The Biggest Mistake Digital Marketers Ever Made: Claiming to Measure Everything

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Posted by willcritchlow

Digital marketing is measurable.

It’s probably the single most common claim everyone hears about digital, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen conference speakers talk about it (heck, I’ve even done it myself).

I mean, look at those offline dinosaurs, the argument goes. They all know that half their spend is wasted — they just don’t know which half.

Maybe the joke’s on us digital marketers though, who garnered only 41% of global ad spend even in 2017 after years of strong growth.

Unfortunately, while we were geeking out about attribution models and cross-device tracking, we were accidentally triggering a common human cognitive bias that kept us anchored on small amounts, leaving buckets of money on the table and fundamentally reducing our impact and access to the C-suite.

And what’s worse is that we have convinced ourselves that it’s a critical part of what makes digital marketing great. The simplest way to see this is to realize that, for most of us, I very much doubt that if you removed all our measurement ability we’d reduce our digital marketing investment to nothing.

In truth, of course, we’re nowhere close to measuring all the benefits of most of the things we do. We certainly track the last clicks, and we’re not bad at tracking any clicks on the path to conversion on the same device, but we generally suck at capturing:

Anything that happens on a different device Brand awareness impacts that lead to much later improvements in conversion rate, average order value, or lifetime value Benefits of visibility or impressions that aren’t clicked Brand affinity generally The cognitive bias that leads us astray

All of this means that the returns we report on tend to be just the most direct returns. This should be fine — it’s just a floor on the true value (“this activity has generated at least this much value for the brand”) — but the “anchoring” cognitive bias means that it messes with our minds and our clients’ minds. Anchoring is the process whereby we fixate on the first number we hear and subsequently estimate unknowns closer to the anchoring number than we should. Famous experiments have shown that even showing people a totally random number can drag their subsequent estimates up or down.

So even if the true value of our activity was 10x the measured value, we’d be stuck on estimating the true value as very close to the single concrete, exact number we heard along the way.

This tends to result in the measured value being seen as a ceiling on the true value. Other biases like the availability heuristic (which results in us overstating the likelihood of things that are easy to remember) tend to mean that we tend to want to factor in obvious ways that the direct value measurement could be overstating things, and leave to one side all the unmeasured extra value.

The mistake became a really big one because fortunately/unfortunately, the measured return in digital has often been enough to justify at least a reasonable level of the activity. If it hadn’t been (think the vanishingly small number of people who see a billboard and immediately buy a car within the next week when they weren’t otherwise going to do so) we’d have been forced to talk more about the other benefits. But we weren’t. So we lazily talked about the measured value, and about the measurability as a benefit and a differentiator.

The threats of relying on exact measurement

Not only do we leave a whole load of credit (read: cash) on the table, but it also leads to threats to measurability being seen as existential threats to digital marketing activity as a whole. We know that there are growing threats to measuring accurately, including regulatory, technological, and user-behavior shifts:

GDPR and other privacy regulations are limiting what we are allowed to do (and, as platforms catch up, what we can do) Privacy features are being included in more products, added on by savvy consumers, or simply being set to be on by default more often, with even the biggest company in the world touting privacy as a core differentiator Users continue to increase the extent to which they research and buy across multiple devices Compared to early in Google’s rise, the lack of keyword-level analytics data and the rise of (not provided) means that we have far less visibility into the details than we used to when the narrative of measurability was being written

Now, imagine that the combination of these trends meant that you lost 100% of your analytics and data. Would it mean that your leads stopped? Would you immediately turn your website off? Stop marketing?

I suggest that the answer to all of that is “no.” There’s a ton of value to digital marketing beyond the ability to track specific interactions.

We’re obviously not going to see our measurable insights disappear to zero, but for all the reasons I outlined above, it’s worth thinking about all the ways that our activities add value, how that value manifests, and some ways of proving it exists even if you can’t measure it.

How should we talk about value?

There are two pieces to the brand value puzzle:

Figuring out the value of increasing brand awareness or affinity Understanding how our digital activities are changing said awareness or affinity

There’s obviously a lot of research into brand valuations generally, and while it’s outside the scope of this piece to think about total brand value, it’s worth noting that some methodologies place as much as 75% of the enterprise value of even some large companies in the value of their brands:

Image source

My colleague Tom Capper has written about a variety of ways to measure changes in brand awareness, which attacks a good chunk of the second challenge. But challenge #1 remains: how do we figure out what it’s worth to carry out some marketing activity that changes brand awareness or affinity?

In a recent post, I discussed different ways of building marketing models and one of the methodologies I described might be useful for this – namely so-called “top-down” modelling which I defined as being about percentages and trends (as opposed to raw numbers and units of production).

The top-down approach

I’ve come up with two possible ways of modelling brand value in a transactional sense:

1. The Sherlock approach“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
– Sherlock Holmes

The outline would be to take the total new revenue acquired in a period. Subtract from this any elements that can be attributed to specific acquisition channels; whatever remains must be brand. If this is in any way stable or predictable over multiple periods, you can use it as a baseline value from which to apply the methodologies outlined above for measuring changes in brand awareness and affinity.

2. Aggressive attribution

If you run normal first-touch attribution reports, the limitations of measurement (clearing cookies, multiple devices etc) mean that you will show first-touch revenue that seems somewhat implausible (e.g. email; email surely can’t be a first-touch source — how did they get on your email list in the first place?):

Click for a larger version

In this screenshot we see that although first-touch dramatically reduces the influence of direct, for instance, it still accounts for more than 15% of new revenue.

The aggressive attribution model takes total revenue and splits it between the acquisition channels (unbranded search, paid social, referral). A first pass on this would simply split it in the relative proportion to the size of each of those channels, effectively normalizing them, though you could build more sophisticated models.

Note that there is no way of perfectly identifying branded/unbranded organic search since (not provided) and so you’ll have to use a proxy like homepage search vs. non-homepage search.

But fundamentally, the argument here would be that any revenue coming from a “first touch” of:

Branded search Direct Organic social Email

…was actually acquired previously via one of the acquisition channels and so we attempt to attribute it to those channels.

Even this under-represents brand value

Both of those methodologies are pretty aggressive — but they might still under-represent brand value. Here are two additional mechanics where brand drives organic search volume in ways I haven’t figured out how to measure yet:

Trusting Amazon to rank

I like reading on the Kindle. If I hear of a book I’d like to read, I’ll often Google the name of the book on its own and trust that Amazon will rank first or second so I can get to the Kindle page to buy it. This is effectively a branded search for Amazon (and if it doesn’t rank, I’ll likely follow up with a [book name amazon] search or head on over to Amazon to search there directly).

But because all I’ve appeared to do is search [book name] on Google and then click through to Amazon, there is nothing to differentiate this from an unbranded search.

Spotting brands you trust in the SERPs

I imagine we all have anecdotal experience of doing this: you do a search and you spot a website you know and trust (or where you have an account) ranking somewhere other than #1 and click on it regardless of position.

One time that I can specifically recall noticing this tendency growing in myself was when I started doing tons more baby-related searches after my first child was born. Up until that point, I had effectively zero brand affinity with anyone in the space, but I quickly grew to rate the content put out by babycentre (babycenter in the US) and I found myself often clicking on their result in position 3 or 4 even when I hadn’t set out to look for them, e.g. in results like this one:

It was fascinating to me to observe this behavior in myself because I had no real interaction with babycentre outside of search, and yet, by consistently ranking well across tons of long-tail queries and providing consistently good content and user experience I came to know and trust them and click on them even when they were outranked. I find this to be a great example because it is entirely self-contained within organic search. They built a brand effect through organic search and reaped the reward in increased organic search.

I have essentially no ideas on how to measure either of these effects. If you have any bright ideas, do let me know in the comments.

Budgets will come under pressure

My belief is that total digital budgets will continue to grow (especially as TV continues to fragment), but I also believe that individual budgets are going to come under scrutiny and pressure making this kind of thinking increasingly important.

We know that there is going to be pressure on referral traffic from Facebook following the recent news feed announcements, but there is also pressure on trust in Google:

Before the recent news feed changes, slightly misleading stories had implied that Google had lost the top spot as the largest referrer of traffic (whereas in fact this was only briefly true in media) The growth of the mobile-first card view and richer and richer SERPs has led to declines in outbound CTR in some areas The increasingly black-box nature of Google’s algorithm and an increasing use of ML make the algorithm increasingly impenetrable and mean that we are having to do more testing on individual sites to understand what works

While I believe that the opportunity is large and still growing (see, for example, this slide showing Google growing as a referrer of traffic even as CTR has declined in some areas), it’s clear that the narrative is going to lead to more challenging conversations and budgets under increased scrutiny.

Can you justify your SEO investment?

What do you say when your CMO asks what you’re getting for your SEO investment?

What do you say when she asks whether the organic search opportunity is tapped out?

I’ll probably explore the answers to both these questions more in another post, but suffice it to say that I do a lot of thinking about these kinds of questions.

The first is why we have built our split-testing platform to make organic SEO investments measurable, quantifiable and accountable.

The second is why I think it’s super important to remember the big picture while the media is running around with their hair on fire. Media companies saw Facebook overtake Google as a traffic channel (and then are likely seeing that reverse right now), but most of the web has Google as the largest growing source of traffic and value.

The reality (from clickstream data) is that it’s really easy to forget how long the long-tail is and how sparse search features and ads are on the extreme long-tail:

Only 3–4% of all searches result in a click on an ad, for example. Google’s incredible (and still growing) business is based on a small subset of commercial searches Google’s share of all outbound referral traffic across the web is growing (and Facebook’s is shrinking as they increasingly wall off their garden)

The opportunity is for smart brands to capitalize on a growing opportunity while their competitors sink time and money into a social space that is increasingly all about Facebook, and increasingly pay-to-play.

What do you think? Are you having these hard conversations with leadership? How are you measuring your digital brand’s value?

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When (And When Not) to Use Facebook Split Testing for Maximum Impact

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Advertising: is it art or science? Surely most of us can agree that a healthy dose of both is necessary for powerful advertising.

facebook ad split testing

As direct-response advertisers, testing is a huge part of our daily ad operations; we’re continually running creatives against each other, optimizing campaign bids and budgets, and analyzing down-funnel results between audiences.

A lot of the time, well-structured campaigns can answer all the questions we have. Sometimes, though, we have to put our lab coats on, develop a solid hypothesis, isolate our variables and get our A/B testing on.

In this post, we’re sharing some of our experiences with Facebook’s newish testing feature, creative split testing, along with some advice on when and when NOT to leverage this feature.

First, a bit about the Facebook split testing feature.

Facebook Split Testing 101

Creative split testing (Facebook’s term for ad A/B testing) has evolved from an API-only feature (which we leveraged through our Facebook tech partner, into the self-serve tool it is today.

facebook creative split testing

Launched in November 2017, Facebook advertisers can now A/B test any of the following variables:

Creative Delivery Optimization Audience Placement

Facebook A/B testing works by evenly splitting your ad set (up to five times), eliminating audience overlap and ensuring that users only see one variation for the duration of the test. It also guarantees that the exact same amount of budget is allocated to each variation, something that is impossible to achieve without this feature.

Of course, all the standard A/B testing best practices apply:

Isolate and test only one variable at a time for best results. Give your test enough time to determine a statistically relevant winner. Facebook recommends four days, but we use this handy dandy statistical relevance calculator by Kissmetrics. Similarly, A/B testing typically works best with larger audiences. The bigger, the better, but aim for audiences of 1 million or more in each of your subsets. Set your KPI of interest up front, whether that’s click-through rate or cost-per-install.

For an in-depth look at how to set up Facebook ads for split testing, Adespresso has you covered.

When You SHOULD Use Creative Split Testing

The value of creative split testing should be apparent; it helps advertisers determine the scientifically best performing ads, audiences, or bidding strategies. It does, however, require deliberate planning and dedicated budget, thus often lowering overall efficiency.

We’re constantly weighing the benefits of A/B testing with those costs, and have outlined some common scenarios in which you SHOULD utilize A/B tests, and others in which you SHOULDN’T.

Here are a few scenarios in which you should.

#1: Testing imagery to guide future creative direction

The golden rule of running split tests is quite simple–use them to test measurable hypotheses. As an advertising agency that strives to maintain campaign structure hygiene, we take this rule a step further. We run A/B tests against hypotheses that are meaningful to our overall strategy.

When set up correctly, A/B testing can provide black-and-white learnings to inform your creative strategy going forward.

Take this example…

We ran a split test that tested an existing high-performing ad against one with the same messaging, concept and copy but a different design element.

when to use facebook ad testing

Details: Our isolated variable in this test was the design concept; all ad copy, in-image copy, CTAs, and overall concepts were the same. By monitoring cost differences among our top performing audience segments, we wanted to determine which path to take creative concepts going forward.

Results: After running the test for a full week to reach statistical significance, we were able to determine a winner based on lower CPAs. We then utilized that learning to guide the rest of our creative asset production, helping us lower overall costs on average 60%.

#2: Testing messaging to inform company-wide strategy

Similar to our previous example, split-testing can help inform messaging across channels, or even company-wide.

We ran a split test for an early-stage transportation company to determine which first-touch messaging resonated best with their core demographic.

facebook testing best practices

Details: While we could have run typical ad sets, we knew that in helping our client determine future positioning, having a high level of confidence was important. Running a controlled A/B test also gave us insight into lifetime value, which we’ll discuss later in this post.

Results: In this case, our messaging variations didn’t have a major effect on the CTR. Although statistically relevant, our winning messaging had a less than 3% better CTR. It’s important to remember, however, that even those findings are valuable, prompting us to ask us other questions–do we need to focus on other areas like the imagery? Calls-to-action? Value-prop communication? Should we target different audiences with different messaging?

#3: Testing creative concept variations for specific personas

Split testing can also be useful when figuring out what creative resonates with new or hard-to-crack audiences. Employing the “ax first, sandpaper later” mentality, you can utilize a split test to determine which tactics resonate better, and make incremental optimizations afterward.

Take for example…

For one client, we wanted to run a split test to see if persona-specific creative would perform better than generic creative among a new demographic group.

facebook advertising personas

Details: This particular test utilized existing successful ads against new ads to test our hypothesis that persona-specific creative would do better.

Results: These findings were significant in that this was an entirely untouched user segment for us, and gave conclusive guidelines on how to approach this audience in the future. The costs for the losing concept were 270% higher.

#4: Determining long-tail value of messaging or user groups

Although more time- and resource-intensive, you can also use split testing to create pseudo cohorts to monitor over time after your initial test has completed. Here are some ideas…

Test what messaging produces the most bottom-of-the-funnel conversions (purchases, etc.). Test which Facebook placements have the lowest acquisition costs. Test which demographic (i.e., gender, age, interest, education) has the highest lifetime value.

We implemented this tactic for a subscription consumer goods startup to determine what upfront ad messaging produced the best return on ad spend after 28 days.

testing facebook ad messaging

Details: For this specific test, we wanted to monitor ROAS of groups with and without an offer.

Results: After running our test long enough to get statistically relevant cost results, we continued to monitor our two groups. We determined that after 28 days, although conversion rates were virtually identical, one group did indeed have 27% higher ROAS.

When NOT to Use Split-Testing on Facebook

Now it’s time for a reality check. We don’t always have time to set up highly scientific, highly controlled A/B tests. In many circumstances, our structured campaigns and ad sets work just fine, and there are other tailor-made solutions for other circumstances.

Here are three situations you should rethink running an A/B test…

#1. Testing several different creative variables

This is basic A/B testing hygiene; only test one variable at a time.

don't test too many variables

Even if you wanted to test 20 variations, of that one variable, you’re going have a helluva time reaching statistical relevance. You’re better off just running typical ad sets, or if you really want to mix things up, give dynamic creative optimization (DCO) a go.

Although more of a black box, DCO can be more efficient at getting several learnings all at once. While it likely won’t inform your broader strategy, it’s a great use of resources if you want to test several ad copy variations, images, CTAs, etc.

#2: Testing minor creative tweaks that aren’t valuable to your business

As we’ve expressed already, A/B testing is best utilized when you MUST have learnings–when you have a specific, measurable hypothesis to prove or disprove. We don’t advise spinning your wheels A/B testing superfluous ad variations like words, image headlines, background colors, etc. Instead, test ads that are quite different conceptually.

when not to use split testing

The test on the left is better suited for an A/B test, as one image represents more stereotypical San Francisco imagery and the other represents more “local” imagery. The example on the right (testing color versus black and white photography) might be valuable, but less so to your business overall.

At the end of the day, Facebook split testing is the only way to truly run a scientifically precise A/B test. That said, they do require planning and resources, and as a rule of thumb, you should trust that Facebook’s algorithm will deliver your best converting ads.

So, unless you NEED undisputable answers, standard ad sets should get the job done. Regardless, we urge you to weigh the pros and cons of setting up, running, and analyzing a Facebook creative split test up front and hope this post helped you reach a conclusion.

About the author

Payton O’Neal is the resident inbound marketer at Bamboo, a mobile-first paid social advertising agency in San Francisco. With a background in content and product marketing, she loves crafting stories out of unruly data, connecting unlikely dots, and traversing the paid social realm. Since its founding in 2014, companies like Dropbox, HotelTonight, Coursera, and Turo have partnered with Bamboo to help scale and manage their acquisition programs.

