What Google Removing Keyword Transparency Could Mean For Advertisers

One of the common misconceptions for those new to advertising with Google Shopping is that you want to generate as much traffic as possible.

As with any marketing channel where you pay for traffic, this is blatantly false!

With Google Shopping unlike Google Search there are no keywords. Instead, Google uses their algorithm to match eligible products from an advertiser’s merchant center account with a user’s search query.

In order to match eligible products, Google uses the product title and description to filter the most relevant results based on the searches of users actively Shopping.

However, as anyone who has been running successful Google Shopping campaigns will attest, sometimes the search terms that are sending traffic are terms an advertiser would rather not pay to receive.

Imagine that you are selling Nike Air Jordan’s. As an advertiser, you wouldn’t want your products appearing for the search term ‘Nike Air Jordan Knockoffs’ or ‘Fake Nike Air Jordan’s’, would you?

No of course not.

You wouldn’t want these keywords triggering your products to appear because traffic coming from those search terms would most likely have a very low conversion rate for your standard priced Air Jordan shoes.

And although this traffic would have a very low conversion rate, you (the advertiser) would still be charged each time your products appeared for these searches when your product ads were clicked.

Negative Keywords

This is where negative keywords are useful.

In order to avoid these clicks, an advertiser can enter the words fake and knockoffs as phrase match negative keywords at the account, campaign or ad group level.

The retailer selling Nike Air Jordan’s is a random example that I just fabricated. However, the keywords that drive unwanted traffic are very real and generally they are a huge budget eater for most advertisers. In addition, they can vary tremendously from account to account and even campaign to campaign.

For a well run, fully optimized account, it is essential for advertisers to identify keywords driving unwanted traffic and ad spend and use negative keywords to prevent future ad spend.

For advertisers using standard shopping campaigns, Google offers or least had been offering full transparency of what search terms trigger products to appear as well as what search terms triggered products that appeared that were subsequently clicked.  

This tool that provides this transparency is aptly named the Search Terms report.

Proper use of the Search Terms report is one of the most effective ways for advertisers to improve profitability. In fact, it is arguably the most important tool advertisers have to monitor keywords for their Shopping campaigns within their Google Ads account.

By reviewing the Search Terms report on a consistent and ongoing basis, advertisers can identify which keywords are driving unwanted traffic and prevent future unwanted searches by adding them to their negative keywords.

What Is Changing

A few weeks ago, when I logged into one of my private clients Google Ads accounts, I saw a concerning alert.

The alert read that the Search Terms report is being changed to only show keywords that are searched by a “significant number of users”.

Again, I’ll repeat because it is important to realize.

The Search Terms report is being changed to only show keywords that are searched by a “significant number of users”.

At face value, it appears that Google will not be as transparent. As I understood the alert, it means that Google will no longer show the keywords that trigger shopping ads to appear just a few or as they say a non-significant number of times.

However, what is non-significant? This is the real question that Google has not yet answered.

If you multiply one or two clicks per hidden search term by a hundred or maybe two hundred weekly clicks at $0.50 then the costs wasted could very well be significant to my private clients for sure!

It is also concerning, that in the past changes that Google makes to the Google Ads interface have always been to make navigating the Google Ads platform easier for its advertisers.

This change DOES NOT make it easier to navigate.

In fact, what it does is make it less transparent and this change could make Standard Shopping Campaigns more like the Smart Shopping Campaigns. For more information on this, refer to my recent article –

Google Can Keep Their Stinkin’ Ping Pong Table Because I’m Not Doin’ It

In that article, I write about how Google is strongly incentivizing partner agencies like mine to promote and convert from Standard Shopping campaigns to Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

So who knows?

Making Standard Shopping Campaigns more like Smart Shopping Campaigns may be their plan all along.

However, then again, I could just be imagining a conspiracy.

For now, I will put away my tin foil hat and get back to the present and what we should be doing in our campaigns to prepare for this change.

Now in the weeks that followed Google’s announcement, there has not been much clarification on what ‘significant number of users’ exactly entails. However, this warning provides definite cause for concern and advertisers would be wise to be proactive to this news.

What Should We Do?

There are a couple of actions that we can take, while we still have full access to the complete Search Terms report.

