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What to Monitor with your AdWords Budget – Part I

“AdWords is a money pit”. I hear that a lot from people who are cynical about their experience with AdWords. They spend a lot of money yet do not see any sales as a result.  And I agree that it can be a money pit when it’s not monitored closely. Advertisers who set up an account, then barely look at it will find themselves maxing out their budget very quickly with little to show for those dollars spent.  But when your Adwords Budget is monitored and optimized, AdWords has the potential for great results for advertisers – both for online and brick and mortar store. The major concepts to learn and manage so AdWords does not become a money pit is the daily budget, bid strategy, keyword costs, and conversions.

Campaign Budget

The highest level is your campaign budget. A simple account for a small company may have only one campaign because they do not need to account for variation in geographic locations or language. Others may have a separate campaign for each country or each product or service. Note that you are setting a budget by campaign. If your total spend for the month is $5,000 and you have five campaigns, you might set each campaign at $1,000. If it was one campaign, then you set the one budget of $5,000 for that single campaign.  Start here when determining your maximum spend for the month.

Ad Group Budget

Next you can set a budget for each ad group within a campaign. In the below example for a florist, they bid slightly higher on their “Brand Name & City Name” ad group because it produces the most revenue. Less money is spent on RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) because the return is lower. If you are just getting started, there is no need to make edits yet at the ad group level. You may want to first collect data on how your ads perform in each group.

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Keyword Bids

You can also manage bids for keywords.  Below you see a slighter higher bid for the keyword phrase marketing conference compared to a business conference so this advertiser is bidding based on the return each of these words provides. The expectation is that searches on the phrase marketing conference will result in more ticket sales than business conference.  If you are just getting started with AdWords, bidding at the keyword level may be more granular than you need initially.  Unless you are confident that some keywords will produce a higher ROI than other keywords, allow some time for your account to collect data, then come back and adjust bids at a later date depending on how the words perform.

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Tracking Performance

Now that you have the basics of budgeting down, it’s time to track performance on your ads. While getting a click on an ad is generally a good thing, you do not know how good of a thing it is unless you measure what happens after the click. Previous articles on this blog talk about the importance of tracking conversions and how to set it up.

In Part II, we’ll review bid strategies which are a more advanced option for bidding.

How to Use Google Analytics to Optimize Your Website

Google Analytics not only provides a picture of the good things happening on your site which include sales and lead generation. It can also point out the things that are not working well that need to be changed. Below are five steps for optimizing your website based on data available in Google Analytics.

Identify pages with the highest bounce rates

In the Site Content section of Behavior data, you can view your landing pages. View which pages are the common entry points to your site. Are those pages designed to receive new visitors? In other words, will a new visitor know what your website is about if they land on one of these pages rather than the home page? If you see a high bounce rate, it could be that it is not a good introduction for people who are new to your business and there is some room for improvement. Pay special attention to landing pages with a large number of visitors and a significantly higher bounce rate than the other pages on your site.

Analyze goal performance

The easiest way to see how you are doing on your site is to look at your goals in Google Analytics. However, rather than looking at just the raw numbers or the absolute percentages, examine what’s been happening over time so you can see if there’s been an improvement in site performance. So yes, you will still want to look at conversions as a number on it’s own, but make sure you do watch for trends over time. And give extra attention to any spikes and conversions that may be related to a new marketing activity that you started or perhaps an update that was made to your website.

General site performance

The Site Speed section under Behavior is more relevant to the website developers then to the marketers. However if you are involved in decisions about the design, it is helpful to know if an image-heavy page seems to be causing a slow load time. With short attention spans, you are losing potential customers who lose patience and visit another site. The good thing is that this is one of those problems that can be fairly easy to fix and it’s very clear-cut.

Check the Reverse Goal Path report

In a previous article, I wrote about how the User Flow through a website might not be that meaningful for many sites. If there is not a clear path through your website to reach a conversion, it is hard to know what you are measuring other than the end result. However, you may still want to check the Reverse Goal Path report to see the pages a visitor navigated before converting on your site. It can be helpful to know which pages are the common steps followed by people who eventually complete a desired action

Look for drop offs in your conversion funnel

Once you set up goals you can see how people travel through your site to complete them with a Funnel Visualization report (found in Goals section of Conversions). With this report, you can learn which pages have a high exit rate in the funnel and brainstorm ways to improve them.