10X Your A/B Testing with AdWords Ad Variations

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Is “Buy now” a more effective call to action than “Don’t miss the boat”? Do your prospects prefer to noodle around in a “free trial” or would they rather “try [our] software”? What happens if you invert your headlines? Do URL paths even matter, bro?!?!

When it comes to writing ads, these are the questions that haunt paid search aficionados. They’re the crux of ad-centric A/B testing, and they’ve been notoriously difficult to answer for a whole gang of reasons, from a lack of time to sub-optimal ad rotation settings and then some.

Until now.

Today, I’m going to run you through the nuances of Google’s Ad Variations, a feature the search titan rolled out at the end of 2017 to help advertisers test fresh copy at scale. But first…

The Case for Using AdWords Ad Variations

Be honest: When was the last time you implemented an A/B test in just one ad group? What about across your whole account?

I’d wager for most of us, the answer is somewhere between staring shamefully into the spaces between F and G on our keyboards and coming up with some flippant, defensive quip. That’s because generating fresh ad copy takes time and thought.

Maybe there’s a quarterly review in your three-month plan, but it’s probably not something you’re doing every week. Testing ad copy tends to fall by the wayside because bid adjustments and negative keywords—even new buildouts—are much easier to generate quickly.

adwords ad variations a/b testing 

That being said, there’s a ton of untapped value in split-testing your ad creative. Figuring out what ad version incites more clicks (improves CTR) will improve your Quality Scores, which lowers CPCs, which means you can run EVEN MORE ADS. This perpetual testing of ad copy helps you uncover more effective language to leverage on your landing pages, which can lead to more conversions. In short, testing your AdWords ads pays dividends!

I totally get that coming up with new copy—even a new headline—is tough; at scale, it can feel like a Sisyphean task. Ad Variations are Google’s attempt at making it a damn sight easier.

A brief aside on why Ad Variations make me kinda sad or whatever

When I came to WordStream many moons ago as a Managed Services rep, it was partly because I couldn’t get a job as a copywriter. While I’d written a thing or two about a thing or two, I didn’t have a polished portfolio. The ceaseless horde of cover letters I sent to every agency in Boston that explained exactly how and why I would slay all work that came my way went unanswered. Alas, I’d never realize my true potential: becoming apex this guy, complete with MacBook…

 paul kinsey adwords guy

I was crushed. But it worked out for the best.

I say that to say this: the first thing that excited me about AdWords was, you know, writing ads (I know I’m in the minority here). The Ad Variations feature, though a lovely innovation, does strip a few shreds of creativity from the ad writing process in favor of sheer efficiency.

While many will rejoice, I’m pouring some out for the hours spent poring over client websites and swollen spreadsheets coming up with that perfect turn of phrase for every ad group.

And now back to our scheduled programming.

Setting Ad Variations Up in Your AdWords Account

To set up Ad Variations in your account, you’re going to need to ensure that you’re using the New AdWords UI; to drive adoption, some of the new AdWords features Google has rolled out of late are missing from the clunky old UI we all know and love.

On the page menu (the light grey bar to the right of your campaigns and ad groups), scroll to the very bottom and select “Drafts and Experiments.”


At the top of the D&E page, jump right over “Campaign Drafts” and “Campaign Experiments” and select yup, you guessed it, “Ad Variations.” From here you can either click the big blue circle or “New Ad Variations” to get started. Multiple methods. Variations, if you will. How meta!


Here, you’re going to need to select the campaign in which you’d like to run ad variations. While you can choose to create variations for all campaigns simultaneously, to afford yourself some modicum of control over your messaging, you’re better off implementing a new experiment for each campaign (or group of campaigns, depending on how your account is structured). It’s also worth noting that, per Google, you can only create a single variation within any given campaign over a given date range.

This means you can’t run a dozen overlapping experiments. I can already hear the chorus of boo-hoos and “yeah buts.” Can it, I implore you. This isn’t a bad thing: you’d lose the advantage of achieving statistical significance efficiently if impressions are spread across too many ads. While the ability to iterate rapidly is fantastic, you don’t want to cast best practices asunder to do so!

Anyway, now we come to the fun part: filtering.

Google offers you a whole mess of ways to filter the ad copy in your campaign, ensuring that you only implement tests exactly where you want them. The first ad variation filter allows you to select ads based on constituent components, including:

Headline (1, 2, both) Description Headline and Description Path (1, 2, both)

The second acts as a modifier, allowing you to select or exclude specific ads based on whether they contain, equal, start with, or end with a specific word or character:


Better still, is that fact that you can combine multiple filters, which allows you to come up with something that looks like this:

adwords ad variations multiple filters 

Of course, if you’re just looking to replace a common call to action or implement a new URL path, there’s no need to get wild with the filter options. If you’re looking to avoid wholesale change in favor of nuance, they’ll quickly become your best friend. Gotta love that control.

And now, the fun part: actually creating your ad variations.

Google provides three separate types of ad variation you can create:

Find and replace Update text Swap headlines

Let’s take a closer look at each option.

Find and Replace

First up, we’ve got the “Find and Replace” ad variation. As the name so subtly suggests, this option allows you to find a word or phrase in some component of your text ads and swap it out with another.

This is the perfect option if you’d like to test something like “Buy now” vs. “Buy today,” or, if you’re an artisan syrup-maker from the Green Mountain state, you’d like to change instances where you braggadociosly reference being the best in “Vermont” to “The World.” Dream big, people.

create adwords ad variations 

“Find and Replace” allows you to adjust any component of your ads and gives you the option to match case (important to note if your existing ads are written in title case vs. sentence case).

Update Text

The “Update Text” ad variant is more of a wholesale change than “Find and Replace,” but it’s still reliant on your filters to take effect. Let’s say you want to swap out every Headline in a given campaign but would rather leave the Description and Paths intact, like so:

adwords ad variations headline change 

In this example, I’ve updated both headlines for ads in a competitor campaign (where including other brand names is impossible) for my exceptional, barrel-aged pure maple syrup. The first headline is an attempt at getting a laugh and, subsequently, a click; the second introduces my product to someone searching for a much larger competitor.

Is this something you want to roll out everywhere, all the time? Probably not. But if it works in testing, it can be implemented across the board after achieving statistical significance. Don’t let fear stand in the way of a good idea!

(Of course, you can use “Update Text” variants to test less silly ideas, too; if your ads tend to follow a formula, use that structure to replace the components that don’t include target keywords. This will allow you to get creative without sacrificing Quality Score).

Swap Headlines

And finally, we come to the lazy man special. “Swap Headlines” is pretty self-explanatory: it allows you to flip your Headline 1 and Headline 2 in the ads identified in your filter step.

ad variations adwords headline swap 

If ever you’ve wondered how putting your CTA before your brand—or something comparable—would impact CTR, this is your chance to learn, en masse.

Tracking and Applying Your Ad Variations

Once you’ve settled on a mode of ad variation, you’ll need to establish the details of your testing process.

Right off the bat, you’ll want to name your variant (in the example below I’ve cleverly named my variant “Name of Ad Variant.” Do yourself a favor: use a name that explicitly refers to your test, that way you know what you’re looking at):

 adwords ad variations set variant details 

From there, you’re going to need to assign a start date and an end date for your variation. Start with a timeframe of at least two weeks to give your ads time to accrue some impressions. Simple enough, right?

Finally, we come to the “Experiment Split” section. This is the final field before setting your new ad variation live. It refers to the percentage of your campaign budget that’s “allocated to your variation and the percentage of auctions your variation is eligible to participate in.” If you only want to conduct an experiment with a small subset of your advertising budget (which may be the case if you’re testing something outlandish or are particularly budget-sensitive), adjust your split accordingly.

Once assigned, click “Create Variation” and kick back (or, you know, get back to your normal routine optimization).

In terms of gauging the performance of your ad variation, the interface in which you created your experiment now doubles as a hub for analyzing its results. It allows you to see clicks, impressions, CTR, cost, and average CPC: more than enough information to determine whether or not your new copy’s a keeper.

 adwords ad variation results

Finally, if you deem the results of your ad variation successful enough to actually replace your existing ads, click “Apply”…

apply adwords ad variants 

To bring up the “Apply Variation” interface…

apply adwords ad variations application settings 

From here, you’re given a full breakdown of your ad variation (what kind of experiment you’ve been running how many ads were impacted) and three potential courses of action:

Pause original ads and create new ads with this variation ***Remove original ads and create new ads with this variation*** [AVOID ME] Keep original ads and create new ads with this variation

Don’t choose the second one. Ever. Your old ads are valuable: they have historic data! Don’t delete them. You can pause them and replace them with your winning ad variation or run them simultaneously for a true split-test.

