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Is Your PPC Advertising Agency Doing Their Job?

By AdWords, Optimization

What clients expect or think they’re getting, versus what they actually get from their SEO or PPC management company might surprise you. Those monthly reports might be pretty and colorful, but what is your agency really doing for your bottom line?

If you have contracted an outside agency to run Google Ads campaigns in order to supplement your overall marketing strategy, how do you know they are delivering on what they promised? Are they actively optimizing your account or operating as a set-it-and-forget-it service? Are they proactive in explaining sudden changes in performance or suggesting new features and strategies? What conversions are they actually tracking, and are they double counting conversions to boost performance metrics? Yes, I have seen the latter in several new accounts that I have taken over.

In this post I’m going to share how to check account activity in addition to some basic reports you should be getting.

One of the easiest ways to check if they are talking the talk AND walking the walk is to login to your Google Ads account and view the change history report.

Here you can look at up to 2 years of nearly every change made in your account, including: budget and bid adjustments, whether keywords (including negatives) have been added or paused, adjustments to location targeting or ad scheduling, the last time new ads were uploaded, etc.

If you generate 1000s of clicks each month and the last change in your account was more than 30 days ago – you need to have a serious conversion with your account manager (or, contact me!). That said, please do give your Google Ads account manager an opportunity to explain what you may deem as minimal activity. Keep in mind that the size of your account (how many clicks and/or conversions you generate each month) often determines the frequency of account updates as you do need enough statistically relevant data before making smart optimizations.

Don’t have access to your Google Ads account? That’s a big, fat red flag in my opinion. Clients should ALWAYS have complete ownership with admin access to the accounts that outside advertising firms manage for them. Why? It’s your data, that YOUR company paid for, both to Google for the clicks and the agency for management! If you change agencies or want to bring PPC management in-house, some firms will lock you out and you have to start from scratch. Yep, it’s true. And of course, you should be able to login and view that change history or any other custom report you like, whenever you want.

Access to your account also allows you to double-check that the account is set up properly. Did they put all keywords in one campaign and ad group or properly structure keyword themes into unique campaigns and ad groups? Are they targeting your desired geographic locations? Have they made proper device level bid adjustments at the ad group level? Are there irrelevant search queries bleeding your account? What conversions are they actually tracking? Have they implemented ad extensions? Are low Quality Scores hurting your account? You should be able to login and look under the hood at any time.

On a final note, let’s talk about reporting. I’ve had new clients send me reports from their previous PPC management agency and some have made me laugh out loud. They were simple, 1-page reports with basic impression, click, cost metrics but no conversion reporting, and no further analysis of specific components such as click and conversion type break down (e.g. by device, network, conversion type).

Are you getting weekly reports that show you high level metrics for how things are pacing each month? What about month end reports with a summary including specific insights and comments: what’s working and what’s not, why traffic or conversions shifted. Do their reports ONLY show you high level metrics (impressions, clicks, costs, but no conversions) or do they provide detailed view of traffic and conversions at keyword, ad, device and network level?

Successful client-agency relationships are built on trust and transparency.

Not satisfied with your PPC advertising company? Feel there is a lack of transparency in your Google Ads management? Review my services and contact me to schedule a call. I am happy to answer any Google Ads account questions you have – free of charge.

To Bid or Not to Bid on Brand Keywords in Google Ads

By keywords

Brand keywords are an important part of overall paid search strategy. However, many advertisers are either unsure or completely against bidding on their own brand name in Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), often challenging their digital marketing agency with the question: “Why bid on my own brand name if I’m already showing up number one in Google organic results?”

This argument may seem logical, but there are some very sound and proven reasons for bidding on your brand’s business name, trademarks, and copyrights.

1) Protect your brand in search results: Search engines allow advertisers to bid on virtually any keyword, including competitor brand names and/or trademarks. While some businesses consider it unethical, the reality is that it’s a common paid advertising practice. Why let your competitors or affiliate advertisers own that advertising real estate to either a) push their own product/service as an alternative or worse, b) use false or misleading ads to confuse your potential customers?

Controlling your brand image is crucial, and Google Ads  is perfect for this. You can change and test ad messaging on the fly, and even use “Official Site” in your headlines to make clear that clicking on your ad will lead the user to the actual site they were searching.

2) Control the search engine results page: As suggested by Ali Wilson here – “Just because you’re the #1 organic result doesn’t mean you’re also #2-10. It also doesn’t mean that you’re prominent in other features on the SERP like maps, images, shopping, knowledge graphs, answer boxes, or anything Google will roll out next.”

