Category: ppc


Is Google Smart Shopping the Smart Choice?

Google Smart Shopping is a campaign type within Google Ads that was introduced as part of Google’s persistent attempt to automate and simplify campaign setup and management. It’s designed to replace the traditional Shopping Campaigns by using automated bidding tactics and targeting, as well as requiring fewer assets from the advertiser.

How Is Smart Shopping Different From Traditional Shopping Campaigns?

Like traditional Shopping Campaigns, these Product Shopping ads show up both on the main search engine results page, as well as on the Shopping tab of Google.

Unlike traditional Shopping campaigns, they include both the above Product Shopping Ads as well as display ads (including display remarketing ads). You can create and launch these without remarketing lists, but your ad spend and performance will be limited since remarketing is an incredibly effective tool you should be taking advantage of.

The biggest difference between traditional Shopping campaigns and Smart Shopping is the level of control afforded to the advertiser. With greater control comes increased setup and management time, but also the ability to be more granular. From the agency perspective, Smart Shopping is like a black box that can be difficult to convince clients to try. However, when done correctly, it can be a great addition to your advertising strategy.

The Benefits of Google Smart Shopping

Like all of Google’s Smart campaign options, the biggest advantage of Smart Shopping is the time saved by whoever is managing the account; and this efficiency applies to both campaign creation and maintenance.


Setting up Smart Shopping is quite easy compared to standard Shopping campaigns. Much like all of Google’s Smart Campaign options, all you need is the bare minimum of content (and your Google Ads account linked to your product feed and Merchant Center), and you can get a campaign up and running within minutes.


Having Product Shopping ads, Display ads, and Remarketing Display ads all in one campaign is a convenience that cannot be beat. The low maintenance, both in terms of bidding and copy, means these campaigns are not only easy to set up but even easier to support. As long as the product feed is kept up-to-date, Google does the rest.

Machine Learning and Return

When it comes to bidding and targeting, the machine learning aspect also allows Google to use its advanced machine learning to tailor the right content for each and every auction. How does Google know which consumers are ready to buy now? They won’t tell us, but it seems to work. Google has some pretty compelling success stories; sporting goods retailer Sportline increased its conversion value by 227% with Smart Shopping, with a 621% increase in return on ad spend (source: Google). When it works, it really works. Machine learning takes into account more factors and signals than a human ever could.


The Downsides to Google Smart Shopping

There are some drawbacks to Smart Shopping, though. A few not-so-great features of Smart Shopping are:

  • Limited location targeting
  • No negative keywords allowed
  • No custom scheduling

When you enable machine learning by using Smart Shopping, you’re handing off the reins to Google. Completely. Google’s machine learning (supposedly) knows better than you when it comes to locations, negative keywords, and ad schedules. This can be a tough pill to swallow.

And along with limited control comes limited reporting. This makes logical sense from Google’s perspective (why would Google give us data that we can’t actually use to optimize our campaign?), but it can be frustrating when you’re looking for data to help inform other campaigns or marketing efforts. With Smart Shopping, there is no search term data, no audience data, and only indirect placement data for your display ads.

Another particularly sticky topic can be the limit of one landing page per campaign. This means that if you have multiple products of the same type or family within the same campaign, the landing page users will end up on must be the same for all of them. AKA, users must land on a catalog page instead of the product page itself. To get around this, you can certainly create multiple campaigns, but you are limited to 100 Smart Shopping campaigns in a given account. Large e-commerce companies might find this especially frustrating.

Finally, Smart Shopping relies on historical data to run. If there’s no previous data in the account, you can prepare for some lackluster results while the machine learning… well, learns. If budget is precious, this can be a tough way to get started.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use Google Smart Shopping

If you are short on setup time or PPC know-how, Smart Shopping can really save the day. While they do need historical data to run effectively, they are quick and easy to get off the ground and require little grunt work. If you don’t have the time or resources to dig into the research, Smart Shopping soothes all your concerns by using Google’s automated algorithms to pick up all the slack. And Google’s no stranger to advanced machine learning that factors in consumer traits and buying behavior. If you’ve had success with Smart Display or Dynamic Search campaigns, Smart Shopping is absolutely worth trying at the very least.