So Now You Know How to Use AdWords Ad Variations: What Should You Be Testing?

So, you’ve now got the ability to test anything, anywhere in your AdWords account—at least where ad copy is concerned: how do you avoid paralysis by analysis? Yes, knowing that you can implement impactful changes across every campaign with a bright idea and a few clicks can be as frustrating as a facing down a hundred ad groups in need of fresh copy (and a whole workday).

Luckily, I’ve pulled together a handful of ideas that you can use to test your creative using Ad Variations right this instant (most of which were ripped directly from our own research on top-performing search ads).

You’re welcome.

Get weird with your CTA

The CTA is a key component of your ad creative, but most people tend to try to pop it into their second headline and call it a day. Why not use AdWords Ad Variations to test CTA placement? You can try it before you address your target keyword, by putting it in the Headline 1, or put it in the description and use both headlines to focus on catching the eyes of your prospects with colorful language.

adwords cta verb testing ad variants 

While you’re at it, why not take a new verb for a spin? According to our research, “Buy” or “Shop” or “Get” make for effective CTA verbs: pit them against one another with a “Find and Replace” variant and see which one works best in the context of your account.

Leverage positivity (or, you know, don’t)

Here’s another place where the “Find and Replace” variation can come in clutch. Sentiment is an important—though often overlooked—piece of writing search ads. Our analysis of more than 600 ads revealed that 45% of top-performers use positive sentiment to great effect.

ad sentiment testing adwords ad variants 

That being said, for some advertisers, negative sentiment can be a valuable tool. Causing a prospect to experience fear or giggle with glee beats going unnoticed, and ad variations can help you figure out which tactic resonates with searchers in your vertical.

Features? Benefits? Why not both?

A lot of marketing comes down to features vs benefits. And when it comes to AdWords, feature-dominant copy is everywhere. Why not use Google’s Ad Variations to test which approach does a better job of communitcating your value prop?

Here’s how that plays out with each version of Ad Variations:

Find and replace: Replace a thing (feature) with what that thing helps your prospects accomplish (benefit). Update text: Swap out entire description lines to test whether benefits are worth focusing on in your ad copy (if you’re nervous about dumping features, remember that you can include them in your callout extensions and structured snippets). Swap headlines: Try a feature-centric Headline 1 and a benefit-centric Headline 2 (where does the CTA go? You be the judge); reverse, rinse, and repeat.

adwords features vs benefits ad variants testing  

By testing “what does my product do” against “how does my product make your life better” in every campaign in your account—regardless of search intent—you can unlock the secrets to both CTR and CVR.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the AdWords Ad Variations feature, it’s never been easier to determine your top-performing ad creative and then test (and test and test and test) some more. But, oddly enough, there don’t seem to be too many advertisers taking advantage of it.

Do you smell that? That, my friend, is opportunity.

How to Find & Eliminate 90%+ of Click Fraud in the Google Display Network

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Believe it or not, click fraud in PPC marketing really does exist.

Unfortunately, every display ad network on the planet has fraudulent website placements designed to drain ad budgets from unsuspecting advertisers. You need to get these placements out of your campaigns so your money is spent on clicks that actually do something for your business!

In my article today, I’ll show you how to find the sites responsible for most of the click fraud in your Google Display Network campaigns, plus share some concrete steps you can take to eliminate it.

Finding the Click Fraud in Your Google Display Campaigns

To find the fraudulent display ad clicks you’re paying for, go to “Display campaigns” à “Display Network” à Placements.

Here you’ll see all the websites in the Google Display Network that yielded one or more impressions.

how to eliminate display network click fraud

First notice that the display ads here are showing up on 48,639 different websites:

click fraud in the display network

And if you look at the sites that are generating spend and conversions, you’ll notice that most of them are fake websites.

Take for example “” (link omitted intentionally). This site has spent $139.58 to drive 251 clicks, 22 conversions at an average cost of $6.34 per conversion cost – which is an amazing conversion rate of 8.76%!

display network placements

This sounds fantastic! Almost too good to be true.

And guess what? When you look at the site that drove all the conversions, you see that it’s a fake site.

This website isn’t a real website that people actually visit – it was designed specifically to drain budgets.

How to Identify a Fake Website

Here are the tell-tale signs of a fake website:

Extremely thin content Employs a template with little customization Domain registered in the last few days Unusually high number of ads per page

Take a look at our #1 conversion driver:

fake website click fraud

Does it seem likely that this website drove 22 conversions at an 8.76% conversion rate?


Or how about this one?

display click fraud

Totally fake. You get the idea.

These are not highly effective premium display network sites. It’s just click fraud.

How Fake Sites Pull Off Click Fraud

Here’s how these sites work: First, they employ bots to visit your site, so that they can trigger your remarketing ads. Next, the operators of these sites don’t just click on your ads, they also employ people and/or bots fill out your landing pages, to generate fake conversions.

Why on earth would a bot go through the trouble to register a fake conversion on your site?

It’s because Google’s automated bid algorithms allocate even more traffic to these fake sites, if it believes that they are high performers (thank you, machine learning!!).

It’s a vicious cycle.

What can be done?

Dumb Spam Reduction Idea: Exclude Placements

The conventional wisdom around eliminating spam placements on the GDN is to exclude them manually by adding them to an exclusion list, like this:

excluding display network placements

The problem with this approach is that it’s a suicide mission.

Remember, in this example, there were 48,639 different placements to review and more than 90% of them were fake.

That will take forever – I know this because I’ve tried:

display campaign placement exclusions

But worse, even after combing through the entire list, thousands of new fake sites keep showing up in your placement report every month.

So, what should you do?

Stop using automatic placements!

Rather than trying to manually exclude potentially millions of random sites in the GDN, it’s much easier to just be explicit and hand-pick a few dozen or hundred sites that you know are real – like or or (etc.) – legitimate sites and that real people actually visit (i.e. they are not just made for bot traffic!).

Using Managed Placements in the Google Display Network

To explicitly specify a list of websites you’d like to have your display/remarketing ads show up on, go to “Display Network” à “Targeting” à “Placements” à “Add Multiple Placements” and add your list of websites.

control click fraud

Important note: Make sure to choose “Target and bid” which ensures your ads only show up on the websites you specified.

Finally, make sure you un-select the “Let AdWords automatically find new customers” option, which is selected by default.

aggressive targeting on display network

Otherwise, Google will automatically try to find conversions on all those sites you were trying to exclude in the first place.

How to Find a List of Managed Placements

For starters, don’t use the display planner tool. Why? Because it’s just an index of the millions of sites in the GDN, which includes a considerable number of fake sites!

using managed placements on the google display network

Instead use a tool like SEMrush to search for sites by topic. It shows you the most linked-to sites, which are more likely to be real than most listings in the Display ad planner.

most linked to sites

How to Defeat the Bots & Stop Paying for Fake Clicks

Let’s recap.

Spam sites can suck up tons of clicks and spend from your display ad campaigns, because they register fake conversions, which Google’s algorithms reward by serving your ads there even more.

The solution is to try to never place your conversion pixel on an “easy” conversion, like a lead form, which can be easily faked by a bot.

Instead, only fire your conversion pixel if you’re darn sure that a real conversion has occurred – for example, if a sale has occurred and you’ve billed the customer’s credit card.

Alternatively, if you are collecting leads, fire the conversion pixel on some lower-funnel activity, like activating their trial subscription.

Closing Thoughts

By making this the one small change, we:

Reduced fake conversions and costs by 90% Dramatically improved sales productivity: They were initially upset due to loss of leads, but later warmed up to the change when they realized they could make the same number of sales in 1/10 the time (due to not having to chase fake leads). Got much more accurate campaign data: The true campaign performance metrics were worse than we originally thought (since both CTR and conversion metrics were artificially inflated by bots); however, it led us to realize that our ads and landing pages were actually under-performing, so we made some big changes there, too.

Make the changes described in this tutorial to ensure that your valuable display ad budget only gets served to the best (real) sites in the ad network!

WordStream's Top 20 Stories of the Year

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The online advertising and digital marketing industries saw dozens of exciting developments this year, but 2017 also brought with it new challenges to be overcome, not least of which the fraught political and economic environment in which many small businesses are now struggling to survive.

Best of the WordStream blog 2017 edition

As is customary here at WordStream, it’s time to take a look back at the most popular content from the WordStream blog of 2017. Many of our most popular stories reflect the ongoing tensions experienced by many digital marketers this year, and highlight just how fast some companies move (and how badly they break things).

Whether you had an incredible 2017 or can’t wait for the whole ordeal to be over, here are the 20 most popular articles we created this year.

