You Ask We Answer: Paid Search
Welcome to a brand-new installment of “You Ask, We Answer!” (*still waiting on that production budget, Bill*). We know navigating the vast tapestry of the internet can sometimes be difficult and a little overwhelming, which is why we host our weekly webinars for you to up your online savvy without the negative, thick-framed glasses-wearing, man-bun connotations that come along with it!
For today’s webinar, we asked our Director of Online Advertising and Home Alone aficionado, Nathan Leverette, to answer any of your questions and concerns regarding Paid Search (as the organic search specialist writing this blog begrudgingly sat and watched in the corner while we recorded). We’ve embedded the webinar video below, along with a transcription of everything we discussed so you can follow along below!
A PREFACE ON THE SUBJECT
- When we talk about paid search advertising, we’re typically discussing Google Search. Other platforms exist, though less prevalent, but the theories are the same.
- Google AdWords is now called Google Ads, and nobody is used to this name yet.
- Google Ads offers advertising in different formats (Search, Display, Video), but the bulk of client budgets are Search, as it is intent-based and tends to get the best ROI.
- Search advertising is extensive, involved, and complex, and although most of it is unseen at any given time, it gets the bulk of our account managers’ attention.
Is showing up in first position a must?
Short answer: no. Depending on the urgency of your message, you might want to claim top spot, but there are multiple ad spaces available, and they basically increase in price the closer to the top of the page you get. A higher position will affect the click-through rate, because if users search something and see 2 ads, both relevant, over time they are more likely to click on the top one. On mobile, it’s arguably more important because the first ad covers most of the screen, versus desktop where more is visible at once. But ads in other positions get clicks too, and you can stand out with a strong message. Also, the big one is that budgets are finite. Let’s say there are 100 searches for a certain keyword. On your budget, you might be able to show up in the top spot 20 times, and not show at all for the other 80 searches. Or, you could target the second position and show up 80 out of 100 times. It’s a judgment call of what your priority is. Over time, the data will show if you get more bang for your buck by targeting a lower position, or if you truly do get more conversions showing up high.
I Googled myself and a competitor’s ad showed up in the results too. How did that happen, and shouldn’t that be stopped?
This is called conquesting, where clients want to go after someone else’s business. And it is allowed. Search advertising is the free market. Advertising parties are allowed to bid on keywords as they see fit. The exception to this is if a franchise is violating the internal rules of their brand. For example, if a dealership is part of an OEM program where they provide co-op funds on certain conditions, meaning the OEM decides what is allowed and what’s not. If you are part of such a program, then you can get the OEM to police this, but Google doesn’t care. However, search engines do have systems in place to encourage advertisers to be as relevant as possible for the keywords targeted. Over time, if an advertiser is targeting certain keywords and the users don’t find that relevant, like they search for one business or product and something else entirely shows up, the performance of those ads will be poor, and the cost to bid on the same keywords goes up, so in this way, the practice is passively discouraged, but not prohibited. Sometimes it’s best to let the competitor punch themselves out and burn through their budget, rather than getting sucked into a bidding war. This leads to the next question…
Should I conquest my competitors?
You are free to conquest your competitors, but we always advise clients that the performance of those ads won’t appear to be very good, and it gets expensive to bid on those search terms. By advertising a business or service which is different than what the user searched, like if they searched “Lawrence Dy Ford” and an ad for “Nathan Leverette Hyundai” shows up, the click-through rate for that campaign will be poor, regardless of position. The cost per click will be high, and the cost per conversion will be poor. This is almost universal. So we don’t recommend it as part of a fundamental search advertising strategy, but if it is indeed valuable to you, then yes we can do it. Again, if you’re part of an OEM program, we will operate within their rules, but otherwise it’s your money, and you’re the boss. I can see the argument that you want to try and go after someone else’s customers, and to get a customer to change loyalty is valuable, just remember to consider those performance metrics in context when reading your reports.
Why do some ads have a button on the bottom to call the business, and other ads will have something else, like a list of services or links to parts of their website? Is that chosen randomly?
This is referring to ad extensions. Below the headlines and description text of search ads are these little content add-ons called extensions. The example image I grabbed is on desktop so it doesn’t have the phone button, but you can see how ads look like they are assembled differently. Some of them have a list of services, some of them have links, some of them have nothing. Basically those are all manually built by whoever runs the account. Once those are built, and associated with whatever keywords are entered, Google will make a judgment call on which ones to show the users for your ad. Based on the context of the search, and what has historically been effective with your ads (like did a certain extension have a positive effect on the click-through rate for users in this region and this time of day), extensions are selected. This is done via Google’s algorithm, and machine learning is a huge concept we won’t get into right now. There is no one best extension. Some clients really value having that phone call button on their ads, but other clients would rather the user actually come to their site first. Depends on the intent of the campaign and how you observe users behaving over time. Ultimately you want a large sample size before determining which extensions work best for your advertising, and even then, some extensions work well for most users, but other extensions might be better for other users. The algorithm will help show the ideal content.
Why are there multiple ads showing for the same search? Can’t we just pick one and run with only that?
This is a very similar idea to the previous question about ad extensions. The short answer is there isn’t one correct ad which will appeal to everyone the same. So even if people use the same keywords, like looking for a car dealership, different ads attract different people. Some people will be attracted to an ad that talks about how they have great selection, or have the most experience, or have unique offers, or something with a pun in the description, or something more straightforward. Google started preaching a few years back that the best practice is to have a variety of ads per ad group, meaning multiple ads which will be triggered by the same keywords, and the algorithm will optimize the delivery to show the ideal ad depending on the context of the search. There are essentially an infinite number of factors which could factor into the context of a search. The algorithm might determine that women in their 30’s who are searching on wifi using an android device tend to prefer one ad, and men in their 40’s who are travel enthusiasts and live in a suburb and are searching at 3PM tend to prefer another ad, for whatever reason. Obviously this is determined through large sample sizes, but the point is, what I like and what you like might be different. We’ve had some clients ask which one of their search ads performs best, and when we show them they say “I don’t like that, change it”. And our response is why does it matter if you don’t like it? You’re just one person. I might not like that one either, but for whatever reason, it’s getting the best results. It’s not random, and it’s not magic. By having a mix of ads, your account is better equipped with more cards up your sleeve.
I Googled my company/product/service and didn’t see my ad. Why?
This is one of the most common questions we get about search advertising, and it usually has the simplest answer. There are many possible reasons why you didn’t see your ad in a given moment. The campaign might have run out of its daily budget, you might be searching from an area outside of the targeted location, the campaign might be set to deliver ads on a schedule (in order to spread the budget throughout the day), we might be excluding recent visitors to avoid spending additional money on people who already found you… And surprisingly enough, we get this question from clients who are searching for something that they don’t advertise. For example, many of our dealer clients advertise new vehicle sales, but very few will advertise their other departments, like parts and service. So they will google something like “oil change” and expect to see their ad, but we never set up a campaign for that, because maybe they don’t get co-op funds, or they wanted to focus their budget on new sales. We’re actually compiling a bunch of these common reasons in a blog post, which will be on our website tomorrow. So that will be available for reference, both for clients and for our staff to copy and paste from, because we get that question so often. The most common answer is the daily budget ran out, but there are many other reasons too.