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Improve SEM Performance With Your Own Unique KPIs



Improve SEM Performance With Your Own Unique KPIs

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a harsh critic of those New York Jets and an unsolicited commentator on all things Real Housewives.

But you may have also realized I am a tireless fighter for SEM audience and asset segmentation.

Brand vs. non-brand, first-time consumer vs. repeat visitor, high HHI (high household income) earner women age 25–35 vs. age 65+ coupon shoppers… every element and audience is different.

It makes no sense to hold everything to the same standard for measurement.

One may say, “Jon, I have an aggregate goal. I expect all efforts to hit it. Otherwise, it just isn’t worth running them.”

To which I reply, “Well, riddle me this. How much cheaper is your brand CPC vs. your non-brand, or how much higher is a repeat shoppers conversion rate than a first-timer?”

While you can have an aggregate goal, you still need to realize that every element will perform differently.

Moreover, the different performance levels must combine to funnel into a single performance KPI (Key Performance Indicator).

If you proceeded with nixing all efforts that didn’t meet the aggregate KPI you set across the board, you will fail to garner new customers, and you’ll quickly have a diminishing level of traffic.

Need Proof? Well, Here You Go

Here we observe “client N.”

They are a direct-to-consumer ecommerce brand that sells bacon and assorted smoked meats (yes, it is delicious).

We segment targets on the basic brand vs. non-brand, but also by NTF (first-time purchasers) vs. repeat purchasers.

Literally how the bacon gets made…in search.NTF (first-time purchasers) vs. repeat purchasers

Our AOV (Average Order Value) is pricing dependent, which is market price dependent, so we focus on maximizing conversion over ROAS (Return On Ad Spend).

We know that we’ll get two to three purchases per year for five years from a customer in a lifetime.

So while getting repeat purchases on our brand is super cost-efficient and pays the bills, we recognize they are now considered a depreciating asset.

As a marketer, do you push heavy on the depreciating assets because it is low cost, or do you pay out the wazoo for a new customer upfront, realizing they will become super cost-efficient on the second purchase?

Spoiler: Never stop supporting the repeat customer, but push hard for the first-time customer.

Because of this, we have six different KPIs (and their reasons):

Brand Repeat

  • Low-level CPC KPI.
  • Why: They are brand loyal, with a high probability of purchasing, so we want to get the CPC (Cost Per Click) as low as possible to direct them to the product we want to push.

Brand NTF

  • High traffic KPI & Mid-level CPC KPI.
  • Why: Brand aware, usually a receiver of gift or other marketing, high conversion probability, CPC is pricier, so if we can control it, it’ll be a better LTV ROAS.

Non-Brand Repeat

  • CPA (Cost Per Action) KPI.
  • They have no loyalty, they purchased once before but didn’t come back to us by name, so it is more logical to focus on a specific CPA target because another purchase after this is much less likely.
  • Important to note that this is the least valuable customer and shows a lack of brand loyalty.

Non-Brand NTF

  • High Traffic & High Impression Share KPI.
  • You want as many of these as possible, and in a crowded marketplace, you often have to surrender cost (because this will not be cheap) for visibility (make sure you have a great ad in place.
  • You’ll compensate on the back end for a conversion.

Shopping (We Don’t Separate NTF From Repeat)

  • Conversion volume & ROAS KPI.
  • This is our moneymaker after brand. Max out your sales volume as much as you can. Clicks are cheaper given the ad unit. Just make sure you don’t dip below a 110% ROAS.


  • Brand Awareness KPI.
  • This isn’t getting us direct sales. It builds brand awareness, so we do the lowest CPV on our 30-second videos and CPM (Cost Per 1,000 Impressions) on our display and test it regionally to determine the level of inbound first-time brand visitors to the site.
  • We harvest the visitors for remarketing.

Another example is “client S.”

They are a chain of senior living communities around the country.

Their focus is on lead generation via form submissions or phone calls of a certain duration.

As always, we sort by brand and non-brand keywords and services provided. Each service has a different lifetime valuation as recurring revenue.

Independent living has a higher volume, longer LTV duration, and lower revenue per resident.

While at the other end of the spectrum, Memory Care is the lowest volume and shorter LTV duration but has the highest initial revenue in the first three years.

Understanding the SEM related valuation of senior living servicesUnderstanding the SEM related valuation of senior living servicesUnderstanding the SEM related valuation of senior living services

In this scenario, we set the KPI by the service line (ignore the lack of brand traffic, it isn’t as concerning for us as each location has a different name).

We operate with three different KPIs:

Independent Living

  • High Traffic and mid-low CPC KPI.
  • An immense amount of competition, so if you have a good price and a good location, the goal is pure volume. But if the CPC rises (from the competition) above $11, there is a quick chance that clicks fall off a cliff, as there is no additional budget.

Memory Care

  • CPA KPI.
  • Least amount of competition, but a high degree of researchers, which reduces CTR (Clickthrough Rate) and increases CPC. The key is to focus on the CPA itself with the realization the LTV duration is 25% of Independent Living. The revenue in three years in Memory Care exceeds that of eight years in Independent Living.

Assisted Living

  • Low CPC KPI.
  • There is a lot of competition, and everyone gets seen as a lot of research goes into this. You don’t have to be in position 1, just be visible, and get the traffic for as little as possible, because, with fixed budgets, a CPC swing of $0.50 can cut your traffic down.

Okay, I’ve Seen Your Proof. Now What?

Once we’ve identified the necessary KPIs, we set the target numbers each to achieve.

This means, things like “Brand Repeat CPC cannot exceed $0.50” or “Non-Brand NTF needs to drive at least 250 clicks per week with an impression share of 15%, and a CPC not exceeding $0.75”.

We then divide the budget from what is most valuable to us to the least for budget distribution.

Then we can determine if the budget allocation will meet the aggregate ROAS objectives.


No two accounts are alike (it’s like calling the Jets and the Giants the same NFL team).

But that being said, not every asset in an account is the same.

Therefore, holding a non-brand first-time searcher of Cherrywood Bacon to the same CTR, CPC, CVR (Conversion Rate), and ROAS of a repeat buy on brand terms buying corned beef hash is like comparing apples to oranges.

Maintaining separate KPI targets, strategies, and elements will lead to a more accurate and predictable performance outcome.

Featured Image: idea Ink Design/Shutterstock

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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility




Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.

Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock

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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny




Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App




New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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