1. Facebook Ad Benchmarks for YOUR Industry [New Data]

Our most popular post of 2017 by a country mile, this original data revealing Facebook advertising performance benchmarks was a huge hit with WordStream readers. Covering a range of common metrics, including average cost-per-click, cost-per-action, conversion rates, and click-through rates, this data shows just how steep the competition is across 18 industry verticals, providing readers with an invaluable glimpse into the current state of advertising on the world’s largest social media platform.

WordStream Facebook Ad Benchmarks average CTR

Although original research data like this is always popular with our readers, it should come as little surprise that this was our most popular post of 2017. The number of businesses advertising on Facebook continues to grow rapidly, and while Facebook remains a cost-effective way to reach new audiences and expand your reach, competition has never been more intense. Combined with lingering concerns about Facebook’s influence over the wider online advertising landscape and online advertising business models in general, many small businesses and digital marketers have been forced to reevaluate their current strategies, making this data invaluable.

2. 40 Essential Social Media Marketing Statistics for 2017

Following hot on the heels of our Facebook advertising benchmarks, this post of social media marketing stats was also immensely popular with our readers.

It’s far from uncommon to see posts like this toward the beginning and end of the year. Although they’re usually fun and interesting, posts like this also provide readers with a snapshot of the wider social media marketing landscape. Some of these stats will come as little surprise to digital marketers, but others reveal just how demanding the social media space has become in recent years. As we head into 2018, competition for clicks is likely to intensify further, highlighting the need for marketers and small businesses to remain agile and ahead of the curve when it comes to their social strategies in increasingly competitive markets.

3. The 15 Best Instagram Marketing Campaigns of 2017

One of the biggest developments in the online advertising space this year was Instagram’s continued rise as an advertising platform, and this guest post from Wishpond’s Carlo Pacis was a sure-fire hit.

Best Instagram marketing campaigns of 2017 Nintendo Switch

This post isn’t merely a round-up of Instagram campaigns that performed well this year – it’s an overview of how major brands and smaller companies alike are adapting and changing to meet the needs of consumers and the changing ways in which people interact online. Instagram is leaving social media platforms such as Twitter in the dust, and with campaigns like these, it’s not hard to see why. If you’re advertising on Instagram, you could do far worse than check out these 15 campaigns for a little creative inspiration.

4. 37 Staggering Video Marketing Statistics for 2017

Alongside the somewhat predictable emphasis on social we saw throughout the year, the so-called “pivot to video” was another of 2017’s most significant developments in content. Dozens of larger publishers culled their editorial staff this year in favor of producing more video content, a move that has largely backfired and prompted some much-needed soul-searching at some of the web’s most renowned digital media brands.

Despite the difficulties experienced by some brands in video content, video marketing remains a powerfully persuasive way to reach new audiences with your message. With more than 500 million hours of video content watched on YouTube alone every single day, it’s little wonder why so many companies are focused on delivering more video content. Check out this and other fascinating video marketing stats in this post to learn more.

5. How Much Do Instagram Ads Cost? Plus 8 Tips for Saving Money

Facebook may be a social media powerhouse, but did you know that Instagram posts attract around 10 times the engagement of Facebook posts? In light of facts like this, it’s easy to see how Instagram has rapidly become the cornerstone of many companies’ social media strategies.

Instagram engagement stats compared to other social media platforms Forrester data

However, as is the case with every online ad platform, questions invariably circle back to costs before long, especially for advertisers new to paid social. In this post, Lisa Lacy breaks down the factors that will affect the cost of your Instagram advertising campaigns, and offers eight great tips for making your Instagram budget go further. With Instagram’s popularity likely to continue well into 2018 and beyond, this post is essential reading for all Instagram advertisers.

6. 33 Mind-Boggling Instagram Stats and Facts for 2017

There’s no disputing that Instagram has become a major player in the paid social space – but why? Well, how about the fact that roughly one-third of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social media platform? Or that most Instagram users are in the 18-29 year-old age demographic prized by many advertisers?

When you look at these and the other facts in this post, it soon becomes clear why Instagram has made such an impact in the online advertising industry. Boasting a vast audience of motivated, engaged users in highly lucrative demographics, Instagram offers the kind of reach and influence that was unthought of just a few years ago – something we’re likely to see more of in 2018.

7. The 25 Most Expensive Keywords in AdWords – 2017 Edition!

When WordStream assembled its list of the most expense keywords in AdWords back in 2011, it became one of our most popular content pieces ever almost immediately. As popular as this data was, the world of online advertising costs rarely stands still, which is why we produced this brand-new data for 2017.

The most expensive keywords in AdWords 2017 edition WordStream

As with many of the trends we saw throughout the year, the most expense keywords in AdWords reveal a great deal more than just specific metrics – they show how AdWords has changed in recent years and how these changes have affected the cost of doing business on the world’s largest online advertising platform. Some keyword categories, such as those in the legal sector, are perennially costly keywords that have long been among the most expense, but there were several unexpected entries in this year’s edition, such as the growing popularity – and expense – of keywords for services such as bail bonds and casinos.

Overall, this data serves not only as a rule of thumb concerning what you can expect to bid for the most expensive AdWords keywords, but also as a fascinating look at which sectors have experienced dramatic growth in the PPC space.

8. 19 Marketing Conferences You Can’t Miss in 2017

I joined WordStream almost four years ago, and in that time, the digital marketing space has changed tremendously. Although there have been dozens of developments in advertising technology and new services to help us reach our audiences, one of the biggest changes in digital marketing has been the increase in popularity of marketing conferences.

Today, digital marketers of all stripes are spoiled for choice when it comes to conferences. There are events dedicated to specific marketing disciplines such as conversion rate optimization, and more generalized events such as HubSpot’s enormously popular UNBOUND conference have attracted speakers including Alec Baldwin, Arianna Huffington, Serena Williams, and Malcolm Gladwell.

Not so long ago, it would have been difficult to even name almost 20 marketing conferences. Next year, we might have to be even more discerning about which shows we attend.

9. 11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

Our next post in this year’s most-read round-up is this guide to outstanding customer testimonial pages courtesy of Margot da Cunha.

Customer testimonial pages examples

Customer testimonials are among digital marketers’ most persuasive tools, and this post highlighted 11 examples that could serve as inspiration for your own site. In addition to offering actionable tips for creating your own customer testimonial pages, this post serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, even in today’s primarily digital space.

As social media has become inextricably interwoven into virtually every fiber of the internet, the power of customer testimonials and other types of recommendations have become even more important. Consumers may have more choices than ever before, but this means that companies large and small must try even harder to attract and retain customers. This technique might not be the “sexiest” way to grow your business, but customer testimonials are likely to remain very important to digital marketers hoping to find new audiences.

10. 31 Must-Ask Interview Questions for Marketing Jobs

2017 was a tumultuous year in many ways, but for people hoping to find new opportunities, it was savage. Prolonged political and economic uncertainty created a volatile and unpredictable job market, and the digital marketing space was no exception. The opportunities are there, but competition for prime roles in marketing has never been more intense.

In this post, Mary Lister offered digital marketers 31 specific questions to ask prospective hires during their next interview. It may be tough to find new gigs these days, but it’s almost as difficult for companies to find the most talented people looking for new opportunities. With almost half of digital marketers reporting difficulty finding skilled creative professionals this year, it’s more important than ever for marketing teams to know exactly how to find the most talented marketers out there – and which questions to ask.

11. How to Use Google AdWords [Infographic]

Sometimes, you need to get back to the basics, and that’s exactly what we did with this original infographic on how to use Google AdWords.

Aside from offering newcomers to paid search with an intuitive way to visualize how AdWords works and the various considerations that should factor into PPC workflows, this guide also served as a guiding light to experienced advertisers. Competition on AdWords has intensified greatly in recent years, highlighting the importance of a solid understanding of the goals that should serve as the basis for AdWords campaigns.

AdWords certainly has more bells and whistles than it did even this time last year, but even the most sophisticated tools will only get you so far. Whether you’re an experienced AdWords advertiser or are planning your very first PPC campaign for 2018, this original infographic can help you identify your most urgent business goals and how you can achieve them.

12. 10 Companies Using Machine Learning in Cool Ways

One of the biggest and most exciting technological trends we saw throughout 2017 was the continued growth in adoption of machine-learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Companies of all sizes are jumping firmly on the machine-learning bandwagon. From simple customer service chatbots to fully integrated, predictive machine-learning systems, AI was big news in digital marketing this year. In this post, yours truly looked at 10 companies using machine learning in new and exciting ways, which revealed just how prevalent AI is becoming across virtually all sectors.

10 companies using machine learning in cool ways WordStream

What’s next for machine learning and AI? The growing popularity of fintech startups and cryptocurrencies seem poised to further shape technologies such as the blockchain, an area that appears ripe for further innovation through AI applications, and the traditional sales cycle also seems likely to experience dramatic change in the coming years thanks to machine-learning and AI technologies.

