This is the 7th post in our ‘Ad Text Optimization With the Pros’ interview series. Be sure to check out the other featured interviews for even more Ad Text insight!
Nick Weidman is a Client Services Manager at WordStream, performing a wide array of SEM and marketing services for a variety of clients. His technical training, finance background, and love for search marketing made him a great candidate for this instillation of our Q&A series.
The subject of statistical significance in ad testing is a really interesting one for me because I perceive PPC ad copywriting to be a great example of traditional marketing meeting a more Web and data centric means of reaching customers. In other words: its ad copy, its ad creative, but tests and refinements tend to be data driven. So my question is this: if I give you two PPC account managers who are going to focus on nothing but ad text:
One is very creative and great at creating copy that resonates with searchers, but very weak on data analysis. The other is a data wonk and religious tester but not much of a copywriter.
What advice would you have for the first persona to help them create a process for optimization that would be manageable for them given their weakness in data analysis?
Given this person is not a “data nut”, I would encourage them to develop a system that is manageable for them but allows them to tap into the data. One problem many people have with AdWords is there are so many metrics to measure success on. The first step in the process would be to ask the person what kind of business they are running and what their margins look like. If their margins are low, we might want to focus on low CPCs and cost-per-conversion. I would keep the ads on rotate, but keep a close eye on two or three key metrics. If they are running a business in which margins are much more flexible, I would probably focus more on traffic and driving relevant volume.
What advice would you have for the second persona given that they aren’t a strong copywriter (besides signing up for Boost and letting us do the writing for them)?
I would encourage them to monitor their SQR and write text ads based upon SQs that are applicable to the business and have high conversion data. The SQR is a great way to look for text ad copy because it allows you to tap directly into the intent of the searcher.
All right now I think it would be really helpful for our audience to learn more about your process for optimizing ads for multiple clients. First off: how often are you jumping into the account and tweaking ad text, setting up new ad tests, etc. (this could either be on a per-client basis or generally “I write every day, week, etc.”)?
I will be completely honest I do not optimize text ads as much as I should! It is the number one action in AdWords I wish I had time to do more of. A lot of times I get caught up with managing bids, adding keywords and other “normal” tasks, that I sometimes put writing new ads off to the side. To me it is like going to the gym, it’s tough to do, but every time I do it, I am surprised at the positive effects it has. A new text ad can change the direction of an ad group immediately. As it stands right now, I probably optimize text ads once a month, although it would be my preference to optimize weekly.
When you do dig in and start to optimize ads, how do you decide where to go first? Is it a function of other diagnoses (i.e. you see that a group’s CTR has dropped and start to drill down) or do you have a process for identifying which ads need help (i.e. do you look for ads that have high volume and low CTR?)
It depends on the account and the goals of the client. For some clients, quality score is a major concern. For this reason, I may be willing to drive less volume for more relevant ad text. I may pause ads which have lower CTR and can hurt QS. For some clients however, the main goal is to drive volume, or hit an effective cost/conversion. I will tend to optimize ads that are doing poorly in regards to a certain metric.
Once you decide where to work on optimizing ads, how do you decide what to test? Do you have a standard formula or is it entirely variable based on the Ad Group, keywords, landing page, etc.?
I typically start testing against past ads if there are any. I like write original ads, but use formulas that have worked in the past. I will incorporate some DKI at the launch of ad group, but ultimately I like to get away from it, as I believe the best way to achieve good QS is to have highly relevant ad content as they relate to keywords. There have been instances however where I have found DKI vastly outperforms even the most highly targeted ad, so I often like to include it in the testing process.
In choosing ads to optimize and thinking about what to change, how do you decide to “qualify” more in an ad? Is there a statistical threshold? (By qualify I just mean re-write the ad to better weed out irrelevant traffic that may be clicking but not converting.) If you do make this decision, is it something you’re faced with frequently?
This is something I encounter, especially when working with a business that can easily be confused with another business. I’ll give you an example. Say you are working with a business that makes printers. A printer can be both a machine, and a person who prints things for you (i.e. Kinkos, .etc). So we want to drive traffic, but we don’t want to get all the people looking for a Kinko’s or FedEx. So what I like to do is a term I coined as “hitting people in the face” with your Ad. Sometimes this means ignoring best practices and matching keywords. You may want to target a term like +online +printers+, but you will want to be sure to write an ad that screams “I MAKE PRINTERS! I DON’T PRINT THINGS FOR PEOPLE”.
Being agency-side you’re working on multiple campaigns: are you making use of ad text templates either within a campaign or cross-campaigns? If so, can you share your basic approach to creating an ad text template (we don’t need specific templates obviously but maybe just your approach to creating a template)? Also do you have any best practices around implementation (i.e. don’t use templates on your highest volume groups, use templates liberally as you launch a campaign but then go back and test, etc.)?
Since I manage many accounts at the moment, we want to work as efficiently as possible. What I typically do will take some things that have worked in the past. As I’ve said before, an account will always have past winners. I try to take bits and pieces that have proven to work. This is where conversations with the business owner will really help. Since you will not know their business as well as they will, ask them what they think works. Ask them what their major competitive advantages are and be sure to include those in your template. I try to have at least one conversation every month with my clients about ad text.
How much of a priority is ad text optimization for you? If you could quantify it as a percentage of your optimization efforts roughly what do you think that would look like (5% of your time? 10%?) and how does that compare to activities like managing bids, testing different landing pages, etc.?
Ideally it would be around 20%, but right now I would say it’s around 5-10% of my time. I would say managing bids, changing match types, creating ad groups all combine for about ten times the amount of time I spend on ads. I’d like this to be a larger percentage though.
How does your process for ads on the Content Network (particularly display ads) differ from that of the search network, if at all?
Our firm doesn’t do much in terms of creative for banner ads. I’ll make recommendations though. With text ads, I will try to grab people’s attention. I won’t use standard practices. I try to include more calls to action because text ads can easily blend into the background on the content network.
Can you think of one ad text tweak that was just way more successful than you thought it would be?
Including a dollar amount in an ad title. That changed the direction of an ad group from negative to positive. Just like Biggy Smalls.
Can you give us an ad text “secret” that you find works for you? Maybe it’s not an actual secret, but something that’s not a commonly discussed best-practice that you find consistently improves results?
I try to step away from best practices sometimes. The beauty of AdWords is it’s ok to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll write ad text that backfires, but you can always use it as a learning experience. My trick is to think outside of the box. That’s where I developed my strategy of sometimes “hitting people in the face” with text ads. There are many instances where you have to almost ignore best practices and get creative.
Thanks to Nick for the great answers! You’ll be able to check out our very own Win of the Week on the WordStream blog starting this week, and you can learn more about the company and their products and services below: