I Spent 12 Years Optimizing Google Search Ads Worth $30M. Here’s What Works…
Upon reaching a certain level of optimization in your search ads campaign, your pace of growth may slow down or stagnate. At this stage, it becomes imperative to look outside your ads interface and explore new ideas.
In this article, I have shared my experience and insights in generating innovative ideas for ad campaigns and improving productivity to carve time for experimenting with higher-order ideas without expanding team size or budget. Many of these apply to Google Ads campaigns, but the same thought process can be extended to any campaign you run.
Automation of routine tasks
High-performing teams prioritize their daily work. Automating your regular tasks, such as reporting, search term optimization, bid optimization, etc. can help you spare ample time to innovate. This is where the role of in-built rules and scripts comes into the picture.
You can access the same from the ‘Bulk Actions’ tab in your Google Ads account, as shown in the screenshot below:
And it’s not that difficult. Convene a meeting with your team and ask them to make a list of their daily tasks. Combine the insights with the tasks that are both time intensive and repetitive. There are plenty of scripts available to help you with automating these tasks. For accuracy, regular monitoring of the changes made is highly recommended.
See below an example of a rule we had implemented to automatically reduce bids of keywords. We first put in the condition to filter out all keywords which spent more than a certain threshold of amount (in this case INR 1000) and did not yield any conversions (leads <1) in the last 1 week. We applied the rule to reduce bids by 10% every week over their current bid for these keywords. This helped us reduce our spends automatically on non-performing keywords.
Here’s a script we implemented to periodically analyze our ad copy performance using Google Ads API:
CRO and personalization
Getting traffic on the landing page is one aspect; converting it is an entirely different one. So, there is a huge room for growth when it comes to making the most of your existing traffic, and remarketing can probably tackle only a fraction of it. CRO can help you address those gaps methodically and optimize your landing pages for maximum conversions.
You can start by figuring out the behavior of your site visitors through heatmaps or session recording analysis. Furthermore, website surveys can also be utilized to gather qualitative and first-hand feedback from visitors to improve site performance.
Here’s an example from the GA report of VWO’s homepage, where we use Clearbit integration to figure out the audience mix (SMB, Mid-Market, Enterprise) to then think about our personalization and CRO ideas.
The insights driven from these analyses will help you generate ideas to experiment on your landing pages. The most important things you can test on your page are:
- Messaging (headline/page copy/social proof)
- Form length and CTA
- Design and page navigation
- Value proposition
We used sign-up numbers from the previous week on our landing page form as social proof. Along with it, we made the form a single field to reduce as much friction as possible. All remaining fields were shifted to the second step in our progressive form.
Personalization is becoming increasingly important with most marketers. Amazon, with their blazing fast, relevant recommendations like they’re reading our minds, has spoiled us as customers, and now we expect this in all aspects of our digital life. Who wouldn’t like a personalized experience on their landing page?
Here’s a very simple example of industry-based personalization (eLearning) on our landing page.
As a business, you can’t undermine the importance of personalizing your landing page copy and design, given that you are equipped with data around your visitors’ language, nationality, industry, and past browsing history. It certainly pays back its dividend in gold and can often do wonders for your brand. Even if it doesn’t impact conversions directly, it definitely enriches the visitor experience.
Alignment with sales and customer success team
Your sales team is a treasure of qualitative insights about your target prospects and leads—good and bad ones, favorable geographies, and whatnot! In my experience, I’ve seen some of the best ideas coming from regular discussions with the sales team. If your company has such a culture and system in place, the CRM notes and initial calls for the leads generated carry tons of value. Watch out for them.
Here’s a screenshot of our raw lead data from our Tableau interface, which we use to gain objective feedback from the individual sales owners on the quality of different leads and use that to incorporate insights into our Google Ads strategy.
Unclear keyword intent or a confusing ad copy is another reason for poor conversions. It can also undermine keyword opportunities where conversion rates could be high, but you end up wasting a substantial amount of money attracting low-quality prospects. In this case, sales teams can guide you about new competitors in the domain from their conversations with clients and also any new potential pain point or need that customers are looking to solve through your product. All of it can add value in expanding your keyword set and in making your ad copies and landing pages convincing and relevant.
Attribution is the bane of performance marketing. It is the only thing that is ever elusive from many high-performance marketing teams even today. Performance marketing has brought with it the ability to measure everything from impression to revenue. However, no performance marketing campaign is ever run in isolation as there is always some or the other campaign running in parallel.
Someone could have heard about your brand in an event and then searched you online, or perhaps somebody recommended you on social media to their friend, and they clicked from that site to your website. This chain doesn’t stop there.
An average lead from impression to conversion and even post-conversion can have several points of contact with the brand (both offline and online) before it finally converts. So, which channel should be attributed to the conversion?
To solve this conundrum, marketers have come up with a complex system of UTMs and models (about seven) which can assign fractional value to different channels to help you calculate your true channel-specific ROI. The process continues on the sales side of things, for example, which email cadence was sent to the prospect, which sales rep followed up with them, which account manager negotiated the deal, and everything that can affect the end outcome.
In my experience, it always pays off to go through the process of attribution slow and steady. Ensure that you involve cross-functional teams in deciding what factors are essential in your cross-channel attribution modeling before starting to optimize your campaign budgets.
Improving quality score
It is a quest that has been haunting performance marketers since eons. Most of the time, Google does not disclose what actually impacts quality scores and what all one can do to improve it. All that to discourage people from “gaming the system”.
This has resulted in several theories around what does and doesn’t impact the quality score. In my experience of working on several campaigns all these years, I believe that Google decides to favor user experience over everything else. Some of the metrics you can track internally for quality score, including ad relevance, landing page experience, and expected CTR, are closely linked to user experience.
Sometimes the performance of the keywords is not directly proportional to their quality score.
Some of the most-effective things you can do to improve your quality score would be to:
- Ensure the majority of the clicks that get generated in your account are generated from exact match keywords. This will tell you how well you know your keywords and can craft custom ad copies perfectly suited to those keywords.
- Ensure that the majority of triggered ads take users to a specific landing page. For this step to go right, you need to sync your keyword to ad copies. Cramming the keyword into the H1 or H2 would not help; instead, use parts of the keyword contextually in your copy to align users’ intent to take an interest in your business. Ensure that your landing page is an extension of the message in your ad copy. Think of it this way, your keyword is analogous to a question that users ask, to which your ad copy makes a promise of an answer, and your landing page serves as a destination where they finally get that answer.
- Ensure that you have relevant and useful content that closely matches the intent of searchers. Also, make sure that your landing page is great from usability and technical perspective as well. This includes ensuring that it has easy navigation, intuitive page structure having clear CTAs, and fast page loading speed and responsive experience on different browsers and devices.
You can catapult your ad campaigns to another level through an innovative approach. Always focus on the main goals of the campaigns, such as ROI, leads, pipeline created, and keep trying all new ideas like ad betas, new scripts, new messaging, etc., to see their impact on your end goal. All you then need to do is just stick to what works.