If you do have the time and know-how (or you’ve hired an agency that does), Standard Shopping should be the go-to for kicking off your foray into Google Shopping. Smart Shopping should definitely be tested once you can prove that Standard Shopping works for your brand. While automation is great, it’s still not perfect. If you require granularity, you’ll find Smart Shopping hinders control over nearly all the finer details that you or your stakeholders could hope to influence.

How to Optimize Google Smart Shopping Campaigns

Much like Google’s other automated campaign types (dynamic search campaigns, Smart Display, etc.), there are limited options when it comes to Smart Shopping optimization. If you find your Smart Shopping campaigns are lagging, look to these four optimization suggestions.

Product Selection

Not all product types are going to be slam dunks on Google Shopping. You are still at the mercy of search volume and consumer interest, and certain products may not drive enough traffic to justify the cost. Make sure you’re regularly reviewing which products are driving clicks but not purchases, and consider removing them from the campaign so your better-performing products get more budget.

Product Optimization

While not editable within the Google Ads platform itself, the product names and descriptions can often benefit from keyword research. If you have the ability to tweak the name or description of the products, it’s worth taking a look at Keyword Planner to see what users are actually searching for.

Bidding Strategy

Smart Shopping campaigns are designed to automatically maximize your conversion value within your budget. If you’re feeding revenue data back into your Google Ads account, though, you can set a target return on ad spend (Target ROAS) to hit your desired return.


It can be easy to “set it and forget it” with automated campaigns, but doing so is to your detriment. As demand decreases, you’ll see cost per click rise; this is Google saving your budget to bid higher on users that are more likely to drive a higher conversion value. To account for expected seasonality changes, you can use the advanced seasonality adjustment tool to schedule conversion rate adjustments. Unless you live in the Arctic Circle, you wouldn’t want your +heavy +wool +coats search ads to have the same strategy and budget year-round, so do yourself a favor and don’t forget to adjust Smart Shopping campaigns that are subject to seasonality-based demand.

Running Google Smart Shopping With Your Other Campaigns

Smart Shopping product ads take precedence over Standard Shopping ads and display remarketing campaigns (source: Google Ads Help, and bolded for emphasis). So while you can have Standard Shopping campaigns along with Smart Shopping campaigns, they shouldn’t be targeting the same products or groups of products. Not only will you be taking traffic away from your Smart Shopping campaign that could be used for machine learning, but both campaigns’ performance will suffer. If you have Standard and Smart Shopping for the same products, pause one of the campaigns or dedupe them.

And there you have it. Smart Shopping can be a great addition to your PPC advertising efforts. Use these pros, cons, and best practices to determine if it’s the right strategy for you.

The post Is Google Smart Shopping the Smart Choice? appeared first on Portent.


How to Set up a Successful Google Ads Remarketing…

Updated on January 12, 2021 to include current information and insights.

If you are running a Google Ads account, and your goal is to get your users to take a desired conversion action (i.e., purchase, sign up, phone call), you should be running a remarketing campaign.

Remarketing campaigns are a chance to re-engage visitors to your website and bring them back to convert. Remarketing campaigns allow businesses to stay connected with their target audience after they leave their website by showing them your ads on other websites they visit. Users who have already visited your website are likely to be more engaged with your brand messaging and product/service offerings. Typically, returning visitors will browse more pages and are more likely to convert. In light of this, remarketing can be an extremely powerful tool when working to increase the return on ad spend (ROAS) of your pay-per-click marketing efforts.

Remarketing campaigns target users that are in the action phase. They have already seen and clicked on your ad on the Google SERP, they have been to your website, and have shown interest and desire for your product or service. But for some reason, they left your website without taking the desired action; this is where remarketing steps in and brings them back to your website to convert.

While remarketing can be a powerful channel for digital marketers, setting up your first campaign can be challenging. To help with that, I’ve provided a step-by-step look at how to create your first Google Ads remarketing campaign.

How to Set up a Google Ads Remarketing Campaign

There are three core components of setup required to create and activate a remarketing campaign for your Google Ads account.

  1. Create an audience to remarket to. Called a “remarketing list,” this audience is essentially a collection of users who qualify to be served your remarketing ads based on requirements you set.
  2. Create a remarketing campaign within your Google Ads account. Creating this kind of campaign is similar to a standard campaign set up.
  3. Create and/or upload display ads that consist of a series of text and images to your created campaign.

