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How to Build Backlinks to Your Website

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How to Build Backlinks to Your Website

In my previous entry, I talked about how big of a chunk links are to your site’s SEO. In this one, I’ll be talking about the fundamentals of how to build backlinks to your website. Why do you need links? How important is it? Where do I start?

  1. What are links?
  2. What is link building?
  3. Why do you need to learn how to build backlinks to your website?
  4. Factors to consider in building backlinks
  5. How to build backlinks to your website
  6. Key takeaway

Note: This post was originally published in June 2010, and updated in December 2021 to include new tips and data.

What are links?

According to Computer Hope, a link or a hyperlink is a “is an icon, graphic, or text that links to another file or object.” Links connect web pages to one another, making navigation easier.

There are three types of links that you need to know:

  1. Inbound links
  2. Internal links
  3. Outbound links

Inbound links

Inbound links are links from other websites that link back to your website.

Here’s a simplified version to help you visualize it easier:

How to build backlinks to your website: Inbound links

You can have multiple inbound links from one external website or referring domain, or one inbound link per external website or referring domain.

That’s why when you do a backlink analysis of your website, you will see that your website has so much more backlinks than it does referring domains.

For example, here’s the Semrush backlink analysis for SEO Hacker:

SEO Hacker Backlink Analysis

As you can see, in the past couple of months we’ve had around 5,000 referring domains, and we got around 256,000 backlinks from those domains.

There are two types of inbound links: dofollow and nofollow links. Dofollow links pass on link juice to your website, while nofollow links just point other users to your website but don’t pass on link juice.

Internal links

Next, we have internal links. Internal links are links you create between the pages of your own website. The link I placed in the anchor text “internal links” is an example of an internal link.

To visualize:

How to build backlinks to your website Internal links

Internal links have a couple of uses:

  1. They make navigation between pages easier.
  2. They help search engine crawlers identify the most important pages of your website.
  3. They help establish your site structure.

So even if internal links aren’t as important for ranking as inbound links are, they are definitely important as they have their own functions that the other types of links can’t fulfill. By linking between your pages, you get to show your users and the search engine that your content in each webpage is relevant to one another.

Outbound links

Lastly, we have outbound links. These are links you place in your web pages that point to external websites.

How to build backlinks to your website Outbound links

Basically, you would want other websites to have outbound links that are directed to your website, making them inbound links.

Webmasters can also reach out to you and request for you to link to their website. Depending on the agreement, you can opt to give them dofollow or nofollow outbound links. When you have a nofollow link, make sure you add the code rel=”nofollow” to avoid passing on your website’s link juice.

Going back to our backlink profile:

SEO Hacker Outbound link profile

You can see that we’ve referred to 868 external domains in the past couple of months.

What is link building?

Link building is the process of getting links back to your website from either the same website (internal backlinks) or other websites.

First off, you have to realize link building is one of the slowest processes that you have to go through to grow your site’s visibility as an SEO practitioner. Links don’t just pop out of nowhere. You have to earn them.

In link building, the most difficult yet most rewarding link to get would be inbound links.

Why do you need to learn how to build backlinks to your website?

Links are one of the fundamental ranking factors that we have. Think of it as word-of-mouth referrals. When you have many people referring your company to their friends and family, that means you’re building your credibility as a trustworthy company with good products and services.

But it’s not everything too. Links give your site more authority and reputation—giving it the power to strengthen the weight of its keywords.

Your keywords are your foundation, but your links make up the building. And what search engines usually look for is the building—then it makes its way down to the foundation. If your building looks good and is tall enough for it to be easily found, then your foundation is given deeper consideration and trust because it can hold up a tall and well-made structure.

The idea behind this is easy: the more links to your site only means your site is referred to by that many other websites. It means that your site must contain something interesting to all those site owners/webmasters, thus people would most probably also find your content useful—therefore, search engines like Google refer you in their search engine results page (SERPs).

Factors to consider in building backlinks

Not all links are good for your site’s ranking. Some links can bring your site down. It’s not altogether devastating—but that only means you have to choose your links carefully. Picking links isn’t an easy SEO task. It’s like one whole module altogether.

In choosing where to get links, there are five major factors to consider:

Domain authority

First, you have to look at the domain authority of the website. Why? Because the higher it is, the more Google juice you can get from it.

Imagine getting a link from Ahrefs vs getting a link from an unknown website. The search engines will determine that your Ahrefs link is of higher quality than if you got some random link. That’s plus points for your website.

Niche

Second, look at the website’s niche. Is your site related to this website? If you’re not related, the links you’re gonna get from that site are next to useless.

How come? Because relevance matters.

This doesn’t mean you can’t get links from forums or directories, but make sure these aren’t low-quality, spammy websites.

Outbound links

Thirdly, look at all the outbound links the site is giving away. Too many outbound links can mean that you’ll be sharing with all the other websites that this site is linking out to—giving you less Google juice compared to sites with low outbound links.

