PPC ad campaign structure in a changing world

I had the privilege of moderating a panel at SMX Advanced on PPC ad campaign structure.

I had an enlightening discussion with Andrea Cruz, Director of Client Strategy at Tinuiti, and Greg Kohler, Digital Marketing Manager at ServiceMaster Brands. Here’s a recap of the session.

Is Performance Max the only way forward for campaign structure?

Performance Max is geared toward ecommerce, not B2B or lead gen. There’s not enough direct control and segmentation. Kohler said they’ve tried Performance Max and haven’t had success. 

Cruz feels that for B2B lead gen, Performance Max works here and there for volume but struggles with quality. For ecommerce, it’s a different story, as Performance Max helps marketers find new audiences.

I have found that Performance Max has not given B2B advertisers what we need for lead gen.

How will AI affect campaign structure?

AI won’t affect structure but will be helpful for small or new advertisers (not experienced marketers), Cruz believes. AI helps you know if you covered all your settings properly.

It will also be great for new advertisers and business owners who want to launch a campaign quickly, according to Kohler. AI acts as a checklist for campaign builds.

The concern is that it’s full of pitfalls. For example, opting into display and search partners and targeting mobile apps. AI will love this to drive impressions, but new advertisers may not know you shouldn’t start with that.

Mike Ryan highlights this in his LinkedIn post. AI is a fast-learning intern, but you still need to check their work.

Are keywords going away?

In the past, we’ve seen campaign organization by keywords, match types, etc. Do keywords and match types even matter anymore? 

Cruz believes the Google best practice of following website structure is good. Focus on categories, products or the problems you’re trying to solve if you’re B2B.

Meanwhile, Kohler points out that as SKAGs and ultra-segmentation are gone, we must think about where we’re driving people on the site and the ad group’s theme.

With the advent of RSAs, you want to get as much data on each headline as possible. Consider condensing ad groups and getting more data so Google can optimize. You no longer need 200 ad groups for a single theme.

I pointed out that it’s all about giving up data to the machine. Granular ad groups don’t provide enough data for the machine to learn and optimize.

What about match types? 

Kohler hopes we don’t lose the match types we have. He’d be surprised if Google removes them because advertisers use them strategically. Maybe phrase could go away.

Exact and broad match each have value combined with smart bidding – broad helps find one-off searchers. But he doesn’t think match types will go away.

Jumping back to the question of whether keywords are going away: If Google were to get away from keywords, it would be one of the biggest blunders ever on their part because keywords are so powerful. You’re bidding on someone looking for your exact service.

Keywords, and the intent they provide, are why people spend so much money advertising on Google. If this goes away, it blurs the line between Google and other advertiser platforms.

I agree. Getting rid of keywords turns search into paid social by taking away intent, which is the big selling point of search.

However, Cruz thinks match types are going away whether we like it or not. This is what we’ve seen historically – lines are blurred between match types. 

None of the new ad formats and features are keyword-based – Performance Max, DSA, etc. While paid search is the only place where we have intent via keywords, Cruz still thinks keywords will go away. She thought it would happen at this Google Marketing Live, but they didn’t pull the plug.

Also, she learned early in her career that there is always the “milk chocolate” and “chocolate milk” issue. How do we make the algorithm understand these differences? 

Keywords also might go away and be replaced with signals. Privacy has made Google put the brakes on a bit.

DSAs: Are you using them?

Cruz has tested them, and they work well for a few accounts. Dynamic search ads (DSAs) are a good way to mine data, find queries we might have missed, and understand Google’s interpretation of the landing pages.

Kohler doesn’t actively use them, but generally, the best practice is to use DSAs to find queries and build a campaign using these specific queries.

Kohler thinks there has been a shift from keywords in the local service space. Local service ads are all about signals. Pick your vertical, location, and budget. Then Google does the rest. You don’t get to pick keywords or negatives. 

So there is a path away from keywords when we look at it this way. Will Google continue to push away from keywords or let us continue to bid on specific keywords?

