My PPC & SEM Takeaways from SMX Advanced 2017

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Jacob at SMX AdvancedAs Monday afternoon hit, I met with Melissa (my SEO counterpart) at Pike Place Market on an overcast day in Seattle, ready to take on SMX Advanced and expand our knowledge of the SEM world! When registration opened, we strolled across the road to the venue and immediately knew the event was going to be a great one. What looked like thousands of nametags were lined up, things were in order, and the rooftop welcome reception at the International Bell Tower was underway.

Day 1

The next day, Melissa and I walked down the hallway of the tower and split into our respective "tracks", SEO and SEM. I took a seat in the SEM room, where hundreds of other experts from around the continent joined me.

SEM Keynote, Jerry Dischler (VP of Product Management at Google)

The first speaker was the keynote: Jerry Dischler, VP of Product Management at Google. Jerry spoke heavily on the importance of attribution and how companies are moving away from the "last click model". This means that in your advertising campaigns, you are weighing and valuing each "action" that contributes to the sale rather than simply tracking the "last click". As users online become smarter, so does their ability to avoid the ads they don't want to see. This means that it can take more meaningful interactions at the right moments to convert.

Jerry also weighed in on the fact that In-Market Audiences are coming to Google Search! This means advertisers will be able to target users with search ads based on what Google thinks they are currently in the market for. In-market audiences for real estate consist of groups of people interested in things like "residential real estate", "commercial real estate", etc. So as you can see, this should be help real estate advertisers match more closely with the right people on search (only possible on Display before).

The Mad Scientists of Paid Search

A group of 3 SEM experts, calling themselves "The Mad Scientists of Paid Search", walked onto stage for the afternoon session wearing full lab coats. They tested a variety of different hypothesis, such as "Higher priced products have a lower CTR on average (False)" and went over how they came to their conclusions.

One takeaway is the importance of paying attention to your close variants in keywords. This includes ensuring you don't have a negative keyword that prevents your ad from showing when it should. One example is excluding "pen", when you want to target the keyword "pencil". People searching for "pencil" wouldn't see your ad because there is still that instance of the negative word "pen" within their query.

Conversion Optimization – Turning Wins into Streaks

When advertising your real estate services, you really need to think hard about what your Value Proposition and your Messaging is going to be, and then you need to align that with the Motivation of your target audience.

What makes you unique? Why are you specifically the right choice to fulfill what they value? If you offer a unique marketing approach to attract buyers, why not use that as one of your selling points to attract sellers? Seller's value the fact that you are good at attracting buyers. So create and ad that relays this message, targets buyer's in the market, and communicates your value.

If you think you have something that is going to hit home with your audience, make sure you A/B test it! This is done by creating 2 copies of the same ad, changing one variable, and letting the two versions run alongside each other to diagnose the winner. These types of tests are extremely helpful and are the only way you can know for certain which is going to perform better. If you aren't too familiar with these types of tests, there are tons of platforms out there that can help run them for you—just search Google!

Day 2

The Importance of Audience Targeting

As mentioned before, audience targeting is coming to Search. This means you need to start thinking more strategically about how you are using your audiences. Specific campaigns targeted at specific audiences will yield much better results than a generic campaign targeting any audience you can find your hands on.

On Display, one targeting tip was to use no more than 5-10 keywords and ensure they aren't the same ones you are using in your Search Campaigns. As you see what websites (placements) your ads are appearing on, start "excluding" the ones that you don't think are relevant. This is an ongoing process; however, it will pay off immensely in the long run, as it will bring down your Cost Per Acquisition.

Custom Affinity Audiences let you combine targeting methods and your audiences to help you really dial into the right people. For example, if I have a product for Realtors that helps qualify their leads through a mobile survey, why stop at simply targeting my custom list of Realtors? Why not target Realtors whom also have an "interest" in online technology. You could even add specific sites into the mix, such as real estate technology websites. This way, you are preserving your budget for the right people.

Changes in the Online Ad Universe

The release of the Google Expanded Text Ads was a big subject last year. This new ad format included giving advertisers more space for copy and more options to add ad extensions. Interestingly enough, simply switching over to this format doesn't help you see a lift. This session went into detail about how they tested this theory and ultimately, the conclusion was that your message in the ads still means more than the ad format.

With that being said, different formats can help you get this message across more efficiently, so it's definitely worth testing the various formats.

One big shift in 2017 is going to be the use of dynamic ad customizers. These help your ads seem much more relevant to a user by dynamically inserting specific items into the ad such as the time of day, the searcher's gender, the searcher's age, keywords, location, and much more. It could look something like:

dynamic ad example

As you can see, a relevant ad like this that not only inserts location, but also the time left of the open house, and is going to help with your click-through rates, amd bring down your Cost Per Click and Cost Per Conversion.

The last section of this talk outlined the new Smart Display Ads that have begun rolling out to advertisers across the board. These auto-generated ads will dynamically change their targeting, bids, and so forth. There are both advantages and disadvantages with these ads. First, because they are dynamically changing, it only takes a few minutes to setup and maintain them. In addition, there are infinite combinations of bids, ad copy, and placements, so your ads will never get stale.

One major disadvantage is that you can't exclude specific placements and you lose the control of manual additions. This is why Smart Ads may not be right for every campaign, but can greatly reduce the effort needed to get more favorable results. The machines are getting smarter, so let's make them do some of the work for us!

Concluding Thoughts

This conference really outlined the importance of staying in the now and ensuring you are taking advantage of all the new tools the paid ad publishers are releasing. The world of SEM and SEO is a vast one and with each passing day, there are new strategies and paths to take that can help you improve your numbers. Your campaigns can always get better, so why not experiment a bit?

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