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How To Target Multiple Cities Without Hurting Your SEO

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How To Target Multiple Cities Without Hurting Your SEO

Can you imagine the hassle of finding an electrician if every Google search returned global SEO results?

How many pages of search results would you have to comb through to find a beautician in your neighborhood?

On the other hand, think of how inefficient your digital marketing strategy would be if your local business had to compete with every competitor worldwide for clicks.

Luckily, Google has delivered a solution for this issue through local SEO.

By allowing you to target just the customers in your area, it’s a quick and easy way to give information about your business to the people who are most likely to patronize it.

But what if you have multiple locations in multiple cities?

Is it possible to rank for keywords that target multiple cities without hurting your local SEO?

Of course, it is.

But before you go running off to tweak your site for local searches, there’s one caveat: If you do it wrong, it can actually hurt you. So, it’s important to ensure you do it correctly.

It’s a bit more complex than regular old search engine optimization, but never fear – we’re here to guide you through the process.

Follow the instructions below, and you’ll rank in searches of all your locales before you know it. Ready to get started?

Why Is Local SEO Important?

If local SEO can potentially “hurt” you, why do it at all? Here are two good reasons:

Local SEO Attracts Foot Traffic

Imagine you’re out of town for a cousin’s wedding.

On the night before the big day, you’re in your hotel room when you crave a cheese pizza.

You pick up your phone and Google … what?

“Pizza?”

I don’t think so.

No, you’re probably going to Google a location-specific keyword, like [best pizza in Louisville].

When you get the results, you don’t say, “good to know,” and then head off to sleep.

No. Instead, you take the action that drove the search in the first place. In other words, you pick up your phone and order the pizza.

Or you get up, take a taxi, and dine out at that spectacular pizzeria.

And you’re not the only one doing this.

In fact, every month, searchers visit 1.5 billion locations related to their searches.

And you’re not the one in a million person who’s doing a local search, either.

Nearly 46% of Google searches have local intent.

That’s huge!

So, the next time you’re thinking of skipping local SEO, think again.

It could actually be your ticket to getting that random out-on-vacation dude to check out your pizza place. (Or beauty salon. Or hardware store – you get the point.)

Local SEO Ranks You Higher On Google

We’re all well-informed on the SEO KPIs you should track to rank on Google.

Two of these are:

  • Clicks to your site.
  • Keyword ranking increases.

With local SEO, you hit both of these birds with one stone. Note that it’s based on the searcher’s location distance/relevance to the business.

City Pages: Good Or Bad For SEO?

Long ago, in the dark ages of SEO, city pages were used to stuff in local keywords to gain higher rankings on Google.

For example, you’d create a page and write content on flower delivery.

Then, you’d copy your content onto several different pages, each one with a different city in the keyword.

So, a page for [flower delivery in Louisville], [flower delivery in Newark], and [flower delivery in Shelbyville], each with the exact same content.

As tends to be the case, it didn’t take long for Google to notice this spammy tactic.

When it rolled out its Panda Update, it made sure to flag and penalize sites doing it.

So, city pages can hurt your SEO and penalize your site.

But not if you do them right.

This brings us to…

How Do I Optimize My Business For Multiple Locations On Google?

1. Use Google Business Profile

Remember, Google’s mission is to organize and deliver the most relevant and reliable information available to online searchers.

Its goal is to give people exactly what they’re looking for.

This means if they can verify your business, you’ll have a higher chance of ranking on the SERPs.

Enter Google Business Profile.

When you register on Google Business Profile, you’re confirming to Google exactly what you offer and where you’re located.

In turn, Google will be confident about sharing your content with searchers.

The good news is Google Business Profile is free and easy to use.

Simply create an account, claim your business, and fill in as much information as possible about it.

Photos and customer reviews (plus replying to reviews) can also help you optimize your Google Business Profile account.

2. Get Into Google’s Local Map Pack

Ever do a local search and get three featured suggestions from Google?

You know, like this.

Screenshot from search for [plumbing near Florida], Google, November 2022Get Into Google’s Local Map Pack

Yes, these businesses are super lucky.

Chances are that searchers will pick one of them and look no further for their plumbing needs. Tough luck, everyone else.

Of course, this makes it extremely valuable to be one of the three listed in the Local Map Pack. And with the right techniques, you can be.

Here are three things you can do to increase your chances of making it to one of the three coveted slots:

Sign Up For Google Business Profile

As discussed in the previous point, Google prioritizes sites it has verified.

Give Google All Your Details

Provide Google with all your information, including your company’s name, address, phone number, and operating hours.

Photos and other media work splendidly, too. And remember, everyone loves images.

Leverage Your Reviews

The better your reviews, the higher your chances of being featured on Google’s Local Map Pack.

3. Build Your Internal Linking Structure

Did you know that tweaking your internal linking structure will help boost your SEO?

Sure, external links pointing to your site are great.

But you don’t control them. And getting them takes a bit of work. If you can’t get them yet, internal linking will help you:

  • Improve your website navigation.
  • Show Google which of your site’s pages is most important.
  • Improve your website’s architecture.

All these will help you rank higher on Google and increase your chances of discovery by someone doing a local search.