Let’s dive into each of these steps in more detail.

1. Create a Remarketing List in Google Ads

If this is your first time remarketing, you will need to add a remarketing tag to your website. This small snippet of code allows visitors to be tagged with a cookie, so your remarketing ads will be shown to them once off your website. Once you have this tag active, you will be able to create remarketing lists.

After logging into your Google Ads account, click “Tools & Settings” in the upper navigation bar and select “Audience manager.”


Once you are in Audience manager, make sure you are in the remarketing section under “Audience lists.” Now click the + button and select “Website visitors” from the drop-down.


Give the audience a name. I recommend the name to include the word “remarketing” and whom you are targeting from the tag (ex. Remarketing – All Visitors). Then under “List members,” select “Visitors of a page.”

Under “Visited page,” select “Match any rule group.” And below that, the first option should be “Page URL,” and then the second option should be “contains.” Enter the URL that you want to retarget, whether that is your whole website or a specific landing page. You then have the option to pre-fill your list with users who have visited your website or page in the past 30 days, or you can start with an empty list.

Under “Membership duration,” you can choose how long someone stays on this list (how many days you will remarket to them after they have visited your website). I recommend 30 days as a good length of time to remarket to someone.


Click the “Create Audience” button at the bottom of the page, and your audience has now been created.

Once your list is created and the remarketing tag is implemented on your site, an audience list size will begin to populate.

2. Create a Remarketing Campaign in Google Ads

Once your remarketing list has been created, it’s time to turn your attention to building the remarketing campaign in Google Ads.

Start by navigating to the “Campaigns” tab of your Google Ads account and click the + button and select “New campaign.”


Choose “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.” Below that, under “Select a campaign type,” choose “Display.” You will be presented with three choices for a display campaign; you want to select “Standard display campaign” and click “Continue.”

Walk through the guided process to complete your campaign setup. If you’re not sure which campaign settings to choose, check out our post on How to Build a Google Ads Account: Campaign & Network Settings.

Once you have gone through the basic campaign settings, under “Create your ad group,” give your ad group a name.

Under Audiences, click on “Browse,” and then click on “How they have interacted with your business,” and under “Website visitors,” find the audience you just created earlier and select it.


3. Create Ads for Remarketing

Before moving forward on adding your image ads into your campaign, make sure all the banner ads you have are formatted and sized within Google’s ad requirements.

You have three options to create your ads:

  • Responsive display ads
  • Upload display ads
  • Copy existing ads

Responsive display ads are great for anyone who doesn’t have access to a graphic designer. It’s an easy way to create display ads, and Google will retrofit your ad in most sizes for you.

Otherwise, you can upload existing banners to run them as ads. We recommend uploading a variety of different sizes, so you can get as many placements as possible. You would choose this option over responsive display ads because you want control of the appearance of your ads.

Once your ads are created or uploaded, click “Add To Ad Group.” Then click on “Create campaign.”

Please keep in mind that when adding images, Google usually puts those through a review process. During that review, your ads will not be eligible to show. Typically that review process is no more than 24 hours long.

That’s it! After creating your remarketing list, remarketing campaign, and creating and/or uploading your content, your campaign is all ready to serve ads to your target audience.

Remarketing can be an effective tool to re-engage with your existing audience. Whether your goal is sales, or sign-ups, or something else, you should be utilizing remarketing campaigns as much as you can. Now that you have learned how to create a remarketing list, set up a remarketing campaign, and create remarketing ads, you are ready to get started!

The post How to Set up a Successful Google Ads Remarketing Campaign appeared first on Portent.


My Favorite SMX 2020 Sessions

Search Marketing Expo has become one of the leading conferences for search marketing professionals. So naturally, I was excited to attend SMX virtual this year. With more than 45 sessions on the agenda, there was plenty to learn about what the future of search looks like. Below are the top takeaways that I wanted to share.

An Epic Ads Automation Debate: RSAs vs. ETAs

Presented by: Fred Vallaeys, Co-Founder and CEO of Optmyzr, and Brad Geddes, Co-Founder Adalysis

My favorite talk of the conference came right away with Optmyzr’s Fred Vallaeys and Adalysis’ Brad Geddes, debating whether Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) or Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) reign supreme.