How are you approaching campaign organization for local services today?

Kohler says they’re keeping it simple and condensed. They don’t break things out too much.

Don’t try to narrow down to the specific users you think you want to show for. Keep it more open and see how things go.

Look at demographics and geos and then narrow down based on what’s working. A huge pitfall is assuming you know your perfect customer. This will limit your impressions too much and you won’t have reach.

Plus, how correct is Google’s data on this? It’s better to keep things open to the users searching for your service as long as they’re in the correct local area.

I noted that a lot of people treat search like broadcast. Broadcast tactics don’t work well for search. Don’t limit it.

Get the daily newsletter search marketers rely on.

What are the nuances for B2B campaign organization?

Cruz breaks B2B advertisers into two sub-segments based on spend.

For advertisers spending less than $100,000 monthly, the challenge is to drive as many leads as possible and cover the whole website.

But to get the best results, we need to give as many signals as possible – which means we are spread too thin at this budget level.

Instead, focus on the areas where you have volume and good content to send people to. This prevents advertisers from having many tiny campaigns spending $20 per day. Group spend and intent to drive better performance.

With large advertisers spending more than $200,000 per month, you can really test something new. You can use broad match because you have enough data to feed the algorithm.

Use first-party data! Tell Google this person is worth 10x more than just any lead. B2B is expensive because everyone wants to talk to the big enterprise, so many people are competing on the same keywords.

First-party audiences and privacy

Google teased in Google Marketing Live that we will have better data connections and easier ways to bring first-party data in. So how do privacy and first-party data play in?

Cruz says that either the client is very into privacy and has all the data, or people are very scared. No one wants to get fined.

Google has not addressed concerns adequately. Cruz would love to see Google vet small businesses for privacy or have Google-approved attorneys who can recommend compliance. She doesn’t think Google will actually do this, but it would be good to see.

Kohler is not using a lot of first-party data for targeting or segmentation. It’s important to talk to your lawyers first because Google has clarified that privacy is your responsibility. 

Kohler would love to see a best practice documentation from Google on privacy policy wording, etc. But then Google becomes liable, so they probably won’t do this.

For Kohler, the risk isn’t worth it at this point. They can do other things to target their audience. 

Also, how much do you want to tell Google about your specific customers? Are in-market audiences just being built off other people’s customer data?

This is a bit “conspiracy theory” but we are giving Google data to help build audiences for competitors.

I feel that for B2B, first-party audiences are awesome because it’s hard to find B2B buyers. But then you get privacy concerns, plus you’re giving away your data.

The privacy angle gets lost with automation and smart bidding but it’s important to remember.

Does smart bidding play into campaign organization at all?

Cruz doesn’t create campaigns based on smart bidding, but she focuses on the campaign objective and the best bid strategy. 

Focus on the objective/goals first, then build your campaigns.

What’s your overall best tip for streamlining campaign management?

Kohler says to figure out your weekly and monthly to-dos and stick to them. You need a to-do list or you’ll be jumping around and forgetting things.

Have a ClickUp or other task manager checklist to know you did them.

Use custom rules and actions in Google Ads Editor. If you encounter a mistake or pitfall, create a rule to flag these in the future.

For example, you can check to see if search partners are enabled, check for location targeting, etc. Copy and paste the rule to every account. Then you won’t have this problem again. Rules and scripts are underused!

Cruz wants advertisers to forget that SKAGs ever existed! We don’t need these.

Consolidate instead of breaking out. Is the theme of this campaign or ad group accurate? That is the key.

Regarding the buyer journey – Cruz still segments by buyer journey. Early-stage campaigns should be separate from late stage. Intent is different.

Kohler says to think about where the campaigns fall in the customer funnel. By breaking it out, you can focus on where your dollars are spent and bid more on lower funnel campaigns.

I want to thank Andrea Cruz and Greg Kohler for participating in this engaging panel! Advertisers came away with lots of actionable tips for campaign organization.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *