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The Future of AI Chatbots and Search

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Google Bard: Everything You Need to Know About It, and How it Redefines the Way We Search

Here it is, Google finally announced their own AI chatbot— Google Bard. Like its presumed rivals, ChatGPT and Bing Bot, Bard can understand queries and generate human-like answers in response.

But is this the start of a new way of how we search the web in the future? 

This unveiling is just the next stage in the AI arms race between Google and OpenAI and Microsoft. And, with a recent update–and many more features to come–Google is already promising to transform the online search landscape as we know it.

Now that it’s widely available, here’s all you need to know about Google Bard.

What is Google Bard?

Google Bard is an experimental conversational AI chat service from Google that serves like a ChatGPT. It is Google’s own AI chatbot that can generate human-like responses to any prompt you wish to tell the AI. 

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But unlike ChatGPT, Google Bard was initially based on LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications)–a family of conversational large language models (LLM). LaMDA is trained on massive data sets and parameters, which has allowed the AI to “learn” useful information, as well as our language. 

Recently at Google’s I/O 2023, it was revealed that Bard was now powered by their other, most advanced LLM: PaLM 2. This, as they stated, will allow Bard to be a highly efficient bot, and even fix previous issues (likely linked to their misinformation blunder when they first announced Bard a few months ago).

Powered by their LLMs, the result is that Bard can perform tasks such as answering questions and following instructions, and can carry a conversation with users in a surprisingly natural way. 

Aside from that, it can do what most AI chatbots nowadays can do: write and debug code, and answer math problems. A more popular use is helping with one’s writer’s block by creating outlines, collaborating on essays, or even providing more details for articles. The sky’s the limit, it seems, with a powerful AI chatbot like Bard. 

What is Google Bard used for?

This experimental, conversational AI is trained to communicate with users and provide the answers or results they’re looking for. As I said, the sky’s the limit for this kind of tech, but here are a few examples of how you can use Google Bard: 

  1. Get information–Bard generally can provide easy-to-understand and factual answers to the questions you have. As long as your prompt does not violate any content guidelines from Google, Bard will respond with the information you would like to know. You can even ask strange questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” and it will give you an answer.
  2. Generate different kinds of writing–from poems to emails to blog articles, Google Bard can help you with your writing. Bard’s answers can range from formal, creative, and even casual, depending on your prompt. The pieces or ideas you can get from Bard’s content responses can help you build ideas for your craft or job.
  3. Translate–It can function pretty similarly to Google Translate. It even knows informal words or phrases in foreign languages, such as slang, which can be pretty useful. But, Google can only answer in English, with support for Japanese and Korean languages. The expansion of language support beyond English is planned and part of a 40-year expansion plan for Bard. 
  4. Code–A more recent feature, Bard is now able to help users with simple programming and software development tasks. This includes code generation, code debugging, and explanation.
  5. Summarize data–Bard can quickly digest and summarize the most important points from articles, blog posts, and web pages for you. You can also ask it to help you compare data or research.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of what this AI chatbot can do. You can ask it to find a recipe, write your CV, and even help you prepare for a presentation. 

It would be impossible for me to list all of Bard’s use cases here, and what you’ll use it for will depend on what you’re looking for. 

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Is Google’s Bard available?

Yes, Google Bard is now available. Google announced Bard and its functions and features back in February 2023 and they announced that it is now available for everyone to use in May 2023 at Google I/O. It is currently accessible in 180 countries and territories.

How can I access Google Bard?

Bard can be accessed by searching bard.google.com, using the Google Bard Chrome Extension, or just by searching it up in any browser you use. 

Google Bard's user interface, in dark mode.

When accessed, you will see this page and you can now start using and providing whatever prompts you want. 

How to use Google Bard

The user interface (UI) of Bard is pretty easy to navigate. Simply type in your prompt in the text box, press enter, and a conversation with the AI chatbot starts. 

Google Bard's user interface showing the answer to a prompt about SEO.

Longer answers are broken down and can also use rich text formatting, often in bullet points or lists, which makes it easy to scan. 

If you want more information, If you’re not happy with Bard’s first response, or if you want more information, it provides the option of viewing its other drafted answers. This can provide a more detailed response or more context. You can also like or dislike the draft to let Bard know if you preferred its other answers or not. 

