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How to Write Better Content Faster

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How to Write Better Content Faster

What if I told you that you could write faster, better, and in a way that increases your odds of ranking highly on Google’s search results?

Well, you can—with content outlines.

Outlining your content can improve your writing efficiency and content flow, as well as ensure you include the required bits for SEO in every article.

I’ve personally outlined thousands of articles over the last 10 years, and it’s been the key to keeping up with the constantly changing pace and need for ever-more and ever-better content.

In this guide, you will learn the following:

What is a content outline?

A content outline is a detailed overview of what your article will include.

My outlines always include the headings and subheadings of the article (H2s, H3s, etc.). The outlines also include a look at the competing content in Google and important questions to address or long-tail keywords to be included.

They also include things like the goal of the article, the approach angle, the unique selling proposition, and more. We’ll look at these in more detail later in the section discussing how to outline your content. But first…

Why you should always outline your content

I always draft an outline before I start writing an article. This is for several reasons:

  1. An outline guarantees you include important things for search engine optimization (SEO) – These include having the right keywords and satisfying the searchers’ intent by addressing their most common questions.
  2. An outline helps you improve the flow of your article before you start writing – If you just dive into the writing, your ideas can be all over the place and you may have to spend a lot of time reorganizing the information to be more logical… and this process can be a nightmare without an outline.
  3. You can more easily outsource content at scale with proper outlines – With a great outline, even a mediocre writer can produce great content. If you want to scale up your content production with any level of quality control, good outlines are a necessity.

So how do you write a great content outline?

Download our content outline template

Click here to make a copy of our content outline template.

This template includes everything you need to properly outline your blog articles, including the:

  • Target keyword.
  • Search intent of your target keyword.
  • Approach angle.
  • Goal of your content.
  • Unique selling proposition (USP).
  • Title of the article.
  • Headings and subheadings of your content.

Don’t worry if any of the above confuses you. I’ll break down what each means in the next section.

How to outline your content in five steps

Luckily, outlining content is fairly easy once you learn the process. I break down each section of our template outline below:

1. Decide on the goal of your article

Before you do any research or put down any words, the first step is to decide why you’re even creating this piece of content to begin with.

Your content can have many goals, such as:

  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Explaining use cases for your product(s).
  • Building backlinks for SEO.
  • Growing your email list.
  • Ranking for keywords on Google to grow traffic.
  • Etc.

Throughout this guide, I’ll be using ramen noodles as an example.

So let’s say I want to write an article about how to make amazing ramen noodles. My goal is to promote my fake company’s amazing hoisin sauce and build brand awareness. So I put that in under my “goal” section:

"Goal" section in content outline

2. Pick your target keyword

I never write an article without doing some basic keyword research first. Even if the intention of your article isn’t to rank for keywords on search engines, having SEO built into every article you write is still good practice.

Why?

Because it guarantees you build good habits. You may even be surprised at how much extra traffic you can gain—even from keywords that get almost no searches.

For example, I wrote an article about the best places to travel, and its goal was to get links from well-known travel blogs.

While outlining, I targeted the keyword “best places to travel in the world,” which gets about 1,500 searches per month. That article is now ranking for over 200 keywords and gets Google traffic even though SEO wasn’t the goal.

Site Explorer overview for The Wandering RV's articleSite Explorer overview for The Wandering RV's article

You can easily perform simple keyword research like this by putting keywords related to what you want to write about into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and browsing the results.

For our article about how to make the best bowl of ramen noodles, I start by searching for “ramen noodles” in Keywords Explorer:

Keywords Explorer overview for "ramen noodles"Keywords Explorer overview for "ramen noodles"

You can see it gets a whopping 143,000 searches per month. That’s awesome—however, we need to see if our article idea can actually rank for this keyword.

Scroll down, and you’ll see that the search results in the SERP overview consist of two product pages (Maruchan and Amazon). Those are followed by some extremely authoritative websites:

SERP overview for "ramen noodles"SERP overview for "ramen noodles"

In other words, unless you already have a strong website, ranking for this keyword with a guide on how to make ramen noodles will be difficult.

Next, scroll back up and look at the Keyword ideas panel. Here, you’ll see other ideas for potential keywords to target, such as “how to make ramen noodles.”

List of keywords and suggested questionsList of keywords and suggested questions

If we look at the Overview page for “how to make ramen noodles,” we can see it may be a bit easier to rank highly on Google for this keyword because the competitors aren’t as strong.

In fact, the featured snippet website has a Domain Rating (DR) score of just 20, which signals that even a newer website with fewer backlinks can likely rank for this keyword.

SERP overview for "how to make ramen noodles"SERP overview for "how to make ramen noodles"

And that’s how you do basic keyword research! Put your target keyword into your outline, and let’s look at search intent.

3. Research your keyword’s search intent and article angle

Search intent is the why behind a search query. Why did the user search for this keyword? What are they looking for?