The first recommendation that I would make to someone calling me asking for advice would be work on a negative keyword list for the account.

Google offers a number of ways to add negative keywords and one is through creating a negative keyword list.

By creating a negative keyword list, advertisers can easily add keywords that will prevent unwanted searches from appearing into the list and then add this negative keyword list to the campaigns that they select.

When I first launch a campaign for a private client, I have a standard list of negative keywords that I add to a new negative keyword list for eCommerce retailers.

This initial negative keyword list contains approximately 150 keywords such as: pics, pictures, instructions, video, how to, knockoff, fake, etc..

I then add this list to all active new campaigns in order to block these unwanted search terms.

In addition, when I’m reviewing the search terms keywords using the Search Terms report on an ongoing basis, I’m constantly splitting out the negative keywords that I want to add as either adding to the account, the campaign or the ad group level.

If I want to add negative keywords to the account level, I’m adding to those keywords to my general negative keyword list.

This list which is already linked to most if not all of the Shopping campaigns and sometimes to the Search campaigns as well, will instantly allow these negative keywords to stop unwanted traffic throughout the account.

My second recommendation would be consider using priority levels to dictate which traffic is eligible to trigger your shopping ads to appear.

In my new book, Make Each Click Count Using Google Shopping, I dedicate an entire chapter to a strategy called positive keywords.

The positive keyword strategy mind you is a bit complicated but follow me for a quick minute if you have never heard of this.

The subject of positive keywords took a full chapter of my book to cover but here is a quick overview.

By using the priority levels of high, medium and low at the campaign level settings, advertisers can use low bids with high priority level campaigns to filter out a ton of generic traffic.

Using our earlier example, of the eCommerce retailer selling Nike Air Jordan shoes, I will explain how this would work.

If a campaign was created as a high priority campaign at a low bid ($0.05) and negative keywords were added to the campaign of “Nike” and “Air Jordan”, then any generic search terms that would cause eligible products to appear without those keywords would be directed to this campaign.

Keywords with low conversion rates such as ‘Tennis shoes’, ‘basketball shoes’, etc. would all be directed to this campaign with the $0.05 bid.

Now, if we created a new campaign, with a low or medium priority that contained the exact same product with higher bids, then searches with keywords that included Nike or Air Jordan would be directed to this campaign.

I realize that this is a bit fast, so for more clarification, please read the chapter on positive keywords in my book.

However, just know that this is an effective way to reduce unwanted more generic terms from generating clicks at least at your cost per click rate.

Now this would not stop those keywords for ‘Nike Air Jordan Knockoffs’ or ‘Fake Nike Air Jordan’s’ in your medium priority campaign, so it would be important to also use a negative keyword list in conjunction with the positive keyword strategy.

Final Word

The bottom line when interpreting Google’s alert is that we don’t know what a ‘significant number of users’ will constitute.

We don’t know how much of an effect on either yours or my campaigns this will have. 

In addition, the recommendations that I have just given with creating your account negative keyword list and implementing positive keywords are two things that already would be benefiting your account.

If Google only ends up removing  keywords for instance with a few impressions and no clicks, then you will still be able to fully add negative keywords that you no longer wish to receive traffic.

However, right now we just don’t know.

Therefore, if you are not doing it, make sure you start to work on implementing a full list of negative keywords while you for certain have full access to your accounts Search Terms report.

Whether or not this Google change ends up being a big deal or not, using these strategies will help boost your profitability and generally will do it very quickly!

Looking for More Information on Google Advertising?

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Splichal is the founder of True Online Presence, author of the Make Each Click Count book series, host of the Make Each Click Count podcast, founder of The Academy of Internet Marketing and certified online marketing strategist with twenty plus years of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. To find more information on Andy Splichal, visit www.trueonlinepresence.com or read The Full Story on his blog, blog.trueonlinepresence.com.

Who Benefits From Google’s Recent Change To AdWords Budgets?

Did you ever have somebody say they did you a favor, but after hearing what that favor was you didn’t know if the favor was really for your good or for theirs?

