Google AdWords first launch was back in year 2000 with just 350 advertisers utilizing the PPC marketing platform. Today, there are millions of advertisers competing with each other, and, essentially driving up the CPCs for each other. It makes Google happy, just look at it –

Image of Google having party

It’s year 2018. Google performed over 9,800+ live traffic tests in 2017. Do you still believe that the AdWords account you built in 2015 is performing at its maximum capacity? I think not.

So what’s the name of the game for “Keeping up with Google” in 2018?

Just a heads up – this is a post with continuous updates. Use the following “click to jump to section” for easy post navigation:

Google’s Semi-Automatic Bidding

From the dead beginning of Google AdWords, every major player in the PPC industry have followed the nail-and-hammer approach where they want to fix it all themselves. Today, that might not be the case anymore. Google has access to incredible amounts of information that reach much past the activity on SERPs. Think about your own website. Let me guess – how’s that GOOGLE Analytics tag treating you? Well, I sure hope that answered your question of how google can track user experience based on industries, verticals, niche markets, single websites, and so on. They can get pretty granular, if you ask me.

Now that we know that they have the intel, does that still mean we want to trust them with our CPCs, and, potential CPAs?

* Here’s a general visual guide on how AdWords bidding auction works. (Picture credit –?business2community.com)

Google bidding wars happen every 3 minutes. Manual bidding adjustments, in most cases, are made every 1-3 days on MAJOR accounts; while it can be done as little as every 2-6 weeks for minor, local accounts. Considering those numbers, there are 480 auctions in a single day – that means that even accounts of $100k/mo spend can only be so competitive.

Ok, ok – to all the PPC Experts mumbling under their chins that there are ad schedules, bid modifiers for days, hours, genders, even weather conditions… Ask yourself – when was the last time you updated all these settings the last time?

So, now, are you wonder how can your account become more competitive?

Give Google’s AI some credit, and run an experiment for semi-automatic bidding options. I am only an ambassador of eCPC (Enhanced Cost Per Click), CPA (Cost Per Acquisition – best for lead gen) & ROAS (Return on Ad Spend – best for ecomm) strategies, as those are, in my opinion, the only feasible bidding options.

Here’s how you can set up an experiment:

  1. Open a campaign that you’d like to run your test on
  2. Go to the right hand side of AdWords UX (next to date), and click “Create a Draft”
  3. Name your test! Make sure you add something that will remind you of what the test is about. Here’s a generic sample name you could use, but I’d suggest adding the goal CPA as well.
  4. Make sure you click “Create” and have a gray layer with the name you created in Step 3
  5. Go to Settings > Bid Strategy > Click “Edit” > Change Bid Strategy > Pick your desired strategy in the dropdown box
  6. Once that’s done, apply the draft (blue button “Apply” on top of the AdWords UX) to a part of your inbound traffic! They will ask you for what would you prefer to do, so select “Run an experiment”:
  7. Click “Apply” & fill in your preferences. They will ask for an “End Date”, which I’d suggest leaving to “none” – unless you know exactly how much traffic you predict to get & be able to make conclusions based on that data.
    At the bottom of this form you may select how much traffic you’d like to push to the specific experiment, and then click “Create”!
  8. For this to take full effect – brush your hands together & do an inner evil laugh.

CPA and ROAS automatic bidding settings work based on obtained data, but it reaches much past much beloved “if this, then that” automatic rules.

For each auction, these bidding methods consider following factors:

  • Your selected CPA, or, ROAS
  • The key phrases you are going after
  • The search queries you receive
  • Ad schedule
  • Geographic locations
  • Genders
  • Position on SERPs
  • Placements (for GDN)
  • User intent

PRO TIP:?Even if you’ve found that your account’s most profitable avg. position is 3.5; sometimes your best customers don’t get past position 2 & you, again, are left out. Semi-automatic bidding takes care of those situations.

With that being said, your account should never be static ever again!

If you haven’t tested one of the two mentioned types of bidding – you’re definitely behind. To get ahead of game, I’d suggest doing the following things:

  1. Make sure your account has received 50+ conversions in past 30 days (the more the better)
  2. Run an experiment for CPA bidding with however much traffic you feel confident with. Depending on how much traffic you get, I’d suggest testing with anywhere between 25-50% of the traffic. If you do get your fair share of traffic, you can test less – but for the most part, I’d stick in the range mentioned initially.

Give Google Display Network One Last Chance

I already heard multiple “yuck” and “why” within the 3 seconds it took me to write that headline.

Well, “Yuck & why” all you want – Google Display Network WORKS!

And I’m not talking about simple, or even super advanced remarketing. I’m talking about other targeting methods & how to make them work.

Rule #1 –?You can’t get straight to the point with these users, or, offer value!