Link sources

Fourth, look at all the sites it gets its links from. Are they reputable sites? Are they related to your niche? Maybe you can get links from those sites too!

Types of links

Fifth, look at the site’s links if they are nofollow links. If you’re trying to rank (especially in Google), nofollow links will not help. So you better look for sites that don’t put nofollow in their links.

Of course, nofollow links can still be useful in directing users to your page (meaning, helping you generate traffic), but dofollow links are still ideal because they pass on link juice to your page.

How to build backlinks to your website

There are many ways to get links. Some are effective in boosting your rank, some are effective in giving you traffic, and some are effective in wasting your time. Here are some of the ways you can build your backlinks:

Directory listing

One way of getting backlinks is to add your website to a reputable online directory. Matthew Woodward has a fantastic tutorial on how to do this one.

Basically, you choose a directory that has high authority and you submit your website to it. The trick here is to look for high-quality directories that are moderated, so you can be sure that the site is trustworthy and isn’t spammy.

Forum posting

Another way to build backlinks to your website is through forum posting. Again, make sure you look for high-quality, moderated forums.

For example, Reddit has a community called Big SEO:

How to build backlinks to your website SEO subreddit

Posting links here is surprisingly difficult, so you have to have built a relationship with this community before you can even link back to your website. That practice helps avoid spammy links.

If you don’t have a Reddit account, you can choose to use Quora. Same practice applies—make sure you don’t spam links. Answer questions and give suggestions honestly, and don’t link back to yourself unless necessary.

Guest blogging

This is probably one of my favorite ways to get backlinks, but it is arguably one of the most laborious. Guest blogging (or guest posting) entails researching reputable sites that allow guest posting, coming up with a topic, writing an article, and undergoing an editing process.

You also have to make sure that you follow the instructions of the website you’re trying to publish your article in. For example, if a website allows only two dofollow links to your website, you wouldn’t want to be dishonest and put three.

Link bait

Link baiting is the practice of creating content that is so relevant, informative, and awesome that other websites will just have to link to it. The goal of course is to have all your content be linkable to, but the reality is not all our content is this way.

To create link bait content, you can consider the following formats according to Semrush:

  • Interactive assets
  • Data-driven studies and other assets
  • Long-form guides
  • Visuals
  • Controversial or talking-point content

For example, we created a report on the State of SEO in the Philippines for 2022 where we discussed the search landscape in the country, our improvements and predictions for the coming year, how we fared against our top competitors, and so on and so forth.

Those who find this incredibly valuable can link to it. You can also create infographics, videos, and other content that other users will see as worth linking to.

Link exchange

This is another one of my favorite ways to get links. It’s straightforward—you negotiate with a reputable contact to exchange links. For example, you can email them and say that you have a website with a high domain authority and you’re willing to give a dofollow link this month in exchange for a dofollow link to an article you just wrote.

This is also incredibly effective if you guest post a lot. In that way, you won’t be giving dofollow links from your website only (or ever), because you can link to them through the blog you wrote on another website.

Paid links

Paid links are one way to earn backlinks to your website, but they can result in harsh penalties simply because paying for links is manipulation of Google’s algorithm. This is definitely the easiest way to get a backlink, but it’s also the riskiest.

Crowdsourcing

If you don’t have plenty of time to guest post, you can opt to be contacted when companies or writers crowdsource answers for a report or an article they’re writing.

For example, SEO Hacker was featured in a recent report by Databox titled, “Campaign Reporting: How to Gauge for Long Term Effectiveness?

Databox report

This was the result of Databox crowdsourcing answers—and seeing that ours was worth including in their report.

Contacting webmasters

One of the most important things you should learn on how to build backlinks to your website is by contacting webmasters. For example, if you have an article that recently linked to their work, or if you noticed that they have a broken link in one of their articles, you can reach out and pitch your article as a replacement.

This is one of the most difficult ways to get links, but like guest blogging, it is one of the most rewarding. See, this isn’t as simple as emailing webmasters and expecting links in return, it’s getting noticed and building a relationship with them first.

We already know how important dofollow links are. If you were in their position, would you answer every single person emailing you for a link? No, right? You would answer only those whom you’ve seen have been interacting with your work consistently.

Internal linking

Lastly, we have to go back to internal linking. This doesn’t help your website in the same way as inbound links do as we’ve mentioned earlier, but it does help your site be more coherent and it generates traffic to the other pages in your website.

Key takeaway

Learning how to build backlinks to your website is definitely still a must in the coming year. It may be a long and tough process as it involves a lot of research, vetting, writing, and relationship-building, but it definitely pays off for your SEO in the long run. Remember to always make sure that the sites you’re requesting backlinks from are reputable sites with high domain authority scores, or else they wouldn’t really count for much.

Do you have other ways to build backlinks? Which one is the most useful for you? Let me know in the comments!


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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.

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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