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A Guide to Seizing Featured Snippet Opportunities



How to Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities

Getting a featured snippet is basically hitting the SEO goldmine, resulting in increased clicks, traffic, and potentially, increased business.

The good news here is you don’t have to work that hard to get more featured snippets of your website. Interested? You should be.

Backed by the years I put into writing and SEO, I’ve put together a guide to help you identify featured snippet opportunities. 

How Do I Find Featured Snippet Opportunities?

Quick Answer: Use tools to look into where your website currently stands with regards to featured snippets. Use manual search and the same tools to find keywords with featured snippets you can aim for, as well as other related keywords you can leverage. From there, find quick-win opportunities based on your website’s authority, the content you can optimize, and the structured data you can apply. After making these changes, keep track of what techniques worked for your website, and what didn’t.

What are Featured Snippets?

This is a type of search engine results page (SERP) feature that answers your questions using a snippet that crawl bots have pulled directly from an article or web page. Often, it’s a summary of the information that Google thinks users are looking for.

Here’s an example from an older article of mine on link optimization:

featured snippet on an article about how to get people to click on your link.

Google has been rolling out featured snippets for an ever-widening variety of search queries for a while now. That’s because they’re great for serving quick answers to users

Why do Featured Snippets Matter in SEO?

Featured snippets are great for your SEO because they rank #0 on the organic search results. It sits on top of the #1 organic search result.

It’s also formatted in a way that makes it much more helpful and accessible to users, compared to organic search results. 

Let’s look at the featured snippet for the query “What is a featured snippet,” versus the first organic result on the same page.

The featured snippet on the Google search for "What is a featured snippet"

And here’s how short a traditional organic result looks like:

The first organic search result for the Google search for "What is a featured snippet"

That’s it. If I were the user searching this, I definitely gained a more substantial answer from the first, rather than the second.

And, if I was a curious user, I would be more likely to click on the article that feels more helpful to me—which featured snippets are formatted to be like. 

In short, having your content appear in a featured snippet is important for SEO because it can lead to way more clicks to your website. That means it’s good for your click-through rate and growing your organic traffic.

Types of Featured Snippets:

The most common type of featured snippet is the one I just showed you above, but Google can provide different formats in different spaces. 

As of the time of writing, there are five general types of featured snippets:

  1. Paragraph
  2. List
  3. Table
  4. Video
  5. Accordion

Of these, we know that paragraph- and list-type featured snippets are the most common. Lists can come in numerical format, or in bullet format. You often see these two types when asking for definitions, instructions, and of course, lists of products. 

Recently, I’ve also noticed that Google is pushing for more table and video-formatted featured snippets. 

Tables are common if your search has to do something with product specifications, such as price. 

Videos, on the other hand, show up if you’re looking for how-to guides or demonstrations, where Google will show a specific section of a video that it thinks provides the most appropriate answer. 

Last are accordions. These I don’t see as often, but they look a lot like the People Also Ask section. When clicked, the accordion expands and almost always shows you additional featured snippets, which is fascinating.

Important Statistics on Featured Snippets

Let’s take a look at some general stats that I found from several studies regarding featured snippets. This data can give SEOs and site owners a better look into how they affect SEO, and how to find opportunities to gain more featured snippets.

19-23% of all SERPs include a Featured Snippet

One study from Moz states that they’re included in about 23% of all SERPs. Another study from SEMRush and Brando said they appear in 19% of all SERPs. Either way, this is up over 150% since 2016—that’s wild. 

Paragraphs and Lists are the most common types of Featured Snippets

According to SEMRush, Paragraphs made up 70% of all featured snippets, followed by lists at 19.1%. This study, made in 2020, might not have the most accurate numbers for 2023, but this shows us a pretty clear picture as to what kind of content format is often pushed as featured snippets in Google. 

Getstat also had the same findings in their own research—showing that Paragraph snippets showed up in 82% of all the featured snippets they saw.

People Also Ask sections are seen on 93.8% of Featured Snippet SERPs

Moz, in the same study, noted that we usually see the PAA section whenever there’s a featured snippet. 

