At SMX Social the week before last, we had the good fortune of attending Certified Knowledge’s AdWords Advanced Training Workshop at the Aria Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Conducted by Brad Geddes, Founder of Certified Knowledge and author of Advanced Google AdWords, the workshop is a wellspring of fundamentals and ultramodern tips and tricks.
After the show, we caught up with Brad to ask him a few follow-up questions regarding the workshop.
aimClear: We got a real charge out of attending your workshop last week. It combined a comprehensive review of AdWords strategy with numerous insights from your many years of experience. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes in AdWords. How do you determine what to cover in your Advanced AdWords Training Workshop?
Brad: I find that the experience level of the attendees varies dramatically. I’ve done some workshops where 80% of the attendees were very new and others like this past one, where 50% had more than 3 years of experience. So, I try to blend the fundamentals with advanced concepts so that I don’t lose the beginners and yet can offer information for more advanced users. That’s why I always poll the room before I start about their experience levels so if I need to skim over the basics and talk about more advanced concepts or spend more time on the fundamentals so the beginners leave with action plans.
If there’s a brand new change in Google, especially if it’s a dramatic change like the recent ad rank changes, I make sure that I cover that as well so everyone has the most up-to-date information.
aimClear: Recently, Google added Demographic and Interest data to Google Analytics. Many are predicting that this type of data will soon be layered over paid search within AdWords and Bing. What are your thoughts on this?
Brad: I think we’ll see bid modifiers and the ability to layer some of this data in Google sooner than later. Bing will eventually follow, but they’ll be a bit behind Google launching these features. I think the most interesting part of this will be if the engines use explicit or implicit data. Right now, Google has the information necessary to launch these features with implicit data and cover a large percentage of searchers. I don’t believe they have the data to launch this with explicit data and cover over half the searches. Therefore, the internal decision to launch with implicit versus explicit data could dramatically change the launch dates of these features.
aimClear: Are there any other big developments that you anticipate occurring in paid search within the next few years?
Brad: I think the layering of demographic data is going to be a big change. With enhanced campaigns, Google has set themselves up to be able to launch bid filters for a large variety of data so that the system doesn’t appear to change that much, yet there’s a lot of marketing possibilities at the same time.
Another potentially huge change is going to a cookieless tracking system. I’ve heard that the adopted system could be worth $5 – $20 billion (that is a large range) so I think there’s a lot more to the tracking debate than user privacy – there’s a lot of money at stake as well. If we move to some sort of cross device, multi-attribution conversion system, it will give marketers a great picture of their buying funnel and consumer behavior, but also make it extremely complex to determine market budgets for each channel.
aimClear: One of the topics we discussed during the workshop was the ad approval process for AdWords and how an ad will not receive 100% impression access until it is approved by a person. What are some of the most common mistakes that you see advertisers make as it pertains to the approval process?
Brad: The number one mistake is not scheduling out promotions, ad changes, website changes, etc. in advance so the marketers give themselves enough time to submit the ads and get them approved before the change happens. I still see companies submitting ads on Friday evenings for promotions or new site redesigns that go live on Mondays.
Another big issue is that companies are constantly changing prices in the ads to match or beat competitors. Every time you edit an ad through the interface or the AdWords editor, you are essentially deleting ad 1 and creating ad 2. Ad 2 needs to be approved before it’s shown everywhere. If you do this a couple times a week, your ads are rarely shown all the time. Google does have an API call that will let you edit a price in the ad without resetting the ads stats and the need for the ad to go back through approval; however, this has never been introduced into the interface or the editor; which does give larger companies an advantage in keeping up with the latest prices.
aimClear: You fielded several questions asking, ‘How do I improve my quality score?’ The topic of Ad Relevance received much of the attention. Term frequency-inverse document frequency was mentioned as playing a role in determining ad relevance. Have you discovered any techniques that tend to consistently improve ad relevance?
Brad: Yes – I find that just by starting with granular ad group keyword organization, appropriately chosen landing pages and then writing ads for those ad groups usually leads to average or above average relevancy. There are exceptions of course, but the most common reason for low relevancy is poor organization. Organization can be highly time consuming so people are often looking for shortcuts, and that’s the top reason for these issues.
When Google supported the ~tilde command for search and had Google Sets as a tool, you could use those two items to find related words in Google’s algo as opposed to related words from a human standpoint and it was usually easy to increase relevancy. Now that Google has sunsetted the tilde search, Google sets, and the Wonder Wheel, it is much harder to find these related keywords to use in ads as there’s not a way to pull them from Google anymore.
So, I find that when you run into these ad relevancy issues; assuming you have good organization already, your best bet is to do ad testing or use ACE to find combinations that Google deems relevant.
aimClear: While covering placement targeting for the Google Display Network, there was an attendee who mentioned a clever tactic of placing display ads on your competitors’ website and shopping cart. What is the single best strategy or trick you have learned from either an attendee or other speaker in the past?
Brad: A few years ago, I used to do this all the time. For some reason, a lot of ecommerce sites or even lead generation sites would put AdSense on their checkout pages or whitepaper download pages to make a little bit more money. I think one of the other reasons is that there was a lot of false SEO information that by using AdSense you got better SERP placement, so this was a very old tactic that you rarely come across anymore as companies have gotten smarter about increasing conversion rates.
The best tip I’ve learned from an attendee was in regards to remarketing cookies. They were embedding the remarketing scripts into their emails, and then increasing their display cookie pool to qualified people doing this (they also had great email list segmentation which made this even more effective). It was a great idea, and then I started thinking about other ways I could put remarketing scripts on properties I didn’t own. That led me to making some deals with publishers to put remarketing scripts on certain pages or sites they owned to increase the number of qualified people in my own cookie pools. As a script doesn’t take up visible real estate, many small publishers have no idea how to price this; and I’ve bought cookie pools in excess of 100,000 highly qualified users for as little as $50 before. When you consider a 1% CTR and a 10% conversion rate on some of these remarketing list products, that’s like buying a new customer for fifty cents.
aimClear: One of our favorite Excel tricks that you preach is how to assess true account health by using Pivot Tables to determine Weighted Quality Score by Impression. Are there any Excel tactics pioneered by other marketers that you use on a frequent basis?
Brad: Chad Summerhill and Rick Galen have made some great presentations, blog posts, and excel docs over the years. In some cases, I’ve taken what I learned from them and then developed my own method for using Excel to extract the data or analyze it. So they were the inspiration of some analysis, but I don’t use their exact methods.
Lyena Soloman and I did a Market Motive workshop on Excel about a year ago and she showed some amazing things with conditional formatting that included heatmap cells, directional arrows, etc. that I’ve taken and used for myself. I don’t use her analysis, but I use what I learned from her in conditional formatting and use it often in creating more visual Excel documents.
So I have a tendency to learn an Excel function or analysis technique from someone, and then think about how I think it should be used or other uses for the same function, and use that going forward.
aimClear: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Brad! As always, it was a pleasure.