Google Bard's drafted answers about SEO.

If you want to see other topics or look at more information online, you have the option to Google it. This shows related search topics that, when clicked, lead to organic search results.  

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Google Bard's option of seeing other search topics, and the option to Google it.

Is Google Bard Safe to Use?

Google Bard, while pretty powerful, isn’t infallible. 

When generating answers, Bard typically follows prompts from the user and can remember past instructions and questions (similar to Bing Bot). However, it doesn’t follow every prompt, as it has built-in safety controls and strictly adheres to Google’s content policies and AI principles

This reduces the chances of it producing “bad” results, such as offensive dialogue. 

That said, there’s still a chance that it can provide misleading information or potentially malicious answers. 

It’s important to understand that Google Bard is a still-developing AI tool that may at times produce bad results. Understanding this will lessen the risks for us users.

Bard is also trained to learn from its users, as it provides a way to rate its responses. On the UI, there is also the option to report legal issues with its response, which includes the following:

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The legal issues that you can report for Google Bard's responses.

Are Google Bard’s Answers Accurate?

No. Bard is still considered an experimental AI, meaning that its accuracy is still flawed—Google Bard itself disclosed that it might produce false or misleading information from time to time, and encourages users to fact-check.

Google Bard saying that it is not always able to produce factual results.

This statement above is important because, unlike ChatGPT, Google Bard has access to all of the internet. That means it can see information about current events and modern context, and therefore reference them in its answers. However, this doesn’t mean that the AI is fully updated with real-time information.

So while it can provide relevant answers to topical questions, it doesn’t mean that the answers it provides are 100% correct–hence the need for a disclaimer. 

Does Google Bard Cite its Sources?

As of May 2023, Bard now cites its sources. Announced by Google’s representative, Jack Krawczyk, he says this update is part of their goal to make Bard more useful, while also increasing the reach of the original publishers it gets its information from. 

This is a very welcome update for web publishers and SEOs like me and me. If Bard decides to cite your article, users can easily navigate to it, if they’re interested in learning more. But we have yet to see if this update does lead to more traffic, or if users will ignore these citations.

That said, Bard’s citations don’t seem to be successfully implemented, as of the time of writing. Bing Bot, in comparison, has been providing citations for a while now, and does so more reliably. But still, it’s a step in the right direction.

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1684849849 371 The Future of AI Chatbots and Search

What Does Google Bard Mean for SEO?

As I hinted earlier, the release of Google Bard effectively ushers in the new age of search, which many are calling the new Search Generative Experience or SGE. 

An experimental version of search as we know, it deprioritized the 10 blue links that have defined Google’s first page for years. 

How? Well, Bard does the heavy lifting for you. Instead of sifting through several articles or pages to get the answer you want, Bard can potentially present it to you in a more concise manner. It even allows you to ask follow-up questions. 

It might be incredibly useful and time-saving for many, but it now means that users have the option to not visit multiple sites to get their answers or make their decision. These clicks are what our websites rely on–and are very important for SEO. 

What does this entail? We might see less traffic for the next few months, especially if more and more users adopt and prefer Bard over organic search. 

But, ultimately, Google will be pushed to find ways for traffic (and revenue) to continue reaching creators and their sites, so there’s still an incentive for us to create content. 

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Key Takeaway

The race towards AI and the new age of search shows no signs of stopping with the official release of Google Bard. 

While appealing to many, and offering several use cases, Bard is still in its early stages and has a few limitations that we need to be aware of. 

I will continue to test Bard’s features as they are rolled out, but for now, all we know about this AI is covered in this article–and with several implications to SEO that we have to consider as the chatbot may become more mainstream in the coming months.



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Reddit Post Ranks On Google In 5 Minutes

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Google apparently ranks Reddit posts within minutes

Google’s Danny Sullivan disputed the assertions made in a Reddit discussion that Google is showing a preference for Reddit in the search results. But a Redditor’s example proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten of the search results within minutes and to actually improve rankings to position #2 a week later.

