As we head into 2015, advertisers and searchers are both suffering ad fatigue. Part of this fatigue has to do with the current state of paid search, including which features are considered necessary. The other part has to do with advertisers not adapting to a constantly changing PPC world.
Larry Kim first touched on this notion of ad fatigue in May of 2013 when he coined the phrase “AdWords Jackpot.” His premise was that many ads lack creativity and are not original. When users type a query, they may see an “AdWords Jackpot” of similarly written ads, lacking key differentiators and originality.
Fast-forward to today, and we still see ad fatigue, but in a different way. The bevy of ad extensions and their impact on ad rank makes occupying more search real estate a key focus. I don’t disagree with the premise, but this focus takes away from the core text ad message.
Even advertisers who spend time writing creative and unique ads may suffer due to the sheer volume of clickable options and callouts on the results page. Here is an example of a Walmart ad with seven lines of text. Can you easily identify where description lines one and two are and what they say?
We haven’t even hit on Shopping ads, or Product Listing Ads (PLAs). According to RKG’s Q3 2014 Digital Marketing Report, PLA spend and traffic increased substantially year over year.
In September, AdWords launched what I believe to be the most impactful update for e-commerce advertisers since the release of Dynamic Remarketing. This update was the release of ad customizers, which allow advertisers to add dynamic content to their text ads. This dynamic content can be anything from inventory or price to a countdown until a specific event.
I’ve argued that the dynamic content in text ads (beyond Dynamic Keyword Insertion) helps draw attention away from Product Listing Ads.
PLAs will always have a leg up because they are image based. Shoppers want to see the product rather than just read about it. However, ad customizers are so important because they give text ads their own degree of eye candy.
Take this Rockport ad for example.
This ad is extremely powerful, as it counts down the hours left until the sale ends. Many advertisers writing Cyber Monday ads might employ static messaging such as “Cyber Monday deals” or “today only.” This messaging isn’t bad, but doesn’t convey the same sense of urgency as “online sales end in 9 hours.”
I know that Rockport isn’t the only advertiser utilizing custom parameters, but the overall lack of dynamic ads tells me that industry professionals aren’t adapting to the changing landscape. During the holiday season, I performed several searches a day — and the only ad I saw utilizing a custom parameter belonged to Rockport.
So, how could ads be more dynamic? Let’s take a look at the ads we see for the search “mens dress pant.”
The ads for Brooks Brothers and JoS. A. Bank both offer free shipping. Perhaps free shipping is ongoing, but these advertisers could institute the countdown parameter for a selected date, thus adding more urgency to the message.
JoS. A. Bank also references guaranteed holiday delivery. As a searcher, I don’t know when the cutoff date is. An ad saying, “Only x days left to buy for guaranteed holiday delivery” would motivate me to make my purchase sooner rather than later.
These advertisers could also include a peek at inventory. For example, Perry Ellis could list the number of styles to choose from, as well as the starting price. Here’s how the ad would look in the interface.
And here is how the ad would look in the listings.
I’m not advocating that every ad be written with dynamic content, but I am saying that ad customizers should be a part of your strategy. I generally write at least one ad in every group that utilizes dynamic content.
At the end of Q3, I slowly began experimenting with ad customizers in one of my accounts. These customizers spoke to the brand, the number of varieties, and the starting price. It’s important to note that the brand parameter wasn’t defined as an actual brand, but rather a category.
As an example (not from this study), I would define brand as “cereal” instead of “General Mills.” Thus, a search for “buy cereal in bulk” would present an ad speaking to the “brand” of cereal.
My study took place during the time period of 9/24/14 – 12/14/14. The data I present below do not include activity from brand, shopping, and Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaigns.
Overall, ads with customizers accounted for fewer than 8% of total clicks and about 7% of total impressions. Though the holiday season isn’t as important for this client as other retailers, it’s worth mentioning that traffic increased in the second half of November.
Here are the results of the study.
My main takeaways include:
Though the sample size was small, ads with customizers had an overall better CTR and lower cost per conversion while converting at a higher pace. From the CTR side, it’s clear that searchers found these ads more appealing and engaging.
Conversely, once on site, the dynamic copy matched the associated brands, number of varieties, and starting prices. Searchers clicked the ads having a better understanding of the available selection.
In mid-December, Google released a video explaining the importance of ad customizers. Additionally, a widget was released directly within the ad interface to help advertisers easily set up countdowns.
The ad customizers announcement in late September and this new widget tell me that Google also understands the importance of showing relevant and appealing ads through dynamic content.
For those advertisers who still don’t believe that ad customizers apply to their campaigns, I would encourage you to get creative. Here are some examples that will hopefully draw inspiration:
The text ad landscape is changing for the better. We’re moving away from static, boring ads to more engaging ads. This shift reminds me of the evolution of Google Shopping ads in their infancy to where they are now.
In the beginning, and even when Google Shopping became a strictly paid platform, many advertisers didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Today, Shopping campaigns are a must for the majority of e-commerce advertisers.
I don’t believe the shift from static to dynamic ads will have as big an impact, but advertisers utilizing ad customizers will be ahead of the game.
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