3) Brand keywords yield lower CPCs and higher click through rates, which can also mean lower cost per acquisitions.

4) Send potential customers to a well designed landing page, which may convert better than the link to your home page they access from a top organic listing. You can also use this as an opportunity to promote a last minute sale or discount. From WordStream: “…remember that your organic results might not send searchers to the most ideal landing pages. Take advantage of paid ads and send your searchers to your highest converting landing pages.”

5) Overall search (including organic) revenue may be higher:

From Brad Geddes: “…users still click on organic listings, even when a paid search advert is appearing above it. In the vast majority of cases, running paid search ads for the same keywords as your organic listings produces more profit overall”

From 3Q Digital: “…brand keywords increased total brand conversions (SEO+SEM) by around 10% even though competition was rare on both paid and organic listings”

Building brand awareness and increasing positive interactions with your brand are key to connecting with new audiences and retaining loyal customers. And a Brand campaign can help you with both.

As with everything else PPC, you ultimately must decide what’s best for YOUR brand because every industry, company, product and/or offer is different. The only way to know how buying brand keywords impacts your bottom line is to test it yourself. Pause your branded PPC campaign and/or ad group for a set time frame, then closely monitor organic traffic and overall conversions to see if you experience significant decrease in traffic or loss in revenue.

NOTE: As an advertiser, you can file a Google Ads trademark complaint letter specifically advising Google that you do not want other advertisers using your trademark in their ad. This does NOT mean advertisers must stop buying your trademark. You can review Google’s Trademarks policy, verify if you are eligible, and also find the form to submit here:


Need help with your nationwide Google Ads campaign management, or looking for Hawaii digital marketing company to manage your local online marketing? Review my services and contact me today.

Be a Keyword Groupie

By keywords

Relevancy. It’s all you hear Google talk about. And it’s everything when it comes to creating and managing your Google Ads (formerly called Google AdWords) account.

Google Ads consistently makes updates to their ad platform to ensure they deliver the highest quality ads to the right audience. One of the most important measures implemented years ago was Quality Score, which ultimately determines how much you pay per click and your Ad Rank. Read Google’s help section for detailed description of Quality Score.

Your account structure and keyword grouping are essential factors in building effective and profitable PPC (pay per click) campaigns with high Quality Scores. In order to achieve high Quality Scores, advertisers should group their keywords into tightly themed and well-organized ad groups with highly targeted ads that point to relevant landing pages. Create as many small, highly themed ad groups as necessary. I aim for groups with no more than 50 to 100 keywords, but smaller groups of 20 or less are often more ideal for certain accounts.

Categorizing keywords into themed groups may seem daunting. You can research free and/or paid tools by Googling “keyword grouping tools”, but why not do it yourself within an Excel spreadsheet?

1) Start by compiling a complete keyword list. Next, use a free word frequency counter such as WriteWords to help find keyword themes by pasting your list of keywords in the box and clicking submit. Your results should show how often specific phrases appear in your keywords, and looks something like this:

2) Using those keyword themes as a guide, head into Excel and utilize the “Filter” command to build out your campaigns and ad groups.  You don’t have to be an Excel Pro to do some quick and basic filtering. Start with three columns: Campaign, Ad Group, Keyword. Paste your keywords into the Keyword column and then select the Data tab and click Filter.

Next, click the arrow at the top of your Keywords column:

Once you click the arrow a filter menu will appear where you can type your keyword theme. Once you have done that, click OK you will only see the rows that contain that phrase, in this example I used “digital marketing” as my phrase filter:

From here you can type “Digital Marketing” in cell B2 under Ad Group, then copy and past cell B2 to the other cells. Repeat these same steps for each keyword theme.

Advanced Excel users will be interested in Moz’s Advanced Guide to Keyword Clustering post.

What if you need to restructure an existing account that may have grouped unrelated keywords in a single ad group? Typically you’ll find that a handful of keywords in any ad group generates the most clicks, leads and/or transactions. I usually leave a top converting keyword in their own existing ad group, opting instead to move all other lower volume keywords into new ad groups. A note, per Google: “breaking keywords into new ad groups or campaigns (without changing the ad text or landing page) has no effect on their Quality Score. But moving a keyword to a new ad group that has new ad text could change your Quality Score, because that can affect user experience.”

More relevant keyword groups can result in higher click through rates and lower cost per click – so get in there and restructure and optimize! Always remember, optimization isn’t a one time thing – you must constantly monitor Quality Score and performance metrics for new areas in need of further optimization.