Website optimization is all about using data to make your website more attractive to visitors and make visitors more inclined to complete a desired action on your website. Looking for ways to improve your site using your analytics and qualitative data such as customer surveys is an ongoing process.

And always remember that no matter how great you may think your website is, you are not the customer. If you can stay curious about what it is your website visitors want, it’s easier to get rid of your assumptions and to be more open to creative ways for improving performance. There can be room to change your overall copy, your images, your navigation, your offers, your landing pages etc. The bottom line is if you adopt a mindset where your website is not a one-time project, you will increase the ROI with the channels used to send you traffic.


How to use Self-Referrals and PayPal Referrals in Google Analytics

A self-referral in Google Analytics means that your website is indicated as a referral source to your website which could have something to do with your installation.  Like with spam referrals, it’s frustrating to site owners if it happens a lot because it throws off your data as a whole.  You don’t know the true source of that great conversion traffic.


A lost referral is similar and occurs when there is a third party tool involved, such as PayPal for collecting payments off your website. Once you send visitors off your site to complete a task, like a purchase, the website where they complete the action is the one that receives credit for the conversion. I call it a “lost referral” because you don’t know if the originating traffic source was organic, paid, email or something else because Google sees the visitor coming back to your site from PayPal and assumes PayPal should get the credit for the conversion. Google Analytics also records that return visitor as a new session even though they only left your site for a moment to process payment.


You use the Referral Exclusion List as seen below when you do not want traffic from an external site to be a referral source or record a new session when the visitor returns from that site. Using the PayPal example, you would add to your Referral Exclusion List.


But this isn’t a perfect solution, although it does at least prevent a new session from being created when the situation described above occurs.  Simply adding a website to exclude list does not enable you to see what site visitors do on the third party site.  You want to see the full journey the user took which is when you would set up cross-domain tracking AND add the site to your exclusion list.



To have a picture of the full user path, you need to implement cross-domain tracking if the back and forth happen across website properties where you can implement tracking code. Cross-domain tracking then would allow you to track your website visitors to the third party site and requires assistance from your web developer for this set-up.


Note that once cross-domain tracking is set-up, you may still have conversions credited to your own website because of cookies. Returning visitors who were tagged with a cookie before you set up the exclusions and cross-domain tracking will still have conversion credit given to the original referral.  Expect to see this in the short-term after making this change, but this shouldn’t be a problem long-term.


When you don’t have access to the outside website property and cannot implement cross-domain tracking, with as a solution such as PayPal, you will instead edit the Website Payment Preferences on their website. In these preferences, you will turn ‘Auto Return’ to on and enter the URL of your ecommerce post-purchase page, such as  A the end of the URL for your post-purchase page, include ?utm_nooverride=1. Doing this gives credit to the original source of traffic rather than giving PayPal the credit for the purchase.  This Website Payment Preferences screen was a bit tricky to find in PayPal’s help files, so go directly to this link to make this change rather trying to hunt for it.


You can start addressing referral issues by going to the Admin area of Google Analytics and adding relevant sites to the Referral Exclusion List.  Then, if you have web properties that you can add tracking code to, you will want to use cross-domain tracking to properly record the shopper’s journey. With PayPal, follow the above steps. Every vendor is going to be a bit different so check their help files or contact customer support to ensure you have this set up right. Especially if you are using multiple digital marketing channels to sell products or services, you want to give credit to the right place so you know what to do more or less of.

How to Create Your First Video Campaign for AdWords

More people are on YouTube than any cable segment in the United States, which means there is a huge audience there that will only continue to grow. And when you create your campaign, remember that mobile is just as important with video as it is for other AdWords ads since more than half of video views are on a mobile device.

Video presents such as a unique way to connect with the right people. Since they can like, share, and subscribe to your videos – rather than simply click – it’s a much different experience than user behavior on a typical search. With keywords, demographics, and topics, you can connect with the right customers at the right time.


Should You Publish Blog Content on LinkedIn and Medium?

This article was originally posted on and can be found here.

If you publish blog content as part of your online marketing strategy, then you may be wondering if some of them are destined for content superstardom in places like LinkedIn and Medium.

LinkedIn Pulse is a great way to get your blog in front of your network because it notifies your connections when you publish content on the site (posting status updates just shows up in the regular ol’ newsfeed).

If you want to reach an even wider audience, then you might consider publishing content on Medium, which typically serves up longer, more in-depth articles.

No doubt about it, if you are looking to build your brand, then publishing to LinkedIn and Medium is a great way to start.

