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SEO’s Whisper Network Hasn’t Stopped Conference Harassment. What’s Next?



SEO’s Whisper Network Hasn’t Stopped Conference Harassment. What’s Next?

In the spirit of sunlight as the best disinfectant – let’s talk about the news coming out of a Brighton SEO afterparty.

Both Judith and Lidia thanked Brighton SEO and its organizers for quickly intervening, so let’s give that credit where it’s due.

Even so, we have to acknowledge there’s a glaring issue here we still need to work at.

We have a long tradition of sharing names on the whisper network so women and men in SEO know who to avoid in order to stay safe.

We’ve tried to create designated safe spaces and events for women only.

We’ve seen committees and associations and initiatives designed to tackle inequality in SEO come and go.

But we haven’t yet solved the problem.

For those who’ve been on the receiving end of these behaviors and the many who simply no longer attend SEO events as a result, each new report is fresh salt on an old wound.

I’d like to think there will come a day when all people feel welcome and safe at industry events.

Where equality is more than a buzzword and every single participant can be confident that if someone else is out of line, it’ll be handled swiftly and appropriately.

Where people won’t be punished or shunned for calling it out.

So let’s take a look at what we can do next.

Change your mindset. This is not a “women’s issue.”

There are two reasons we need to stop viewing this as a women’s issue.

First, we’re taught that every woman is someone’s daughter, sister, mother and therefore worth protecting.

(This is problematic in itself, as a woman’s value is not dependent on her relation to others. But I digress.)

The thing is — and this is where this issue gets super complicated — every person who makes SEO less safe for others is someone’s brother/sister, dad/mom, son/daughter, etc, as well.

They are someone’s boss.

They’re someone’s friend from college.

They’re someone’s mentor or business partner.

They could be one of our authors.

This is difficult stuff because chances are, those people who know the offender are going to want to give that person the benefit of the doubt.

He’s such a devoted husband/ great boss/ nice man.

How could he possibly be a sexual predator?

This is the cognitive dissonance that causes us to doubt victims as the default reaction.

What you’re saying cannot possibly be true. He’s just not like that.

You’re reading too much into it. She didn’t mean any harm.

You took it the wrong way.

And maybe they’re partly right. Maybe that person is not a predator.

They didn’t intend to cross a line.

And yet their actions resulted in the violation of another person’s space and body.

Both of these things can be true at the same time.

There can be a massive chasm between intention and impact; a complete disconnect between what we meant and how it landed.

And that means it’s up to all of us to be clear and unwavering in recognizing and calling attention to it when it’s happening.

It’s up to all of us to make it clear we see when it’s happening so there’s no ambiguity around what was intended or not.

The second reason this isn’t a women’s issue is that men are victims, too.

Nearly one-quarter (24.8%) of men in the U.S. will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. When you include sexual harassment, that figure rises to 43%.

In Canada, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 8 men have experienced unwanted sexual behavior in public.

And the Crime Survey for England and Wales in 2020 found that although women were four times as likely as men to be sexually assaulted, 155,000 men were still victimized.

Black and Indigenous people (especially women) and LGTBQ2S are at far greater risk, as well.

And although men are statistically more likely the offender, women can harass and assault others, as well. In fact, researchers now suggest that sexual crimes by women are more common than previously thought.

There’s a great deal of shame and embarrassment for victims of sexualized and gender-based violence – women and men alike.

As I said, this is not easy stuff.

We need to come to terms with and accept that:

  • Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment and violence. No one is immune to this, and there is no stereotypical victim.
  • Anyone can perpetrate sexual harassment and violence. Offenders don’t pop up out of nowhere and disappear again after attacking. There is no Boogeyman here. Aside from serial sex criminals, these are people who live and work among us.

With this in mind, the suggestions ahead are gender-neutral.

It can only benefit us all to be more thoughtful and intentional about how we interact with industry peers.

Implement visible cues at events that enable participants to signal to others their level of comfort with touch.

Interpersonal communications are complicated and have only become more complex since COVID.