Just like dating – you can’t walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to marry you, right? You have to get to know them, nurture the relationship, and only THEN you might have a chance of landing a conversion… I mean, marriage!

What I mean by that? If you are advertising for a SaaS company, offer a free ebook on how-to do something your client base might be interested in reading about. If you’re a mortgage brokerage, offer users a free mortgage questionnaire / calculator. If you’re WordStream, offer a free account grader!*See what I’m talking about? (Picture credit – wordstream.com)

Do not make the mistake of trying to get people to register for a free trial, or even worse – try to make them buy directly! These people have no idea of who you are, and considering that you’re doing PPC with Google – there’s almost no chance you’re such an impulse buy that people can’t resist going away from what they’re doing to land on your site to purchase your product / sign up for your service.

Rule #2 –?Pick the right audiences!

You have your free, but valuable offer down. Well, who should you advertise it to now? The answer can be quite simple. Or it can be extremely complicated – again, based on what kind of company are we doing advertising for.

Couple of tips on how to pick the right audience for your account:

Similar to Converted Audience:

Go to Shared Library > Audiences > and if you had created remarketing audiences, you should be able to find a handful of audiences that you didn’t even know existed.

Take a look around. If you had previously created any audiences, I’d suggest you take a look at “Similar to Converted” (if you have more than 1 conversion goal, go after the one with highest value to your business). Then, also, look at “AdWords Optimized List” (and similar to it if the list size is too small to your liking).

Check out “In-market audiences”:

Open up your display campaign Display Network +Targeting “Interests & Remarketing” Click on the box In-market audiences.

PRO TIP:?As suggested in picture, use “Target and bid” option. If you click on “Bid only”, your selection of an audience might become extremely vague – and you don’t want that as we’re testing brand new audiences, and it might worsen the ability to track what’s actually working.

Lastly, Take a Stab at?“Custom Affinity Audiences”:

Custom affinity audience allows you to mix and match interests, URLs, topics, and then creates a whole new list to market to specifically based on your needs (in theory). These used to be a pretty hot subject in 2016/17 – but it worked well for some, and for some it did absolutely NADA! Therefore, it’s worth testing it.

And here’s how to create them:

  1. Open the Display Network campaign you’d like to test
  2. Within the campaign, click on “Display Network” > +Targeting
  3. Locate “Interests & Remarketing”, and pick “Custom affinity audiences”
  4. Now, click on the “+Create custom affinity”
  5. And now you’re in the pilot’s pit to create your very own Custom Affinity Audience. Go all out, you daredevil!
    My suggestion would be to add as many targeting parameters as you can. Use competitor landing pages. Add your top keywords. Top interests. Well – it’s a free for all, where the final result will be a sculpture of all the items you have thrown against Google.

PRO TIP:?Limit the frequency of your GDN ads to overcome ad fatigue!

Rule #3 –?Make sure you know where your ads are shown!

Most accounts I’ve seen have been wasting over 90% of the ad spend allocated to GDN (Google Display Network).

Google’s automatic placements can get quite out of hand. Not only there are terrible placements containing fake / terrible / unusable content, where, initially, you’d never consider your audience would hang out – there are little crawlers and bots that fake visits these sites, and end up clicking on your ad! What’s even worse? These bots are trained to find the conversion source on your site, and fill out that form, or sign up for email lists just to slide by all filters an account manager might have created.

Is that something that should worry you?

Not in 2018! Outsmart the bots, and simply don’t even give them a chance to waste your ad spend! You should now instantly (well, after you’re done reading this article) do 3 things:

  1. Go to your display network placements, and manually revise websites that has spent the most money on your ads & are performing well. Then, use common sense and eliminate all fake sites that might have been robbing you of ad spend for months!
  2. “I want my SaaS free trial ads to show up in mobile apps” – said no one ever. Review whether your ads are showing up on mobile apps.PRO TIP:?To exclude ALL mobile app placements, exclude: adsenseformobileapps.com 
  3. Go ahead, open up your Display Planner, and look up legitimate placements. If you’re a car parts shop, advertising on jalopnik.com would make a lot of sense. There are 25-30m impressions available weekly – that placement alone could drain your budget quite quickly!

And remember – these all are warm leads, but they just don’t know it themselves! Keep nurturing the leads you land & watch your business bloom in front of your eyes!

The “After Click” Experience

Like I’ve said many times before – one thing is buying traffic, converting it is something completely different!

In other words, in today’s competitive PPC environment – great account structure is not quite enough. Landing pages can increase AdWords Quality Score factors, which can furthermore improve CPCs and avg. position; but, most importantly – it can make or break campaign’s profitability.

So, where do I start?

Most websites are ok to send traffic to, but very rarely they’re able to generate higher lead volumes, or, ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) when compared to landing pages. Why? Because the best practices suggest it is in your best interest to create multiple landing pages for each different topic you are looking to advertise for on AdWords.