Need help with reorganizing your account, or looking for Hawaii digital marketing company to manage your local online marketing? Review my services and contact me today.

You Canʻt Improve What You Do Not Measure


Do you know your CVR (conversion rate)? Whether the goal of your website is to generate leads, drive online purchases, or get email subscribers – if you aren’t tracking conversions you have no way of understanding which keywords and ads are converting website visitors into customers. Without this valuable metric, you will not be able to efficiently optimize paid search campaigns to your target ROI (return on investment) or CPL (cost per lead) goals.

Remember: You can’t improve what you don’t measure!

Conversion data allows you to monitor and measure the effectiveness of your online advertising campaigns. And if you don’t track conversions to the most detailed level, you will not know how to effectively measure the success of your pay per click marketing efforts. You know how much was spent on a keyword. However, how much revenue, or how many leads, did that keyword generate? The answers to these questions are key to understanding how to adjust your keyword bidding strategy going forward.

Most search engines offer basic (and free!) conversion tracking tools to help advertisers answer these important questions. Google Ads and Bing Ads conversion tracking are quick and easy to implement – just a small snippet of code placed on ALL thank you/confirmation pages (the pages visitors arrive to AFTER completing the desired online action). If you use Google Analytics, you may also track performance by setting up goals and funnels under profile settings. Note: you can also track performance of non PPC campaigns (e.g. banner ads on other networks, website sponsorships, email marketing, monthly newsletters, etc.) by appending Google UTM tracking parameters to those URLs.

So, what is a good conversion rate? Ah, the age old question that is more difficult to answer when you are first starting your PPC campaign.

You can scour the internet for forums, articles or case studies to find out what others report as “average” conversion rates and come across benchmark studies for CTR and CVR similar to this. However, itʻs important to remember that conversion rates don’t just vary by industry, they vary by advertiser too. It’s always best practice to establish your OWN baseline and then improve your conversion rate from there.

Understand your conversion rate. Improve your bottom line. So easy to implement – start tracking today!

Do You Trust Google to Write Your Ads?

By AdWords

If you have not yet heard about or received an AdWords email alert about “Ad Suggestions”, have ignored or missed the “New ad suggestions will auto apply soon” notifications in your AdWords account – it’s time to pay attention!

Starting April 30, ​AdWords will automatically apply “suggested ads” (that they create) to your account unless you specifically opt out. According to Google, these ad suggestions are created via “a combination of human review and machine learning” and are based on existing ads, account and campaign extensions, landing pages, and “additional signals such as keywords and targeting.”

Per Google:

“Ad suggestions will automatically apply 14 days after they’re created unless you proactively apply, edit, or dismiss them beforehand.

Ad suggestions that auto-apply will appear on the Ads & extensions page with the tag “Auto applied ad suggestion,” and Google will also notify you in various ways that these ads have been created.”

If you are more of a hands off, set it and forget it account manager, and trust Google to know your company voice, or perhaps you are actively working in the new AdWords interface (notifications about ad suggestions are NOT in current/old UI as I understand it) – this change may be of no concern to you.

I’m generally not a fan of “auto-applied” features by AdWords because their recommendations do not always align with client strategies and goals. And most importantly, Google has no way of knowing each of my clients’ company message or style guide. For example, I have financial clients that require specific verbiage always be displayed in Headline 1 or 2, with “if this then that” rules of how and when verbiage appears. How would Google know and implement that? Other clients require specific text be included if trademarked term is used in ad, so again – how would Google know this? Not to mention that the majority of clients require internal marketing team approval, and in some cases legal department approval, before any ads can go live.

Here is the most recent AdWords email notification I have seen:

“Starting after ​April ​29, ​2018, you may see ad suggestions on the Recommendations page, and can choose to manually apply or dismiss them. Depending on your account settings, you’ll get an alert in AdWords and receive a corresponding email every time we suggest new ads. You’ll have 14 days from the notification to review them, after which the ads will be automatically enabled unless you choose to remove them.

If you’d like to receive ad suggestions, you don’t need to take any action at this time. However, this email does not guarantee that your account will receive ad suggestions.

You can opt out of automatically applying these ads in your account settings. If you have a manager account, you can opt out accounts in bulk by going to “Management” on the Accounts page.”

If you prefer absolute control over your ads, make sure to opt out before April 29, 2018.

You can read more about how to manage these new ad suggestions here:

And learn how to opt out completely here:


Is VR Commerce in Your Future?