This recently happened with Google and their new change to how daily budgets are going to work.  Previously, advertisers would set a daily limit on how much they are willing to spend on a campaign (or multiple campaigns if using a shared budget).  By setting a budget, advertisers were assured never to spend any more than 20% over that budget on any given day.  Google gave themselves a little wiggle room in case the clicks for a campaign would come in fast and furious.  Understandable, okay.

However, I was shocked when I logged into my account last week and saw the following message:

Daily Budget Notification

Let me translate from Google speak.  An advertiser’s campaigns will no longer be limited to their daily budget +20% instead Google can charge up to twice as much as what an advertiser agreed that they are willing to spend per day.

In theory, this makes sense because if traffic for a campaign suddenly spikes and if your campaign is converting at a profit you wouldn’t want to have your ads stop showing, right?

Now Google wants their advertisers to be successful, after all those advertisers who are not successful/profitable will probably not continue to use Google to advertise.  However, Google also wants to make as much money as they can from their advertisers in order to grow.  So whose best-interest is the change to AdWords budget really for?

Well, consider these scenarios:

What if there is a spike in traffic that is not converting?

or

Make Each Click Count - T.O.P. Guide To Success Using Google AdWords

What happens to your ads near the end of the month given your daily budget has doubled on non-converting traffic and thus depleted your monthly budget?

or

What if you pause an underperforming campaign before the end of the billing cycle?

These 3 scenarios would all negatively affect an advertisers and scenarios that need to be considered when creating your daily budget.

Daily budgets have long been used as a protective net against large spikes in non-converting traffic.  Google has now removed this safety net and Google advertisers need to be fully aware of this fact.

So the question to ask yourself as you review your current budgets are the following:

  1. Always the most important question – are all of your campaigns currently profitable?
  2. Are you using negative keywords to limit your exposure for non-converting keyword searches?
  3. Are you currently managing bids on individual keywords within your campaign? Meaning are you bidding higher for keywords that convert compared with those that convert less frequently.
  4. Are you or is someone else on your marketing team regularly checking your AdWords accounts for both profitability and updating non-converting keywords to your negative keyword list?

If the answer is no to any of the questions above, you may need to consider lowering your budgets. This of course is difficult to do as we approach the holiday season, and I’m not suggesting you cut your budgets in half across your entire account, but profitability is the key to success using Google AdWords and you need to consider the question above when determining how well your account is currently optimized.

After all, you must do what is in your best interest even if a friend of yours says they have just done you a favor:>

Happy Marketing!

Andy Splichal

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.

What Google’s Removing Right Side Text Ads Means For Advertisers

In February of this year, Google made a dramatic change to how it displays ads for search results.  They removed all right side text ads from desktop searches with the exception of PLA/Google Shopping ads.  This change reduces the number of maximum text ads on any desktop search from 11 to 7.

What does this mean for advertisers; why did Google make this change and what do search results now look like? 

What It Looks Like

Before when a user did a search from a desktop device, Google returned its search results (a SERP) with a maximum of 3 ads above the organic listings; up to 6 ads along the right column and 2 ads below the organic listings.

Previous SERP layout with right column adsNow when a user performs a query, Google returns its search results (SERP) with up to 4 ads above the organic results and 3 ads below the organic listings with 0 right hand text ads.

New SERP Layout - No Right Column AdsMultiple Reasons For The Change

Why did Google make this change? From its inception Google has always been about providing its users with a good search experience. This is the foremost reason why Google rose to be the leader in user searches and continues to dominate today.Make Each Click Count

By removing up to 5 text ads on the right of the organic listings, users are presented with a cleaner more streamline look.  In addition, Google has been spending a lot of effort in recent years working on refining their organic search algorithm in order to return highly relevant results.

Unlike organic listings, paid text ads do not have to be highly relevant to appear in search results they only need to have an advertiser willing to pay if a user clicks on their ad.  Ad rank (in what order ads are displayed) is determined by the amount an advertiser bids for a keyword along with the keyword’s quality score.  If an advertiser’s keyword is not highly relevant to the user’s search it will receive a lower quality score that eventually lowers the corresponding ad out of the coveted top spots most likely regardless of bid.  Non-relevant ads thus would be much more likely to appear in either the right hand column or the bottom of the page.  By removing right side ads, Google took another step to eliminate results that may not be highly relevant to a user’s search and thus provide users with a better experience.

