• Previewing AdWords extensions with the Ad Preview Tool is something I’ve always wanted to do. But until today I didn’t know that was possible.

    I had no idea if seller rating extensions were showing. Or which sitelinks were showing. I did not know what PLAs were showing for my customers before I paid for some clicks. Especially if I restricted my campaign targeting to “people in my targeted area”.

    But I didn’t want to pay for the clicks and then make the adjustments. I wanted to be able to add the extensions, launch the campaign and test it quickly. Especially now that Google has placed way more weight on ad extensions than they used to.

    Yesterday though I have discovered an interesting thread on the English AdWords Community. Here’s what an advertiser says:

    It doesn’t work for me when I use the search box at the TOP of the Ad Preview tool, but it works when I use the search box at the BOTTOM.

    I tried to do what he was suggesting, but I couldn’t get it to work. The search box at the bottom of the Google SERP was not working for me.

    Here’s how the preview looked at first, after entering the query in the Ad Preview Tool:

    Adwords ad extensions not showing in the Ad Preview Tool

    As you can see, no ad extensions are showing.

    But this morning, when preparing a new Product Listing Ads campaign for a customer, I understood what he meant.

    The search button at the top of the Ad Preview search result page does not work. Not if you click on the button. But if you click in the search box and hit enter, bam! There they are. It also works if you switch between Google Images / Shopping results and then you switch back to Web.

    Here’s how the same search looks after clicking in the Google Search box and hitting enter:

    Adwords ad extensions showing in the Ad Preview Tool

    Quite a change, right? Product listing ads are now showing, and so are seller rating extensions. I’ve also seen sitelinks so this makes me think that they all show if you repeat the search from the Google search box.

    I have no idea why they don’t trigger when you first hit the preview button. Or why the blue Google Search button is inactive in the Ad Preview window.

    But I sure am happy that I can now preview all the AdWords extensions with the Ad Preview tool. I used to do the same by using RedFly’s great Seo Global for Google Search extension. I also manipulated the Google URL with location & language parameters. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore.

    What do you think? Did you already know about this possibility? If you didn’t, do you think you’ll start including it in your workflow? Let me know in the comments section below.

  • From brick and mortar to e-Commerce

    Yes, you read that right. Precisely. What if your first Google AdWords campaign, ever, was a Product Listing Ads one?

    If you’re expanding your business online, or turning your brick and mortar shop into a pure online presence, I say that Product Listing Ads is what you should start with.

    But why? It sounds so … strange

    Yes, it does. But everything revolves around your products. The way you organize and decorate your real shop, and the way you do the same with the online one. Everything is supposed to lead the potential customer to the product(s) she might be interested in. You don’t build websites to showcase your designer’s work or to share cats pictures. You do it to sell your products. Period.

    So why worry, at this stage, about keywordsmatch typesnegative keywordsad rotationconversion optimizer and all sorts of other AdWords terms that make your head spin?

    Why think about which text ads would sound more catchy, whether to bid for more general or more specific terms, or where exactly on your website should you land certain search queries / ad combinations?

    Let’s make things clear: if you’re selling stuff online, and if you’re doing business in a country where Google Merchant Center has already launched, you’ll have to create Product Listing Ads (campaigns) anyway.

    You’ll have to do it because:

    • Your products are the core of your business
    • Product Listing Ads attract a whole lot of attention, with those nice pictures of theirs
    • Your competition already does it and if they do, you won’t be able to counter them with text ads

    Nice product listing ads with images

    So how about using PLAs as a quick way of getting your product inventory online and also as a way to learn how your potential customers search for your products and interact with your website?

    All you need to know about setting it up is here. In a nutshell, you’ll have to:

    • Create a file which holds a list of your products either in XML format, or if it sounds too complicated, tab delimited text. If you cannot do that, you can ask whomever manages your website to do that for you.
    • Create a Google Merchant Center account, upload the compliant feed, and wait for it to get approved.
    • Link the Merchant Center account with an AdWords account, and create your first campaign.
    • Open a Google Analytics and a Google Webmaster tools account if you did not already and link them to AdWords and between them.
    • Set your campaign budget and your bids (you can even do it at product level, if you want, by creating one ad group per product and assigning only one product target to it).
    • Launch your campaign and let it run for a while.

    Another good reason for starting with Product Listing Ads and not text / display ads is the following: if you want to manage your first AdWords campaigns yourself, chances are that you’re not too familiar with all the ins and outs of the AdWords system.

    Disclaimer: If you’re among the 5% who study hard before diving deep into advertising, congratulations, and sorry for wasting your time. This article is not for you.

    But if you’re not, I think it would be great to learn how people search for your products.

    You’ll be amazed to see, by looking at their search terms, how they mix brands, product categories, SKUs and color variations, in ways you would have never imagined.

    And from that stream of search terms you’ll select

    • your negative keywords
    • new keywords for different campaigns

    You’ll also see that sometimes people search for a specific model, land on the right landing page and yet don’t buy from you. Some of the reasons for that behavior may be that they don’t trust your website, or because your price is not right. And you’ll learn about your website’s performance that way and you’ll take steps to improve both the website’s functionality and your offer.

