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Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

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Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

Learning a new skill, like Google Analytics 4, is intimidating. Add to this the fact that there’s a looming deadline, and you can’t afford to be dragging your feet on getting started.

I’m sharing an easy-to-follow beginners guide for setting up GA4 using Google Tag Manager to get you up and running.

In it, we’ll take a look at how Google Tag Manager works, followed by an easy five-step GA4 setup tutorial with pictures.

Google Tag Manager Defined

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tag management solution that allows you to add and edit segments of code (tags) that collect and send data to Google Analytics.

For example, “back in the day,” marketers would receive a segment of code from a third-party vendor – like Facebook Ads.

This code would collect and send information about how users from Facebook Ads engaged with the site back to Facebook.

Site owners and marketers relied heavily on developers to install the code directly on the website.

But if we use Google Tag Manager, all we need to do is place one snippet of code on the website, and that container acts as a middleman between your site and third-party vendors.

Any tags we need to add or edit can be adjusted from within the GTM interface.

Aside from ease of use, the major benefit is condensed code and a much faster site.

Difference Between Google Tag Manager And Google Analytics

Google Tag Manager (GTM) and Google Analytics (GA) are completely different tools that work together to get you the data you need to make smart marketing decisions.

Google Tag Manager is used for storing and managing the code – it is literally a container.

There are no reporting features and no option to analyze data within the tag manager.

Google Analytics is used for data analysis.

All reporting – user reports, conversions and engagement, sales, etc. – can be viewed within Google Analytics.

To understand why you need GTM in addition to Google Analytics, you need to know how GA gets the data you see in reports.

Google Analytics can report on traffic acquisition and user interactions, thanks to the help of a tracking code – technically a “GA Javascript code snippet” or “gtag.js.”

When an interaction occurs on your site – a pageview, for example – the Javascript snippet tells Google Analytics.

Getting Started With Google Tag Manager

At a high level, the main steps to getting started with Google Tag Manager are creating an account, installing the container on your website, and adding tags (like the GA4 configuration tag) to collect and send the information you need.

Below, we will walk through each step for getting started with Google Tag Manager.

Consider Account Management

First, you’ll need to decide how account management will be handled.

Should someone change roles or leave your organization, you want to retain the work put into developing your analytics.

It is best practice to create the Tag Manager account using the login credentials of the person managing the account in the long term (most likely the website owner).

Tip for managing client accounts: If a client cannot create a Tag Manager account themselves, hop on a video call where you can control their screen and walk through each step.

After creating a Tag Manager account, you can add users and set permissions within the Admin screen in the top navigation.

Create A Google Tag Manager Account

Below are instructions for creating a Google Tag Manager account. This will take approximately three minutes.

Login to Tag Manager (Tag Manager tends to work best in Chrome) and click Create an account.

Enter an account name; this is commonly the organization’s name.

A Tag Manager account represents the organization’s topmost level, meaning only one account is needed per company.

A company with multiple websites with separate revenue channels can create separate containers under the same GTM account.

Select a Country and whether or not you’d like to share data to improve Google products.

Enter a Container Name. Choose a descriptive container name for internal use, most often the site URL or name of the app.

Select the Target Platform. Are you creating an account for a website (Web), app (iOS, Android), AMP, or Server?

Your final screen will look similar to the example below. Click Create.

Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.

After this screen, you will be prompted to install your new GTM code. Click OK to clear this dialog, or follow the install directions.

After closing out of the snippet dialog box, you will be on the workspace screen, where you will be creating your marketing tags and triggers.

Install Google Tag Manager On Your Website

If you close the web container installation dialog box, you can find instructions to install Google Tag Manager within the Admin tab.

Instructions for installation will look like this:

GTM Container Snippet Screenshot ExampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GTM Container Snippet Screenshot Example

Examining the container code will help you understand how Google Tag Manager works.

In the first part, highlighted in yellow, you will see <script>.

This loads your GTM container on your page. It also tells your site that the page can continue loading while Google is doing its magic.

You will see a no-script tag in the second part, highlighted in yellow.

This no-script tag is your backup.

It tells the browser to render an iframe version of the GTM Container to the page, allowing you to still track users when JavaScript is disabled.

A common question while installing the GTM container is: Does placement really matter as long as it is in the <head> section?

The answer is yes; the placement of the GTM container really does matter.

Google Tag Manager is not dependent on any plugins; it runs in raw JavaScript.

Placing the container snippet as high in the <head> as possible improves accuracy.

Placing the snippet lower on your page may result in incorrect data.

And don’t skip out on the second part; it needs to be placed directly after your <body> tag.

If you plan on using GTM to verify Google Search Console, you will need both tags placed as Google recommends; otherwise, verification will fail.

Tip for managing client accounts: When multiple marketing agencies have worked on a site, there tend to be numerous marketing tags. You can check for extra tags using Google Tag Assistant (legacy). Remove any additional tags on the site because deploying tags twice will cause inaccurate data.

Setting Up Google Analytics 4 With GTM: Step-By-Step

Google Tag Manager makes setting up Google Analytics 4 easy. There are only three steps: creating a trigger, creating a tag, and testing your setup.

The entire process will take less than five minutes to complete.

Please note: If you have not installed GTM on your website yet, scroll up and complete the section above titled “Getting Started With GTM.”