In addition, those bottom ads (previously ad rank positions 10-11) for which advertisers were either not bidding nearly as much as competitors or had low quality scores are now completely removed from the first page of search results again providing the page with less clutter and an overall better customer experience.

With this change, desktop search results are now more closely aligned with mobile, which last year for the first time surpassed desktop searches. Consistency across devices has been a goal of Google for the past few years and this change is a step closer to achieving that consistency.

What Does This Change Mean For Advertisers?

Obviously, there are less advertising positions available down to 7 from previously 11.  Will this mean higher cost per click charges due to supply and demand?  Possibly, but it also will certainly create more opportunity for advertisers to set their ads apart from their competitors and an opportunity for increasing profits through AdWords. 

By eliminating the clutter on its return results, Google not only did its users a favor, but also its advertisers who are following AdWords’ best-practices!

How so you might ask?

By serving highly relevant ads, users can increase their quality scores and subsequent ad rank position on the page (for details on quality score, read my post – Why Advertisers Need To Know Their Quality Score).

Related to quality score, match type has also become even more vital to an advertiser’s success.  Advertisers who previously used ‘broad match’ in a shot gun type strategy will soon receive lower quality scores on many search terms that will ultimately push them off of the first page of ad results.

Advertisers who use ‘exact match’, ‘phrase match’ and ‘broad match modifier’ match types will be rewarded by serving relevant ads with less competing ads on each page. To review match types including when to use, see my blog post – Properly Using Keyword Match Types In Google Advertising.

In addition, removing ads from the right column will also make ad extensions much more valuable.  Ad extensions are extra pieces of information that advertisers are allowed to append to their ads that appear above organic results (now ad positions 1-4).  Ad extensions previously did not appear for right column ads and so many advertisers who consistently lived in ad ranks (4-9) simply never bothered to create ad extensions.  However, now with 4 ads on top and no right side ads, ad extensions are critical to increase quality score and click through rates (CTR). For more information on ad extensions including what they are and best-practices for using, read my blog post – When It Comes To Google Ads, Size Does Matter.

Finally, remember that Google eliminated right column text ads.  They still serve PLA/Google Make Each Click CountShopping ads in the right column.  In fact, it has been rumored that Google may even increase the number of Shopping ads they serve from the current 8 to as many as 16.

This makes a ton of sense for Google.  Ever since Google changed their PLA ads from free to a pay per click model late in 2012, they have been continually improving PLA results and making them more prevalent in their search results.  Removing the right side ads will certainly free up real estate for PLA ads and bring more importance to these ads for e-commerce advertisers.

Even before the change, PLA ads many times outperformed Search ads for many of my clients.  Now after the change, my clients’ PLA results have been booming.  However, I suspect this is true only for retailers with properly optimized Google Shopping Campaigns.  For best-practices on Google Shopping, refer to all previous blog posts listed in the Google Shopping category.

Summary

It was Winston Churchill who said: “a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” Google removing the right hand text ads is a big change and thus has led to a big opportunity for advertisers who embrace the change.

Now more than ever it is important for advertisers to ensure they are running well optimized campaigns.  Focusing on match type, ad extensions and optimizing bids are immediate factors that will directly correlate to increasing profitability.  Consistency is the key.  Advertisers need to make sure every campaign they are investing advertising dollars into have been optimized for these key metrics. Review my post, Reviewing Your Campaign’s Scorecard, for a quick way to effectively review which campaigns contain all the metrics recommended.

In addition, e-commerce retailers should spend much of their current focus on PLA/Shopping ads.  With the removal of right hand ads, PLA/Shopping ads have been given much more exposure in SERP results and as such contain a huge potential for generating increased profitable traffic.

Still need help or looking for someone to bounce ideas off?  I am currently offering free marketing discovery sessions to those interested. Call True Online Presence at 1-888-456-6943 or schedule online.

Good Luck & Happy Marketing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.

Important Changes To AdWords When Adding Negative Keywords

Adding negative keywords to AdWords Campaigns along with adding new search terms that utilize various match types are important ways to improve a Google account’s profitability. These two issues are so essential to running a successful AdWords account that I have dedicated entire past blog posts to two different subjects. For a review of each, read The Art of Adding Negative Keywords and Properly Using Keyword Match Types In Google Advertising.