Here are the arguments for both:

Responsive Search Ads

  • On Average, RSAs outperform ETAs. Although RSAs and ETAs are equally likely to be the best format, RSAs outperformed by a larger margin.
  • For larger advertisers, the results are mixed. It could be the fact that larger accounts are already well optimized and RSAs offer a smaller boost. Large advertisers rely heavily on their brand in ad text and don’t need the thousands of potential variations that RSAs could generate to boost performance.

Expanded Text Ads

  • Google usually shows RSAs the most, regardless of data. Even if ETAs are performing significantly better, Google tends to still prefer RSAs.
  • Ad strength doesn’t seem to affect ad serving. It doesn’t seem to matter if the RSA is high-quality or not; Google still tends to serve them more than ETAs.
  • RSAs take time to optimize. But some clients don’t have that time.

While there was no “winner” in the debate, both Fred Vallaeys and Brad Geddes made excellent points about RSAs and ETAs. Both ad types have a  place in your account, and for the time being, it looks like we’ll have to test them and draw our own conclusions.

Small Budget Tactics That Pack a Serious Punch

Presented by: Amalia Fowler, Director of Marketing Services at Snaptech Marketing

Working with small businesses my entire career, this talk naturally made this list. Using the five A’s of small budget marketing (based on the five D’s of dodgeball), Speaker Amalia Fowler laid the groundwork for managing and optimizing low budget accounts.

The Five A’s include:

  • Accept. Small budgets mean you can’t do as much as you want. Focus on working within your limits and making small optimizations within your restraints. Planning your account structure carefully sets you up for maximum success.
  • Adjust. Getting as granular as possible with locations, audiences, etc., will help reduce waste and maximize returns where you know they exist.
  • Analyze. Analyze your data and make small adjustments quickly, especially excluding anything that doesn’t lead to returns.
  • Adapt, and Accept (again). Google is always changing and will continually throw wrenches into your plans. Learning to adapt and accept the changing industry is required for continued success.

Emerging Channels for Digital Commerce

Presented by: Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director, Strategic Marketplace Services, Tinuiti

Tinuiti’s Senior Director of Strategic Marketplace Services and Portent alum Elizabeth Marsten showed us the future of e-commerce and the emerging players in the space. These businesses include:

Walmart Media Group

  • Best for brands that are in store, sellers that can be price/shipping competitive. Dependent on product category.
  • Problems include: retail relationships can complicate return goals, 1st price bid auction, whitelisted keywords.

Target Roundel

  • Best for brands that are in store, Target Plus sellers, high-competitor categories, and new to market brands.
  • Problems include: You could end up paying for clicks that would’ve been organic & the array of options can be paralyzing.

Instacart Advertising

  • Best for brands in multiple retailers or 100+ throughout the US. Retailers must also list these items with Instacart.
  • Problems include: overlap with other channels, can’t see breakdown by retailer, huge hiring spree of shoppers, low on out-of-the-box advertising features.

Kroger Advertising

  • Best for in-store brands wanting to grow or new/emerging brands.
  • Problems include: currently in year two of a three-year plan, launching Mirakl marketplace now to expand assortment.


  • Best for in-store brands that need to amplify in their category (emerging or highly competitive) and smaller management teams that need to expand.
  • Problems include: confusion on the Retail Media offering vs. legacy/other Criteo offerings amongst search marketers.

Out of the talks I attended, this one was the most eye-opening. I was unaware that this many players had entered the e-commerce advertising industry at all, but Marsten’s breakdown showed that there’s an advertising space for everyone, and the digital marketing world is always expanding.

That’s a Wrap!

SMX 2020 provided an awesome opportunity to hear from some of the best in search marketing. I’m looking forward to sharing the actionable tactics and takeaways I learned to help clients drive more traffic and exceed their business goals!

The post My Favorite SMX 2020 Sessions appeared first on Portent.


The Impacts of Google Ads’ Changes to Search Term…

It’s been about three months since Google made a significant change to search term visibility in Google Ads accounts. Google updated their reporting so that only search queries generating a significant volume of impressions would be visible to advertisers.