We all have different comfort levels with various types of physical social interactions, and they can change at any time.

I’m sure I’ve been guilty myself of invading another’s personal space or giving a hug when it wasn’t appreciated.

We can all learn and evolve in this together.

Using green, yellow, and red lanyards or wrist bands would clearly indicate to others your preference for physical interaction including handshakes, hugs, a pat on the shoulder, etc.

The Professional Convention Management Association wrote about this system as a solution for social distancing preferences and suggests it could help solve challenges in face-to-face networking well after the pandemic, as well.

Of course, green doesn’t mean open season.

It means the wearer is okay with touch and from there, it’s up to you to follow their cues and ask questions, if necessary.

There’s nothing wrong with asking someone, “Could I give you a hug?”

And if they say, “Let’s do a COVID fist bump instead,” and offer you an elbow, that’s okay, too.

The purpose is to get thoughtful about physical interactions in the professional settings we share.

Recognize the obstacles to reporting and defending one’s self or someone else in those moments.

Often, the people I see saying, “Well, did she charge him? He didn’t get a trial; we can’t be the judge,” are the same ones who will insist that the perpetrator losing his job, marriage, or business over the harassment would be too extreme.

In many cases, criminal charges would indeed be going too far.

Let’s be realistic, too, about the likelihood of a report to the police resulting in any sort of justice.

Beyond the fact that sexual harassment has abysmal investigation and conviction rates, the nature of these events is that we’re getting together from all over the world for a brief few days.

If I’m in London for an event and am assaulted by a European, that complaint is going to die on the police officer’s desk the minute I board my plane back to North America.

We need to police ourselves in these spaces.

That leaves us with social and business/financial repercussions.

Yes, I imagine a person is going to be embarrassed when a peer says, “Hey, that’s not cool. She told you to cut it out.”

Or, “That’s the third person I’ve seen you with your arm around tonight. Are you asking and making sure they’re okay with you touching them like that?”

Or, “Listen girl, you’re making people uncomfortable. You need to keep your hands to yourself.”

Their potential embarrassment cannot keep you from intervening. We cannot treat people who harass others as so fragile they can’t handle being made aware they’re doing it.

One victim of sexual harassment in our industry who has chosen to remain anonymous wrote to me, “Everyone has something big to lose by speaking their truth – being blacklisted from conferences and cut off from the speaking circuit, for example.”

“The cost is too high for people to speak up, and no one wants to take that hit,” they wrote. “It is easier to stay out of the controversy than to take a stand and embroil yourself in the middle of it.”

And so we must remember that it can be scary to get involved, too, and to support those we see taking a stand.

The time for sitting on the sidelines and watching to see how it shakes out is over. If you witness an incident of assault or harassment, you’re already involved.

Unfortunately, we know there is a possibility the offender may get angry (especially where alcohol is involved, as it often is at these events).

I cannot speak for men here. But as women, we are raised and conditioned by society to defuse rather than escalate these situations.

Don’t make it worse.

Don’t upset them.

Don’t cause a scene.

If you challenge the person overstepping at that moment, they may escalate. Best to try to brush it off and get out of the situation without further harm.

We often know the perpetrator, too. They are a family member, friend — or boss, colleague, industry acquaintance, etc.

Being on the receiving end of unwanted attention by someone you may have liked and respected up until that very moment is confusing.

Harassment and assault don’t come with a response playbook.

But he looked like he was enjoying himself. He was still smiling.

She didn’t say anything so I figured she was okay with it.

Why didn’t he just tell him to stop?

You never know how you’ll react until it’s happening to you, and the reaction could change given the circumstances and who’s involved.

It’s time for open conversations, in the moment, as these things are happening.

Don’t assume the person being touched is okay with it.

Sure, it could very well be wanted and the attention reciprocal.

You won’t know unless you ask.

Choose not to do business with people who make our world less safe for others.

You can choose not to hire or contract work out to people who harass and assault industry peers.

You don’t need to see criminal charges against the offender to do this, either.