Discussion About Google Showing Preference To Reddit

A Redditor (gronetwork) complained that Google is sending so many visitors to Reddit that the server is struggling with the load and shared an example that proved that it can only take minutes for a Reddit post to rank in the top ten.

That post was part of a 79 post Reddit thread where many in the r/SEO subreddit were complaining about Google allegedly giving too much preference to Reddit over legit sites.

The person who did the test (gronetwork) wrote:

“…The website is already cracking (server down, double posts, comments not showing) because there are too many visitors.

…It only takes few minutes (you can test it) for a post on Reddit to appear in the top ten results of Google with keywords related to the post’s title… (while I have to wait months for an article on my site to be referenced). Do the math, the whole world is going to spam here. The loop is completed.”

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Reddit Post Ranked Within Minutes

Another Redditor asked if they had tested if it takes “a few minutes” to rank in the top ten and gronetwork answered that they had tested it with a post titled, Google SGE Review.

gronetwork posted:

“Yes, I have created for example a post named “Google SGE Review” previously. After less than 5 minutes it was ranked 8th for Google SGE Review (no quotes). Just after Washingtonpost.com, 6 authoritative SEO websites and Google.com’s overview page for SGE (Search Generative Experience). It is ranked third for SGE Review.”

It’s true, not only does that specific post (Google SGE Review) rank in the top 10, the post started out in position 8 and it actually improved ranking, currently listed beneath the number one result for the search query “SGE Review”.

Screenshot Of Reddit Post That Ranked Within Minutes

Anecdotes Versus Anecdotes

Okay, the above is just one anecdote. But it’s a heck of an anecdote because it proves that it’s possible for a Reddit post to rank within minutes and get stuck in the top of the search results over other possibly more authoritative websites.

hankschrader79 shared that Reddit posts outrank Toyota Tacoma forums for a phrase related to mods for that truck.

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Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to that post and the entire discussion to dispute that Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums.

Danny wrote:

“Reddit is not always prioritized over other forums. [super vhs to mac adapter] I did this week, it goes Apple Support Community, MacRumors Forum and further down, there’s Reddit. I also did [kumo cloud not working setup 5ghz] recently (it’s a nightmare) and it was the Netgear community, the SmartThings Community, GreenBuildingAdvisor before Reddit. Related to that was [disable 5g airport] which has Apple Support Community above Reddit. [how to open an 8 track tape] — really, it was the YouTube videos that helped me most, but it’s the Tapeheads community that comes before Reddit.

In your example for [toyota tacoma], I don’t even get Reddit in the top results. I get Toyota, Car & Driver, Wikipedia, Toyota again, three YouTube videos from different creators (not Toyota), Edmunds, a Top Stories unit. No Reddit, which doesn’t really support the notion of always wanting to drive traffic just to Reddit.

If I guess at the more specific query you might have done, maybe [overland mods for toyota tacoma], I get a YouTube video first, then Reddit, then Tacoma World at third — not near the bottom. So yes, Reddit is higher for that query — but it’s not first. It’s also not always first. And sometimes, it’s not even showing at all.”

hankschrader79 conceded that they were generalizing when they wrote that Google always prioritized Reddit. But they also insisted that that didn’t diminish what they said is a fact that Google’s “prioritization” forum content has benefitted Reddit more than actual forums.

Why Is The Reddit Post Ranked So High?

It’s possible that Google “tested” that Reddit post in position 8 within minutes and that user interaction signals indicated to Google’s algorithms that users prefer to see that Reddit post. If that’s the case then it’s not a matter of Google showing preference to Reddit post but rather it’s users that are showing the preference and the algorithm is responding to those preferences.

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Nevertheless, an argument can be made that user preferences for Reddit can be a manifestation of Familiarity Bias. Familiarity Bias is when people show a preference for things that are familiar to them. If a person is familiar with a brand because of all the advertising they were exposed to then they may show a bias for the brand products over unfamiliar brands.

Users who are familiar with Reddit may choose Reddit because they don’t know the other sites in the search results or because they have a bias that Google ranks spammy and optimized websites and feel safer reading Reddit.

Google may be picking up on those user interaction signals that indicate a preference and satisfaction with the Reddit results but those results may simply be biases and not an indication that Reddit is trustworthy and authoritative.

