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7 Ways To Improve Local SEO & Attract New Business

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7 Ways To Improve Local SEO & Attract New Business

There is a big difference between the way standard organic SEO works and the way we should approach Local SEO.

Not only is searcher intent likely different, the algorithms Google uses to show the map pack differs from the main organic algorithms.

In this article, I’ll be taking you through the ways you can win new customers and improve your visibility through local SEO.

Top Ways To Improve Your Local SEO

1. Keep An Eye On Your Competitors’ Google Business Profile Q&As

Google Business Profile (GBP) has a great function that can do wonders for growing new business – the questions and answers feature.

If you use it well for your own organization, it can help convert customers who are otherwise on the fence.

But don’t stop there. Spend time researching your competitors’ Q&As, too. See what your potential customers are asking others in your industry.

How GBP Q&A Works

On your Google Business Profile, you may notice an “Ask a Question” button. Once clicked, users are taken through to a screen that allows them to submit a question.

Screenshot from Google Business Profile, September 2022

This next bit is key. The question does not get submitted to the owner of the profile. It gets submitted to the profile. That means it is visible to anyone who sees a Google Business Profile listing.

Once a question has been posted to your competitors’ Google Business Profile listing, you will be able to see it.

And once the question is answered, that information – and the engagement – is there for all in the future to see.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

These questions are a great way to encourage new business from local searchers. Questions are likely to be asked by people who have never visited that business before but are in your target market.

They are already engaging with the brand but need a bit more information before they commit to a visit.

For Your Own Listing

On your own GBP, you can use this opportunity to converse with a potential local consumer who is far down the conversion funnel.

If they are at the stage where they have found you and are considering you enough to ask some questions, a thoughtful response may be all it takes to see them walk through your doors.

On A Competitor’s Listing

Look at what questions your competitors’ customers and potential customers are asking. Use this to better fill out the information on your own profile and website.

If you are noticing a lot of questions being asked about the availability of gluten-free pizza from other pizza restaurants in your area, for example, you want to make sure you highlight your gluten-free products on your site and listing.

This type of research can keep you one step ahead of local competitors, especially if the questions they have been asked are slightly negative in tone.

Consider this question: “Do you still play loud music?”

If a potential restaurant-goer sees that question asked of another business, it immediately makes them consider the environment they will be eating their meal in.

It may make them wonder if they will really be able to enjoy the catch-up with their friends over a meal as they have planned.

Answer the questions being asked of your competitors on your own website and GBP before anyone asks. State in your description that customers will enjoy a meal accompanied by relaxing, ambient music.

This can put you at a significant advantage over your competitors for winning new business in your geography.

When you proactively answer a potential customer’s question before they even have to ask it, you demonstrate that you understand their needs and wants.

2. Tweak A Google Product Listing To Get More Exposure

Google allows businesses with GBP to upload details of the products they offer. This can be viewed by potential customers on both mobile and desktop search results.

The listings appear in the GBP in a carousel format on Maps and in both a carousel and under the Products tab in Search.

Both formats allow users to click on the product cards for more detail, to call, or visit the website.

How GBP Product Listings Work

Uploading your products to a Google Business Profile has gotten simpler. Google has released a new way of doing this called “Pointy.” Pointy is a device that is plugged in between the barcode scanner and the point-of-sale device. As products are scanned in, Pointy adds them to Google.

This is a quick way of uploading your product inventory to your Google Business Profile. There are restrictions around this, however, as Pointy is only available in some countries and also isn’t suitable for products without barcodes (bunches of flowers, for instance).

It is still possible to upload products manually. Simply sign in to your profile and click Edit Profile > Products > Add Product.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

You may be looking to showcase some products over others for a variety of reasons. You may have a surplus of stock in one of your locations, for example.

Bringing that stock to the forefront of that location’s GBP listing will help alert local customers to it. It will allow you to target specific products more to relevant audiences, dependent on their location.

For instance, seasonal products may be better served first. Perhaps the geographic location of your car repair shop is set for an unseasonal snow flurry. Edit your snow tire listings to bring them to the beginning of the carousel.

This could enhance the visibility of your product at just the right time for a new customer in your target location to see them.

3. Use Google’s Business Messages While You Can

Google Business Profile can include functionality that allows businesses to correspond with customers straight from the SERPs.

