Eric Couch

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Optimize your mobile campaigns with bid modifiers

For every year I’ve been in PPC, each has been called the “Year of Mobile”. This year, I can say with confidence that it’s actually true. We’re seeing explosive growth across smartphones and tablets, and if you’re still not optimizing for these users, then you’re in severe danger of missing out.

That being said, optimizing for mobile traffic can be a difficult task, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with the reporting interface. With that in mind, I’m here to show you a few ways you can analyze your mobile advertising efforts, starting with the campaign-level bid modifier.

As of right now, the number one place for all of your mobile needs is the Bing Ads Reports center, located in the top row of the Bing Ads UI. 

bing ads bid modifier

If you haven’t already taken a look in there, it’s basically a one-stop shop for every single reporting metric you need to analyze a Bing Ads Account. For mobile, it means you can select device types and operating system segments for just about every single report in there.

If you want to use this post as a walk-through on how to analyze your performance, I’d recommend downloading a Campaign report for the last 30 days, looking at a summary view of your data.

Pull your campaign report

bing ads bid modifier

For your columns, I recommend choosing Device Type under the Attributes tab, and some of your Impression share metrics in the Performance statistics tab. In particular, you’ll want to focus on Impression share lost due to bid (%) and Impression share lost due to rank (%). I tend to choose these myself because the mobile bid modifier can help you rectify any problems with these two columns.

bing ads bid modifier

bing ads bid modifier

If you have conversion tracking enabled, I highly recommend you also include your conversion metrics; the Device Type Attributes column will help give you some insight in to your mobile return on investment (ROI). With all of these options selected, download your report in to Excel.

Filter and review your data

Once you have your report open in Excel, filter your reports for Device Type: Smartphone, Tablet. 

bing ads modifier

With this filter in place, we’re now focused on *only* our Smartphone and Tablet performance, now segmented by campaign.  

bing ads bid modifier

We can use a few more Excel filters to drill down in to our top bid modifier opportunities by looking for the following red flags:

  • Average Position greater than 1.5
  • Lost impression share due to bid (%) greater than 0
  • Lost impression share due to rank (%) greater than 0

bing ads modifier

In addition, if you also included your conversion metrics, I recommend filtering for mobile bid opportunities by looking at your cost per conversion on each device. If you have some low-CPA campaigns, it’s a quick-win opportunity to be even more aggressive with your bid modifiers than you might be otherwise.

Analyze and optimize

So, why these filters? Well, it’s a well-established fact that mobile click-through rate falls off much faster than it does on desktops. If you have mobile campaigns that are not close to position 1, you’re facing severely reduced click-through rates.

With these filters in place, we have some clear suggestions for positive Campaign-level device bid modifiers -- both on tablets and on smartphones.

bing ads bid modifier

If we take our analysis one step further and utilize CPA as another guide, there are three campaigns from the report pictured above in which we *absolutely* need to increase our bids: 

bing ads bid modifier

With this data in hand, we can cross-reference these campaigns with their tablet and smartphone bid modifiers, either in the Bing Ads interface or in the Bing Ads Editor. You can make edits to your campaigns in either of those spots, or you can make use of the bulksheet functionality to do them quickly. Regardless of how you do it, this kind of analysis is the first step towards making the most of an increasingly mobile search advertising marketplace.

Questions? Comments?

Feel free to ping us on Twitter, or register for an upcoming Bing Ads Connect. For additional optimization tips and opportunities, be sure to check out the Marketplace Trends page here on the Bing Ads site.

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Bing Ads Power Tools: Projecting performance with Bid Landscape

Bidding on your keywords, much like account structure or landscape painting, lends itself to a certain amount of personal interpretation. Figuring out your starting bids, how to adjust them over time, and projecting the expected impact involves a certain level of guesswork. While there are tools available now to help you set your starting bids, knowing how much you can afford to pay and what it might do for your performance takes a little bit of math… and some help from the Bid Landscape tool.

The Bid Landscape: What is it?