Here’s an example, using the same search query as earlier (what is a featured snippet):

The google search for "What is a featured snippet" shows both a featured snippet and a people also ask section on the search results

This is pretty interesting to me, as it shows that whenever there’s a featured snippet, there are several other opportunities for your article or page to get on the search results—even if, organically, it might not be ranking well.

If you can’t get the featured snippet spot, you can seed your keyword research, add some of the PAAs that show up to your content, and gain more chances to get put on the SERPs. 

Getstat’s research revealed another interesting tidbit: In 23% of the SERPs with both PAAs and a featured snippet, the first PAA had a similar answer to the featured snippet. 

Featured Snippets affect your CTR rate

A study by Ahrefs a few years back showed that, while featured snippets are eye-catching and informative, they don’t necessarily get the most clicks out of every site on the first page.

A page that’s #1 on a SERP without a featured snippet can get about 26% of all clicks. However, a page that’s #1 on a SERP with a featured snippet will only get about 19.6% on average.

This means the #0 spot effectively steals a good portion of the clicks from the #1 organic result. Pretty good tradeoff if you can’t quite beat the #1 result, but still want to get tons of clicks. 

How to Research Featured Snippet Opportunities

Manually looking for a featured snippet opportunity is going to take a lot of time. And, Google Search Console doesn’t currently show any information regarding featured snippets. 

I recommend using third-party tools to research featured snippet opportunities to optimize your content.  

Research Tools to Use for Featured Snippets

I use two tools to look into where our websites are at, in terms of featured snippets: Ahrefs and SEMrush. You can use both to check for your current rankings as well as untapped featured snippet opportunities. 

How to check your Current Snippets

Before you begin the process of looking for opportunities, I recommend getting a good idea of where your website is first.

On Ahrefs, just put in your domain, and click the organic keywords report. From there, you can filter the results by SERP features, and click on featured snippets.

How to find the featured snippets your website has using Ahrefs

The resulting list contains all the keywords you’re showing up as a featured snippet for.

With SEMrush, put your domain in the search bar, click enter, then select positions in the first menu you see below.

How to filter your domain data on SEMRush by position

From here, you can further filter the results by clicking SERP features, which will show you which pages are currently shown as featured snippets (plus some other features, such as Local Pack).

How to find what SERP features your website has using SEMRush's domain overview tool

On either tool, you can look at the percentage of your search results that appear in any kind of snippet. If you see a low number there, don’t panic. It’s common for most websites to have a low number—especially if you haven’t been trying to optimize for this kind of thing in the first place. 

What you’re getting here is a baseline for your optimization efforts. It’s good to know where you started to understand what’s working for you, and what isn’t, once you start trying to target featured snippets.

Plus, working within a niche where Google already considers you an expert is a pretty good place to start. You’re more likely to capture opportunities here than anywhere else.

How to find your competitor’s snippets

In the same way that you looked at your website’s standing, you can also check your competitors’. 

Why? Because you want to beat your competition. And if your competitors are showing up in the snippets 1 out of 10 times, then you should try to appear in them twice as much. That’s how you can get a bigger market share in your industry. 

The good news is that these two tools let you see the same data for your competitors. Just follow the same instructions using their website domain, and see where your competitors’ snippets are coming from. 

What keywords are they targeting that have a featured snippet? Are these snippets coming from their articles, pages, or homepage? 

These two considerations can reveal new opportunities as well as their tactics—both of which you can use later on. 

How to Identify Featured Snippet Opportunities 

This step-by-step guide can help you potentially win a featured snippet:

  1. Check if keywords have featured snippets.
  2. Look into keyword suggestions.
  3. Optimize content for the featured snippet type.
  4. Know your audience’s intent.
  5. Make your content concise and informative.
  6. Use schema markups.
  7. Keep track of featured snippet targets.

Let’s get into each one.

Check if keywords have featured snippets

You can see this in SEMRush. If you look at your organically ranking keywords, you might see symbols like these, which indicate that the search queries show both organic results and structured results, such as featured snippets, PAAs, and more.

How to check if keywords have featured snippets using SEMRush

You should also check the SERPs manually to see what kind of featured snippet is showing up for this keyword.

Manually checking if the Google search for "how to tell if seo is working" has a featured snippet

From this, we know this particular keyword has a list featured snippet. This means that if I added a list to my old article, I can try to steal this featured snippet from the currently ranking website. 

Look into keyword suggestions

From there, go into Keyword Overview, which shows you related keywords and queries of your selected keyword. In the example below, I’m checking the keyword “how to tell seo is working,” which I used in a previous article.

Keyword suggestions and questions from SEMRush for the keyword "how to tell seo is working"

This data shows what other keywords you might want to include in your article or page, as well as opportunities to hit the PAA section.

Optimize content for the featured snippet type.

Once you know what type of featured snippet your targeted keyword has, it’s time to optimize your content for it.

Make sure you’re adding something that fits the criteria. I also have other tips in another article I previously wrote on optimizing for featured snippets, if you need more help on that.

In the previous example, I said I’d add a list for my article targeting the keyword “how to tell seo is working” because that is the type of snippet I saw in the SERPs. 

If, on the other hand, I saw that it was showing a paragraph-type snippet, then my strategy for this article would change. 

Pro-tip: whatever you saw in the current featured snippet you’re trying to claim, one-up it. If it’s listing, say, the seven benefits of something, list eight to ten. If it’s a concise description of a topic, try doing the same—but with a little extra valuable info (if you have some expertise in the area, this is where it would come in handy). 

Always try to beat the value of the current featured snippet with the content you’re optimizing.

Know your audience’s intent

Part of optimizing your content is understanding your audience. 

When people search certain keywords, they are looking for a specific answer—they may not know what that is, yet, but you should. 

You have to know what kind of answer they’re looking for. Knowing that will help you understand how to best answer their query. I dive deep into this topic in my other guide on how to make helpful content.

Crafting the right response makes it more likely for your content to become a featured snippet. 

Make your content concise and informative.

Aside from using the right type of content, you have to make sure your answers are succinct and relevant to the query. Make your answers as to the point as possible (think 2-3 sentences, max).

Why? Google regularly pushes for short yet informative answers in the featured snippet. So, we know this is the way to go. 

Another pro tip: add a quick summary section to your articles.

You might have seen this in other websites. I’ve also started doing it while I refresh some older content of mine, like this section I added to this article, and some of my older but high-performing work, like my guide to aggregate rating schema

the tl;dr section that was made for the article on how to add aggregate rating schema

Adding a “too long, didn’t read” (tl;dr) to your most popular pages is an easy way of gaining a few featured snippets here and there. Making small additions to deliver your content in a simpler way can actually do a lot for your SEO. Plus, it’s a really easy way to experiment with your content. 

Use schema markups

Schema markups are lines of code that feed search engines (like Google) data in a structured manner. This helps Google better understand your content and its context, which results in improved snippets, also known as rich snippets.

Applying the right schema markup when applicable can help you win that featured snippet. Some common ones include:

  1. FAQ schema
  2. How-to schema
  3. Recipe schema
  4. Product schema

There are two ways to add schema markups to your website. The first is through plugins, the second is through hard coding. I recommend looking into the different markups you can add to your content on the Schema website.

Keep track of featured snippet targets

Lastly, always keep track of your progress. Like I said earlier, you won’t know what’s working out for your SEO and what isn’t if you don’t have a baseline to compare it to. And the same goes for your ongoing progress—so monitor those featured snippet targets.

From there, you can continue applying what works well for your website to other pages, and get rid of the strategies that don’t.

Key Takeaway

As featured snippets continue to dominate the top of the SERPS, knowing how to identify featured snippet opportunities—and how to capture them—can help you increase visibility for your website. 

There’s a lot of untapped opportunities waiting on your website, so get ready to do some research into your keywords, and deliver the right answers in the right format in simple, concise language.

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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.

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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. 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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