You can see it happening. We can all see it happening.

These are the worst-kept secrets in SEO — we whisper in small groups about who you shouldn’t leave alone with your friend.

We can all do more.

Ask yourself, are this person’s values and ethics a good reflection of my company?

If not, why are you contributing to their success with your dollar?

We will not give a platform to people who threaten the safety and security of our peers.

Search Engine Journal will add specific language to our contributor requirements to reflect that our code of conduct for authors extends to the real-world spaces we share.

Judith Lewis told me, “I don’t actually want zero tolerance but a 2-strike system where they are told they are being banned for 2-5 years. They can come back and if they violate again, it’s a lifetime ban from everything in the network — like pub watch in the UK.”

This sounds fair, does it not?

“The perpetrator must be told they are being banned for this bad behavior,” she added. “It’s not fair to shadowban someone. Tell them and enable them to change.”

I couldn’t agree more.

We’re not advocating for cancel culture. People must be given an opportunity to change.

They need to be told straight up why the behavior is problematic and what impact it’s having on others.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

It’s time to take this out of the whisper network and shine a light on conference harassment, where and when it’s happening.

This isn’t going to be resolved by putting the onus on potential victims to stay safe; to guard one another and always be on the lookout for this person or that.

We don’t need to create safe spaces for women to meet outside of the main event.

We need to collectively ensure safe, equitable access to industry networking and educational opportunities for all who choose to attend.

And it’s on each and every one of us to ensure that’s the only experience on offer.

More resources:

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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds




Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.

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10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget




10 Tips on How to Rock a Small PPC Budget

Many advertisers have a tight budget for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, making it challenging to maximize results.

One of the first questions that often looms large is, “How much should we spend?” It’s a pivotal question, one that sets the stage for the entire PPC strategy.

Read on for tips to get started or further optimize budgets for your PPC program to maximize every dollar spent.

1. Set Expectations For The Account

With a smaller budget, managing expectations for the size and scope of the account will allow you to keep focus.

A very common question is: How much should our company spend on PPC?

To start, you must balance your company’s PPC budget with the cost, volume, and competition of keyword searches in your industry.

You’ll also want to implement a well-balanced PPC strategy with display and video formats to engage consumers.

First, determine your daily budget. For example, if the monthly budget is $2,000, the daily budget would be set at $66 per day for the entire account.

The daily budget will also determine how many campaigns you can run at the same time in the account because that $66 will be divided up among all campaigns.

Be aware that Google Ads and Microsoft Ads may occasionally exceed the daily budget to maximize results. The overall monthly budget, however, should not exceed the Daily x Number of Days in the Month.

Now that we know our daily budget, we can focus on prioritizing our goals.

2. Prioritize Goals

Advertisers often have multiple goals per account. A limited budget will also limit the number of campaigns – and the number of goals – you should focus on.

Some common goals include:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Leads.
  • Sales.
  • Repeat sales.

In the example below, the advertiser uses a small budget to promote a scholarship program.

They are using a combination of leads (search campaign) and awareness (display campaign) to divide up a daily budget of $82.

Screenshot from author, May 2024

The next several features can help you laser-focus campaigns to allocate your budget to where you need it most.

Remember, these settings will restrict traffic to the campaign. If you aren’t getting enough traffic, loosen up/expand the settings.

3. Location Targeting

Location targeting is a core consideration in reaching the right audience and helps manage a small ad budget.

To maximize a limited budget, you should focus on only the essential target locations where your customers are located.

While that seems obvious, you should also consider how to refine that to direct the limited budget to core locations. For example:

  • You can refine location targeting by states, cities, ZIP codes, or even a radius around your business.
  • Choosing locations to target should be focused on results.
  • The smaller the geographic area, the less traffic you will get, so balance relevance with budget.
  • Consider adding negative locations where you do not do business to prevent irrelevant clicks that use up precious budget.