By ecommerce

VR (virtual reality) is not just for gaming anymore. From booking travel to buying a car or even shopping for clothes online, both virtual and augmented reality tech are gearing up to transform our shopping experiences.

Per Forbes “VR: The Brands That Are Imagining A New Commerce Reality”:

“Broadly speaking, these technologies can drive foot traffic, create new brand experiences or even establish a virtual storefront. Many in commerce, from retailers to travel agents, are experimenting with these new technologies to enable consumers to visualize or experience what they are about to purchase – giving way to a new reality for commerce.”

Read the entire article here.

Another interesting read on the subject is this eMarketer interview of Eloi Gerard, the CEO of a Shanghai-based virtual reality (VR) content studio, about what VR commerce could mean for big brands:

“It’s going to take maybe 10 years for people to use VR like we are using the mobile phone right now, and for it to reach 80% of the population. VR probably won’t be mainstream, because there is no point wearing a VR headset in day-to-day life.

What will probably help to make VR mainstream will be MR—mixed reality. [Augmented reality maker] Meta is probably the most advanced with MR right now, because Microsoft said they would not release their HoloLens upgrade before 2019.”

You can read that article here.

Evaluate AdWords Keyword Conversion at Ad Level


One of my favorite reports has always been the Ad report that details which keywords are converting for which ads.

Consider this: You see an ad yielding a very low conversion rate compared to others in the ad group. Your first instinct may be to pause that ad. However, if you review how ads are performing in relation to each keyword in that ad group, you might just find the ad performs exceptionally well for a specific keyword.

This report is especially helpful when reorganizing keywords into new ad groups during an account restructure. It’s important to keep your best performing ads and this report helps to ensure you do just that.

Here’s how to run the report:

  • Navigate to the Ads tab of your desired Ad Group
  • Click on the “Columns” drop-down
  • Select the columns you want populated in your report (e.g. clicks, cost, converted clicks, etc.) and click Save.
  • Click the “Segment” drop-down
  • Select Keyword / Placement

And voila, you can view keyword performance for each of your ads, which should look something like this:

Landing Page Optimization

By Landing Pages

So often overlooked and underestimated, landing pages are a crucial aspect of your overall campaign performance. Following are best practices from a Marketing Experiments Landing Page Optimization certification course:

The emphasis of your landing pages should immediately answer the following visitor’s questions:

  1. where are they
  2. what can they do
  3. why should they do it with you.

If you can’t answer the aforementioned within the first 3-5 seconds of the visitor arriving to your page, you’ll hinder the conversion process.


  1. Value proposition is the primary reason why a potential customer/prospect should buy from you. You must be able to identify and clearly express an effective value proposition in 10 words or less.
  • How are you different your competitors?
  • Why should visitors buy from you instead of your competitors?
  • Compare your claim with main competition – are you truly different?

2)  You have 3 seconds or less to answer the following questions visitors are looking to answer when they arrive to your site:

  • Where am I at?
  • What can I do?
  • Why should I do it?

* If you don’t answer these questions, visitor will leave *

3) You must maintain conversion process momentum. Every element at every step of the conversion process must either state or support your value proposition, and answer the Where, What & When questions – from ad text, to landing page to confirmation page.

  • Images should communicate and/or support your value proposition, rather than just taking up space
  • Design, colors, etc. should be consistent and each element should support your value proposition.


If you aren’t clear about what action you want a visitor to take on your site, or the path they need to follow to complete that action, no amount of gimmicky ad copy or sales pitches will persuade them to move forward.


1) Friction is psychological RESISTANCE to a given element in the conversion process, which exists ONLY in the mind of the consumer, not on your landing page.

2)To increase conversion, you must decrease Friction. You cannot eliminate Friction. If you do, you eliminate the sale.

3) Two components of Friction are:

  • Length: Design elements including length of pages, field layout, number of fields, etc.
  • Duration: Design elements including format of pages (is eye path confusing or hindering visitor away from maintaining conversion process momentum?), options selections (are there too many?), button design, etc.

4) Common errors that lead to Friction:

  • Too many unrequired fields on a single page. Only request absolutely required info in first phase of process.
  • Primary offer in right or left columns, which should generally only be reserved for navigation or supporting elements (e.g. testimonials, graphics, accolades, etc.)
  • Concentrating selling efforts on offer page only. You must sell on every page of the conversion process, right through to the thank you/confirmation page.
  • Too many products or listings on one page
  • Navigation that changes from page to page, or is presented in unconventional ways (e.g. buttons or tabs that look more like images or part of the site design, rather than navigation)
  • Vague, ambiguous or “harsh” call-to-action buttons, like Submit, Register, Continue or Next Step, instead of Add to Cart, Choose Product, Buy Now, Join Now, etc.)
  • Extra steps or content that distract or remove visitor from the conversion process.


