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How to Define & Track 7 Key Goals



How to Define & Track 7 Key Goals

Online marketing blog, recently sold to SEMRush for an undisclosed amount.

But we can safely assume it wasn’t cheap.

Between 2013 and 2018, over 4,000 people signed up for the training program, “SEO that works.”

At $5,964 per subscription, that’s over $23,856,000 in sales.

To join the rank of top B2B publishers like Backlinko, with 468k YouTube subscribers and over 500,000 organic monthly visitors, you can’t wing it.

You need to set detailed content marketing goals.

We’ve got you covered. In this guide, you’ll learn how to define and measure seven essential content marketing goals for B2B publishers:

  1. Lead Generation.
  2. Brand Awareness.
  3. Thought Leadership.
  4. Organic Share of Voice.
  5. Roadblocks.
  6. Educate and Inform.
  7. User Engagement.

1. Lead Generation

Let’s start with the most important goal, which is tied to money going into your bank account: lead generation.

New prospects may come through whitepaper or ebook downloads, form submissions, or demo calls.

I think we can all agree on why content that engages new prospects is important. You have to keep feeding the machine.

Without new prospects, business stalls or declines.

Determining what type of content supports lead generation can get a little complicated. But stay with me.

Essentially, you need to work backward from your best prospects to find your “high-value pages.”

Defining Lead Gen Goals

This process will not work unless Google Analytics is properly configured with goals in direct relation to how they support your business objectives (and even better if values have been assigned by goal completion type).

The first step is finding what content assists in a user completing one of those predefined goals.

Then make an assessment, is there a trend in the type of content?

Why did this content resonate with your audience?

The answers to these questions will inform your content marketing strategy to get new prospects.

Lastly, work out how many more pages you need to hit your sales goal.

This number is based on the proposed new traffic volume and historical conversion rate.

Measuring Lead Gen

Screenshot from Google Analytics, January 2022

Measuring whether content meets the lead generation goals is easy using Google Analytics.

Here’s how to measure an increase in new prospects:

  1. Open Google Analytics.
  2. Click Conversions and Goals.
  3. Select the Overview report.
  4. Set Date to the observed time period.
  5. Set Goals to source/medium.
  6. View number of goal completions for organic by goal type.

Pro-tip: Take measurement a step further and connect with the sales lead to measure the lift in lead to closed contract.

2. Increase Brand Awareness

Brand awareness is embedding itself into consumer lifestyles and habits (workflows) so that they don’t have to think twice before asking for a Kleenex (facial tissue.)

To do this successfully, a brand must establish trust and consistently create positive associations.

Defining Brand Awareness Goals

There are various types of content that support brand awareness.

You’ll want to select one that is sustainable long-term for a public face of the brand (think CEO or CMO).

Here are a few different types of content to consider.


Authenticity has a powerful influence on public opinion, and it can lead to a big boost in brand awareness.

Beyond the company motto, what is the purpose of your business?

How did it come to be?

Crafting a narrative around your brand humanizes it and gives something real for people to connect with.

Guest blogging

Where else do your users spend time?

You can leverage these sites to get more eyes on your brand.

Keep in mind, the purpose is not to push your company but to offer actually helpful content.


Bring your content to life and connect directly with your audience.

I’m sure you’re picking up on the content trend for brand awareness: authenticity.

A podcast is not to bluntly pitch your company.

It’s an opportunity to educate, entertain and grab the ear of your audience in a way that isn’t possible in print.

Measuring Brand Awareness

screenshot of Google Search Console Query regex match_used to measure brand awareness goalsScreenshot from Google Search Console, January 2022

Measuring the success of a brand awareness campaign is a little vague.

All the offline conversations between colleagues, feelings of trust, and positive associations are not captured in Google Analytics.

But, we can measure whether content increases brand awareness with intent (as it relates to brand name Google Search volume.)

Here’s how to segment users that already know your brand:

  1. Open Google Search Console.
  2. Set Date to the observed time period (12 months).
  3. Click New and select Query.
  4. Click the filter drop-down menu (queries containing).
  5. Select Custom (regex) and Matches regex.
  6. Use regex that specifies multiple variants of your company name, including misspellings.

3. Thought Leadership

Trust and credibility are two words that constantly come up in conversations about content marketing goals for B2B publishers.

A great way to build credibility with your audience is by creating thought leadership content.

You can do this by sharing unique perspectives, experiences, or resources.

Defining Thought Leadership Goals

The best way to create thought-leading content is by understanding your audience and conveying insights they find valuable.

If you have access to proprietary data, mine that for unique insights and share them with your industry in a deep dive case study and bite-sized graphics.

Or, if you have built a network of professional connections, share their insights that can be conveyed to the masses!

Measuring Thought Leadership

screenshot of Google Search Console Top Linked Pages_used to thought leadership goalsScreenshot from Google Search Console, January 2022

Think of what it means to lead; a good leader has a growing base of users who are excited about the content.

Whether that content is shared through an eNewsletter, YouTube channel, podcast, or social media group you will be able to track subscribers, opens/views, and shares.

Subscriber data should be available within your platform of choice.

For organic channel metrics, look at the search console backlinks report.

Are people linking to your article as a good source of reference?

Here’s how to see which pages on your site have backlinks using Google Search Console:

  1. Open Google Search Console.
  2. Under legacy tools and reports select Links.
  3. Under Top linked pages click More.

Pro-tip: From the search console “top linked pages – externally” report you will have a sheet with every target page, number of incoming links, and number of linking sites.