    And if you create separate ad groups for each of your products, and if you use a solid naming convention, you’ll also be able to see how you’re doing at brand level, or at product category level. Therefore you’ll know where to invest more and where to cut your costs. Where to try and get a better deal from your supplier and which brands or product categories you should forget about.

    And terms such as conversion rate, cost per conversion, etc. will be easier to grasp when thinking about a product, whose margin per sale/conversion you know, and where you can see how many clicks it took to convert and what the average cost per click was. You’ll see that if you make 10 bucks per sale and pay 25 cents per click, and if shipping costs you 5 bucks, you can only afford 20 clicks to sell one item, and therefore you need a 5% conversion rate to break even.

    And that’s because you’ll focus on the right things: your products and your website, and not let all the other bells and whistles, dials, buttons and levers distract you.

    Because that’s what Product Listing Ads are all about: your website and your inventory. A huge chunk of your e-Commerce business.

    Image source: Pixabay.com

  • Transparency. In e-commerce, business, life

    Transparency in e-commerce, business, life

    One afternoon, about two weeks ago, I was buying the last things we needed before we went on a short holiday. There I was, in the parking lot, putting bags from my shopping cart in the trunk of my car, when the phone rang.

    I was convinced it was my wife, telling me that there’s one more thing to buy. I always get that, most of the time when I’m already past the cash register or already on the way home. Murphy’s laws are inspired from reality, after all.

    But no, it was not the case. This time it was a salesperson from the phone carrier I’m under contract with, telling me that they had a great, custom-tailored offer for me. As I frequently do, I told him to use my e-mail address to communicate that offer to me. He told me that he cannot do that, and that it’ll only take 2-3 minutes of my time. I didn’t have three minutes then, as I had to finish packing and go home. I suggested him to call me in a quarter of an hour. Nope, he did not want that so we finished our conversation then and there and I drove home.

    Once I got home and unpacked, I called him back and asked him to tell me what it was all about. And he told me. Basically, I was going to pay pretty much the same or less, lose part of the data included in the plan which I was not using entirely anyway (I usually spend time in wireless-covered areas), get way more free voice minutes in all kinds of networks (which I did not really need, as I seldom go over my plan’s limits), etc., etc. Somewhere, during this conversation, he also told me that I won’t be able to buy a new subsidized phone for the next two years if I accepted the offer. But it got lost in the sea of information. My fault, somewhat. Or maybe entirely.

    The offer sounded good, I could not identify any catch at that time, so I said ok, we’ll go with it. I had 14 days to change my mind, so that was good. But a few days later, when I really had the time to think about it, after a few days in the sun, it hit me. The price difference between a subsidized phone and a no-plan one was much higher than any economy that I could have made by switching plans. And, for the last year of my contract, my phone would have been out of warranty. Which warranty I just used to get a new charger, because the old one was no longer charging my phone completely. Suddenly, the deal that sounded ok-ish to begin with, was no longer good at all.

    So what did I learn from it? That I should not commit to something before weighing in all the pros and cons. Which someone cannot really do during a phone conversation. So, basically, I should never commit to anything over the phone, when dealing with salespeople. Why? Because one can easily get into a bad deal when time is short and attention is not fully there. Why does that happen? Because sometimes, when rushed, we’re not able to see the catch. And we all hate to realize what the catch was later on.

    So where am I going with all this? Why did this go to the e-commerce category as some of you may have noticed (wishful thinking, I know)? Because it’s the same. We need transparency, especially in e-commerce, when we cannot see the seller. We need to know what our options are, what we gain if we pay a little more and if those things we gain are really useful for us. We also need to know what we lose if we pay a little less and if that loss is meaningful to us or not. Because if we don’t, we’ll be resentful. We’ll hate the experience, we’ll remember it for a long time and we’ll talk and write about it. And today it will become known not just to our mother and father, sister and brother and two close friends – as it did many years ago – but also to people who’ve never met us. To people who’ve never lived in the same city / country / part of the world as us. And only some of them will remember the details. Many of them will remember that a certain particular offer, from a certain particular company, sucks. When it fact it may be pretty well-suited for other people, in spite of the fact that it wasn’t well-suited for me. Some of them will even go further with the generalization and say “Company X* sucks, I read some nasty things about them on the interwebs. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but in any case I think you should stay away from them. And, say, how are the kids lately … ?

    And in e-commerce, when you’re not transparent enough, people will seek that transparency elsewhere. Review websites, price comparison websites, blogs, all kinds of sources out of your control. And what’s even worse is that on all those websites, while looking for reviews and opinions and comparisons, they will be exposed to offers similar to yours. And then … you’ve lost them. Or many of them. You’ve lost them because after working so hard to get them to your website, you did not make things clear enough. Transparent enough. Obvious enough. You did not tell them that apart from option A, there’s also option B that gives them two extra features for X more money. And also option C, where they pay Y less, but lose two features which do this and that.