When activated, GBP will display a Message button that users can click on to start direct messaging with the business.

How GBP Business Messages Work

This functionality has existed since 2017 in Google Business Profile and since 2018 in Google Maps. It has only recently made it onto the desktop, however.

If you are an owner of a GBP, you should see the option in your desktop dashboard to Turn on messaging under the Messages tab.

Google My Business Turn on messaging option.

You can then set items like an initial auto-responder to be sent out when a visitor first messages you are using this service.

To make sure the service is a timely one, Google recommends you reply to all messages within 24 hours.

If you don’t, Google may deactivate the messaging service on your account. Your response times can also show in Google Search and Maps.

Google may display ‘Usually responds in a few minutes,’ ‘Usually responds in a few hours,’ ‘Usually responds in a day,’ or ‘Usually responds in a few days,’ depending on your average reply time.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

Not everyone has the time (or inclination) to call up a business they have yet to engage with. Allowing potential local customers to message you straight from your GBP is an excellent way of streamlining conversations with them.

If you respond quickly, your chances of that potential customer converting are greatly increased.

This is of particular use to local businesses that perhaps don’t use centralized call centers or messaging. It can be another touch point that shows the personalization of the business based on the location that the consumer is in.

Consider the offers, services, and tone of voice that might be most appropriate to your customers in that particular geography. This is your opportunity to highlight again how well you know your customers.

Make use of the local name for the area your business is in. Talk about the specific events and charities you support in the area.

Any additional indication that your business serves the local population specifically can help to reinforce your relevance to the potential customer who has contacted you.

Now that the functionality is available in such a wide range of places on the web, it would be a wasted opportunity not to engage with your potential customers in this way.

4. Update Your GBP With All Relevant Newly Available Attributes

Google keeps updating the features available through its Google Business Profile property. Make sure you keep your listing fully populated with the relevant attributes as they become available.

How Do New Attributes Work

Google frequently adds functionality to Google Business Profile that your business might be eligible to use. Not every new feature is available to all types of businesses, however.

Whether you can access new updates depends on what category is set as your primary in GBP.

To keep up to date with what new features are becoming available and who is eligible for them, visit Google’s GBP announcements page.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

With any new change to Google Business Profile, early adoption will put you ahead of the pack. Although these attributes will not necessarily affect your rankings in the map pack, they can make your business more attractive to prospective local customers.

For instance, attributes can include details of the business’s ownership. For example, it’s possible to include attributes like “women-owned” and “black-owned” to your Business profile.

Google also introduced the option to denote a business’s support for the LGBTQ+ community through “LGBTQ+ friendly” attributes.

A business showing that it is inclusive and supportive of minority groups can help members of those groups to feel welcomed. For some people, knowing they will be welcomed at a business can be the difference between them visiting there instead of a competitor whose support isn’t guaranteed.

LGBTQ+ Support AttributeScreenshot from Google Business Profile, September 2022

5. Join Local Marketplaces And Forums

The key to marketing your local business well is understanding what your audience is looking for. A great way of understanding your target market is by spending time where they are.

This includes online.

Make sure you register your business in local directories and forums. This is not so much for the traditional citation benefit. It’s so you can be amongst your prospective customers, hearing what they are talking about.

How Local Marketplaces & Forums Work

Online Marketplaces

Look on platforms like Facebook for marketplaces relevant to your location and products. You don’t necessarily need to be engaging with the audience to learn more about who they are and what they respond to.

For instance, if you sell locally created craft products in your store, you can get a feel for how much your audience is willing to pay for products by seeing what similar items are being sold for in your town’s Facebook Marketplace.

By watching what your local audience is saying about prices, quality, shipping, and sourcing of products, you can begin to understand more about your audience’s preferences.

Forums

If you are a local pizza restaurant, you would do well to join Reddit subreddits for your city and read the threads that talk about restaurants in your area.

What is your local audience saying about your competition? Are they sick of pizza restaurants and really want someone to bring something new to the area?

Perhaps they are enthusiastic about local independent shops and want to support them more.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

This kind of information can help you to tailor your search marketing strategy, tone of voice, and more.

Go to places where your target audience members are talking freely about your local area. Find out what they want from their local businesses.