Is Reddit Benefiting From A Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop?

It may very well be that Google’s decision to prioritize user generated content may have started a self-reinforcing pattern that draws users in to Reddit through the search results and because the answers seem plausible those users start to prefer Reddit results. When they’re exposed to more Reddit posts their familiarity bias kicks in and they start to show a preference for Reddit. So what could be happening is that the users and Google’s algorithm are creating a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

Is it possible that Google’s decision to show more user generated content has kicked off a cycle where more users are exposed to Reddit which then feeds back into Google’s algorithm which in turn increases Reddit visibility, regardless of lack of expertise and authoritativeness?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Kues

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WordPress Releases A Performance Plugin For “Near-Instant Load Times”

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WordPress speculative loading plugin

WordPress released an official plugin that adds support for a cutting edge technology called speculative loading that can help boost site performance and improve the user experience for site visitors.

Speculative Loading

Rendering means constructing the entire webpage so that it instantly displays (rendering). When your browser downloads the HTML, images, and other resources and puts it together into a webpage, that’s rendering. Prerendering is putting that webpage together (rendering it) in the background.

What this plugin does is to enable the browser to prerender the entire webpage that a user might navigate to next. The plugin does that by anticipating which webpage the user might navigate to based on where they are hovering.

Chrome lists a preference for only prerendering when there is an at least 80% probability of a user navigating to another webpage. The official Chrome support page for prerendering explains:

“Pages should only be prerendered when there is a high probability the page will be loaded by the user. This is why the Chrome address bar prerendering options only happen when there is such a high probability (greater than 80% of the time).

There is also a caveat in that same developer page that prerendering may not happen based on user settings, memory usage and other scenarios (more details below about how analytics handles prerendering).

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The Speculative Loading API solves a problem that previous solutions could not because in the past they were simply prefetching resources like JavaScript and CSS but not actually prerendering the entire webpage.

The official WordPress announcement explains it like this:

Introducing the Speculation Rules API
The Speculation Rules API is a new web API that solves the above problems. It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation. This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them.”

The official WordPress page about this new functionality describes it:

“The Speculation Rules API is a new web API… It allows defining rules to dynamically prefetch and/or prerender URLs of certain structure based on user interaction, in JSON syntax—or in other words, speculatively preload those URLs before the navigation.

This API can be used, for example, to prerender any links on a page whenever the user hovers over them. Also, with the Speculation Rules API, “prerender” actually means to prerender the entire page, including running JavaScript. This can lead to near-instant load times once the user clicks on the link as the page would have most likely already been loaded in its entirety. However that is only one of the possible configurations.”

The new WordPress plugin adds support for the Speculation Rules API. The Mozilla developer pages, a great resource for HTML technical understanding describes it like this:

“The Speculation Rules API is designed to improve performance for future navigations. It targets document URLs rather than specific resource files, and so makes sense for multi-page applications (MPAs) rather than single-page applications (SPAs).

The Speculation Rules API provides an alternative to the widely-available <link rel=”prefetch”> feature and is designed to supersede the Chrome-only deprecated <link rel=”prerender”> feature. It provides many improvements over these technologies, along with a more expressive, configurable syntax for specifying which documents should be prefetched or prerendered.”

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See also: Are Websites Getting Faster? New Data Reveals Mixed Results

Performance Lab Plugin

The new plugin was developed by the official WordPress performance team which occasionally rolls out new plugins for users to test ahead of possible inclusion into the actual WordPress core. So it’s a good opportunity to be first to try out new performance technologies.

The new WordPress plugin is by default set to prerender “WordPress frontend URLs” which are pages, posts, and archive pages. How it works can be fine-tuned under the settings:

Settings > Reading > Speculative Loading

Browser Compatibility

The Speculative API is supported by Chrome 108 however the specific rules used by the new plugin require Chrome 121 or higher. Chrome 121 was released in early 2024.

Browsers that do not support will simply ignore the plugin and will have no effect on the user experience.

Check out the new Speculative Loading WordPress plugin developed by the official core WordPress performance team.

