How to keep PPC accounts healthy

This article on PPC Hero is a good pointer.

You could vary the frequency of executing the suggested steps as per your account’s requirements but the steps mentioned herein are all very relevant towards maintaining a healthy PPC account.


Automation is changing the way Adwords accounts are managed

Matt Lawson currently Managing Director, Ads Marketing at Google has written a very interesting article on account structure.

Many PPC Managers, including me, are what can be called “control freaks” – we like to tweak accounts in the hope of making them as relevant as possible, to squeeze as much performance as possible. This is of course time consuming but so far it has been very rewarding.

However even I am noticing that with automation algorithms becoming smarter, we can now stop tweaking a lot of small controls and start focusing at the big picture.

There is a definite need to give up the old way of managing accounts and start considering automation algorithms as a partner. The automation is still far from perfect but it’s worth a try as an experiment for sure. As we all know, more automation is definitely the way forward.

Analyzing what is happening is even more important when we give away some part of control to the algorithm.

Our role as PPC managers will now be even more focused on the big picture, analysis and making sure that automation is doing what we want it to do.

As of now, at least for some more time, I will continue to keep a mix of management style – some controls and some amount of let-go to the automation algorithms. However I am definitely convinced that it’s time to start thinking the way Matt is advocating in this article on Search Engine Land.

The future of marketing – Relevant, Personalized and Assistive. (All 3 are important)

Marketing should be about bringing the right buyers to the right products.

Bombarding ads in name of marketing is something I have always been against.

mobile advertising ppc management

Consumers always have a choice” and mobile has strengthened this statement even more because now information is so readily available.

As Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP Ads & Commerce at Google himself says in this article :

The expectations for relevant, personalized, and assistive experiences will continue to skyrocket.

I am also of the firm opinion that marketing is going to play a more and more assistive role in future.

Most current websites (especially those of small businesses, local businesses) are just not ready for this change. They are still quite static almost like a brochure or booklet. Even many large companies do not have websites which are really driven by this assistive role.

The advertising also needs to change.

I have always tried to be granular in my approach, trying to align as much as possible with user intent, as much as we can understand it from just the search query. I have also run ads to test “user intent” in cases where the search term does not clarify the intent on its own.

I strongly believe that advertising and marketing must understand user need, and the messaging, as well as the medium of delivering the message, must be relevant to user need.

This is not new but still it is an often ignored situation because there are costs of going “granular”, in trying to understand and align with user intent.

However, now, it is time that marketers must align with user intent and user needs more than ever.

I agree with Sridhar that

We’re heading toward an age of assistance where, for marketers, friction will mean failure, and mass messages will increasingly mean “move on.”

Do read the full article written by Sridhar at this link.

You can also join the Google Marketing Next event livestream on May 23, 2017, at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET.  I am sure it will be interesting. I will be joining for sure.


Value track parameters can be very useful with third party tracking tools like Hotjar

Auto tagging works well to communicate data between Google AdWords and Google Analytics, when both are linked together.

However if you are using third party analytics or tracking solutions like HotJar, then value track parameters can be very useful. ( You should not use UTM parameters along with auto tagging.)

For example, a useful tracking template for a search campaigns could be


which would tell you the keyword responsible for the click, the match type , the network (search, search partner or display), the device and the creative id (the ad which send the traffic to you).

Suppose you are watching a visitor’s video recording in HotJar to understand customer behavior on your website. Now without value track parameters, it’s difficult to guess what might be the intent of the visitor.

However if you have value track parameters set up, then you know the keyword that bought the person to your site, the creative id, the network and other information as relevant. All of this is useful information which can help you analyze better.

Similarly for display campaigns, the following tracking template could be useful as a campaign level tracking template :


Your usage might require more customization.

Do check the list of Adwords value track parameters available at –

The AdWords interface keeps changing but currently you can set value track parameters at campaign level by accessing the Settings > All Settings tab at campaign level. Look under Advanced Settings > Campaign URL options (advanced) > Tracking Template.

Most websites including WordPress websites usually work perfectly with value track parameters. However you should be especially careful if you are using some third party website ( like may be a ticket booking site) as your landing page in some ads. There is a rare chance that these sites may not work correctly with value track parameters.

So, when you enter the tracking template, always use the “Test” button (given in the AdWords interface) to make sure the landing page is still accessible with your value track parameters. It takes only a few seconds but you will be sure that your tracking and ads are working correctly.

I hope value track parameters will be useful to you.

Attribution model choice in Adwords

Attribution is about putting the performance of your keywords into proper perspective.

Advertising should always target higher volume of profitable conversions. Choosing the right attribution model can help in improving advertising returns

Attribution across every single customer engagement is currently impossible.

However, choosing the right model can help in identifying successful keywords and messaging that play important role in generating business. This can help all parts of your marketing efforts, even beyond search and online advertising.

adwords attribution models compared

You can read more about selecting the most appropriate attribution model in this Google support document

Voice search, Artificial intelligence, PPC and SEO

How voice search might change PPC

The voice search volume is growing many folds. Many would agree that voice is a more convenient way to interact with computers- its more natural than typing text or using a mouse.