Regardless of which industry you’re in, it seems almost inevitable that AI and machine learning with continue to disrupt the status quo.

13. The Comprehensive Guide to Online Advertising Costs

PPC and digital marketing move at a break-neck pace, but one of the very few constants is advertisers’ concerns about the costs of launching an online advertising campaign.

In this post, I cover virtually every element that can affect the cost of online advertising campaigns across a range of platforms. We looked at the individual costs associated with specific platforms including Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads, as well as the nuances of costs for PPC ads versus display ads in addition to the differences in various pricing models such as CPM.

Posts about advertising costs are almost always perennially popular. For all the innovation we see in a given year when it comes to advertising features or targeting options, it all comes back to cold, hard cash for many advertisers. According to data from Adobe Digital Insights, the average online advertisement costs approximately 12% more today than it did two years ago, an increase in price more than five times that of the rate of inflation and 70% more than televised advertisements, highlighting the urgency with which many businesses are attempting to reduce their advertising costs.

14. 11 Changes & New Features Coming to AdWords: What You Need to Know

In May 2017, Google held its Marketing Next event in Mountain View, California. At this hotly anticipated event, Google tantalized attendees with a range of impressive tools, features, and functionality planned for its AdWords platform, and WordStream’s Mark Irvine was at the event to cover the various exciting announcements Google made during the show.

Google Marketing Next conference mobile-friendly test results

Of course, forthcoming AdWords features are always popular with our readers. In any given year, Google makes dozens of major updates and hundreds of smaller tweaks to AdWords, and even the most avid digital marketers can struggle to keep up with the pace. This is far more than just professional curiosity, however – it’s an often-vital indication of the direction in which Google expects to pivot based on wider online advertising trends, providing marketers with a glimpse at the priorities Google plans to tackle in the near future.

Among the biggest announcements at Google Marketing Next was the prominence of semantic search and the death knell of keyword-centric advertising. Many experts believe Google intends to move beyond keyword targeting in the future, instead favoring machine learning applications and contextual targeting, among other emerging technologies.

If Google is preparing for the end of traditional keywords, it’s high time we all sat up and paid attention.

15. Features vs. Benefits: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters

Oftentimes, digital marketers spend a great deal of time, money, and energy learning about new targeting techniques, specific tools, and alternative metrics to evaluate the performance of their campaigns. Although it’s crucial for marketers to keep up-to-date with new developments, many companies are missing vital opportunities to broaden their reach by making poor choices when it comes to traditional marketing concepts such as messaging.

In this post, I covered the myriad differences between features and benefits. These two concepts may be closely related, but far too many companies favor messaging that highlights their products’ features rather than the benefits they confer upon their users.

I don’t have any hard data to back this up, but I suspect we’ll see a renewed focus on the fundamentals of marketing in 2018 and beyond. For all the bells and whistles offered by the various advertising platforms through which we reach our audiences, there’s no substitute for a solid grasp of underlying marketing concepts like this. As budgets are stretched further than ever and competition intensifies further, it will become even more crucial for marketers to leverage the fundamentals in their campaigns if they hope to remain competitive.

16. Value of a #1 Google Ranking Down 37% in Two Years?

There are few things marketers dread more than a mysterious drop in performance following an algorithmic update by Google. Previous major updates such as Hummingbird and Penguin decimated traffic to millions of sites and sent webmasters into a panic, but other changes can be far less noticeable – but can still wreak havoc on your traffic.

WordStream change in organic CTR value of #1 Google rank 37% lower in two years

Case in point, a significant drop in traffic that Elisa Gabbert observed in WordStream’s organic click-through rate traffic for certain terms. After noticing the initial decline, Elisa, Meg Lister, and Josh Brackett delved deep into the data to see exactly what was going on. Their discovery? That organic CTR had dropped by approximately 37% in the span of just two years. This post explores the underlying reasons for this precipitous drop, as well as the implications it could have for millions of advertisers and publishers.

Case studies like this are always popular, not least because they effectively highlight the risks of relying on certain sources of traffic and the dangers of assuming that once-secured positions are guaranteed. They also demonstrate the importance of regularly examining your analytics data to ensure that subtle algorithmic changes don’t result in catastrophic losses in traffic.

17. Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Search Volume for Marketers

Search volume is a tricky metric for many advertisers. Higher search volumes typically mean greater potential reach, but bring with them greater competition and often higher costs. Lower search volumes, on the other hand, may seem like cost-effective, low-hanging fruit, but targeting these keywords may not always work out, either. Factor in additional considerations such as domain authority and things can become overwhelming quite quickly.

That’s why I wrote this beginner’s guide to keyword search volume for marketers. In this post, we cover the basics of keyword search volume before moving onto general SEO concepts you should be aware of and an evaluation of several keyword tools that can help you identify the right keyword opportunities for your next campaign.

As with our features versus benefits post from earlier, the popularity of this post leads me to believe that content focusing on fundamental concepts – particularly in the rapidly changing world of SEO – will continue to be popular and valuable to marketers well into 2018. With more than 2.5 million blog posts published every single day, the need to maximize visibility is paramount to digital marketers, and with more competition than ever before, a solid understanding of concepts such as keyword search volume will be crucial to success next year and in coming years.

18. GIFs Will Revolutionize Your Facebook Ads – Here’s How to Use Them

It’s fascinating to see how the various ways in which people express themselves online often end up being coopted by online advertisers. We saw this in 2015 when emoji became available to PPC advertisers (with a significant accompanying lift in CTR, too), and we saw it again earlier this year when Facebook announced it would begin allowing advertisers to include animated gifs in their advertisements.

Animated gifs in Facebook Ads WordStream example

Far from a mere gimmick, the inclusion of animated gifs as visual assets to be used in Facebook ads is significant. According to Facebook, “shorter videos get more completed views” than longer videos, which makes gifs – which are typically 15 seconds or less in duration – a potentially incredible addition to Facebook ads.

The inclusion of animated gifs as visual assets in Facebook ads could also point to further development and evolution of online ads in the future. Not so long ago it would have been almost inconceivable that little icons and symbols would be available in PPC ads, and although emoji might never become truly mainstream on AdWords, their introduction shows that attitudes toward what online ads can be are changing. Who knows what else we could see in the coming years?

19. The Last Guide to AdWords Account Structure You’ll Ever Need

In our penultimate entry in this year’s end-of-year round-up, we turn our focus to another fundamental best practice – account structure.

It might not be the sexiest topic in online advertising, or even the most accessible. That does not diminish the crucial importance of structuring your AdWords account as optimally as possible, and that’s exactly what Bobby Kitteridge does in this post. Even if you’ve been advertising on AdWords for years, I’d wager there are a few tips you could apply to your own account before launching your next campaign.

Last guide to AdWords account structure you'll ever need optimal AdWords account structure diagram

Again, we don’t have the data to back this up, but the consistent popularity of our content focusing on PPC best practices and establishment conventions concerning things like account structure may prove that demand for easily understood, actionable content remains very high. This could be due to an increase in the number of small businesses turning to PPC as a way to grow their business, as well as the continued pressures of an increasingly competitive market forcing marketers to shore up weaknesses that they might have been able to ignore in the past.

20. 35 Face-Melting Email Marketing Stats for 2017

To wave goodbye (and good riddance) to 2017 and welcome 2018 with a champagne toast, we have Allen’s guide to 35 unbelievable email marketing statistics.

Despite how effective email marketing can be, email gets a bad rap. Often (mistakenly) seen as antiquated and of limited value, email marketing can take a back seat to more exciting techniques such as local social marketing. However, overlook email marketing at your peril. Despite being relatively advanced in years, at least in internet time, email still delivers amazing results, often at a fraction of the cost of paid social and even the most tightly optimized PPC campaigns.

I suspect we’ll continue to see creative ideas for email marketing in 2018 and beyond. It’s just too effective – and commonplace – to be going anywhere any time soon, and while flashier techniques might hog their share of the limelight, email marketing is a solid workhorse of a strategy that delivers results.

From myself and everyone here at the WordStream blog, Happy New Year!

How WordStream Helped Inspire Marketing Become the #1 Agency in East Texas

Originally published on:

As Director of Digital Media at a seven-employee agency, Zac Terry’s bandwidth can be spread quite thin. Zac runs all of the digital marketing campaigns for Texas-based Inspire Marketing’s clients. His standards are high, and he wants to ensure his clients see tangible results – so optimizing his time is one of the most critical parts of Zac’s job.

When Zac identified the need to break into the paid search space, he knew that he couldn’t manage his campaigns alone if he truly wanted to deliver ROI for his clients. This is why Zac turned to WordStream’s Premier Consulting team.