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How Analytics Handles Prerendering

A WordPress developer commented with a question asking how Analytics would handle prerendering and someone else answered that it’s up to the Analytics provider to detect a prerender and not count it as a page load or site visit.

Fortunately both Google Analytics and Google Publisher Tags (GPT) both are able to handle prerenders. The Chrome developers support page has a note about how analytics handles prerendering:

“Google Analytics handles prerender by delaying until activation by default as of September 2023, and Google Publisher Tag (GPT) made a similar change to delay triggering advertisements until activation as of November 2023.”

Possible Conflict With Ad Blocker Extensions

There are a couple things to be aware of about this plugin, aside from the fact that it’s an experimental feature that requires Chrome 121 or higher.

A comment by a WordPress plugin developer that this feature may not work with browsers that are using the uBlock Origin ad blocking browser extension.

Download the plugin:
Speculative Loading Plugin by the WordPress Performance Team

Read the announcement at WordPress
Speculative Loading in WordPress

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See also: WordPress, Wix & Squarespace Show Best CWV Rate Of Improvement

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

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10 Paid Search & PPC Planning Best Practices

Whether you are new to paid media or reevaluating your efforts, it’s critical to review your performance and best practices for your overall PPC marketing program, accounts, and campaigns.

Revisiting your paid media plan is an opportunity to ensure your strategy aligns with your current goals.

Reviewing best practices for pay-per-click is also a great way to keep up with trends and improve performance with newly released ad technologies.

As you review, you’ll find new strategies and features to incorporate into your paid search program, too.

Here are 10 PPC best practices to help you adjust and plan for the months ahead.

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1. Goals

When planning, it is best practice to define goals for the overall marketing program, ad platforms, and at the campaign level.

Defining primary and secondary goals guides the entire PPC program. For example, your primary conversion may be to generate leads from your ads.

You’ll also want to look at secondary goals, such as brand awareness that is higher in the sales funnel and can drive interest to ultimately get the sales lead-in.

2. Budget Review & Optimization

Some advertisers get stuck in a rut and forget to review and reevaluate the distribution of their paid media budgets.

To best utilize budgets, consider the following:

  • Reconcile your planned vs. spend for each account or campaign on a regular basis. Depending on the budget size, monthly, quarterly, or semiannually will work as long as you can hit budget numbers.
  • Determine if there are any campaigns that should be eliminated at this time to free up the budget for other campaigns.
  • Is there additional traffic available to capture and grow results for successful campaigns? The ad platforms often include a tool that will provide an estimated daily budget with clicks and costs. This is just an estimate to show more click potential if you are interested.
  • If other paid media channels perform mediocrely, does it make sense to shift those budgets to another?
  • For the overall paid search and paid social budget, can your company invest more in the positive campaign results?

3. Consider New Ad Platforms

If you can shift or increase your budgets, why not test out a new ad platform? Knowing your audience and where they spend time online will help inform your decision when choosing ad platforms.

Go beyond your comfort zone in Google, Microsoft, and Meta Ads.

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Here are a few other advertising platforms to consider testing:

  • LinkedIn: Most appropriate for professional and business targeting. LinkedIn audiences can also be reached through Microsoft Ads.
  • TikTok: Younger Gen Z audience (16 to 24), video.
  • Pinterest: Products, services, and consumer goods with a female-focused target.
  • Snapchat: Younger demographic (13 to 35), video ads, app installs, filters, lenses.

Need more detailed information and even more ideas? Read more about the 5 Best Google Ads Alternatives.

4. Top Topics in Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

Recently, trends in search and social ad platforms have presented opportunities to connect with prospects more precisely, creatively, and effectively.

Don’t overlook newer targeting and campaign types you may not have tried yet.

  • Video: Incorporating video into your PPC accounts takes some planning for the goals, ad creative, targeting, and ad types. There is a lot of opportunity here as you can simply include video in responsive display ads or get in-depth in YouTube targeting.
  • Performance Max: This automated campaign type serves across all of Google’s ad inventory. Microsoft Ads recently released PMAX so you can plan for consistency in campaign types across platforms. Do you want to allocate budget to PMax campaigns? Learn more about how PMax compares to search.
  • Automation: While AI can’t replace human strategy and creativity, it can help manage your campaigns more easily. During planning, identify which elements you want to automate, such as automatically created assets and/or how to successfully guide the AI in the Performance Max campaigns.