4. Build Your NAP Citations

NAP stands for name, address, and phone number.

Generally, it stands for your business information online.

The first place you want your NAP on is your website.

A good rule of thumb is to put this information at the bottom of your homepage, which is where visitors expect to find it.

Build Your NAP CitationsScreenshot from allweekplumbing.com, November 2022Build Your NAP Citations

It’s also great to list your business information on online data aggregators.

These aggregators provide data to top sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Microsoft Bing.

Here are some of the big ones you shouldn’t miss.

Listing your website on all the top aggregators sounds tedious, but it’s worthwhile if you want to get a feature like this.

Build Your NAP CitationsScreenshot from Trip Advisor, November 2022Build Your NAP Citations

Important note: Make sure that your NAPs are consistent throughout the web.

One mistake can seriously hurt your chances of getting featured on Google’s Local Map Pack or on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

5. Use Schema Markup

Sometimes called structured data or simply schema, schema markup on your website can significantly affect your local SEO results.

But if you’re not a developer, it can look intimidating.

Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult to use as you might think.

A collaboration between Google, Yahoo, Yandex, and Microsoft, Schema.org was established in 2011 to establish a common vocabulary between search engines.

While it can be used to improve the appearance of your search result, help you appear for relevant queries, and increase visitor time spent on a page, Google has been very clear that it does not impact search rankings.

So, why are we talking about it here? Because it does improve the chances of your content being used for rich results, making you more eye-catching and improving click-through rates.

On top of that, the schema provides several different property options relevant to local SEO, allowing you to select relevant schema categories.

By selecting Schema.org/bakery for your cupcake shop, you’re helping search engines better understand the topic of your website.

After you’ve selected the right category, you need to select the sub-properties to ensure validation. This includes the business name, hours, the area served, etc.

The Schema.org/areaServed on the local landing page should always match the service areas set up in a Google Business Profile, AND your local landing page should mention those same towns in its on-page content.

For a full list of required and recommended schema properties and information on validating your structured data, read this article. Using a plugin, you can also find more information about Schema markup for WordPress.

6. Optimize Your Site For Mobile

If you wake up in the middle of the night to find your bathroom flooding with water from an exploded faucet, do you:

  • Run to your laptop and do a local search for the best emergency plumber.
  • Grab your phone and type “emergency plumber” into your Chrome app.

If it’s 3 a.m., chances are you chose No. 2.

But here’s the thing.

People don’t only choose their smartphones over their computers at 3 a.m.

They do it all the time.

Almost 59% of all website traffic comes from a mobile device.

global mobile trafficScreenshot from Statista, November 2022global mobile traffic

As usual, Google noticed and moved to mobile-first indexing.

All this means your site has to be optimized for mobile if you want to rank well on Google, especially for local SEO.

Here are six tips on making your website mobile-friendly:

  • Make sure your website is responsive and fits nicely into different screen sizes.
  • Don’t make your buttons too small.
  • Prioritize large fonts.
  • Forget about pop-ups and text blockers.
  • Put your important information front and center.
  • If you’re using WordPress, choose mobile-friendly themes.

Bonus Tip: Make Your Most Important City Pages Unique

If you want to name all the cities in a region you serve, just list them on the page – you don’t need an individual page for each city to rank in most cases.

To make the pages different, write original content for each area or city.

Which means it’s up to you.

You can simply list all the cities you serve on one page.

Or you can go ahead and create individual pages for each city.

When you take this step, make sure each page’s content is unique.

And no, I don’t mean simply changing the word “hand-wrestling” to “arm-wrestling.”

You need to do extra research on your targeted location, then go ahead and write specific and helpful information for readers in the area.

For example:

  • If you’re a plumber, talk about the problem of hard water in the area.
  • If you’re a florist, explain how you grow your plants in the local climate.
  • If you’re into real estate, talk about communities in the area.

Here’s an excellent example from 7th State Builders.

Unique City Pages

Unique City Pages

Adding information about a city or town is also a great way to build your client’s confidence.

A OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of CG Roxane found 67% of people trust local businesses – by identifying your understanding of the situations and issues in a locale, you’re insinuating that you’re local – even if you have multiple locations spread throughout the country.

They’ll see how much you know their area and trust you to solve their area-specific problems.

Important note: Ensure this information goes on all variations of your website.

With Google’s mobile-first index in place, you don’t want to fall in the rankings simply because you failed to optimize for mobile.

5 Tools To Scale Your Local SEO

What if you have 100s of locations? How do you manage listings for them?

Here are some tools to help you scale your local SEO efforts.

Ready To Target Local SEO?

Hopefully, I’ve made it very clear by this point – local SEO is important. And just because you’re running multiple locations in different cities doesn’t mean you can’t put it to work for you.

How you go about that is up to you. Do you want to create one landing page for each location? Or do you want to list all your locations on the same page?

Whatever you choose, be aware of the power of local SEO in attracting customers to your neighborhood.

Just make sure you’re doing it correctly. If, after reading this piece, you’re still unsure what steps to take, just imagine yourself as a customer.

What kind of information would you be looking for?

What would convince you that your business is perfect for their needs?

There’s a good chance location will be one of the driving factors, and the best way to take advantage of that is with local SEO.

More Resources:


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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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