Review this content to find a trend in the type of articles your audience is interested in seeing more of.

4. Improving Organic Share Of Voice

Identifying your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses is key to setting your brand apart.

One way to “crush the competition” is to improve organic share of voice.

Organic share of voice is a measurement of how visible your site is in organic search, for a set of keywords, compared to your top competitors.

A quick way to get more SERP visibility and clicks is by winning featured snippets.

Featured snippets are pieces of information that display at the top of search results for a search query.

Defining Organic SOV Goals

To find your best-featured snippets opportunities, use your rank tracker of choice and filter to keywords that you rank in positions 2 – 5 for those that have featured snippets.

The most popular keywords should be at the top of your list.

Sort them by traffic volume, from greatest to lowest.

Use this data to find out how well you are doing in terms of visibility on key topics for your business.

If you find any gaps, then you will need to do more competitive research.

Measuring Organic Share Of Voice

screenshot of Ahrefs Rank Tracker visibility report_used to measure organic share of voiceScreenshot from Ahrefs, January 2022

Calculating organic share of voice is not straightforward but is possible using tools that compare your search visibility for your target keywords to that of your competitors.

Here’s how to do it using Ahrefs Rank Tracker:

  1. Open Ahrefs Rank Tracker.
  2. Paste a list of your main keywords.
  3. Add your competitors’ domains.
  4. Click the Competitors report in the overview tab.
  5. View the visibility metric to see your organic share of voice.

Pro-tip: Do this at the beginning of your content marketing campaign to improve organic SOV and see how your visibility metric improves over time.

5. Reducing Roadblocks

During content strategy sessions, consider why users did not choose your company.

Addressing the reasons why prospects are saying no, enables your company to either highlight that your company does provide the product/service they were looking for – or why the product/service you provide is better than what they think they need.

Defining Organic Share Of Voice Goals

You’ll need to work closely with your sales team.

Team members will need to be notating why people say no.

Or, send a simple survey to lost prospects.

Measuring Reduction In Roadblocks

Measuring whether or not content is intended to reduce roadblocks is easy enough.

Keep in close contact with the sales team.

Is there a reduction in roadblocks, is there an improvement in time to closing or cost of closing?

6. Educational/Informational

Educational or informational content is my personal favorite for B2B publishers because it checks off many of the content marketing goals: Reduce roadblocks, establish trust and credibility and increase new prospects.

I’m a firm believer that people don’t like to be sold to and by sharing knowledge you grow a network of people who value your insights.

So when that topic comes up – they think of you, they share your contact information, they trust your insights.

When a brand provides quality informational content they connect with their audience in an authentic, memorable way.

Defining Educational Goals

Defining educational goals is going to differ depending on the medium through which you’re comfortable sharing information.

You definitely do not need to invest in creating a whole new channel – use the features within the channel that are already working for you.

Because I’m a search engine marketer, I’m going to share an example using Google organic as the medium.

Here’s how to analyze content that is bringing users that indicated they began with a question:

  1. Open Google Search Console.
  2. Under Performance select Search results.
  3. Set Date to the observed time period.
  4. Click New and select Query.
  5. Click the filter drop-down menu (queries containing)
  6. Select Custom (regex) and Matches regex.
  7. Use regex to show results that indicate a question: what|how|when|why.

Measuring Informational Content

screenshot of Google Search Console regex match filter_used to measure informational content performanceScreenshot from Google Search Console, January 2022

Measuring the success of informational content is a bit fuzzy because education is not necessarily a linear process.

Users view information based on what they’re doing at the time and what they want to read, not how you draw it out in storyboards.

Consider a few metrics: page rank and traffic volume for the queries that indicate a question.

In order for an educational article to be helpful, your audience has to know about it, hence page rank and traffic volume.

If users like it, they are likely to engage with the content and return for more.

More on increasing user engagement in the next section.

7. Increase User Engagement

Step into your audience’s shoes.

There is so much content out there, it can be tough to get their attention.

You have to make sure that the content you are producing is the content that they want to read and that it delivers consistently.

Users who spend time reading your content are telling your team something really important.

They are saying that they value this content and that it is worthy of their time.

Defining User Engagement Goals

Users who engage with your content are more likely to recommend your brand to others, renew their subscription or upgrade.

To define user engagement goals you need to find your top-performing pages for this metric and analyze why.

Measuring User Engagement

User engagement is best measured using Google Analytics 4.

screenshot of GA4 Engagement Pages and screens report_used to measure user engagementScreenshot from Google Analytics 4, January 2022

Here’s how to analyze content that your users engage with the most:

  1. Open GA4.
  2. Under Engagement Pages and screens report.
  3. Set Date to the observed time period.
  4. Filter to organic users.
  5. View the table by unique user scrolls.

Note: Unique user scrolls, average engagement time, or a specific event depending on what metric you use to measure engagement.

Final Thoughts

B2B consumers are tech-savvy.

They’re checking multiple pieces of content across several sites and cross-referencing with friends, colleagues and within professional networking groups.

Don’t fall into the trap of a “slick trick” that oversimplifies content marketing.

When done correctly, the content will position your company to answer their questions, nurture their opinion of you, and ultimately convert them into loyal followers/customers.

More resources:

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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.

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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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