While exploring new features, check out some hidden PPC features you probably don’t know about.

5. Revisit Keywords

The role of keywords has evolved over the past several years with match types being less precise and loosening up to consider searcher intent.

For example, [exact match] keywords previously would literally match with the exact keyword search query. Now, ads can be triggered by search queries with the same meaning or intent.

A great planning exercise is to lay out keyword groups and evaluate if they are still accurately representing your brand and product/service.

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Review search term queries triggering ads to discover trends and behavior you may not have considered. It’s possible this has impacted performance and conversions over time.

Critical to your strategy:

  • Review the current keyword rules and determine if this may impact your account in terms of close variants or shifts in traffic volume.
  • Brush up on how keywords work in each platform because the differences really matter!
  • Review search term reports more frequently for irrelevant keywords that may pop up from match type changes. Incorporate these into match type changes or negative keywords lists as appropriate.

6. Revisit Your Audiences

Review the audiences you selected in the past, especially given so many campaign types that are intent-driven.

Automated features that expand your audience could be helpful, but keep an eye out for performance metrics and behavior on-site post-click.

Remember, an audience is simply a list of users who are grouped together by interests or behavior online.

Therefore, there are unlimited ways to mix and match those audiences and target per the sales funnel.

Here are a few opportunities to explore and test:

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  • LinkedIn user targeting: Besides LinkedIn, this can be found exclusively in Microsoft Ads.
  • Detailed Demographics: Marital status, parental status, home ownership, education, household income.
  • In-market and custom intent: Searches and online behavior signaling buying cues.
  • Remarketing: Advertisers website visitors, interactions with ads, and video/ YouTube.

Note: This varies per the campaign type and seems to be updated frequently, so make this a regular check-point in your campaign management for all platforms.

7. Organize Data Sources

You will likely be running campaigns on different platforms with combinations of search, display, video, etc.

Looking back at your goals, what is the important data, and which platforms will you use to review and report? Can you get the majority of data in one analytics platform to compare and share?

Millions of companies use Google Analytics, which is a good option for centralized viewing of advertising performance, website behavior, and conversions.

8. Reevaluate How You Report

Have you been using the same performance report for years?

It’s time to reevaluate your essential PPC key metrics and replace or add that data to your reports.

There are two great resources to kick off this exercise:

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Your objectives in reevaluating the reporting are:

  • Are we still using this data? Is it still relevant?
  • Is the data we are viewing actionable?
  • What new metrics should we consider adding we haven’t thought about?
  • How often do we need to see this data?
  • Do the stakeholders receiving the report understand what they are looking at (aka data visualization)?

Adding new data should be purposeful, actionable, and helpful in making decisions for the marketing plan. It’s also helpful to decide what type of data is good to see as “deep dives” as needed.

9. Consider Using Scripts

The current ad platforms have plenty of AI recommendations and automated rules, and there is no shortage of third-party tools that can help with optimizations.

Scripts is another method for advertisers with large accounts or some scripting skills to automate report generation and repetitive tasks in their Google Ads accounts.

Navigating the world of scripts can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is a post here on Search Engine Journal that provides use cases and resources to get started with scripts.

Luckily, you don’t need a Ph.D. in computer science — there are plenty of resources online with free or templated scripts.

10. Seek Collaboration

Another effective planning tactic is to seek out friendly resources and second opinions.

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Much of the skill and science of PPC management is unique to the individual or agency, so there is no shortage of ideas to share between you.

You can visit the Paid Search Association, a resource for paid ad managers worldwide, to make new connections and find industry events.

Preparing For Paid Media Success

Strategies should be based on clear and measurable business goals. Then, you can evaluate the current status of your campaigns based on those new targets.

Your paid media strategy should also be built with an eye for both past performance and future opportunities. Look backward and reevaluate your existing assumptions and systems while investigating new platforms, topics, audiences, and technologies.

Also, stay current with trends and keep learning. Check out ebooks, social media experts, and industry publications for resources and motivational tips.

More resources: 

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Featured Image: Vanatchanan/Shutterstock

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