    Had you done that, had you

    • provided them with enough information
    • enabled reviews on your website
    • made yourself available for an honest phone conversation
    • done everything in your power to be as transparent and as customer-oriented as possible at the very moment you had the customer on your website

    you’d have significantly increased your chances to close a deal and to win a satisfied customer.

    Because the lack of transparency might have worked in less open environments, many years ago. And even today, it may help you win a game here and a set there. But in today’s internet-dominated society, with information everywhere, it will most certainly make you lose the championship.

    I still think that the guy on the phone could have easily asked: “Do you think you’re going to want/need a new phone in less than two years? Do you think that you’re now talking less with your friends than you’d like you and that a new, more relaxed plan, might make you talk more at no extra cost? Is it worth it, to you, to give up a X EUR advantage and a one year warranty in order to win Y more minutes of quality conversation with your friends and loved ones? If it is, you should sign up on this offer”.

    But no, he (his company, actually) preferred to go for the quick win. And that’s fair. It’s their decision. But it’s my money. And also my decision. My loyalty. My overall impression.

    * I will not reveal the name of the company or the details of the offer for the very reasons outlined in this post.

    Image source: Pixabay.com


  • Sponsored promotions (image ads) in GMail?

    While reading my e-mails today I’ve seen an ad format I’ve never seen before in GMail: “a new type of ad you can save to your inbox or forward on. If you dismiss this ad, you won’t see it again

    On the right, there was this image

    GMail Images Ads - Sponsored Promotions

    Under it, there was a small link reading “More promotions” (if I remember correctly, the above picture does not include the link), which, upon clicking, revealed a new page with more promotions, looking like this

    GMail Images Ads - Sponsored Promotions

    When clicking the above one, a nice big image opened

    GMail Images Ads - Sponsored Promotions

    with the following explanation

    GMail Images Ads - Sponsored Promotions

    Does anybody know what it actually is and how can we create such promotions ourselves? If you do, please let me know. If you don’t, tell me what you think it is.

    Apparently, they’ve been around for a while, as Sakis Rizos pointed out on my G+ stream (http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2095222/Will-New-Gmail-Ad-Formats-Be-Totally-Worth-Dating-Engaging-Marrying-Having-Babies-With), and they’re also present in Italy, according to Andrea Testa.


  • Anonymous AdWords placements

    Update 2 (august 2018): Should you still want to see specific placements that are sending you “anonymous” traffic you’ll need to leave the Google Analytics interface and use Google’s Analytics API. Three easy ways are Google’s Data Studio, Google Analytics’ Query Explorer and Google Sheets with a Google Analytics add-on.

    Update 1: as of June 2013, Google Analytics no longer “de-anonymizes ” URLs reported as anonymous by Google AdWords (see the comments below). It was fun while it lasted, though.

    Having a look at a placement performance report a few days ago I was both surprised and annoyed to see that I got the most clicks and incurred the biggest costs for some famous AdSense publishers, by the names of x65tw5263something.anonymous.google and such.

    Obviously, those placements only got me clicks and no conversions, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this.

    AdWords anonymous URLs

     According to Google, “Some publishers choose to offer placements anonymously and not disclose their site names to advertisers.” (http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2471191). Which, to me, reads “you may find yourself spending money without knowing where your ads appear”.

    It’s like going out to dinner, asking for the bill and seeing, next to everything, from hors d’oeuvres to desserts, some items which requested to remain anonymous. In spite of representing a significant part of the bill. They just don’t like publicity, you know, so they chose to remain anonymous. In the background. Discrete. 🙂

    Luckily, every AdWords account I run is linked to a Google Analytics account, and AdWords related data is in there as well. And – lo and behold – Google Analytics knows no such thing as anonymous placement URLs. Every URL that got me at least a click is there, undisguised. In the foreground, for all to see. Transparent.

    Which means that I can see, per placement domain or URL:

    • bounce rate
    • pages / visit
    • visit duration
    • goal completion
    • revenue

    That’s enough for me to be able to judge whether a certain placement is worth my money or not. And although I won’t be able to say who is x65tw5263something.anonymous.google, specifically, I will be able to say that I no longer want my ads to show on a certain website or section of it.

    The image below represents filtered data; domains containing the string “anonymous”. As you can see, there are no such URLs in Google Analytics. All data is visible there.

    So, in the future, if you see a lot of x65tw5263something.anonymous.google in your placement reports, and do not know what to exclude, leave the AdWords interface and move to the Google Analytics one. Once there, see what placements are not performing according to your targets and expectations and exclude them.

    If you don’t have a linked Google Analytics account, get one and link it to your AdWords account. It’s free, and it’s the only way for you to access post-click data related to your AdWords visitors (data which is not in the AdWords interface).

    Unfortunately, you won’t be able to exclude placements with only impressions and no clicks, because those placements only appear in the AdWords interface, not in the Google Analytics one (obviously, as you need the visitor to reach your website in order for Google Analytics to be able to record anything). And those placements, if your ads keep showing without getting clicks, may drag your quality score on the display network down. But you can at least stop wasting money for placements that only get you clicks and no other benefits.