Today when you search by voice you get search results on your mobile or desktop device same as if you might have typed the search query.

The input is voice but the output is still text based. The online text and image ads are still showing.

However soon users might prefer the output itself to be in voice format.

Voice output could be more convenient and preferable because it would allow users to multitask while searching, thus saving time. Example a user might search by voice while driving or exercising or having his or her meal. When the output would be voice, the online ads as we know them today, will not be “visible” anymore.

Echo Dot was the best seller in November 2016.

Devices like these and the rapid improvements in the voice interface of mobile and desktop operating systems will certainly change the search and PPC world.

Purna Virji, Senior Manager, PPC Training at Microsoft wrote an excellent article about “How Voice Search Will Change Digital Marketing“. This article is very useful to understand how voice search will change the input side of search as we know it today. However it does not talk much about the output side – that is, how we consume search results.

Voice search will make top results even more important

Today, we are used to seeing the search results on a screen, scanning them fast and choosing between them.

In my opinion and as I see in my client accounts, the top positions of search result pages always enjoy significantly higher traffic and business than search results at the bottom of the search result page.

Page 2 of search results gets even less traffic than page 1 and that too would be from people who want to research their decision a lot, otherwise in most cases the top results on page 1 of search engines suffice for most users, especially for most commercial queries.

When voice search becomes popular and the user would start expecting the output to be in voice format too, then the top result that the “computing device” outputs would become even more important than the top result in the search result pages as we know them today.

Our eyes are far faster in scanning more results as compared to waiting for the computing device (the virtual assistant) to speak the next listing details.

So the “second listing” in search results might start getting even fewer chances.

Add to that the “artificial intelligence” technologies that are rapidly growing today. Our “digital assistants”will know more and more about our context and preferences, so the results are bound to get more and more personalized.

The consumption of search results via voice and the artificial intelligence algorithms constantly trying to learn each individual’s preferences will definitely make huge impact to the PPC and SEO landscape as we know it right now.

If today the web marketing world is 70/30 or 80/20 – the top 2 or 3 listings get majority of the business and clicks, then in the voice world this might be 90/10 – the top listing might start getting far more business share than the “listings” below it.

I cannot be sure and I could be wrong but I can imagine that users may not like to wait to “listen” to the second option, especially if the “assistant” keeps learning and in most cases presents very relevant results in the first “listing” itself.

It would become like a habit to accept the top listing – “the answer” that the assistant is providing.

On radio, most users are not really expecting any “results” to their query. Radio is mostly just entertainment and ads in between the content are digestible for most users. How many pay attention to such ads on radio or even on TV is a matter of growing debate, especially when we see around us that as soon as ads come, many users pick up their mobile or start doing something else.

However, imagine a scenario where you are communicating with your voice-assistant, seeking answers to your query. You would want the answer right now. You don’t want to hear three ads before your result (especially if you think the ads may not be relevant). In text search, you can easily scan past ads in case if you feel the ads are not relevant. However voice output would make embedding ads a bit more tougher.

More personalized and context aware ads, at more suitable timings.

On the flip side however, the personal voice assistants would know a lot more about us, than today’s search engines. So I am sure there will be advertising opportunities due to the “predictive response” behavior which we will start expecting from our virtual assistants in the “internet of things” world.

The virtual assistants might be able to guess when it is time to order something, as well as, what sort of activity we are involved in at a given point of time and whether we are receptive to ads at a given point of time.

For example, the virtual assistant could guess that we are on a routine walk, and communicate with us if we want to know about the promotions available for the next purchase due soon. We might consider listening to these “promotional messages” at such a time. Otherwise the assistant can learn that we are not interested in listening to messages when we are walking and try some other time, till it understands which time is suitable for what type of message.

These type of interactions and the context aware nature of virtual assistants could make new advertising chances available at most suitable timings.

So far, voice search is very new to me. I find voice search and AI fascinating and will definitely be thinking, reading and sharing more thoughts about it in near future.

A different but important perspective on CRO

10 CRO Truth Bombs That Will Change the Way You Think About CRO

Stuck in a CRO rut? These brilliantly straightforward tips will fundamentally change your conversion rate optimization strategy.

(Also read the comments exchanged between Larry Kim and  Sam Crocker.)

Source: 10 CRO Truth Bombs That Will Change the Way You Think

Remarketing : List entry and exit both are important (Ebay remarketing error)

Important message of this article :
Remember to remove the converted audience from your remarketing list. This applies in most cases, except when your remarketing ad is specifically targeting audience that converted (for example remarketing ads trying to up-sell or those trying to encourage repeat purchase).

Summary :
I just purchased an item from ebay, yet I am seeing remarketing ads of the same item! It appears that ebay is not correctly creating its remarketing audience list. (I noticed this error despite being logged in while browsing products and using the same device, same  browser session to buy the item.)

Detailed article :
In order to use the remarketing ad budget efficiently, it is important that your remarketing ad should reach the right audience. How can you ensure that?