Simply put, the Bid Landscape shows you how different estimated bids would have impacted your performance over the past seven days. At each bid level, you’ll see the estimated amount of impressions, clicks, cost, and top-of-page impressions, giving you an idea of whether or not the traffic increase is worth the jump in average CPC. Here’s a shot of it in action for a competitor keyword over a seven day span (12/26/14 – 1/1/15):

Their current bid price is set at $.65, with an average CPC of $.55. At their current bid, they’re limited to an average position of about 4.91 -- pretty solidly on the side of the page, with very few mainline impressions to be found. While some of these suggestions are fairly aggressive, there are a significant number of additional impressions out there to be had for this particular keyword -- impressions that will translate to both clicks and conversions.

Projecting Performance

You may not have realized this, but the estimated click totals do account for an increased CTR from moving to the Top 3, which I’ve laid out here in Excel:

By merely increasing our bid from $0.65 to $0.91, our CTR is estimated to double, and our click volume is seeing an estimated five-fold increase. Meanwhile, our Average CPC is expected to rise from $0.55 to only $0.69, so while we’re seeing a larger increase in cost, our overall efficiency is still well within our tolerance at a 25% increase.

Taking this tool to its logical conclusion, you can also project out expected conversion gains/losses, as I’ve done here:

In the above example, I’ve calculated our estimated average CPC, as well as our estimated conversion metrics based off of two different models: one assumes a linear conversion rate (which is probably unlikely), and the other assumes a falling conversion rate due to the introduction of more traffic, both from being higher on the page, and from being more competitive in more auctions.

That falling conversion rate is a worst-case scenario (and also not a scientific calculation on my part at all, just a gut instinct based off of experience), but it can be useful to temper your expectations. The higher bid will bring in more traffic, and depending on the match types involved, you may need some negative keyword additions to make sure that traffic is qualified.

How Much Should You Pay?

So we know that there’s traffic available, and we have a reasonable idea of what that traffic might cost us… so given these choices, how much should we actually be paying? The simplest answer to that question lies in two metrics: what’s your ideal Cost per Conversion for that keyword, and what’s your Conversion Rate?

Here’s a two-part formula that I’ve used for years. While it can be done in one step, I prefer the two-part version for the ease of explanation.

Part 1:

Simply put, know how many clicks it takes for you to get a single conversion. If you have a Conversion Rate of 1.00%, then it takes 100 site visitors for you to get that one conversion.

Part 2:

Based on your business goals, you probably have a Cost per Conversion in mind. If we have a $100 goal Cost/Conversion, and it takes 100 clicks to get that conversion, then it follows that the most we can afford to pay based on our goals is a $1.00 CPC.

For our above advertiser, they have a 1.06% Conversion Rate and a $75.00 Cost per Conversion goal. Based on that math, it takes 94 visitors for a conversion to happen and a $75.00 Cost per Conversion goal, that gives us a break-even CPC of $0.79. Based on what we learned from the Bid Landscape tool, we can then reasonably assume that the $0.91 bid is a safe bid for us (given the estimated average CPC of $0.69), and we likely have some overhead to be even more aggressive. Obviously, these numbers will change as more performance data rolls in, but at least now we have an idea of where to begin and what we can hope to gain by making this change.

What about you? Find any actionable insights coming from the Bid Landscape, or something you’d like to see from that tool? Any tips on using the break-even CPC in your day to day work? If so, feel free to let us know in the comments or ping us on Twitter.

 
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Bing Ads Power Tools: Location, Device, and Seasonal Insights with the Campaign Planner

Planning a new campaign can be a difficult task in the best of times, but it can become a nightmare when you need to anticipate traffic volume and seasonal performance variation. When you add in new device targets, or want to expand in to entirely new verticals? That’s another challenge entirely.

Luckily, there are tools available to us now to handle each of those issues, many of which can be found directly in the Bing Ads Campaign Planner.

What is it?

The Campaign Planner is a unique tool found in the Bing Ads Interface that gives you, the advertiser, marketplace insights by vertical, product and keyword. It also gives you visibility in to seasonal trends with Year over Year performance, search volume location tips and device performance trends. Basically, it’s a one-stop shop you can use to make informed decisions about new campaigns and targeting options.

