Ben Childs
By Ben Childs | SEM | July 21, 2014

Up vs. Out (Part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of the “Up vs. Out” series. In Part 1, we took a look at all the different ways you can get the most out of the campaigns and settings you already have. This included Ad RotationsRemarketing  and some other activities that either increase Click-Through-Rate or Conversion Rate. Those are all fantastic ways to improve an account, and if you did only those things you’d be ahead of most. But what about two years from now? What happens when the winds of change rush in, and the barbarians are at the gates?

You’ll wish that you had built out, not just up. Building out requires a little risk. “But Ben,” you cry, “where do I get the resources?!” I think a good rule of thumb is to bite the bullet and pause the worst-performing 5-10% of your account every couple months, throw a little money up in the air and see which way the wind blows. Today, I’ll outline my favorite strategies for doing so.
But first a couple words of caution: First, we’re tremendous fans of Analytics and tracking. It’s a real bummer talking to people who say “I’ve tested a bunch of stuff, and X, Y and Z don’t work” only to see that they weren’t tracking and thus had no idea what might or might not work. Second, as mentioned in Part 1, overall these “building-out” strategies will probably have lower-ROI in the short-term. However, using that as the sole judgement of success is missing the point of the exercise- these are long-term strategies. The goal is to lose as little money as possible while testing for long-term winners. Remember, your account will be on for forever, so losing a little money over the course of a month can have tremendous long-term benefits if it helps you find some gold.

OK, ready? Let’s go!

Match Types:  What’s that you say? Broad Match and Broad Match Modifier have lower-ROI than other match types? Of course they do, because they’re doing their job: finding converting queries that you can “build up” with. This is the easiest, least understood, way to build Out. It’s covered in Brad Geddes’ must-have Advanced AdWords, and is essentially the basis of 3Q Digital’s magnum opus, the Alpha-Beta Account Structure (Download the Whitepaper).

I think the problem with its implementation is that it puts some cognitive dissonance in the mind of advertisers. The challenge of imagining that “Improve ROI” and “Spend money on bad traffic” can simultaneously be true has probably kept many an advertiser up at night. Fear not, Google has given you a safe sandbox to play in to make this less painful. Use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads to prequalify the traffic that you target with your broad match keywords, and you’ll be able to dip your toe into the pool, rather than just dive in. The water’s probably fine, but if it’s not, no need to get too wet. 

Display Network Placements: “The Display Network doesn’t work” is a common refrain I hear. That’s quite possible, but realize that a.) if you leave the settings to Google, they’ll treat it essentially like Broad Match, and b.) you can exclude non-converting placements! (Notice: not bad placements). Most accounts that have dismissed placements only considered it in aggregate, rather than digging for the gems that Google discovered and planting their flag in the ground. Don’t miss the one that struck it rich just because most didn’t. 

Other networks/platforms: Yes, Bing may not have worked for you on the whole, but wasn’t there something that worked? Wasn’t there one Campaign, Ad Group, or Keyword that had positive ROI for you? Or, are you in the boat that hasn’t tried Bing? Yes, there’s less total traffic volume, but we’ve actually found that in many situations (especially e-commerce) the Bing audience can be more qualified as a whole than Google audiences. 

Also, Google turns “search partners” on by default, but check your settings. On the whole, we see search partners perform slightly worse than Google, but that’s a generalization – it says nothing of search partners’ success in your particular account. Turn it on for one of your campaigns and, after a couple weeks, check its progress. If it’s performing well, this could be a tremendous win. Other networks/platforms (2): If Remarketing is working on the Google Display Network, why not try AdRoll or Criteo? We’re always surprised to see people using Google Shopping but not even considering product feeds on Amazon, eBay or NextTag. There are tons of platforms that can market your product to different audiences (and, not to mention, are dying to get your money), that a little testing can have huge benefits. 

Both “Up” and “Out” work together. Building your village “up” works only to an extent, as marginal gains often become either too expensive or too minute to matter. Of course, 90%+ of advertiser’s aren’t anywhere near that point- that’s why we’re building a strategy to help you get there.  However, don’t ignore that some big wins can be found by heading out west and panning for that sweet, sweet gold. You’re going to lose some wagon trains (I think I just switched computer games, but stay with me), some of your dollars are going to die of dysentary, but those that get to the promised land will often be sending money back at a huge ROI.
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Heading West to find the Promised Land
And what happens after you strike gold? Build it “Up”, of course! No strategy is complete without both, despite the fact that most businesses unwittingly go entirely one way or the other. Don’t be stuck only on exact match, or set to broad on all networks (hmm… I’m getting visions of campaigns labelled “-opt”): a constant balance of “up” vs. “out” is the most solid path to long-term growth.
  Where are you weak? Is your account investing in itself by devoting a certain portion of its spend every month to building “out? Do you have a good keyword discovery strategy? Or do you struggle building “up” once you’ve found what works?
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