If the reporting reveals targeted locations where campaigns are ineffective, consider removing targeting to those areas. You can also try a location bid modifier to reduce ad serving in those areas.

managing ppc budget by location interactionScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

4. Ad Scheduling

Ad scheduling also helps to control budget by only running ads on certain days and at certain hours of the day.

With a smaller budget, it can help to limit ads to serve only during hours of business operation. You can choose to expand that a bit to accommodate time zones and for searchers doing research outside of business hours.

If you sell online, you are always open, but review reporting for hourly results over time to determine if there are hours of the day with a negative return on investment (ROI).

Limit running PPC ads if the reporting reveals hours of the day when campaigns are ineffective.

Manage a small ppc budget by hour of dayScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

5. Set Negative Keywords

A well-planned negative keyword list is a golden tactic for controlling budgets.

The purpose is to prevent your ad from showing on keyword searches and websites that are not a good match for your business.

  • Generate negative keywords proactively by brainstorming keyword concepts that may trigger ads erroneously.
  • Review query reports to find irrelevant searches that have already led to clicks.
  • Create lists and apply to the campaign.
  • Repeat on a regular basis because ad trends are always evolving!

6. Smart Bidding

Smart Bidding is a game-changer for efficient ad campaigns. Powered by Google AI, it automatically adjusts bids to serve ads to the right audience within budget.

The AI optimizes the bid for each auction, ideally maximizing conversions while staying within your budget constraints.

Smart bidding strategies available include:

  • Maximize Conversions: Automatically adjust bids to generate as many conversions as possible for the budget.
  • Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This method predicts the value of potential conversions and adjusts bids in real time to maximize return.
  • Target Cost Per Action (CPA): Advertisers set a target cost-per-action (CPA), and Google optimizes bids to get the most conversions within budget and the desired cost per action.

7. Try Display Only Campaigns

display ads for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

For branding and awareness, a display campaign can expand your reach to a wider audience affordably.

Audience targeting is an art in itself, so review the best options for your budget, including topics, placements, demographics, and more.

Remarketing to your website visitors is a smart targeting strategy to include in your display campaigns to re-engage your audience based on their behavior on your website.

Let your ad performance reporting by placements, audiences, and more guide your optimizations toward the best fit for your business.

audience targeting options for small ppc budgetScreenshot by Lisa Raehsler from Google Ads, May 2024

8. Performance Max Campaigns

Performance Max (PMax) campaigns are available in Google Ads and Microsoft Ads.

In short, automation is used to maximize conversion results by serving ads across channels and with automated ad formats.

This campaign type can be useful for limited budgets in that it uses AI to create assets, select channels, and audiences in a single campaign rather than you dividing the budget among multiple campaign types.

Since the success of the PMax campaign depends on the use of conversion data, that data will need to be available and reliable.

9. Target Less Competitive Keywords

Some keywords can have very high cost-per-click (CPC) in a competitive market. Research keywords to compete effectively on a smaller budget.

Use your analytics account to discover organic searches leading to your website, Google autocomplete, and tools like Google Keyword Planner in the Google Ads account to compare and get estimates.

In this example, a keyword such as “business accounting software” potentially has a lower CPC but also lower volume.

Ideally, you would test both keywords to see how they perform in a live campaign scenario.

comparing keywords for small ppc budgetsScreenshot by author from Google Ads, May 2024

10. Manage Costly Keywords

High volume and competitive keywords can get expensive and put a real dent in the budget.

In addition to the tip above, if the keyword is a high volume/high cost, consider restructuring these keywords into their own campaign to monitor and possibly set more restrictive targeting and budget.

Levers that can impact costs on this include experimenting with match types and any of the tips in this article. Explore the opportunity to write more relevant ad copy to these costly keywords to improve quality.

Every Click Counts

As you navigate these strategies, you will see that managing a PPC account with a limited budget isn’t just about monetary constraints.

Rocking your small PPC budgets involves strategic campaign management, data-driven decisions, and ongoing optimizations.

In the dynamic landscape of paid search advertising, every click counts, and with the right approach, every click can translate into meaningful results.