Use case #1: Location & device bid modifiers

When you’re opening a new campaign blind, it can be useful to do your homework ahead of time to understand how performance is going to vary by location. With certain terms, geographic demand is going to vary wildly and you can get an idea of what that will look like through the use of the “Search volume by location” functionality.

Let’s take the keyword “Seahawks jerseys” as an example:

No surprise here, but we can expect our search volume here to come primarily from Washington, as well as California and Oregon. If this term is to go in to a campaign just targeting Seahawks fans, then we can use that as our basis for location targets, either targeting them exclusively, or by implementing heavy positive bid modifiers to ensure that we’re always showing in our strongest regions.

But if this is going in to a national campaign shared with other teams, that location target & bid modifier may not make as much sense at the campaign level. Luckily, with Bing Ads we have the ability to get a little more specific with the Ad Group level override:

Here, we get the best of both worlds with our location targets- we can still target the United States as a whole with our regular bid intact, but the additional specificity at the ad group level means we can be more aggressive with Seahawk-related searches coming from the state of Washington without needing a new campaign to do so.

We can also employ a similar strategy with our device targets, too. Here’s that same “Seahawks jerseys” keyword, but this time we’re looking at the “Performance by device” snapshot:

Unlike the location report, this is a surprise. Based on this data, the majority of traffic volume on this particular keyword is coming from mobile, with Smartphones holding a commanding 46.2% of the searches here. Were we to go with a campaign-level device bid adjustment (or worse, not target mobile at all), we’d be losing out on a big opportunity to grab more of this traffic.

TIP: The same Ad Group setting override we talked about with locations also applies to devices.

So with this information, even though I haven’t done any advertising for Seahawks jerseys prior to this, I still know that my ad group (or campaign) should have a heavy emphasis on the Pacific Northwest. More importantly, I need to make mobile advertising an emphasis -- both in terms of device targeting -- but also the mobile site experience/conversion process, all thanks to the Campaign Planner.

Use Case #2: Budgeting for Seasonality

Almost every business has some amount of seasonality to it, but it’s not always easy to predict, especially without any prior experience with that product or vertical. With the “Search volume trends” report, though, it’s a piece of cake:

Right now, we’re looking at a year-over-year snapshot of search volume trends for the Education and Training vertical. I’m looking at both 2013 and 2014 to easily identify consistent seasonal swings, which we can definitely see here. June, July, and August are definite dips, while traffic volume explodes starting in September. Immediately, we can see that budget and traffic will suffer over the summer doldrums, but rapidly recover after that, so we should pace our budgets for the year accordingly.

(Long-time education advertisers are vigorously nodding their heads in agreement right now.)

Here’s the above data put in to Excel, and we immediately see the seasonality laid out in numerical form. In the summer, this industry sees a dip of roughly 25-30% in June, and an even more severe 40% dip in July. If you’re making budget decisions for 2015 in this vertical, you should strongly consider reallocating your summer funds to autumn… as well as possibly increasing your budget, since overall traffic volume is up by 20% year-over-year.

Use Case #3: Sizing up the Competition

As big a fan as I am of Auction Insights, there is one drawback: it only gives insight in to your current competitors, and only for when you’re actually showing your ad. It doesn’t give you an idea of your competitive landscape for new keywords, but the Campaign Planner can.

Sure, you can just search for a few of your theoretical keywords and see who pops up on the results page, but that’s contingent on your geographic location, device used, time of day, their budget… basically, it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of who you’ll be going up against in your new campaign. Going back to the “Seahawks jerseys” example, we get an immediate idea of who we’ll be competing against most often:

While the above domains have been obscured to protect the innocent, we can still see that there’s one dominant player in this space- they dominate position 1 a whopping 80.6% of the time, with two others jockeying for positions 2 and 3 below them.