However, if you are like some of our clients, then you also wonder how this might affect your SEO. (more…)

Getting Started with Attribution Models in AdWords

With Attribution Models in AdWords, you decide how to assign credit to keywords, ad groups, and campaigns that influenced a conversion. For this to be meaningful, you need to first start recording conversions in AdWords.  If you are unsure if conversions are recording, go to Tools > Conversions from your AdWords account. If you do not see any, you can set up conversion tracking in Google AdWords or import goals from your Google Analytics account.

If you do see conversions recording, you can then choose “Attribution” in Conversions (or by going back to the Tools menu in AdWords).  Once you are in that sub menu, you will see options for Conversions, Cross-Device Activity, Paths, Click Analysis, and Attribution Modeling.

Attribution Overview

The overview shows the average period of time it took for people to convert. In the example below, you can see that it was within a day, so a strong-call-to-action for an immediate purchase works well for this account.



An Assisted Conversion demonstrates the impacts of your AdWords account in cases where someone did not purchase immediately.  Clicks and impressions may have influenced someone’s decision to convert at another time. The table below shows metrics for impression-assisted conversions and click conversions.


To use a specific example, let’s imagine a customer clicked on two ads for the keyword “clothing” before clicking on an ad for the keyword “shirts” and making a purchase. In this situation, it would count as two assisted clicks which is the number of times the keyword “clothing” appeared in the conversion path and one assisted conversion.


Cross-Device Activity

The Cross-Device Activity shows how customers use their devices before converting. In the example below, this account has primarily same day purchases, so it is not a surprise that no cross-device activity is available.



This next screen (from a different account) shows last click and click-assisted conversions for each device used in the searcher’s journey. Even in this account, most of the conversions happened on a single device.



“Paths” looks very familiar to Google Analytics users because it shows the route people took before converting.  With the campaign, ad group, or keywords, you can see the path a user took on the way to a conversion. Below is a very small sample size but shows some things you may see in your account.



Although the details  are blurred out, you can see that some searchers clicked on the same campaign more than once on line 2 and 3. On line 1 and 4, the searcher had the same last-click campaign before conversion. With this account, it’s possible that words or groups in the earlier campaigns could be paused if the trend leans towards a specific one that influences conversions. More data should be collected, however, before account changes are made.

With next report, Path Length, you can see that it only took one click for most visitors to convert.



Click Analysis

With the Click Analysis reports, you can see which keywords introduced people to your site (first clicked) and which ones sealed the deal – meaning led to a conversion (last clicked). This is available for campaign, ad group, keyword, and match type.

The match type report is especially helpful in demonstrating the importance of targeted keywords. Although a broad match will bring in a lot of keywords, in the screen below, you can see it was the phrase match that led to more conversions.


Attribution Model

Next select “Attribution Modeling” to compare two different models next to each other. Your options are first click, last click, linear, position based, and time decay.

Attribution is not an easy concept in Google AdWords, but is important in understanding what your ad dollars are really doing for you.  Using the above as a reference, walk through each of these steps in your account to see details about your ad performance. And remember, it all starts with conversions. If you do not have any in your AdWords account, set that up first by following the links referenced at the beginning, so you’ll have meaningful Attribution data to work from in your reporting.

Options for Device Bidding in AdWords

When Enhanced Campaigns were rolled out by Google several years ago, advertisers had less control in AdWords since they could not separate bids for mobile, tablet, and desktop. Although the intention was to make campaign creation and maintenance easier in Google AdWords, it was frustrating for advertisers who had a very different strategy for mobile versus desktop.  In the three years since Enhanced Campaigns were introduced, mobile clicks have increased significantly and some advertisers want to take advantage of that.  Fortunately, with the recent updates in Google AdWords, the ability to set bid adjustments by device is available again (to the joy of many advertisers).

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However, even though this feature is available, Google’s recommendation is to not separate campaigns by device. This means advertisers need to consider what these changes mean before implementing them in an account. Going the route of separate campaigns for each device also means managing multiple campaigns with the same messaging. This increases the amount of work required to maintain an AdWords account.  If a separate campaign is created for each device, it requires additional time to monitor keywords, ads, ad extensions, negative keywords and more work when testing ads.