Build a Landing Page

Now, once you have decided you need landing pages – how to proceed, you may ask? Well, there are 2 options:

  1. You can use a landing page builder – no developer help needed, but keep paying monthly fees (Usually between $35-$80/mo depending on the service provider)
  2. If you’re handy enough, or, have befriended a talented developer that will be available to help you out with landing pages – create it under your domain.

It is extremely important to make your landing pages straight forward, easy to observe, make sure they load extremely fast, and, lastly – appealing to eye, and have strong CTAs (Call To Actions)!

Start Testing it!

Cool, you have a landing page. What’s next? Here at Best PPC Marketing we never launch a PPC campaign without creating at least 2 contenders for each landing page design we are about to use.

The initial test for your landing page can be as simple as:

  1. Building couple additional, completely different landers
  2. Disorganize the current version (make a super short version of it, and then a version where you move around blocks of data & add different CTAs / logos / testimonials / etc.)
  3. If you’re not planning on netting too many clicks, start as little as test different CTAs on your main conversion button

Just to give you an idea how big of a difference testing landing pages can make, view the following screenshot of our client’s results that we saw after 2 weeks of running our A/B test!

PRO TIP:?If you’re not using a landing page creator, check out Google’s FREE tool optimize.google.com. It allows you to do all kinds of testing on your existing landing page wia a very user-friendly interface.

Oh, right, and ALWAYS test desktop from mobile traffic separately. Even though you might think you are advertising to the audience, the user experience is totally different. (Speaking from experience).

In other words – not splitting your on-site tests based on device type is equivalent to eating Tide pods.

Just like any PPC item – nothing is “set and forget” (or, at least, shouldn’t be). Once you’ve found a statistically significant winner from the initial test, create more tests! Test new CTAs, button colors, button placements – you name it!

Landing page optimization, if done properly, can single handedly take an average AdWords account and turn it into a money making machine!

Product Listing Ads for 2018

Google Product Listing Ads are probably the most mystical form of advertising within AdWords. Us, the online marketers, we like to take pride in telling everyone how online marketing has pinpoint precision when it comes to targeting & every single advertising dollar can be accounted for. Meanwhile, there are Google Shopping Ads that basically have no handlebars to selecting which search queries will/should trigger specific products. In matter of fact, Google even rips out the “Keyword” section under the “Keywords” tab. (How ironic…)

Optimize Your Product Listing Feed

Since you can’t pick which phrases the product will show up for, how does Google know what queries should trigger your listing? When uploading products to merchant center, they do have to meet specific criteria set by Google. You can view the full list of required product data specification here: goo.gl/oyuYju

Meanwhile, here are a the most important factors (from our experience) that Google will consider when it comes to triggering product listing ads:

  • Title of the product
    Make sure you list the name of the product. Be specific with the title (describe the product), and even we suggest you use phrases that have good amounts of search volume. For example, “mens black t shirt” is being searched 2,400 times a month. Add a brand to this phrase, and be ready to rock it out on PLA section!
  • Description of the listing
    Descriptions are tricky. Sometimes it’s worth investing the time into writing custom content for each product, but in most cases you can simply re-use the same description of the product vendors’ provide you – and just be on par with other advertisers that do the same. It’s your call – but if you do decide to get creative, remember that the limit for a description is 5000 characters!
  • Pricing
    Some people may think that pricing has nothing to do with PLAs Quality Scores / listings – but in reality, it’s a HUGE factor to get your product to outcompete others without changing the product bids. Taking a very broad example – imagine, 2 products, granted listings are created equal, while bids being identical – the product with lower product price will ALWAYS outrank the identical competitor’s product. So stay wary, my friends!
  • Google Product Category
    Always, always, ALWAYS add product category. This section of listings allow Google to predict whether all previously mentioned factors will sync with the category. To download an excel sheet with all available categories, click here: goo.gl/Y6o3ud
  • Brand
    Well, duh.
  • GTIN or MPN
    You have 3 options:

    • GTIN is the product’s Global Trade Item Number. If you already don’t have GTIN numbers for your products, you have 2 options. Look up your GTIN by product name here (https://icecat.us/) ; or, purchase one for each of the product you are looking to sell; unless, they already have not been registered, HERE
    • MPN, or, Manufacturer Part Number, in case the manufacturer had assigned it prior to retail.
    • If none can be found, and you can’t get yourself to pay for GTIN; set:
      identifier_exists >> no (FALSE)

Other than the items mentioned in this quick 6-point list, there are around 30-40 other items that can, should, or, even are required to be added to your product listing feed.

P.S. I mentioned the link to requirements above this list already, but here it is again so you don’t have to keep looking for it all over the place- goo.gl/oyuYju .