More resources: 

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What Are They Really Costing You?




What Are They Really Costing You?

This post was sponsored by Adpulse. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

As managers of paid media, one question drives us all: “How do I improve paid ad performance?”. 

Given that our study found close variant search terms perform poorly, yet more than half of the average budget on Google & Microsoft Ads is being spent on them, managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in ROI. 

“Close variants help you connect with people who are looking for your business, despite slight variations in the way they search.”

Promising idea…but what about the execution?

We analyzed over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions to answer this question: With the rise in close variants (intent matching) search terms, what impact are they having on budgets and account performance? Spoiler alert, the impact is substantial. 

True Match Vs. Close Variants: How Do They Perform?

To understand close variant (CV) performance, we must first define the difference between a true match and a close variant. 


What Is a True Match? 

We still remember the good-old-days where keyword match types gave you control over the search terms they triggered, so for this study we used the literal match types to define ‘close variant’ vs ‘true match’. 

  • Exact match keyword => search term matches the keyword exactly. 
  • Phrase match keyword => search term must contain the keyword (same word order).
  • Broad match keyword => search term must contain every individual word in the keyword, but the word order does not matter (the way modified broad match keywords used to work).   


What Is a Close Variant? 

If you’re not familiar with close variants (intent matching) search terms, think of them as search terms that are ‘fuzzy matched’ to the keywords you are actually bidding on. 

Some of these close variants are highly relevant and represent a real opportunity to expand your keywords in a positive way. 

Some are close-ish, but the conversions are expensive. 

And (no shocks here) some are truly wasteful. 

….Both Google and Microsoft Ads do this, and you can’t opt-out.

To give an example: if you were a music therapist, you might bid on the phrase match keyword “music therapist”. An example of a true match search term would be ‘music therapist near me’ because it contains the keyword in its true form (phrase match in this case) and a CV might be ‘music and art therapy’.

How Do Close Variants Compare to True Match?

Short answer… poorly, on both Google and Microsoft Ads. Interestingly however, Google showed the worst performance on both metrics assessed, CPA and ROAS. 

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Want to see the data – jump to it here…

CVs have been embraced by both platforms with (as earlier stated), on average more than half of your budget being spent on CV variant matches. That’s a lot of expansion to reach searches you’re not directly bidding for, so it’s clearly a major driver of performance in your account and, therefore, deserving of your attention. 

We anticipated a difference in metrics between CVs and true match search terms, since the true match search terms directly align with the keywords you’re bidding on, derived from your intimate knowledge of the business offering. 

True match conversions should therefore be the low-hanging fruit, leaving the rest for the platforms to find via CVs. Depending on the cost and ROI, this isn’t inherently bad, but logically we would assume CVs would perform worse than true matches, which is exactly what we observed. 

How Can You Limit Wastage on Close Variants?

You can’t opt out of them, however, if your goal is to manage their impact on performance, you can use these three steps to move the needle in the right direction. And of course, if you’re relying on CVs to boost volume, you’ll need to take more of a ‘quality-screening’ rather than a hard-line ‘everything-must-go’ approach to your CV clean out!


Step 1: Diagnose Your CV Problem 

We’re a helpful bunch at Adpulse so while we were scoping our in-app solution, we built a simple spreadsheet that you can use to diagnose how healthy your CVs are. Just make a copy, paste in your keyword and search term data then run the analysis for yourself. Then you can start to clean up any wayward CVs identified. Of course, by virtue of technology, it’s both faster and more advanced in the Adpulse Close Variant Manager 😉.


Step 2: Suggested Campaign Structures for Easier CV Management  

Brand Campaigns

If you don’t want competitors or general searches being matched to your brand keywords, this strategy will solve for that. 

Set up one ad group with your exact brand keyword/s, and another ad group with phrase brand keyword/s, then employ the negative keyword strategies in Step 3 below. You might be surprised at how many CVs have nothing to do with your brand, and identifying variants (and adding negative keywords) becomes easy with this structure.