1) Anxiety is the psychological CONCERN stimulated by a given element in the conversion process. Friction is a rational resistance, while Anxiety is often irrational.

2) While Anxiety may be stimulated by a legitimate concern, its degree and impact are often disproportionate to the measure of risk. In practice, a fundamental understanding of the psychological aspects of Anxiety calls for “over-correction” in the conversion process.

3) Common sources of Anxiety are:

  • Quality of service (am I getting what I was promised?)
  • Reliability of product (will the product work?)
  • Credit card security (is it safe for me to provide my info?)
  • Price (can I buy for less elsewhere?)

4) Ways to effect an over-correction:

External Factors (what others say about you):

  • Security seals – placed near source of anxiety
  • Credibility indicators (e.g. BBB, Trust-e, etc.) – must be familiar to the visitor in order to truly convey credibility
  • Testimonials – specific to source of anxiety (e.g. if visitor has anxiety about whether they are getting the best a price, a testimonial about your low prices next to your price list will lessen anxiety)
  • 3rd party ratings – Pricegrabber, BizRate, YahooStore, etc.

Internal Factors (what you say about yourself):

  • Ad Copy, language, tone
  • Personalization
  • Images
  • Colors and themes
  • Privacy Policy
  • Satisfaction guarantees
  • About us page – one of the most important but least optimized pages, this is where visitors often to go to figure out how legit you are
  • Complete contact info (reassure that visitor has multiple options, including phone number, to speak with a real person)

Optimization Approach:

  1. Express Value Proposition
  2. Reduce Friction
  3. Address Anxiety

Know Your AdWord Limits

By Adword Limits

While most Google AdWords advertisers will never reach their account limits, it’s always helpful to know what those limits are. Account organization and ongoing restructuring is an important part of optimization and knowing your account limits is especially important if you are fast becoming a “Keyword Groupie”. You can read more about how to be a “Keyword Groupie” here.

Per Adwords help (scroll down to AdWords accounts limits section), here are some basics:

  • 10,000 campaigns
  • 20,000 ad groups per campaign
  • 10,000 keywords per ad group

Google Ad Sitelinks and Tracking

By Tracking

Announced in Fall of 2009, Ad Sitelinks is an AdWords feature that lets you include additional links to deeper content within your Google text ad. Per Google’s blog here:

“Rather than sending all users to the same landing page, Ad Sitelinks will display up to 4 additional Destination URLs on your search-based text ad for users to choose from. By providing users with more options, you can create richer, more relevant ads that improve the value of your brand terms and other targeted keywords.”

They use Priceline as an example:


Ad Sitelinks can be found under the Ad Extension section of your Campaign settings. The many benefits for AdWords advertisers include ability to:

  • Show FIVE links in your ad, instead of one
  • Promote specials offers (e.g. holiday promos, free shipping, 10% off first purchase, etc.), increase awareness of and/or push new products, etc.
  • Potentially control additional ad real estate in the results pages, a great advantage if you’re in a highly competitive vertical

See Chris Zaharias comment in this Rimm-Kaufman blog, which includes links to a few case studies showing how advertisers actually increased their CTR via Sitelinks.

NOTE: Not all ads qualify to display Sitelinks in results and you can read more about Google’s “quality criteria” here.


To track each sitelink separately you will want to append ValueTrack identifying query parameter to the destination URL of the sitelink – AdWords provides direction here. As an example:

Sitelink 1: Get Free Quote –{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

Sitelink 2: Our Services –{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

Sitelink 3: PPC Packages –{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

Sitelink 4: Landing Page Optimization –{keyword}&matchtype={matchtype}

Tagging your links will result in your landing page URLs being tracked with the additional sitelink parameter, which means you can view stats in Google Analytics. They will appear as a separate entry in Top Content reports and you should also be able to view stats in the AdWords section of the Traffic Sources section in Analytics.

  • Navigate to Traffic Sources > AdWords > Campaigns (or other level)
  • Select “Landing Page” from the second Dimensions drop-down menu
  • Click “Advanced Filter under “Filter Campaign” drop-down
  • Select “Landing Page” under Filter Dimensions, type “sitelink” into empty field and click “apply filter”
  • Here you’ll see visits, goals, etc for the AdWords sitelinks you tagged, with keyword and match type data captured as well.