1. Create GA4 Trigger In GTM

The trigger you create in GTM tells the tag (segment of code) under which circumstances to collect the data.

To create a trigger, open your Google Tag Manager account and click Triggers in the left-hand navigation.

Then hit the blue New button to create a new trigger.

Name your Trigger: Page View – All.

Click within the Trigger Configuration box and choose Page View as the trigger type in the right-hand menu. You want this trigger to fire on All Page Views.

Your final screen will look like the screenshot below. Click Save.

GA4 Trigger Configuration screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GA4 Trigger Configuration screenshot example

Step 1 is complete! You have created a rule that tells Google Tag Manager to deploy tags associated with the Page View – All trigger when a page (any and all pages) on your website is viewed.

2. Create GA4 Tag In GTM

To send this information to GA4, we need to create a tag telling GTM what to do with the page-view data it captures.

To create a tag, open Tags in the left-hand navigation and click the blue New button.

Name your tag “GA4 Config.”

Click within the Tag Configuration box and select Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration from the right-side menu under featured tag types, highlighted in the example below.

GA4 GTM Tag Configuration screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022GA4 GTM Tag Configuration screenshot example

Enter your GA4 Measurement ID.

Click within the Triggering box and select the trigger you made in the previous step, Page View – All trigger.

Your completed GA4 configuration tag will look like the image below. Click Save.

Completed GA4 Configuration in GTM screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Completed GA4 Configuration in GTM screenshot example

Where To Find GA4 Measurement ID

Hold on – what is a Measurement ID, and where can I find it?

To find your unique Measurement ID open your GA4 Property. Click the gear icon in the lower left-hand corner to enter the Admin section.

Tip for managing client accounts: If you cannot open the Admin section of the GA4 account, that is because you don’t have admin permissions on the account. Remember to set up GA4 under the owner’s email address, not your own.

Within the Admin section, find the property column and open Data Streams.

Finding GA4 Measurement ID screenshot exampleScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Finding GA4 Measurement ID screenshot example

Select your data stream, and you will see the associated Measurement ID in the top right corner; it will look like G-A2ABC2ABCD.

Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.Screenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Create a GTM Account screenshot of required fields.

3. Publishing A GTM Container

After you have added the Page View – All Pages trigger and GA4 Configuration tag, you need to publish your container to make the additions live.

To publish a container, click the blue button Submit in the top right corner of the Google Tag Manager Workspace.

Publishing a GTM ContainerScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Publishing a GTM Container

4. Testing GA4 Configuration In GTM

Data can take a day or more to start showing up in GA4.

To test your setup, click Preview within Tag Manager, enter your website’s URL, and click Connect.

Your site will open in another tab, and you should see that the GA4 Config tag has fired.

Click on the fired GA4 Config tag and ensure that you are sending the page-view event to the correct GA4 account by double-checking the Measurement ID.

Testing the GA4 configurationScreenshot from Google Tag Manager, October 2022Testing the GA4 configuration

GA4 Events

Hooray! You have successfully added the GA4 configuration tag to your website.

This one tag (GA4 configuration tag) will set Google Analytics cookies for your property and automatically send some events to your analytics account.

Automatically collected events are easy to toggle on and off within the Google Analytics 4 interface.

Because this is a beginner’s guide, we will be focusing on best practices and terminology to help you use the different types of GA4 events available.

Creating An Analytics Strategy And Implementation Plan

The best practice is to have an analytics strategy and tag implementation plan.

I promise creating this plan is not as complicated as it sounds.

Sit down with the marketing team, content team, and decision-makers at your company to have a conversation about what information you need to collect.

If you don’t know what information you need to collect, start by creating an SEO goal pyramid.

Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners GuideScreenshot from Ahrefs, October 2022Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

In short, you will define your overall SEO goal, what performance goals will get you closer to achieving this goal, and which process goals are 100% within your control.

What events do you need to track on your website to measure whether you are achieving the goals you mapped out above?

Now, identify all the tags you have deployed on your site (I use a spreadsheet for this step). If this is a brand-new GTM account, you won’t have any yet, and that’s ok!

Taking the time to complete an SEO goal pyramid and mapping out your event tags will ensure that you cover everything you need to make smart marketing decisions.

Understanding The Types Of Events Available

There are three basic types of events you’ll work with in Google Analytics 4 and GTM: automatically collected events, enhanced measurement events, and custom events.

Below you will learn what types of events fall under each category.

  • Automatically Collected Events are collected… well, automatically; you will not need to do anything extra to collect a user’s first visit, page views, or session start.
  • Enhanced Measurement provides events you can toggle on and off within Google Analytics 4 web stream details.
Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners GuideScreenshot from Google Analytics 4, October 2022Google Tag Manager: A GA4 Beginners Guide

No code changes are required to capture scroll events, outbound clicks, site search information, video engagement, and file downloads.

  • Custom Events can measure anything that’s not automatically collected or a recommended event.

In GA4, custom dimensions are limited to 50 event-scoped and 25 user-scoped custom dimensions.

Final Thoughts

This beginner’s guide to Google Tag Manager and GA4 merely scratches the surface of what analytics can do for your company.

Even if you’re not a developer, I highly recommend reading Google Tag Manager’s Developer Guide.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Merkushev Vasiliy/Shutterstock

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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.


Featured Image: DIA TV/Shutterstock

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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.

More resources: 


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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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