Prior to September of this year, advertisers could download and view a full list of search queries that generated ad impressions even if a given query only generated one unique impression. These reports were many advertisers’ source for long-tail keyword mining tactics and allowed for a fully transparent view of what queries were triggering ad impressions for specific keywords in any specified match type. Now, while advertisers can still see search terms that generated a clear majority of ad impressions, visibility into those niche long-tail keywords that perform well may be limited.

When Google announced this change, they cited the desire to maintain privacy standards and protect user data. Criticism from the paid search industry immediately followed Google’s announcement. Not only were there concerns about advertisers’ decreased ability to view search query details, but the reasoning Google provided was widely decried as disingenuous. After all, if Google was seriously concerned about privacy, why let advertisers continue to see any search query data at all? Nevermind that these search queries aren’t linked with any sort of personally identifiable information anyway.

As I mentioned at the beginning, this change has been in effect for about three months now, at the time of writing this post. Alarm bells were signaled by industry professionals that this would severely affect the performance of paid search accounts. But what has the impact actually been? Has this seriously hampered advertisers’ abilities to meet their goals, or was the initial reaction to this change overblown?

What The Numbers Say

Across our paid search accounts at Portent, we’ve been limited to viewing search terms that constitute between 70% – 90% of a given account’s search network click volume in our search query reports. That means we’re no longer able to see 10% – 30% clicks’ worth of search query data. While that range is substantial, the verdict we’ve reached about this change’s impact is one of underwhelming significance.

To put it plainly: we have not noticed that much of an impact on our accounts’ performance as a result of this change or on our ability to do our jobs as paid search strategists.

Yes, it feels like this change should have had a bigger impact on us than it has. It’s in our nature as strategists to want the most amount of granular data possible to determine what’s significant and what’s not. This change has infringed upon that, and we (along with the industry) were understandably annoyed by it.

But, the truth is, Google’s advertising system has been moving away from the need for extraordinarily granular long-tail keywords for some time now. Dynamic search campaigns have become a larger part of the paid search landscape, and exact match keywords now trigger ad impressions for “close variant” search queries that, years ago, would have only been triggered by keywords in broad match type. While this change in search query reports no doubt caused headaches for advertisers who had routine or automated keyword mining optimizations running, these things just aren’t as impactful as they used to be. And that’s by Google’s design.

Google’s Real Motive

A vast majority of Google’s revenue comes from advertising. And while they want to ensure their advertising standards produce high-quality and relevant content, they don’t want to give advertisers too much control. This could ultimately suppress average click and impression costs, according to what Google thinks a “free and fair” market should look like. Their concern isn’t about protecting user privacy from ambitious advertisers; it’s about maximizing revenue and profit potential.

Limiting the amount of search queries advertisers can view is just the latest step in Google moving closer toward that monetarily-focused goal. Going forward, Google will continue making similar changes that discourage advertisers from being as efficient with their campaigns as possible but still produce high-quality ads that users find helpful and relevant (thereby continuing to garner the lion’s share of the search engine market in seeming perpetuity).

What’s next?

Don’t be surprised if Google continues along this path in the next year or two by reserving a certain volume of potential search impressions only for dynamic search campaigns (which don’t use keywords at all), cutting search query visibility further (possibly maxing out at 50% visibility), or even removing keyword-based targeting on the search network altogether. That last one is probably too drastic to attempt within the next few years, but that’s the direction Google is heading.

As paid search advertisers, we need to be prepared for this changing landscape and stay ahead of the curve. It may go against our nature as detail-oriented strategists, but we should probably stop relying so heavily on tactics like long-tail, exact match keyword expansion and lean more towards ensuring our campaigns are configured to meet Google’s newest standards of best practices. The faster we can stay up-to-speed with Google Ads’ systematic changes, the better we’ll ensure we’re producing the best results possible for our clients or our businesses.

The post The Impacts of Google Ads’ Changes to Search Term Visibility appeared first on Portent.