Don’t forget to add your phrase match brand negatives to non-brand campaigns (we love negative lists for this).

Non-Brand Campaigns with Larger Budgets

We suggest a campaign structure with one ad group per match type:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers – Exact
    • General Plumbers – Phrase
    • General Plumbers – Broad
    • Emergency Plumbers – Exact
    • Emergency Plumbers – Phrase
    • Emergency Plumbers – Broad

This allows you to more easily identify variants so you can eliminate them quickly. This also allows you to find new keyword themes based on good quality CVs, and add them easily to the campaign. 

Non-Brand Campaigns with Smaller Budgets

Smaller budgets mean the upside of having more data per ad group outweighs the upside of making it easier to trim unwanted CVs, so go for a simpler theme-based ad group structure:

Example Ad Groups:

    • General Plumbers
    • Emergency Plumbers


Step 3: Ongoing Actions to Tame Close Variants

Adding great CVs as keywords and poor CVs as negatives on a regular basis is the only way to control their impact.

For exact match ad groups we suggest adding mainly root negative keywords. For example, if you were bidding on [buy mens walking shoes] and a CV appeared for ‘mens joggers’, you could add the single word “joggers” as a phrase/broad match negative keyword, which would prevent all future searches that contain joggers. If you added mens joggers as a negative keyword, other searches that contain the word joggers would still be eligible to trigger. 

In ad groups that contain phrase or broad match keywords you shouldn’t use root negatives unless you’re REALLY sure that the root negative should never appear in any search term. You’ll probably find that you use the whole search term added as an exact match negative much more often than using root negs.

The Proof: What (and Why) We Analyzed

We know CVs are part of the conversations marketers frequently have, and by virtue of the number of conversations we have with agencies each week, we’ve witnessed the increase of CV driven frustration amongst marketers. 

Internally we reached a tipping point and decided to data dive to see if it just felt like a large problem, or if it actually IS a large enough problem that we should devote resources to solving it in-app. First stop…data. 

Our study of CV performance started with thousands of Google and Microsoft Ads accounts, using last 30-day data to May 2024, filtered to exclude:

  • Shopping or DSA campaigns/Ad Groups.
  • Accounts with less than 10 conversions.
  • Accounts with a conversion rate above 50%.
  • For ROAS comparisons, any accounts with a ROAS below 200% or above 2500%.

Search terms in the study are therefore from keyword-based search campaigns where those accounts appear to have a reliable conversion tracking setup and have enough conversion data to be individually meaningful.

The cleaned data set comprised over 4.5 million clicks and 400,000 conversions (over 30 days) across Google and Microsoft Ads; a large enough data set to answer questions about CV performance with confidence.

Interestingly, each platform appears to have a different driver for their lower CV performance. 

CPA Results:

Google Ads was able to maintain its conversion rate, but it chased more expensive clicks to achieve it…in fact, clicks at almost double the average CPC of true match! Result: their CPA of CVs worked out roughly double the CPA of true match.                 

Microsoft Ads only saw slightly poorer CPA performance within CVs; their conversion rate was much lower compared to true match, but their saving grace was that they had significantly lower CPCs, and you can afford to have a lower conversion rate if your click costs are also lower. End outcome? Microsoft Ads CPA on CVs was only slightly more expensive when compared to their CPA on true matches; a pleasant surprise 🙂.

What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

ROAS Results:

Both platforms showed a similar story; CVs delivered roughly half the ROAS of their true match cousins, with Microsoft Ads again being stronger overall. 


1718772963 395 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024

Underlying Data:

For the data nerds amongst us (at Adpulse we self-identify here !) 

1718772963 88 What Are They Really Costing You

Image created by Adpulse, May 2024


Close variant search terms consume, on average, more than half an advertiser’s budget whilst in most cases, performing significantly worse than search terms that actually match the keywords. How much worse? Read above for details ^. Enough that managing their impact effectively could well be one of your largest optimization levers toward driving significant improvements in account ROI. 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Adpulse. Used with permission.

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