  1. Pay attention to customer intent when creating your remarketing audience list. Don’t just add all website visitors and start remarketing. Most business have different product offerings. Try to segment your website visitors as per their interest in different products or services.
  2. Remember that members of a remarketing list who complete the desired goal, should be removed from that remarketing list.
  3. Experiment well to understand the sales cycle of your product or service, to arrive at a reasonable “average conversion time” to help you decide on the correct list membership duration. There is no point in advertising to someone when the probability of conversion is low. (In some cases custom combinations might be required for “delayed targeting” – example targeting remarketing ads to encourage repurchase between 30 to 60 days after initial purchase, but that is a different topic so not part of this article.)

Coming back to the eBay example I saw, I think the probable error might be that eBay is not clubbing similar items while creating its remarketing list. This could be due to error in remarketing implementation or simply because the vendors have not supplied correct unique product ids (which should actually be checked and strictly enforced by eBay).

This could happen on any eCommerce site, especially those eCommerce websites which act as market places, where multiple vendors are selling same product, under different listings, for different prices. The listing title and description can vary slightly from vendor to vendor but essentially the item is the same.

The error I noticed was as follows :

For simplicity reason, let us assume there are two vendors selling the same product, one for $2 and the other for $5. I saw both listings to decide which one I want to buy. Let us say I chose the $2 listing and placed an order. Now the marketplace should know that the other listing I saw was also of the same product. So essentially if I have bought the same product from the $2 vendor, then there is no point in showing me remarketing ads for the $5 listing.

The eCommerce market place must create ways to know that different listings are essentially the same product and take that into consideration while creating remarketing audience list.

This is also one of the reasons why all eCommerce platforms are encouraging and requiring vendors to use unique identifiers for their product listings.

(Here is eBay’s product identifier requirements and Google’s recent video on GTIN. Product identifiers like brand name, MPN, and different GTINs make it easier for shoppers to find your items by helping search engines and market-places to handle your data better. So, unique product identifiers are a win-win for all and in most cases they are easy to implement – for most standardized products all you need to do is look up the manufacturer website or the packaging.)

“Correct segmentation to deliver correct message” is one of the most important aspects of remarketing.

When implementing remarketing it is important that the structure and technical design of the website should help in clear segmentation of website visitors.

If you have a lead generation website, then you should make pages with clear focus, so that you know that the person visiting (or spending time on) a given page (or cluster of pages / section of a website) is clearly interested in that particular product or service. In most cases, it would make more sense to focus the remarketing ads to exactly this particular product or service.

Most eCommerce websites have one product per page, so its quite clear which all products a person may be interested in and dynamic remarketing allows creating ads for exactly those items of interest.

The next important aspect is removing the converted members from the remarketing audience list. 

For eCommerce websites, this may be comparatively easier to implement because conversion would happen online only.

However for other types of business, there are practical difficulties in implementing this due to possibility of conversions happening via various channels – both offline and online. So, the implementation for this would vary from case to case but this is quite important and must be done as nicely as possible. This article explains tracking offline conversions . Your web developer could implement it for you OR you could use tools that offer this integration like for example Zoho CRM Adwords integration which essentially help in capturing the gclid and using that to track offline conversions.

More remarketing best practices can be read here :

Google Adwords right sidebar ads removed – Less Ads, More competition, Same old solutions

Google Adwords right sidebar ads have been removed from desktop search results without any prior official announcement.

CPC’s might rise but you can maintain almost similar performance without increasing total budget.
Know which keywords are working for you and move budget from non-working keywords to keywords bringing results, so that you may compete even if CPC’s rise.

  • In each account there are always keywords that are eating budget without delivering equivalent results.
    • It might sound odd but in practice I find that this refining (optimization) process to find relatively “wasteful” keywords is recursive. No matter how well tuned your account may be, there will always be a possibility of getting more results from keywords that work, by taking away budget from the keywords that work less.

As can be expected, removal of adwords right sidebar ads would lead to reduction in number of available impressions and most likely an increase in CPC.

This is a big change and will definitely require adjustment in bids as all advertisers will adjust to this reduced inventory.

While I did not notice any immediate rise in CPC’s in accounts being maintained by me but this could change in near future. This could be specific to accounts being maintained by me but on a quick check I found that most of my client’s accounts (majority of them focused on lead generation) get only about average 4 to 5 percent clicks from the sidebar.

  • The sidebar does contribute to a lot of impressions but the volume of clicks is not really substantial. ( In some cases, the CPC of these sidebar clicks is even higher than top of the page clicks and cost per conversion is higher than that from the top position ads. )

Adwords is a competitive space where the competition and hence CPC can rise anytime for a variety of reasons. Even though this is major change  and affects accounts across the board but I see this as just one of the many changes that can happen to increase competition.

As with every such change, conversion tracking and optimizing accounts becomes even more important now.

Other notes :

  1. So far the only official announcement I have seen is on the Google Adwords advertiser’s community on this thread, which reads as below :
  2. “We’ve been testing this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

  3. A quick way to see how much the sidebar ads contributed could be to segment your data between “Top vs. Other” .
  4. Google Adwords Right Sidebar ads removed - segment top vs. other for quick analysis

  5. Search Engine Land has a very detailed and useful article on this change.