Paid Search Feedback & Lessons Learned from SMX Advanced Seattle 2012

SMX Advanced is well known for having great topics, great information, great presenters, and most importantly, great learning and takeaways that can be applied to improve your current online marketing practices. For these reasons, I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to attend my first SMX Advanced.

I’ve been to other search marketing events: SES New York and Google-hosted events (e.g. ThinkEdu). Although both of these provided some good information, much of it was beginner or entry-level, full of statistics/data but short on recommendations, or was based on theory and lacked concrete studies to back up claims.

My skill set and knowledge base is primarily focused on SEM/pay-per-click; therefore, I spent the majority of my time on the paid search track. Below are highlights of what I learned.

What I learned from my favorite sessions


The Mad Scientists of Paid Search
My favorite topic here was keyword mapping and how Google has changed the way it determines which of your keywords is triggered by a user’s search query. Michael Behrens started explained the concept of keyword mapping, issues it was causing, and how to try and prevent it from occurring. Basically, nearly every search query will match more than one keyword. This causes issues with ensuring your best ad is appearing and sending the user to the most relevant landing page for a particular query. You must take preventive measures to avoid this as much as possible, using negative keywords and having a solid account structure with tightly focused ad groups. Ryan Hutchings provided specific examples that he has experienced working with VacationRoost that helped support Michael’s findings, which was extremely helpful.

Auditing PPC Campaigns
My favorite presentation here was by Joe Kerschbaum. Every PPC marketer is tasked with providing PPC audits—whether for your current campaigns, co-workers’ campaigns, potential prospects, etc. Joe’s presentation helped set a solid framework of auditing PPC campaigns which will help with efficiencies across our department.

Paid Search Tactics and Tools
My favorite presentation here was by Frank Kochenash on product listing ads. Frank provided great information on the growth of PLA’s and best practices for optimizing PLA’s to show the best product.

What I learned from my favorite speakers


Carlos Del Rio (@inflatemouse) – Carlos was part of the “Perfecting PPC Landing Pages” session and not only provided great information, but was also incredibly funny and engaging. My favorite tips from Carlos included:

  • All landing pages should have only ONE action
  • Never use social sharing buttons on landing pages (but can have on thank-you pages)

Joe Kerschbaum (@JoeKerschbaum) – Joe went through an easy way to quickly identify potential red flags when running PPC audits using only AdWords Editor in 10 minutes. Using the filters/advanced search function in Adwors Editor easily allows you to slice and dice data. As he mentions, you can’t thoroughly audit an account in 10 minutes, so he provided more of a starting point before digging into the data. Definitely make sure you look for inconsistencies across the campaigns. He provided an awesome PPC checklist that can be downloaded here: The spreadsheet is very well organized, simple, and easily understood by advanced PPC marketers.

Melissa Mackey (@mel66) – Melissa was also part of the ”Auditing PPC Campaigns” track and really had PPC marketers thinking outside the box when analyzing/auditing PPC campaigns. Basically, don’t think just about conversion-oriented data or search engine provided data when looking at campaigns. Also, look at analytical data, such as bounce rate, average time on site, pages per visit, etc. and understand how these metrics should vary for “all visits” vs. “paid visits” within e-commerce accounts vs. lead-gen accounts.

Dr. Siddharth Shah (@drsidshah) – Dr. Siddharth Shah, part of the “Data Paralysis” track, put together a very detailed presentation on long-tail management. Much of the mathematical data behind his findings were way over my head; however, he was possibly the funniest speaker that I witnessed during SMX Advanced. In addition, he brought to my attention that more spend (5%-15%) needs to be focused on long-tail keywords, as they generally have a much better ROI but aren’t given a fair fighting chance to prove themselves since volume is obviously an issue. Patience is key.

My Favorite Takeaways


Landing pages:

  • Have only one call-to-action
  • Avoid social media indicators
  • Try micro-sites (which Fathom has been using with success for 3 + years ).
  • Use top-converting ad copy headlines in landing page headlines.
  • Sell benefits, not features.
  • Use social endorsements.
  • Always be testing.
  • Risk-free is key.

Keyword mapping: Identify where it’s happening the most first, and try to tackle it by restructuring if needed. Use negatives—lots of them—to prevent this from happening.

Product Listing Ads: Use them: Responsible for to up to 20% of clicks. Have quality data feeds (optimize them with top-performing products in title and description) and look at “see search terms” under dimensions reports to identify negatives to improve cost per sale. “Google Shopping” changes will occur in early October, so start testing PLA’s now.

Retargeting: Do not rely on just Google’s retargeting (limited reach and capabilities). Test multiple platforms (MediaForge, Chango, AdRoll, etc) to determine what works best for you.

Auditing PPC Campaigns: Develop a standard template that identifies “red flag” areas, dig into data, look beyond AdWords provided data (i.e. Google Analytics, etc), and make sure accounts are opted in to ad extensions and other features or betas that shows whoever is currently responsible for managing campaigns is staying up to date with the latest and greatest features.

Conversion-to-Impression Ratio: Amount of conversions divided by impressions–use when not a clear-cut winner for ad copy testing (the higher, the better).

Managing Enterprise PPC accounts:

  • Use scientific method to prove point
  • Make sure reporting fits clients’/your needs and try to automate.
  • Run tests to prove your client/boss wrong (in a nice way).
  • Earn your clients’/boss’s trust: Show them how you’re saving them money (reduction in CPC, cost per conversion, etc.).
  • Actively monitor and share insights on competitors.
  • Focus budget on lower funnel (best ROI).

AdCenter Updates – Ad rotation features are in beta/pilot and should be available to all advertisers by end of June. Shoot for a quality score of 6 or higher, and utilize “negative keyword conflicts” report and broad match modifier to increase volume/ROI.

I hope you’re able to benefit from what I learned at SMX Advanced. Here’s to improving the ROI of your own PPC account(s)!

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