Search intent is important because it determines the kind of content you should create for a given keyword. There are four primary types of search intent:

  1. Informational
  2. Navigational
  3. Transactional
  4. Commercial investigation

Refer to our guide to search intent for more information on each of these. For now, let’s continue with the example we used above on “how to make ramen noodles.”

This is an informational keyword. The searcher is looking for information on how to do something.

Most of the articles you will write are going to either have informational intent (what, how, when, etc.) or commercial investigation intent (like “best X” or “X vs Y”). Navigational intent and transactional intent are for other pages on your site, not blog articles.

But search intent goes beyond simply writing “informational” in a section and calling it a day. That’s where the angle of your content comes in.

What is the angle your competitors are using?

For example, if we look at “how to make ramen noodles,” we see that the top result talks about how to make ramen noodles from scratch. Other results talk about homemade ramen noodles.

SERP overview for "how to make ramen noodles"SERP overview for "how to make ramen noodles"

The two angles here are making the actual noodles yourself or using prepackaged noodles but making them better with other ingredients. The former is ranking higher on Google, but either angle can work.

As long as you use one of these two approaches, you increase your odds of ranking on page #1 of the search results.

Now research the SERPs and use the “search intent and content angle” section to indicate what kinds of content are currently ranking and what angle YOU want to take with this article.

Here’s how mine looks:

"Search intent and content angle" section in content outline"Search intent and content angle" section in content outline

4. Decide on a USP and title

Your USP is what makes your content different from your competitors (and, thus, makes your article worth clicking on over theirs).

Oftentimes, your USP is made obvious by your title, which is why these steps are mixed together. Let’s look at the USPs of our competitors:

Results in SERP overview help us figure out competitors' USPsResults in SERP overview help us figure out competitors' USPs

Many of their titles show exactly what you’ll get from them over everyone else, such as these:

  • Easy Ramen Noodles
  • Ramen Noodles in the Microwave
  • Perfect and Instant Ramen Noodles

The one that displays its USP the best, however, is the featured snippet result: Ramen Noodles From Scratch (the No-Knead Easy Way).

This article makes two big promises in the title: The ramen is easy and from scratch—both of which seem to be what searchers are looking for.

Think about how you can make your article stand out among the crowd like these guys did. Dig into the SERPs and the “People Also Ask” boxes to try and determine what the searchers are going after. Read forum posts like those on Reddit and try to find ways you can address problems people are having that your competitors aren’t talking about.

For my “ramen noodles” post, my USP is that our ramen is both from scratch and can be improved with better ingredients (something searchers seem to care about). I can also try a slightly different angle and go for authenticity to stand out from the crowd.

Some title ideas can be:

  • How to Make Ramen From Scratch (The Easier, Better Way)
  • How to Make Authentic Japanese-Style Ramen Noodles
  • This Is Exactly How to Make the Most Delicious Ramen Noodles

I always suggest brainstorming multiple title ideas. Then pick what you feel is the best one. This is because your title is so important for getting higher rankings and more traffic.

Check out this guide to writing the best blog titles for more information.

5. Outline your article with headings and subheadings

Here’s where the bulk of the outline work comes in. Choosing headings, ordering those headings, and explaining what should go in each section will determine the quality of the final result. It’s also important for on-page SEO.

This is where you dig into what needs to be covered and what order to cover it in. To do this, we go back to the SERPs once more and look at how competitors wrote their content for inspiration.

For example, the top result covers a few major points that we should probably also cover:

  • What ramen noodles are made out of
  • The steps to making your own ramen noodles
  • An “ingredients and instruction” section for the recipe

After looking at some other search results, I found they all have some variations of these three points.

Beyond looking at the competitors’ content, you can also look at the “People Also Ask” box for questions people often search for when searching for the keyword you’re targeting.

Questions in PAA boxQuestions in PAA box

If you open a question to expand it, Google will display additional questions. Keep doing that to get more ideas.

Even more questions in PAA boxEven more questions in PAA box

Looks like I can add sections on “what veggies go well in ramen,” “how to add egg to ramen,” and even “what else to eat with ramen” to cover the topic in more detail.

Finally, you can look at the related searches at the bottom of the SERPs for some extra ideas.

Google SERP "Related searches" section Google SERP "Related searches" section

Based on this, we can add sections on “how to make ramen noodles without a pasta machine,” “how to make ramen noodles better,” etc.

Moving to our outline, I can create something like this based on my research:

Except of our content outline templateExcept of our content outline template

You can see I have H2s for all the main headings. Further down, I also have each step as an H3 (you can see that when you make a copy of the outline template).

Under each heading, I have at least one bullet point explaining what should go in that section so that the writer has more context. The more detailed you are about your expectations in these bullets, the higher the chances of you getting what you want from your writer.

And you’re done!

Final thoughts

Having a content outline makes it easier to write content that’s better, faster, and at scale. A great outline means a better chance at ranking on search engines and gives your writers a standard operating procedure to follow.

If you’re not outlining your content, you’re doing it wrong.

Want to learn more? Check out these other helpful guides:

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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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