Make Each Click CountPreviously accessing the Search Terms report and where to add negative keywords was difficult as both were a bit buried inside the Google interface.  However, within the last few months, Google has made these fields much more accessible.  This blog post focuses on the location changes to these tools.  However, for a full review of the importance of negative keywords and why they are essential to an account’s profitability refer to the blog post, The Art of Adding Negative Keywords.

Adding Negative Keywords

As a quick review, negative keywords are a Google keyword match type that causes an advertiser’s ad NOT to be displayed.  Negative keywords are important for limiting ads from displaying for searches that have historically produced low conversions and a low ROI.  Negative keywords are eligible to be added and it is recommended to utilize them for both Google Search and Shopping Campaigns.

When adding negative keywords, advertisers previously needed to access the Keywords tab and scroll to the bottom of that page to access the ‘Negative keywords’ link. With recent Google changes, negative keywords can now be viewed and added by clicking on a new ‘Negative keywords’ subtab on the TOP of the page within the Keywords tab.

Google AdWords' Negative Keywords SubtabOnce accessed, the rest of the process remains identical to before.  By accessing this part of the AdWords console, negative keywords can be added for either the Ad group or the Campaign level.  In order to add negative keywords to multiple Campaigns, advertisers should continue to use the Shared Library link located in the left menu.  For a review on how to use the Shared Library for adding negative keywords, refer to my blog post, The Art of Adding Negative Keywords.

In addition to moving the Negative Keywords access, Google also moved where advertisers are able to access the Search Terms report.  The Search Terms report displays actual search terms that users performed which triggered an advertiser’s ad to display.  An extremely useful tool in adding both negative keywords and new search terms, the Search Terms report is also now much easier to access.

Previously buried under the Details subtab, this report can now be accessed simply by clicking on the ‘Search terms’ subtab next to the new ‘Negative keywords’ subtab.

Google AdWords' Search Term Report

The Search Terms report also has retained the ability to segment, filter and add or remove columns.  A useful report that savvy advertisers will use to determine which search terms are driving traffic, costs and conversions to their different keywords and Ad groups.

When looking at a Search Terms report, I typically review a few different columns some which will need to be added using the ‘Modify columns’ option located under the Columns subtab.

In particular, I pay close attention to which keywords in which Ad groups where attributed to different search terms.

How To Use The Google AdWords Search Term Report

Make Each Click CountFor search terms generating a large percentage of the traffic, I will want to ensure the Ad group contains the Exact match for these search terms.  Having an Exact match versus a close variant is another way to improve quality score and ensure that corresponding ads contain the most popular keywords inside the ads.  For information on why this is an effective technique when creating Google ads, refer to my blog post Creating Effective Ad Copy in Google AdWords.

Besides being a good source for adding keywords, the Search Terms report is essential to review in finding negative keywords that can be added to a Campaign or Ad group.  Search terms that have generated numerous clicks with little or no conversions make good candidates for negative keywords. It will be up to the account manager to ultimately decide, but using this report provides the insights needed to make an informed decision.

By frequently reviewing the Search Terms report in order to consistently add negative keywords that are under-performing, advertisers can increase both their ROI and their quality score.

Summary

Google periodically makes changes to their interface.  Some of the changes they make help accessing various tools easier and some are changes that advertisers may not necessarily like.  Moving the access to the Negative Keywords and the Search Terms report was a change that absolutely makes accessing these pieces of the AdWords interface easier.

And make no mistake.  It was not a coincidence that the Search terms subtab was placed right next to the Negative keyword subtab next to the active Keywords subtab.  By using all three in conjunction, an advertiser can work to quickly and effectively optimize AdWords Campaigns by adding new keywords and negative keywords based on historical data.  Savvy advertisers should spend time in the Search terms report on a frequent basis in order to view customer search behavior in regards to their Ad groups and optimize bids and search terms using this insight.

Still need help or looking for someone to bounce ideas off?  I am currently offering free marketing discovery sessions to those interested. Call True Online Presence at 1-888-456-6943 or schedule online.

Happy Marketing!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist  with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues.  Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.