You can go beyond keyword-level insights, too. Every single vertical and vertical sub-category on the left provides you with the option of seeing who you’ll be competing against, so if you’re adding in a ton of keywords focused on a specific vertical, you’ll get a great high-level view of who your newest competitors will be.

These are just three theoretical use cases; I still haven’t even touched on the product and keyword breakdowns and the ability to save favorite products for research later. They’re all useful, and I look forward to finding new and novel ways to use them.

If you have other favorite uses behind this tool you’d like to share, or would like to see more out of it, let us know in the comments or ping us on Twitter.

 

 
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Bing Ads Power Tools: Overhaul Your Optimizations with the Opportunities Page

When you work in the same PPC accounts day in and day out, it can be easy to lull yourself in to a false sense of security. You get in to the routine of doing things in specific ways, or even worse, think that your advertising efforts are as good as they could possibly be. From experience, I can tell you that that’s almost never the case.

Often enough, the best ideas and optimizations come from a fresh pair of eyes -- someone that can tell you what you may be missing in your account blind spots. Entire companies have been built on the idea of providing advertisers with an in-depth gap analysis of their accounts. However, there might not always be someone around who can lend that helping hand, or you may not have the resources available to dedicate to a professional account audit.

With that in mind, we’re here to help pick up the slack.

Do you like opportunity? I like opportunity.

The Opportunities page introduced last August provides a one-stop shop for account optimization initiatives. In broad strokes, they fall in the following categories:

-  Keyword Suggestions

-  Match Type Expansion

-  Bid Suggestions

-  Budget Suggestions

These are all fairly standard suggestions, but with the application of a little critical thought (and a lot of Excel), you can find out if these suggestions are truly actionable insights.

Making the most of Bid Suggestions

The Opportunities page provides bid suggestions in four different flavors: First Page, Mainline, Top of Page, and Competitive Bid. There are pretty distinct benefits to each. If you’re not on the first page, you’re pretty much getting no traffic. If you’re not in the mainline or top of page, you’re losing out on a ton of CTR due to the low position and lack of Sitelinks. If you’re interested in beating your biggest competitors, the newly released competitive bid suggestions can definitely give you the edge you need.

While these are all great suggestions, you can also figure out whether or not they make sense for your business based on your break-even CPC. Let’s take a look at a real top-of-page bid opportunity report as an example:

 

This is a real report -- it provides us with our current bid, the suggested bid, and the projected impact on our impressions, clicks, and spend. If traffic is your goal, this is more than enough to make an educated decision about these suggestions. But if you’re worried about conversions, then you can do a little extra legwork to see which bids make the most sense for your bottom line. Here a sample of the finished product:

 

This is the same keyword list from before, except I’ve thrown in a simple VLOOKUP to cross-reference these bid suggestions versus the Conversion Rate and Cost per Conversion found in a regular old keyword report. I’ve also thrown in the break-even Cost per Click (CPC) calculation to determine how much I can afford to pay, on average, for a single click to each of these keywords. By doing this, I’ve identified several keywords that have a chance to net me some real wins just by bidding more to the tune of roughly 10-20 more conversions per week… all automatically generated by the Opportunities page.

This is just one example; there are other tricks I’ve used in the past that are equally as effective, but slightly harder for an Excel newbie to pull off (and harder to illustrate in just one blog post). Tricks like:

  • Using Excel Solver to double-check your optimal campaign budget allocation across all marketing channels.
  • Using COUNTIF formulas to determine the relevance of suggested new keywords, and VLOOKUP to make sure they’re not already in your account.

 

I’ll be writing more about those in the future, but in the meantime, let us know about your favorite ways to use the Opportunities page! Anything you’d like to see added to these reports? Find a novel new use for the insights you’ve found there? Let us know in the comments, or ping us on Twitter.

 

 
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Bing Ads Power Tools Series: End the Data Scavenger Hunt with the Top Movers Report

On some days, knowing what exactly is happening in your PPC account can be a challenge... knowing why it’s happening can be even more so. As someone who’s done more than his fair share of account audits and deep dives, I know your pain. Change histories, search term reports, and meticulous records were necessary to keep track of the many different moving pieces in each account. Luckily, we now have tools available now that make that scavenger hunt obsolete, tools like the Top Movers report.