“In order to get a campaign to where it needs to be, it takes lots of research and planning for spend,” says Zac. “WordStream has helped us with strategy and campaign management to make us the leaders in East Texas.”

zac terry inspire marketing wordstream managed services 

Inspire Marketing does traditional marketing, special events, and digital marketing for a variety of industries from medical to automotive, and about a year ago they built out a paid search offering too.

“We have been doing social since the company began four years ago, and we moved into PPC last year,” says Zac. “Throughout this time we’ve tripled several of our clients’ businesses. They have seen great results.

So, how did this small agency partner with WordStream to grow their business tremendously in just one year? Well, there were a few things that really played into their success.

WordStream Consulting Calls

WordStream’s Premier Consulting Team is a group of professionally trained, AdWords-certified individuals who provide guidance on paid search strategy, working closely with the client to ensure goals and target metrics are met. When Zac signed up to work with WordStream’s Premier Consulting team, he was paired with a consultant. He says this consulting has been the most valuable service that WordStream has provided to his business.

wordstream customer inspire marketing

“My rep is incredible. Anytime I need anything he helps me out,” says Zac. “If we don’t have a call scheduled or if I need something urgently, I can send him an email and he will respond or call me when he has a break.”

Saving Time with Focused Campaign Workflows

Aside from the value Zac’s seen from consulting, he’s also found WordStream Advisor to be the key to his growing success with managing his clients’ advertising budgets to deliver real results. Early on in Zac’s experience managing advertising budgets for his clients, he became aware of how time-consuming and challenging that task really is.

“Trust and transparency has to be built between us and the client so we can explain to them what needs to be spent and what they can afford in order to get them to where they need to be,” says Zac.

 wordstream 20 minute workweek for agencies

Luckily for Zac, joining WordStream and using tools like the 20 Minute Work Week to better manage his time on each account and hone in on key improvements, he was able to achieve successful results.

Some of the typical workflows Zac does for each client include adjusting budgets and bid prices based on performance, writing new compelling copy each week, and rotating ads to achieve higher click-through rates (CTR’s) and conversions.  

Delivering Tangible Results to Clients

Marketing for agencies is a high-pressure job – if you cannot deliver results, contracts won’t be renewed, relationships will be broken, and reputations will be tarnished. Clients don’t want to hear stories, but rather see numbers, and managing Zac’s campaigns with the support of WordStream has allowed him to show his clients real ROI, yielding growth in the advertising space.

“We have tripled several of our clients’ businesses,” says Zac. “WordStream has ensured we’re always saving our clients money and increasing CTR’s. For instance, one client with a very small operation has not dropped below a 3.5% CTR since we started, within 6 months they held a greater than 5% CTR, reaching all the way to 8.3% at one point.”

With notable results comes a glowing reputation, which of course leads to more business, and this is something that Inspire Marketing has seen time and time again. “Several of our clients have told their friends,” says Zac. “We have been blessed with so much businesses that we can’t take on any more clients!”

Zac and his team at Inspire Marketing are confident that partnering with WordStream was a great business decision.

“The service we get from WordStream is unparalleled,” says Zac. “We always discuss how it is the best investment we have made in our company.”

7 Inventive Ways to Improve Your Organic CTR Using Google Search Console

Originally published on:

improve ctr

In a world obsessed with rankings, sometimes it’s hard for us SEOs to remember that those rankings are worthless if they’re not accompanied by a high click-through rate (CTR). Why should you care about your organic CTR? Besides the obvious benefit of increased site traffic, Google often rewards higher CTRs with higher rankings. CTRs also pay off with increased brand awareness – the higher your CTR, the higher your ranking, and the better visibility for your brand. In this article, I’ll walk you through seven ways you can use Google Search Console (GSC) to improve your organic CTR. What You’re…

The post 7 Inventive Ways to Improve Your Organic CTR Using Google Search Console appeared first on The Daily Egg.

How to Make Facebook Ads Work for Your SaaS Business with a Google Survey

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SaaS businesses are constantly hunting for effective methods to improve their customer acquisition process with the help of advertising. As a consequence, tons of how-to guides and case studies from the most reliable marketers promise you quick and sure results.

But in reality, not every advertising strategy will be profitable for your SaaS company. In SaaS, you need unique, first-hand approaches to different ad techniques that work in this industry.

Being a SaaS startup, here at Chanty we’ve tried lots of different user acquisition methods such as search engine optimization, content marketing, guest blogging, social networking, etc. Eventually, the day when we decided to try out Facebook Ads arrived.

Initially, we weren’t sure if Facebook was a good channel for SaaS advertising. Moreover, we had no idea what the best methods were to market our messenger product. But our marketing team was keen to give it a try.

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies

The majority of people think that Facebook is where they can connect with friends and relatives, find interesting news and, of course, check out cute cat pictures. Therefore, most SaaS companies share a common thought that advertising on Facebook is useless for their businesses. This network is generally believed to be a great tool for B2C businesses, where advertisers can offer discounts, promote sales and showcase new sweatshirts. Naturally, these tactics are not suitable for the SaaS crowd.

On the other hand, the companies you’d like to sell your software to are made of people who are decision-makers in your business field. And people are on Facebook! Facebook Ads, with their robust targeting options, are a great way to reach them via the industry they work in or by their job titles.

Generally speaking, there is simply no reason not to promote a business product on Facebook. And that’s exactly what this article’s about: our experience of marketing our SaaS product online using a basic Google Form survey. This simple yet effective strategy helped us understand who our potential customers were, craft laser-targeted Facebook targeting, and triple our Facebook CTR.

Why your SaaS Facebook ad campaign may fail at first (like ours did)

When it comes to improving your ad campaign’s results and decreasing its price, you should thoroughly research your audience. The more you invest in poorly targeted ads, the more money and time you lose. Start by making sure that you’re reaching your ideal customers.

SaaS Facebook Ads South Park and it's gone meme

You likely know the basics here (age, gender, location, etc.). Using this demographic data will help you filter out all of the people who aren’t your potential customers. After that, your audience will still be too large. Probably you will add a few interests to your targeting process, like brands your prospects follow. Nevertheless, your targeted audience will still be too broad. That’s the way we advertised on Facebook. Not the smartest way, let’s be honest.

Audience segmentation is a key to success when it comes to Facebook ads. In fact, poorly targeted promotions are the ultimate reason SaaS Facebook campaigns deliver low CTR. The real value of advertising on Facebook comes with laser-targeting a very granular audience. You can do this by creating unique buyer personas and pushing your ad copy specifically to them. However, it’s easier said than done.

Finally, we came up with probably the most evident and no-brainer idea – literally asking our target audience what value they’d like to get using our app. Following this, we were able to adjust the targeting options according to the answers we received and triple our CTR.

How exactly did we carry it out? All that we needed was a Google Form.

An example from the “before” version of our Facebook campaign

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies bad example

Cost Per Click (CPC) – $2.50

Click Through Rate (CTR) – 0.05%

You are looking at a perfect example of an unperfect and low-performing Facebook ad. It was our first attempt at crafting SaaS promotions on Facebook. Make sure you are not falling victim to frequent Facebook ad mistakes which we did:

1) Vague value message – the headline fails to stand out and the ad copy is dull.

2) An unmemorable stock image that has nothing in common with the product we’re trying to market.

3) Broad targeting. Being a Slack competitor, we decided to choose the following targeting options: Interests > Additional Interests > Slack (software).

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies Facebook targeting mistakes

The results speak for themselves: CPC was slightly more than $2.50, while CTR was far from what we expected (0.05%).

Continue reading this article to learn how we have managed to significantly improve these results!

Creating a survey, or where a SaaS business should start from

Like most businesses, we already had our SWOT competitor analysis. Nevertheless, this data did not give answers to more complex questions like:

Who is more likely to initiate using a team messenger within a company? How big is a company where people use a team messenger? Which team messenger features are the most desired among the users? What is the industry where team messengers are most widely used? What kind of companies are actually paying to use team messengers?

Long story short, we put together our questions in a Google Form. Then we decided to focus on LinkedIn as a survey distribution channel. Our process had the following stages:

1. Inviting for connection those LinkedIn members who might become our customers.

2. Asking people who have added us to their network if our product seemed interesting for them.

3. Inviting those who expressed an interest to take a short survey.

4. Sending the link to the survey with an explanation of why this survey is so important to us.

5. Last, but not least – sincerely thanking them for their assistance and assuring them that we won’t reveal any personal information we received.

Eventually we achieved more than 500 completed surveys and, as a result—sometimes unexpected yet very valuable insights into our prospects’ pain points and needs. In fact, these results influenced many aspects of our product’s development to a certain extent: pricing, onboarding process, features, etc.