Many of the things that appeal to advertisers about device specific bid adjustments are actually available by utilizing existing features in AdWords.  Instead of a separate campaign for each device in Google AdWords, bid adjustments can instead be used with tightly themed ad groups, which results in a much more manageable account. And bid modifiers now provide more options with a range of -100% to +900% for the bid amount. (With Enhanced Campaigns, the max bid adjustment was 300%). Even if ads do not perform as well on mobile devices as they do on desktops, mobile ads should not be completely removed. Instead, an adjustment can be used to decrease the amount of budget put into them.

And with AdWords Smart Bidding (previous known as automated bidding), a number of signals are considered utilizing machine learning with the optimal bid being set for each auction based on those signals. For example, a signal may differentiate behavior based on someone in New York searching during the lunch hour on his or her phone compared to someone in Los Angeles searching after 6:00pm from a desktop. As a result, device is a bidding signal in the AdWords auction. This may be enough for many advertisers who do not know how to best approach bidding for different devices. Google’s Smart Bidding does override manual bids, so there should be at least 50 conversions over the past month for meaningful results.

If you’re not sure what to do with this update on device bidding, you can do nothing! Or if you’re not clear on what makes sense for your business and like the idea of setting device bids separately for campaigns, start testing. With drafts and experiments, you can test these device level campaigns side by side with campaigns that are that are already running with bid adjustments to determine the best bid methodology.

The simplest route may be to start by segmenting performance by device in your AdWords account. The data there is based on your actual data and is probably the best route for determining how you want to address device bidding. (You can view device performance in an AdWords campaign from Settings tab > Devices.)

One final feature that can help make that decision is the cross-device attribution report. This enables you to examine the full value of a click by seeing conversions beyond the one initial conversion listed in standard AdWords reporting.  You can see how much activity happens in your account, how devices assist each other in a conversion, and the top paths for users utilizing more than one device in their search. Reported conversions and full value conversions should both be considered before deciding what to adjust in your account.

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Like many features in Google AdWords, the fact that something exists does not automatically mean you should implement. Spend time reviewing these account options, your data, and your overall business model before making changes to your account.

How to Manage Your Google AdWords Account

Whether you are getting started with Google AdWords or are ready to bring your account management in-house instead of outsourcing it, follow these best practices to ensure that you are getting the most for your AdWords dollars. 

Create a negative keyword list 

Negative keywords are words you do not want to pay for with  AdWords. For example, if you offer a resume class for $200 with no free options, you do not want your ad to show up for a search on “free resume class”.  With that example, your negative word is free. Creating a solid negative keyword list at the very beginning of your campaigns will save you money spent on irrelevant clicks

Continue checking for negative keywords 

Even if you start out with a solid negative keyword list, you may still find negative words in your account that you did not think about when you set the account up.  Staying with the example above, let’s assume your classes are only offered in person.  Over time, you may discover a search for “online resume class” that triggered your ad. You would know to add online to your negative keyword list in order to prevent that from happening in the future. To check for negative keywords once your account is running, use the Search Terms report. (more…)

How to Get Started with Expanded Text Ads

Google’s announcement about Expanded Text Ads was a huge day for marketers. Their new format provides an opportunity for better messaging on the AdWords platform.  There are now two headlines rather than one, with a character count increase from 25 to 30 characters. The ad description is 80 characters which provides more space for an offer, and the URL can be customized, allowing up to 15 characters. This Expanded Text Ad announcement is one of those changes that advertisers must pay attention to since standard text ads cannot be created or edited after October 26th. For now though, you will see both expanded and standard text ads on Google.  However, since Expanded Text Ads will likely perform better than the standard text ads, do not wait until October to make this change. Here are some considerations for making the most of this new format. (more…)

Analytics and AdWords – Not Always Perfect Together


If you are advertising on Google AdWords, connecting it to Google Analytics is a must so you can view what happens after someone clicks on your paid ad. Getting to your site is nice, but seeing an action that may result in revenue is more important.

What can be a bit confusing initially when using the products is seeing different data in Analytics compared to AdWords for the same day. If searchers clicked on your ad 100 times on Monday, you would expect to see 100 visits to your site from AdWords on that date in Google Analytics, but that is not always the case. Most of the time, those numbers will vary. Although a small difference may not seem that important, you still want to know what your marketing budget is doing for you so you allocate it to the right channels and/or make necessary adjustments to your landing page.  Let’s take a closer look on how those two products work together so you understand what these different metrics really mean.

First ensure you understand how metrics are defined in Google Analytics. A click in Google AdWords is when someone clicks on an ad. This action is recorded immediately and invalid clicks are removed.  Google Analytics has all the activity that happens after this ad click.