What is the Top Movers report?

 The Top Movers report, introduced back in August 2014, can be found in the Dimensions tab of the Bing Ads interface. There, you’ll be presented with a performance comparison detailing your metrics over the last 7, 14, or 28 days versus the previous period ending on a date of your choosing. Basically, it’s a one-stop-shop to see how account spend, clicks, and conversions are faring over time.

Pretty useful, right? Well, it gets better.

By clicking on those boxes, you then get Campaign and Ad Group-level breakdowns of how those numbers came to be, as well as some potential reasons why. It even includes network and device-level breakdowns if you’re looking to get specific. In essence, it’s a way to tie consequences back to your actions; you can see the direct impact of a bid, budget, or keyword optimization on your overall metrics.

So how can we use this to examine account-specific issues?

Troubleshooting Dips in Performance

Let’s take this Top Movers report as an example. We’ll be looking at the last 28 days, comparing it to the previous period of the same time length. This is for an ecommerce retailer specializing in a pretty wide spread of products, so I’d expect a little bit of seasonality now that we’ve passed the holidays. What do the numbers tell us?

We see a slight decrease in spend, coupled with a more pronounced drop-off in clicks. The big red flag, though, is definitely the 13.81% drop in conversion volume.

Based on these metrics, my guess is we’re seeing an increase in our Average CPC due to competition. Spend is steady, but we’re seeing a drop in click volume, meaning our efficiency has been impacted. The holiday has probably also thrown a wrench in our conversion rate, so when you pair that with the drop off in traffic, the numbers make quite a bit more sense.

That hunch is based off of years of doing PPC, so I’m very curious to see what the Top Movers Report says (I promise that I didn’t cheat and look ahead -- scout’s honor!).

Here’s where we lost the bulk of our clicks:

I’ve highlighted the three areas of interest:

  1. In two of these campaigns, our bids are no longer competitive compared to other advertisers, so we see a drop in both Average Position and CTR as a result even though CPC was fairly steady across all three campaigns.
  2. We also seen an instance of severely decreased spend in that second campaign, even though it isn’t called out. It’s probable that spend merely shifted from this campaign to other, higher-CPC campaigns and search terms at the expense of this one.
  3. Finally, we also see an instance of seasonality/targeting issues being brought to our attention, as the number of eligible search queries decreased for that third campaign.

 

For our traffic issues, this is pretty close to my guess above, but do we see the same insights reflected in the Conversion report?

In short, yes. Though there aren’t any instances of "possible causes” here; the numbers tell the story. Conversion rates are down in three of these four campaigns. One of them appears to have resolved some tracking issues, as the 83.33% reduction in conversion rate is pretty harsh -- going from 24.49% to 4.40% will impact your metrics no matter what. We also see evidence that the competition and traffic issues have impacted that third campaign, which is in line with what we learned from that click volume report.

Knowing why something is happening provides us with the tools to counteract the problem. If competitors are muscling you out on high-value terms, you now know which ones to bid up. If you inadvertently paused something you shouldn’t have, you’ll see that too… along with a link to your change history so you can see the evidence first-hand.

That last point is huge, because the Undo functionality has now found its way to the Bing Ads Change History interface. Essentially, you can now undo any changes right from the change history grid, no extra navigation required. In conjunction with the Top Movers report, it’s now easier than ever to revert harmful changes, or to course correct when needed.

If you have any feedback on the Top Movers report, or specific elements you’d like to see, feel free to let us know below in the comments or ping us on Twitter.

 
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Bing Ads Power Tools Series: Use Auction Insights to Analyze the Competition

In PPC, competition is everything. The sheer number of advertisers battling it out for top position on the results page at any given time is a little mind-boggling -- especially when you consider the number of bids, bid modifiers, geographic targets, and devices in play. With so many variables, it can be hard to keep track of the competition and just how they impact your campaigns. Luckily, there’s a tool that can assist you with figuring out their bidding strategy: Auction Insights.