SaaS Facebook Ads but wait there's more meme

Moreover, thanks to this survey we figured out what questions our site should answer to assist conversions, so we adjusted our content marketing strategy and increased on-page conversions up to 30 percent. Not bad added value out of a simple Google Form survey!

Ad optimization: How to benefit from all the data you collect

After analyzing the survey answers, we were able to paint a clear picture of our prospects and their real-life needs that we could meet with our product. We got answers to these key questions:

What customers of the X team messenger hate the most about it. The users of the Y team messenger would love to switch to another communication tool if this alternative would have Feature1 and Feature2. The non-paying users of the Z messenger would never pay for this set of tools. People who made a decision about choosing team communication tools usually took a position of…

Generally speaking, we got a ton of valuable information to help us craft a perfect Facebook campaign. ?heck out the following steps you can take today to boost performance of your SaaS Facebook campaign performance.

Adjust your targeting by …


“Interests” is a powerful targeting option inn Facebook. It will reach users based on the pages they’ve already liked, things they’ve shared, ads they’ve clicked on, etc.

Target users who liked the Facebook pages of brands related to what you are offering. For example, if your target is marketers, use brands like Sprout Social and Hootsuite.

Tip: Use your competitors’ brand names as an interest to reach users who are likely to be interested in your offer. To avoid your competitors’ employees viewing your ads, exclude users indicated as their employees.


Target users who are likely to be small business owners according to their digital activities.


If you already know which specific companies you want to target, then this is a great tool to reach out to employees of these companies.

…job title.

The majority of people fill in the job title field proudly so you are sure to get a great pull for each ad. It is easy to create tailored ads for groups with different job titles. You can choose specific job titles, such as CEO, if they are decision-makers for your business industry.

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies targeting SaaS job titles in Facebook Ads

…company size.

Find users by the size of the company they own or work at.

Adjust copy and creative

Start with a compelling headline, which is the first thing people see after the image. Following this, explain your offer in the text, which is the sub-header you see above the image. Finally, add in more details in the description, which is the small text under the headline.

Your messaging should be consistent across all three parts.

Focus on specific product and service benefits according to your target audience segmentation

In your headline try to test the benefits your product or service has to offer for different buyer personas, based on your survey answers.

Moving forward, here are a few more suggestions:

1) Separate mobile and desktop ad campaigns

Use different ad sets for mobile and desktop so you can track CTR based on the device (probably, it will differ).

2) Test bidding strategies

Examine various bidding methods to find out which one decreases the CPC but still gets enough capacity.

3) Experiment with scheduling

Timing ?an potentially affect your ads’ performance. The biggest difference is commonly between weekdays and weekends. However, the ad performance may fluctuate within the day as well.

To be honest, we can’t give you a one-size-fits-all strategy on what exactly you should write in your Facebook ad copy or what image you should use. Neither can we say what demographics you should target or what bid will be the most profitable for you. The answers to these questions come with A/B testing and tweaking.

The only helpful thing that we’d like to share with you is our first-hand experience. Now you can see what changes took place after we refined our Facebook ads with the help of the Google Form survey…

SaaS Facebook Ads improved example better copy feature driven Facebook ad

Cost Per Click – $1.40

Click Through Rate – 1.5%

The survey showed that there are many Slack users who admit that this messenger is getting quite complicated. Therefore, we inserted a bold statement about Chanty’s simplicity and convenience in our ad copy (in fact, it is true).

Moreover, the survey participants expressed their need for video calls and a screen sharing feature (at that time Slack didn’t have that). As a result, we prioritized the development of these features in future Chanty updates and mentioned them in the ad copy.

For this experiment, we added many sophisticated targeting preferences based on the survey results. In particular, they included:

Behaviors > Digital Activities > Small business owners Demographics > Work > Job Titles > CEO, Founder, Owner, Chairman, Director etc.

As you can see, this time the ad performance was MUCH better than our previous experiment. And we decided to move on.

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies better Chanty example

Cost per Click – $1.10

Click through Rate – 2.2%

In this case we targeted Asana users. The ad copy was based on pains they revealed in the survey.

On the whole, it is usually believed that an appropriate Newsfeed CTR varies between 0.5% and 2% depending on what industry you are in. For example, e-commerce receives a much higher CTR (1.5-2%) than games/mobile apps (about 1%).

The majority of marketers tend to think that a normal CTR for SaaS ads is 0.78%. Furthermore, the average Cost per Click for SaaS is $2.52.

Facebook Ads for SaaS companies how to target your existing users

It is easy to see that using the Google Form survey has ramped up our SaaS ad campaigns, tripled the CTR and decreased the CPC.

How you can use the survey-based approach for marketing a SaaS product on Facebook 1) Activating new users

A powerful strategy to grow your SaaS business is to use Facebook ads for your recent free signups. Set up a retargeting campaign that activates after someone visits a thank you page after signing up to your product. This type of ad campaign should educate new users about the benefits of your software.

2) Promoting paid plans and upgrades

Facebook retargeted advertising can also be a great tool for converting free trial users to paying customers. The only advice here is reaching out those current free users who are actively using your software.

Final Thoughts

Once you dig into SaaS paid advertising, you’ll uncover a world with perks, challenges and specific execution strategies. And who knows, maybe you’ll be able to defeat your business rivals trying out fresh and uncommon methods of refining your Facebook ads.

One of these methods is using a Google form survey. It resulted in several gains for our SaaS business: in-depth market investigation, increased CTR and a better understanding of how to scale our promotion efforts on Facebook.

Remember that CTR isn’t the ultimate metric of your SaaS business success. It is rather the most evident method to compare two ads and discover which is the most beneficial.

CTR, to be exact, still doesn’t tell you how your Facebook paid promotion performs in terms of return on investment (ROI). With ROI being one of the most crucial metrics for SaaS marketing activities, it often takes time before you have enough data to measure it. That’s why you should think of increasing CTR and ad positions first, so you can gather enough data to really see how your campaigns are working.

About the Author

Julia Samoilenko is a Marketing Manager at Chanty, a simple AI-powered business messenger and a single notification center aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. Julia is responsible for Chanty’s online social media  presence and public relations. Follow Julia on Twitter @juliasam111 or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.

New 20-Minute Work Week Alert: Device Bid Adjustments

Originally published on:

Search ad performance can vary greatly across mobile, tablet and computer devices due to a variety of factors, including your business type. “Need right now” businesses like locksmiths may have a higher willingness to pay more for mobile clicks than a business with a longer customer journey like a law firm or enterprise software. These mobile-dependent businesses need bid optimization strategies that reflect which devices bring in the most leads and drive the most sales.

Of course, you can make these adjustments manually, but our customers look to us to make their lives easier. That’s why we built the 20-Minute Work Week, a system of customized alerts that nudge you to make the optimizations with the most potential for impact in your advertising campaigns each week.

Today, we’re happy to announce there’s a new alert in the 20-Minute Work Week: the device bid adjustment alert for Google AdWords, which suggests adjustments to your bids across different devices to ensure optimal performance.

Welcome the Device Bid Adjustment Alert to the 20-Minute Work Week

Now WordStream Advisor users can rely on the intelligence of the 20-Minute Work Week to provide guidance and make device bid adjustments an easy addition to their optimization workflow.

device bid adjustment alerts

How Does it Work?

On a weekly basis, the Device Bid Adjustment Alert will suggest either an increase or a decrease to a campaign’s base bid for each targeted device (Mobile, Tablet & Computers). The goal here is to drive more traffic (by designating more of your ad budget) to the better performing devices, while decreasing traffic and budget to the poorer performing devices.

We optimize toward CPA as the primary metric, and, for those advertisers that don’t capture conversions, we look to CTR.

device bid adjustments in wordstream

The 20-Minute Work Week will never recommend an action more drastic than a 15% increase or decrease to your current bid, but you can manually adjust your bids for mobile here.

Don’t Treat Mobile as an Afterthought

Needless to say, device bid adjustments are a great way to optimize campaign performance across devices. So why are so few businesses making use of them?

As WordStream’s head data scientist and PPC guru, Mark Irvine preaches, “the mobile PPC market is far more difficult for advertisers to be successful in than on desktop. If you don’t have a mobile strategy, you’re asking for trouble.”

For example, click-through rate falls off much more steeply on mobile devices depending on your ad rank – it’s a whopping 45% lower in position 1 than position 2. So it’s that much more important to get into position 1 for high-value searches like “emergency plumber.”

We have lots of device-specific best practices in our toolkit, but employing the advice of the Device Bid Adjustment Alert in the 20-Minute Work Week is one easy way to get started! If you’re a WordStream customer, you’ll find the alert in your 20-Minute dashboard starting this week. If you’re not a customer, you can try it out with a free trial of WordStream Advisor (or, sign up for a demo and we’ll show you everything works).

Happy adjusting!