That was probably a nice refresher for many, but I bet it wasn’t too exciting for most. So, here comes the part where you become a PRO at PLAs:

Structuring PLA campaigns to gain more control

Previously I mentioned that there’s no way to gain traction over keywords for Product Listing Ads – but we actually have found a way to get around that.If you’ve ever played around Shopping Campaign settings, I’m sure you’ve looked at the shopping campaign’s advanced settings & noticed a handful of options that may, or, may have not made much sense to you.

Quoting Google on what the campaign priority stands for:

Campaign priority?is an optional setting that’s useful when you have multiple campaigns advertising the same product. Use the priority levels to determine which campaign (and its associated bid) will be used when ads for these products show. We recommend prioritizing only a subset of your products by combining a higher campaign priority with an inventory filter.

How it works:?By default, every campaign is set to the same “Low” priority level. When the same product is included in two campaigns, the campaign with the higher bid will be eligible for the ad auction.

However, when you choose a higher campaign priority for one campaign, the priority level — not the bid — determines which campaign is eligible when the same product is included in more than one campaign in the same AdWords account. If multiple campaigns are set at the same higher priority level, then the bid amount will be the deciding factor of which campaign will show the ad.”

The part that should have clicked for you is where Google says that it’s not the bid, but the priority that triggers the product from a specific campaign. Meaning, there is a way to have different bids for the same product, while triggering specific phrases that you can hand-pick yourself.

In simple terms – You have to think about this as a waterfall method, wherein negative keywords will guide the high performance phrases to campaigns with highest bids.

This type of campaign structure works best if you already have had a shopping campaign running for quite some time (absolute minimum should be at least 3 months’ worth of good data).

STEP 1: Preparing Your Top Phrases

With that being said, you have to put together a handful of lists consisting phrases that are valuable to your campaign’s success. We are looking for both, short & long tails.

If you are a sporting goods store, we’d want to list out all brands, purchase intent phrases, words related to such products, full product names, and the best performing phrases from the existing campaign.

Here’s a VERY broad example on how this could be done:

STEP 2: Campaign Creation

You will have to create a handful of new campaigns (based on how many lists you created). These new campaigns will be the ones you will want to guide your money phrases to, so you can bid accordingly.

Based on the graph in STEP 1; this is what my campaign setup would look like:

STEP 3: Negative Keyword Implementation

Ok, now you have the campaigns, but what to do with the lists you built earlier?
Go to your AdWords > Shared Library > Campaign negative keywords

And now click on [+LIST] :

Where it will open a window like this:

This is where the real magic happens.

Why are these lists so important? Because you can apply these lists to multiple campaigns & never make accidental negative keyword implementation mistakes, which could end up in a super time consuming task (imagine having 20+ campaigns with thousands of negative phrases per campaign).

PRO TIP: A little off-topic; but you can also overcome Google’s 10,000 negative keyword limit per campaign by creating “Negative Keyword Lists” (each worth up to 5,000 negatives), and applying multiple lists to a single campaign – expanding the total negative keyword amount to 110,000 (10,000 original + 20 lists of 5,000 keywords each).

Referring back to keyword phrase lists mentioned in STEP 1, here is how the applied list could look like for a generic plan we were following:

Just as a reference for the table:
List 1a – Company Names
List 1b – Purchase Intents
List 1c – Product Specifications
List 2 – Full Product Names
List 3 – Custom High Converting Phrases

PRO TIP: You can always play around & only keep the higher price tag products active in the low priority campaigns.

STEP 4: Create a Shared Budget

One thing other companies don’t want to tell you is that you HAVE to create a Shared Budget for this kind of shopping campaign strategy to work. That is for 2 sole reasons:

  1. You can ultimately limit your daily spend throughout all campaigns
  2. This will allow Google to understand that these campaigns are interlinked, a.k.a., higher chances of this tactic to work!

STEP 5: Check Search Queries DAILY

Now begins the great times of waiting.

What you want to do is have a hawk eye on those search queries as this tactic isn’t perfect, but it can be adjusted to gain some major ROI!

Therefore, watch for the search queries that fall into your account – and arm yourself to negative the heck out of money-burner phrases. It will take time to adjust, but if you’re serious about having a great performance –

PRO TIP: If you want to keep only the exact specific phrases you picked out (eliminate even misspellings); or if you would like to be hands-off / automate this process with this awesome script from our friends at BrainLabs, follow the instructions in this article – https://goo.gl/oPHBmF

And that’s all, folks! You can make these campaigns even more detailed / structured. Our widest shopping account has seen 34 campaigns at a time, so don’t be discouraged to play around with your account structure!

These are Best PPC Marketing insights on PPC Marketing in 2018!

Do not forget to bookmark & share this blog with your colleagues as it will get updated as time rolls by. We will share our thoughts on Google AdWords updates, new features, etc.!

If you have any questions about PPC Marketing – feel free to drop a comment below, or contact us directly!

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