If you are feeling brave, you can even interact with your audience on these platforms. This has to be done sensitively and authentically.

Most people don’t want to be mined for information without their consent. Be open and honest when reaching out for feedback on these sites.

The more you can watch and learn from your audience, the more likely you are to be able to offer products and services they will respond well to.

6. Don’t Neglect Bing, DuckDuckGo, And Others

Google is not the only search engine you need to be concerned with. There are others, too, that might be the first port of call for users looking for information on local businesses.

How Other Search Engines Work

You may see the vast majority of the organic traffic going to your site coming from Google. Don’t forget that you might not be tracking all of the ways customers discover you through search.

Your profile showing in the SERPs might not generate a click. As a result, it will not show up in your web analytics program.

So, unless you are measuring impressions across different search engines, you will not know that your business has been seen on the likes of Bing or DuckDuckGo.

DuckDuckGo’s maps are powered by Apple Maps. Therefore, if you want your business to appear in the DuckDuckGo local map pack, you will need to have your business set up with an Apple Maps Connect profile.

Similarly, Bing uses Bing Places to power their local map functionality. Setting up and optimizing a Google Business Profile listing will not help you with increasing organic visibility on Bing.

We are seeing an increase in the popularity of other search engines over time, and for some locations, Google is not the primary search engine used.

If you have physical stores or business locations outside of the U.S., you should look at which search engines are also popular in those regions.

Make sure you utilize the local map functionality of these other search engines.

How Does This Help Build New Business?

Yet again, being where your competitors are not will put you in good stead.

If your competitors are not appearing in the Apple Maps results in DuckDuckGo, you are going to be far more likely to win the business of local searchers using that platform.

7. Keep An Eye On Your Reputation

You may be keeping a close eye on the reviews left on sites like TripAdvisor. You even check your own Google Business Profile listing regularly.

But are you keeping on top of some of the other places in the SERPs which might be giving potential customers an outsider’s view of your business?

How Reputation Monitoring Works

Top and middle-of-the-funnel local search queries, such as [car mechanic telford], can bring back a variety of features in the SERPs.

Prominently Featured Review And Directory Sites

Take a look at this SERP result:

Prominently Featured Review And Directory SitesScreenshot from search for [car mechanic telford], Google, September 2022

The top carousel lists large directories, social media sites, and niche directories. This gives potential customers access to information about your company – and potentially even reviews – on sites you may not even be checking.

Aside from the inaccurate data about your company that these sites may contain, what have customers, former employees, or even competitors said about you?

Given that links to these sites appear as the first feature in the Google SERPs for this query, it would stand to reason they may get a lot of visibility from your potential customers.

People Also Ask

If customers are in the process of narrowing down their choice of business, they might start searching for specific information about those businesses. That can often trigger a “People Also Ask” feature to appear.

When searching for [is (name of a mechanic) in Telford any good], the following PAA box appeared, talking specifically about that brand.

PAA for car mechanic brand.Screenshot from Googe search, September 2022

That first “People Also Ask” question is, “why is [brand] so expensive?” That does not inspire much confidence in the value for money of this particular mechanic.

Although there is not much you can do to control what questions appear in the “People Also Ask” section, it is important to try to influence the perception of those who may click on this question.

Write a page addressing this question and try to get it ranking. That way, when someone interested in your local business clicks on this question, they at least will see your response around “the quality service,” “not compromising by using cheap parts,” and “highly-skilled technicians who you pay well for their expertise.”

How Does This Help Build New Business?

It is crucial to remember that what a potential customer sees about you may not just be the information you are writing on your website or Google Business Profile listings.

It might not even be the reviews left on sites you are closely monitoring and responding to.

A potential customer will be influenced heavily by others’ opinions and experiences of your business. Local businesses tend to attract a lot of reviews because they are promoted by sites that encourage them to be left.

A negative perception of your business will likely be the difference between you winning or losing a new customer.

Always monitor the SERPs around your core lead-generating search terms. Identify where negative perceptions of your business could be formed.

Conclusion

There are many aspects of SEO that you need to consider if you want your business to do well with your local audience.

How your website appears for searches with local intent in Google Maps and the standard SERPs can make or break your business.

If you want your brick-and-mortar business to succeed online, make sure you develop a robust local SEO strategy.

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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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