What is Auction Insights, you ask? It’s a report that can be generated at the Campaign, Ad Group, and Keyword level that can tell you exactly who your competitors are and how their impressions are faring compared to your own. It generates a list of Display URL domains of the other advertisers competing against you and gives you several key metrics you can use to gauge what kind of impact they’re having on your campaigns\ via metrics like Impression Share, Overlap Rate, and Position Above rate.

As a snapshot, the report can be helpful in immediately identifying your biggest competitors… and how your own advertising efforts compare to theirs. What’s compelling about this particular report though, is that the data shown is relative to the time range you use for it. It’s historical, meaning that you can identify competitor trends & seasonality, chart their performance in comparison to your own, and diagnose account issues brought about by increased competition.

So what does that look like in practice?

Case #1: An Unexpected CPA Spike

In addition to providing a glimpse into the previously mentioned competitive metrics, the Auction Insights report can be a valuable tool in troubleshooting the occasional CPA spike at the Keyword, Ad Group, or even Campaign level (I tend to prefer the Keyword level, in case you were wondering). This is best done by identifying inflection points in your account performance, i.e. points where your CPA takes a noticeable turn for the worse, in this case.

Like so:

In this particular account, we’ve identified that CPA performance for this keyword has taken a jump starting on January 16th. We see a brief relapse back to our normal CPA for this keyword, but as of the last seven days, it went haywire. There are no bid, budget, or targeting changes on our end to account for this, so what happened?

Here’s the Auction Insights report from before the CPA increase, looking at January 12th – January 18th.

And after, looking at January 19th – 25th…

And we see an immediate difference in our competitive landscape. While we see Competitor #4 dropping out of the marketplace, we have five new competitors entering the space to replace them.

In addition, several of our existing competitors have become more aggressive -- Competitors #1, #2, and #5 all see an increase in both Overlap Rate and Position Above Rate -- meaning that we’re competing against them more often, and they’re now showing above us more often too.

Case #2: Analyzing Competitor Trends over Time

While the above example is a great way to look at immediate competitor metrics, to get the full benefit of this tool, you should do some historical digging to see how these competitive metrics have changed over time. While these numbers are always relative to your own (and subject to bid, budget, and targeting changes), it can help you understand your industry’s seasonality and how the entrance/exit of competitors influence the marketplace.

Using everyone’s favorite PPC tool, we can create a pivot table out of this data and graph our competitor trends over time. This is done by downloading an Auction Insights report for each month you’re measuring, pasting it all in to Excel, and creating a table & graph out of it. Here’s what that looks like for another sample account, this one focusing on wedding dresses:

Using Overlap Rate as our current metric, we can see how the competition has changed since July. Since wedding season has ended, we’ve seen one competitor (Company #3) greatly reduce their Overlap Rate (due to any number of factors, e.g. bidding down on keywords, reducing budget, etc.) ceding ground to others in the process -- some related, some more generic (like Company #1). No matter what the cause, the result is that we’re competing with them less often, and others have picked up the slack.

If we do the same analysis looking at Position Above rate, we can examine how their position changes relative to our own over time:

For the most part, each competitor has remained steady, save for two: 1) Company #2 has dropped off (possibly due to bids) leading to a decrease in Position Above rate and 2) Company #1 has either increased their bids, or are possibly benefitting from Company #2’s drop in Average Position.

Note: These are all educated guesses; you won’t get any specific insights in to competitor keywords, bids, or targeting strategies. All you can do is look at these high-level trends, compare it to your own actions, and guess at the cause.

These are but a few competitors included in our Auction Insights report, and we’ve only looked at a few metrics, but we’ve already gained some valuable tips. Examining average position, top of page, and impression share can lead to even more actionable insights, so be sure to make use of this valuable knowledge, because I can guarantee that your competitors will.

So there you have it. Do you have any valuable intelligence gleaned from the Auction Insights report? Questions about how the above report is created? If so, feel free to leave them below in the comments or ping us on Twitter.

 
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