily (duh!) – is a social media marketer from Chicago who is sent to a Paris office where she’s met with skepticism.

She changes her Instagram handle to @emilyinparis and starts posting photos; her account goes viral.

The series is from the mind of Darren Star, the writer behind such hits as “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Melrose Place,” and “Sex and the City.”

If any of those are your favorites, then you’ll likely enjoy “Emily in Paris” as well.

There’s a bit of suspension of disbelief necessary regarding social media, but “Emily in Paris” is fundamentally a fantasy, not a documentary.

A little fantasy helps to get through these dark and pandemic times.

8. Spree (2020)

Comedy Horror – Amazon, Vudu

A spree is defined as a sustained period of time during which an unrestrained activity is indulged.

In keeping with the genre of comedy horror, the plot is unrealistic and fun at the same time.

The movie is about a rideshare driver who wants to become a social media star by live streaming himself while murdering his clients.

But the live streams fail to go viral, so he hatches a plan to take it up a notch.

“Spree” stars the lovable Joe Keery (Steve in “Stranger Things”). It’s a dark and violent comedy featuring cameos from former “Saturday Night Live” cast members.

9. Hard Candy (2005)

Thriller/Horror/Revenge – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube

This is an under-the-radar movie that might make some uncomfortable.

It stars Elliot Page (“Juno,” “Umbrella Academy”), Patrick Wilson (“Conjuring,” “Watchmen,” “Aquaman”), and Sandra Oh (“Killing Eve,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Sideways,” “Princess Diaries”).

The movie won several awards, including three at the 2005 Sitges Film Festival (Best Motion Picture, Best Screenplay, and an Audience Award for Best Motion Picture) and four awards at the 2006 Spanish Malaga Film Festival (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Cinematographer).

Elliot Page won Best Actress at the 2006 Austin Film Critics Association Awards.

This is an intelligent suspense and thriller.

But it’s not for the squeamish; it can get grueling for some.

Page stars as a 17-year-old teenager who entraps an older man via a chat room.

Expecting illicit activities, the teenager turns the table on him.

Again, I must warn you that this movie is not for those with delicate sensibilities.

10. Searching (2018)

Thriller – Amazon, Vudu, YouTube

A movie starring John Cho (“Harold & Kumar,” “Star Trek”) in the missing person genre.

The daughter goes missing, and the police lack leads, so the father takes to the internet to trace the daughter’s virtual steps to find her.

11. Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Comedy Drama – Hulu

Stars Elizabeth Olsen and Aubrey Plaza.

Plaza is a great actress who consistently surprises with the quirky nuance she brings to her roles, and that’s also the case here.

This film is a stalker comedy with drama mixed in. It’s also a satire of the influencer world.

But ultimately, this is a quirky Aubrey Plaza movie that’s pretty fun to watch.

12. A Simple Favor (2018)

Comedy/Thriller – Amazon, Hulu, Sling TV, Vudu, YouTube

This is a Paul Feig movie about a video blogger who gets in over her head after she befriends a woman who causes her viewership to soar.

It’s like a noir because it has a femme fatale.

The mystery and thriller quality of the story kept me watching.

13. Smosh: The Movie (2015)

Comedy – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu

Satire of YouTube stars starring two actual YouTube stars.

Directed by Alex Winter, star of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”

14. Friend Request (2016)

Mystery/Horror – Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, YouTube

A woman accepts a friend request whose mysterious death sets off a series of deaths of those who are friends with the woman.

15. Unfriended (2015)

Social Media Horror – Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu

Instead of a group of young people at a camp getting murdered, it’s people on a group chat that are meeting their demise one by one.

16. The Assistant (2019)

Comedy/Satire  – Amazon

Short film (13 minutes), available on Amazon Prime.

Comedy/satire of being an assistant to a social media influencer.

17. The Circle (2017)

Thriller – Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, iTunes

Starring Emma Watson, John Boyega, Bill Paxton, and Tom Hanks.

This is a cautionary tale of living life on social media based on Dave Egger’s novel.

18. Lo And Behold, Reveries Of The Connected World (2016)

Documentary – YouTube

A documentary that explores how the internet affects the society today and may affect it tomorrow.

It asks probing questions like, “Will our great, great-grandchildren grow up in a world where they do not need human companionship?”

Werner Herzog is a consistently thought-provoking filmmaker.

19. The Great Hack (2019)

Documentary – Netflix

A chilling documentary not just about Cambridge Analytica but about the surveillance internet.

20. The Social Network (2010)

Drama – Netflix

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, this movie is based on the story of how Mark Zuckerburg came to found Facebook.

Highly acclaimed and a must-watch movie.

21. American Meme (2018)

Documentary – Netflix

Featuring Paris Hilton and DJ Khaled, it’s a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a social media star and the conflicts between reality and what’s presented.

22. Disconnect (2012)

Drama/Thriller – Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube

Starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Alexander Skarsgård, and Frank Grillo.

Three stories interweaved around human interaction via social media.

Lives are changed, conflicts arise, and some characters face a reckoning.

All of the actors are top shelf, including a strong performance by Frank Grillo – a character actor who’s been in dozens of popular films, including “Mambo Kings,” “Minority Report,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and several of the recent Marvel superhero movies.

23. Catfish (2010)

Documentary – Netflix

Documentary and indie film of two brothers who strike up a relationship with a woman over Facebook, with both sides misrepresenting who they are and their motives.

The movie is the origin of the term catfishing, which is the practice of pretending to be someone you are not – like pretending to be an associate of a famous person over the internet to woo someone.

24. Chef (2014)

Comedy/Drama – Amazon (free), iTunes, Pluto (free), Vudu, YouTube

Starring Jon Favreau, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Sofía Vergara, and Robert Downey Jr.

This is a feel-good dramedy.

A chef gets a bad review on Twitter, and he responds in kind.

The Twitter argument went viral and resulted in unanticipated events in his personal and business life.

It’s partially about the transformative effect that social media can have on a life.

25. Airplane Mode (2020)

Comedy – Netflix

A comedy about a social media influencer who finds herself without an internet connection. The comedy is in the protagonist dealing with change.

Social Media At The Movies

Many of today’s movies about social media seem to reflect the generational gap of those in power who make the movies who don’t live on social media in the way today’s generation does.

It’s reminiscent of the early days of rock and roll when the movies of the time implied that youth were untethered and even violent in movies such as “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Blackboard Jungle.”

The first rock-and-roll generation was also superficially portrayed in movies such as “Beach Blanket Bingo.”

It wasn’t until the rock-and-roll generation made movies that more thoughtful portrayals made it to the movie screen with movies such as “American Graffiti” and “Rock and Roll High School.”

So, it seems to be today that the portrayal of social media tends to lean toward the horror of it at one extreme and the belittling of the Millennial and GenZ generations as shallow on the other end.

And we’re starting to see more sensitive and realistic portrayals of these generations as Millennials.

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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds

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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.


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10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget

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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.

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What Are They Really Costing You?

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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.” support.google.com

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


TL;DR

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. 


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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