How to Measure Google Ads Sitelink Performance

The Google Ads sitelink is one of the most powerful ad extensions an advertiser can use; they provide users with more context of what users can expect to see on your website and directly expose related pages of your site on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). When used effectively as part of your search campaign strategy, sitelinks can:

  • Improve your presence on the SERP by taking up more ad space compared to your competitors
  • Increase CTR by 10-15%
  • Increase conversion rates by decreasing the number of steps on the path to a conversion
The ad in the top position shows all four sitelinks in their entirety

To ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising strategy, you’ll need to evaluate as many aspects of your campaign elements as possible. By measuring sitelink performance, you can discover which sitelinks have a positive impact on campaign metrics (click-through rates, conversions) or which pages result in higher levels of user engagement (longer average session duration, more pages visited per session).

How to Measure Sitelink Performance (and Why It Is Important)

Like anything else on search and display, you must always test, evaluate, and test again! You want to make sure that you are taking users to parts of your site that add value to their online experience. Leading users to highly informative content about your product/service or even a conversion-focused landing page can increase their trust in your expertise and help decrease the number of steps in their path to conversion.

In some instances, sitelinks may not always need to be tested and updated. For example, suppose you’re a small business owner whose advertising intention is to gain as many customers as possible; your sitelinks might always be: “About Us,” “Directions,” “Request a Consultation,” “Services.”

For B2B advertisers, a sitelink strategy might not be that straightforward. While “Contact Us” might seem like a great sitelink across all campaigns, after looking at performance data, you may find out that users are less likely to click on the sitelink when attached to a non-brand campaign vs. a brand campaign. After discovering poor engagement, it will be in your best interest to test a new sitelink to improve a user’s search experience.

Where to Find Sitelink Performance Data

You can find sitelink performance data in two places: in the Google Ads platform and Google Analytics.

Google Ads

In Google Ads, you can access performance data by opening the ad extensions dashboard. The extensions view shows an aggregate of sitelink performance metrics from the top-level under “all campaigns.”

''Depending on how you have implemented your sitelink strategy, you may be interested in viewing sitelink performance on a campaign or ad group basis. You can find this data by toggling “Extensions view” to “Associations view,” or you can click directly into a campaign and navigate to the ad extensions screen. Campaign names will appear when you switch to the Associations view.

Google Analytics

To find sitelink data in Google Analytics, start by selecting Acquisition from the sidebar on the left of the screen. Find Google Ads in the drop-down menu and select Sitelinks.

You can also view campaign-specific data in Google Analytics by setting your secondary dimension to Campaign and clicking on advanced. You can then filter by the campaign(s) needed for analysis.
When looking at sitelink data in Google Analytics, you may notice that the data differ compared to those in Google Ads – I’ll explain why later on in this post.

How to Measure and Report on Individual Sitelink Performance (the Right Way)

So now that you know where to find the data, which numbers should you rely on? While what you report on is dependent on your campaign goals, you need to know which numbers should be evaluated to make optimizations and recommendations.

Google Ads

Google Ads is a bit tricky in the way it presents this data. Let’s walk through an example.

The screenshot above shows three ad extensions and associated metrics for each. The first one indicates 41,604 clicks with a CTR of 8.75%. However, if you were to report those numbers, you would be grossly exaggerating the effectiveness of this sitelink.

To clarify, the 41,604 click count is the number of times an ad was clicked on when this sitelink appeared under the ad, but not the number of times a user actually clicked on this specific sitelink. To reveal this granular data, we will use the Segment function in the top right corner, and choose This Extension vs. Other.

Doing so will show segmented data for each sitelink extension.
Changing this view tells a completely different story! According to the screenshot above, when looking at the metrics for the sitelink in row 1, rather than that initial 41,604 number, we can see that users actually clicked on the sitelink only 307 times, delivering a much lower CTR of 0.06%.

Google Analytics

As mentioned above, you may have noticed that your Google Ads top-level sitelink data and Google Analytics data might differ. The data that Google Analytics provides is the segmented data we just learned how to reveal in the previous section. The screenshot below shows information for the same sitelinks ads, but this time in Google analytics.

You can see that rows three and six coincide with the segmented data from Google Ads.


What Do You Do with This Data?

At the end of the day, the way you report on sitelink performance depends on your campaign’s objectives and your expectations. If your goal is to increase overall campaign click-through rates, try replacing low CTR sitelinks and test with new ones, and then measure results. But if you’re running a sitelink for something seasonal or temporary like a promotion or a webinar, you may want to view the performance on a more granular level to see how many users converted through it (if any).

By using sitelinks effectively, you can educate stakeholders by reporting on accurate performance. By digging deeper into Google Ads and Google Analytics, you can obtain deeper insights into your sitelinks performance to make well-informed optimization decisions.

The post How to Measure Google Ads Sitelink Performance appeared first on Portent.


The Ultimate Guide to SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow your business and reach new customers.

While it’s critical you employ organic strategies to attract traffic over the long-term, sometimes, you can’t properly compete on the SERPs without putting money behind it — and that’s where SEM comes into play.

For instance, consider what happens when I type “summer shoes” into Google:

Zappos clearly has an effective SEO strategy, since its “Summer shoes” page ranks first organically. However, their paid “Summer Shoes” ad, circled above, ranks as the first search result overall.

With 35% of product searches starting on Google, and the average Google search lasting only a minute, it’s critical your business’s product or service appear at the top of a SERP when a user is searching for it. This isn’t always possible organically, particularly when other businesses are paying to ensure their products appear above yours. When this is the case, it’s critical you invest in a SEM strategy.

To ensure you’re able to use SEM to properly advertise your products or services on the SERPs, we’ve cultivated a list of the best SEM tools, as well as the components of a SEM Ad Auction.

How an Ad Auction Works

Once you’re ready to invest in SEM, you’ll need to enter into an ad auction — for our purposes, we’ll focus on the ad auction in Google Ads.

In simple terms, every Google ad you see goes through an ad auction before appearing in the SERPs. To enter into an ad auction, you’ll first need to identify the keywords you want to bid on, and clarify how much you’re willing to spend per click on each of those keywords.

Once Google determines the keywords you bid on are contained within a user’s search query, you’re entered into the ad auction.

Not every ad will appear on every search related to that keyword. Some keywords don’t have enough commercial intent to justify incorporating ads into the page — for instance, when I type “What is Marketing?” into Google, I don’t see any ads appear.

Additionally, even if your keyword is a good fit for an ad, it doesn’t mean you’ll “win” the bidding. The ad auction considers two main factors when determining which ads to place on the SERP — your maximum bid, and your ads Quality Score.

A Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. You can find your Quality Score, which is reported on a 1-10 scale, in your keywords’ “Status” column in your Google Ads account. The more relevant your ad is to a user, as well as how likely a user is to click through and have an enjoyable landing page experience, all factor into your overall Quality Score.

With this in mind, here are some of the factors that should go into your strategy if you want to earn paid ads success:

Keyword Intent

Pay-per-click, or PPC, strategy starts with choosing the right keywords to bid on. That means doing research to determine what keywords to bid on or, in other words, what queries you want your ad to show up for. Start by brainstorming brand terms, terms that describe your product, and even terms that describe your competition.

If you have a small budget, you may only want to bid on keywords that have buying intent. However, if you have a larger budget, you may find that you have room to bid on keywords targeting earlier stages of the buyer’s journey or even terms that are loosely related to your products.

Keyword Volume and Competition

If no one’s searching for your target keywords, you won’t get any results from your ads. At the same time, keywords with extremely high volume attract more competition (and, in some cases, lose relevancy). When doing keyword research, relevant high-volume and low-competition keywords are a sweet spot, but they may not be easy to come by. It then becomes a balancing act between demand (volume) and budget (competition).

Keyword Cost

Ad placement is determined by the bid you specific for the keyword and the quality score Google has given your ad. Higher bids and higher quality ads win the best placement. With this in mind, high competition keywords end up being more expensive. Bidding too low means your ad will not be shown, so you’ll want to ensure that you can be competitive based on how much competition is for the keyword.

Account and Campaign Structure

In theory, you could lump all of your keywords together in a single bucket and display one ad for the aggregate lot. But your budget would be eaten up by a handful of high-volume keywords, and your quality score would go down. That’s why structuring your Google Ads account properly is so important.

google ads account structure

There are several levels for Google Ads campaign organization:

  • Ad – The copy that’s displayed for the keywords you’ve chosen.
  • Keywords – The queries you’re bidding on.
  • Ad Group – Sets of like keywords grouped by theme.
  • Campaign – Highest level for managing ad groups.

At each level, you’ll be able to determine what’s working and not working, making you more informed about performance and how your money is being spent.


At the end of the day, when your keywords are chosen and your account is structured, you still have to write good ads and “earn” the click.

An ad is made up of a few components:

  • Title
  • Display URL
  • Description

anatomy of a google ad

Understand exactly what the searchers are looking for with their queries and see if you write a great ad that makes your offer attractive.

Keep in mind also that SEM isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it activity. Ongoing PPC management helps you eliminate budget waste, experiment with ads, and optimize keywords you’re bidding for to ensure that you’re getting the most ROI from your efforts.

1. HubSpot’s Ad Tracking Software

You’re not paying for ads for the fun of it; you’re paying for ads because you want to generate leads and drive revenue for your business. The HubSpot Ads tool helps you go beyond traffic and click metrics to analyze exactly how ads are influencing contacts where they are in the buyer’s journey. This will help you understand which ads actually work, justify SEM as a channel, and integrate your advertising in with the rest of your marketing efforts.

HubSpot SEM Tool

2. SEMrush

SEMRush allows you to conduct extensive keyword research, keyword rank tracking, site audits, traffic analysis, and more. SEMRush is a fantastic tool for finding opportunities to rank for long-tail keywords organically, but additionally, you can use the tool for various SEM efforts. For instance, you can use SEMRush to figure out where your competitors are concentrating their marketing efforts, and analyze their regional presence, to figure out how much money you want to put behind certain keywords.

Additionally, SEMRush enables you to discover your main paid search competitors, figure out which keywords they’re bidding on, and study the composition of their ads. This is vital information when you’re cultivating your own paid strategy and are unsure how to out-rank other businesses on the SERPs.

semrush sem tool

3. Google Trends

Google Trends allows you to track search volume for a particular keyword across a specific region, language, or time frame — which can enable you to identify which search terms are trending, and which ones aren’t. Since you don’t want to put money behind a keyword that’s decreasing in popularity, this is an incredibly useful tool for your SEM efforts.

Additionally, particularly if you work for an ecommerce business, the ability to gauge interest in your product or service in a certain geographical area is undoubtedly powerful for ensuring you tailor your paid efforts to specific locations, saving you money in the long-run.

google trends sem tool


One of the most helpful features of Keywordtool.Io is its ability to tap into Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and the App Store, so that you’re able to segment your keyword research through various channels and better target your efforts. Additionally, the tool takes your base keyword and provides you with variations of words and phrases, which allows you to cultivate a more extensive list of possible keywords you might want to include in a paid ad.

Using Google Autocomplete to provide relevant keywords for you, the free version of Keywordtool.Io lets you generate up to 750 long-tail keywords and keyword suggestions for every search term. Plus, you can use the tool to analyze search trends on Google, to ensure your desired keywords are increasing in popularity and will continue to serve you well over the long-term. sem tool

5. Google Ads Keyword Planner

Since Google is likely where you want your ads to appear, it makes sense to consider using Google Ads Keyword Planner to research relevant keywords for your business, and keep track of how searches for certain keywords change over time. The Keyword Planner will help you narrow down a list of possible keywords to ensure you’re choosing the most effective ones for your business.

Additionally, Keyword Planner will give you suggested bid estimates for each keyword, so you can determine which keywords work with your advertising budget. Best of all, once you’ve found your ideal keywords and are ready to launch an ad campaign, you can do it all from within the tool.

google keyword planner sem tool

6. SpyFu

Ever wish you could see which keywords your competitors are buying on Google, or check out which ad tests they’ve run? With SpyFu, you’re able to do just that — simply search a domain, and you’ll see every keyword that business has bought on Adwords, every organic keyword for which they’ve ranked, and every ad variation they’ve had in the last 12 years. Plus, you can monitor your own paid and SEO rankings on Google, Bing, and Yahoo.

spyfu sem tool

7. WordStream

WordStream is a advertising management solution that can help you research, measure, and optimize your ads for performance. You get access to advanced reporting features for data analysis and tools for creating great ads. In addition, WordStream has alerts and workflow tools to help you make decisions about your campaigns.

wordstream sem tool

With the above tools and a killer strategy, SEM can be a great strategy for lead generation. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t start your PPC campaign today.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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