This is the 9th 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!
Bonnie has been member of the talented PPC team at SEER Interactive for the last four years where she has managed monthly budgets from 5K – $200K+. She began her online marketing career with her work at a start up online dating company, where she helped to develop overall internet marketing strategy with a focus in email marketing. She then began working with PPC strategy at a Philadelphia ad agency, where she worked with major brands that included David’s Bridal. Bonnie has a Business Degree with a focus in Marketing from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow Bonnie on Twitter.
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. If we leave them both to their own devices and come back in 12 months, whose ad text would you bet on to be more effective?
That is a tough one, but over time I think the data wonk may win out through continual testing than the creative type who may have a take and leave it approach. I actually find that super creative types often have a hard time with ppc ad copy, because you have so few characters to work with. Sometimes elements such as getting your keyword in the ad result in a winning ad over super catchy, creative ads that follow all the best ad copy practices. Being good at puzzles for paid search copy is equally important as being a stellar writer. That being said in an ideal world you do want a mix of creativity and analysis, because if the data wonk’s ads are so bad then all the testing in the world may not be able to bring it to the CTR + Conv. Rate of the solid copy writer.
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?
There are a lot of tools out there that can help.
The SEER favorite is here: http://www.websharedesign.com/tools/ppc-ad-split-testing-tool/
The big piece of advice I would give, is don’t get overwhelmed by the quantity of data and start with the ad groups that are responsible for the bulk of your spend, as they will have the biggest impact. You can take learning you find for the high volume ad groups and use them for the lower volume groups that may never achieve statistical significance.
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)?
In 100 characters or less: 1. Fit your keyword in the text. 2. Explain the benefits/Features of your service 3. Have a strong call to action. Keeping those elements in mind should help the data wonk develop a strong ad to start. I always start with checking out the competitive landscape and include elements in my ad that will make mine stand out from the competitors.
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.”)?
At SEER we put together an overall testing plan for clients every quarter. Within that plan there is at least one milestone to test ad copy. The frequency is definitely dependent on the size of the client. You want to have enough data to achieve statistical significance. I always start with the highest volume campaigns and ad groups as those groups will have the greatest impact on your campaign. We built an internal tool that uses Google’s API to bring in Google data that shows you when you have stat significant winner. I also have been using Google’s new ACE tool to assist in ad copy testing. See Blog post here.
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 (ie 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 (ie do you look for ads that have high volume and low CTR?).
I start with the ad groups that have high volume overall despite the relative CTR. A lot can impact CTR besides the ad copy, including position or broad match terms getting matched to irrelevant terms. I start with the ad groups that by greatly improving you will move your performance needle.
Once you decide where to work on optimizing ads, how do you decide what to test? Do you have a a standard formula or is it entirely variable based on the Ad Group, keywords, landing pa-ge, etc.?
Usually my first round of ads I pick two ad variations that differ greatly. Once I determine the ad that outperforms, I make incremental tweaks. For example, test a new call to action or only vary the title.
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?
You always have to be thinking about the clients end goal. We recently tested taking out pricing from our ad copy, which led to a spike in CTR and free conversions. The issue was paid membership went down around the same time, so we decided to retest pricing. When we evaluate ads we look at a CTR * Conv. Rate. If an ad has a better CTR, but has a much worse conversion rate and overall conversions are lower, optimizing to this is not in your client’s best interest.
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 (ie don’t use templates on your highest volume groups, use templates liberally as you launch a campaign but then go back and test, etc.)?
I do not use a template. I very often use similar ads across ad groups in the same campaign and tweak the ads to make sure the keyword is included in the ad. I start with two concepts that I test across all ad groups. This helps in analysis for ad groups that do not get a lot of volume. You can pivot the data for your two concepts to see overall if there is a theme that works better.
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.?
Ad copy testing is definitely an important part of optimization. I would say about 10% of my time is spent on ad copy testing. While ad copy testing is important for all clients, I see the importance of ad copy testing to vary greatly by vertical. In very competitive verticals, where brand recognition may be low then ad copy becomes that much more important. If your competitors are all selling a similar service, then your ads have to stand out that much more so the searcher clicks on your ad vs. the competitor’s. For clients with strong brand recognition and industries where research is more important than searcher probably will click on a few ads before making a decision. I’m not saying ad copy testing has no importance in the later instance, I just find the impact smaller. Bids and landing pages probably take up a comparable amount of time. A large percentage of my time is spent thinking of ways to expand the account (if budget is available), and if not using search query reports and search funnels to see where inefficient spend can be eliminated.
How does your process for ads on the Content Network (particularly display ads) differ from that of the search network, if at all?
The process is similar for the content network. The big thing here is just to make sure that you are optimizing this separately cause what works in search may or may not work in content given the very different nature of the two networks. Getting the keyword in your ad copy is much less important for content for example.
Can you think of one ad text tweak that was just way more successful than you thought it would be?
I have an example of tweaks I thought would work better, but actually performed worse. I took over an account for a client who already had pretty strong ads, so instead of starting over I used the clients ads vs. new ones. While the original were good, they did not have a strong call to action. I tested a strong call to action, but my new ads actually lost. This taught me an important lesson that all the best practices in the world do not replace testing!
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?
Continually refine your ad groups so that terms that get volume can get worked into your ads. Use search query reports to see what terms you are getting matched so that you can continually refine. This does wonders for CTR overall.