PPC Chat Streamcap – PPC Trending

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) hosted a fun PPCChat with the theme of “PPC Trending.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: What are some trends, quantitative and/or qualitative, that you have seen in PPC throughout 2011?

  • Sitelinks are only good because of the real estate they take up. People dont seem to click on them for the most part. – John Lavin (@johnnyjetfan)
  • More and more advertisers are entering the field. Competition is increasing, some costs are as well. Makes PPC a tougher space. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • Definitely ad enhancements to increase CTR – eg – ad extensions. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • Google’s rate at which they make changes to ads has increased over the year. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Increasing competition across industry verticals. More players in the game realizing the importance of paid search advertising. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • By and large increasing cost-per-clicks having to do with increased competition and reliance on paid search. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • 2011 has been the year of change (again!). New ad enhancements in both search and display. – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
  • Competition increasing. – Bassovita (@bassovita)
  • More people talking about mobile PPC, but they’re still not fully utilizing it (it’s been the “year of mobile” for like 3 yrs). – John Lee (@John_A_Lee)
  • Refining Campaigns & Ad Groups for controlling & testing Keywords, Text Ads & Ad Extensions (for GA) is a big trend. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Loving the merged headline/desc1 in ppc ads. Looks more like organic listings, and improves CTR’s. – Joseph McConellogue (@DigitalMrktr)
  • General search trend – brands becoming more important. Especially now with social extension and Google+ direct connect. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • Probably the biggest trend is the blurring of lines between paid & organic on the SERPs. Also, a social component emerged this year (though introduced through ratings last year). – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • Google is keen on getting more ad formats in the SERP. (Extensions in video, etc). – Emily Las (@emlas)
  • There’s always the huge increase in search volume come this time of year (holidays), making KWs more competitive, more expensive. – Eric Farmer (@click_eric)
  • Excluding yesterday’s downtime, adCenter has been attempting to improve more rapidly to meet search advertisers expectations. – Nicole Mintiens
  • Localization — local search has become a tremendous focus for both the engines & advertisers. – Emily Las
  • Bigger push to display. New targeting methods & new display ad builder – making it easier, better results…? – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • A trend I’d like to see for 2012 is more focus & control keyword targeting by match type. i.e. kill the Low Search Volume filter! – James Svoboda
  • Seems like Google is limiting the data available to us SEM/SEO’ers. with “unknown” keyworsd and “other” ad positions. – Joseph McConellogue
  • Q1.1: What have these trends meant to your conversion & revenue numbers? Increases? Decreases? Stagnant?
    • Certainly more to keep track of (as if there wasn’t enough). Hasn’t had major impact on performance. – John Lee
    • Lots of “better” targeting in the display network. Topics, interest categories, etc. – Michelle Morgan
    • Sitelinks in particular = higher CTR, more users in funnel, more $$ made on Trademark terms. – Emily Las
    • Increasing competition across verticals makes it easier to justify budget increases to capture qualified traffic. – Nicole Mintiens
    • Tracking is harder as we do not have all of the data for the new features just yet. – Mark Kennedy
    • Seems like the most recent trends have made running PPC on your own far more difficult. In-house or agency is a must now. – Neil Sorenson
      • Couldn’t agree more. PPC is no longer for the do-it-yourselfer. – Matt Umbro
        • Also calls for using more advanced tools, increased need for automation where possible. – Emily Las
    • Increased real estate with sitelinks, extensions etc has increased CTR on Brand terms & CPC’s & competition on NonBrand. – Bryant Garvin (@BryantGarvin)
    • Much harder to track how ads are displayed and knowing what works, by the time you combo all variants you are left w/10 imps. Also, a push towards large scale head terms (fueled by Google Instant) is frustrating. – Chris Kostecki
    • Really difficult to figure out what’s working and WHY it’s working. Too many new changes before I can test the old ones. – Michelle Morgan
    • Seems like the specifics will be harder to track performance against. i.e. post click performance of keywords/ads (PPC & SEO). – Joseph McConellogue

Q2: Why do you believe average PPC cost-per-clicks are rising?

  • More people are geting into the game. – John Lavin
  • Competition is increasing. – PurePPCCom (@pureppccom)
    • Mostly, plus if they go to top/bottom only. – Mark Kennedy
  • More people coming into the space, realizing the benefits, and being willing to pay for them. Increased PPC competition, but more so the fact that Panda killed SEO for some businesses & they are now doing PPC. – Matt Umbro
    • I agree re: Panada, they still want that search traffic, even if they have to pay for it. – Chris Kostecki
  • Competition is increasing & what was once “free” (ie SEO) now is pushing into Paid/PPC. – Bryant Garvin
  • Reached a tipping point (or almost) against traditional media, more money in = more competition. – Chris Kostecki
  • More Competition, for an advertising medium that consistently performs well across most verticals. – James Svoboda
  • Avg CPCs have been increasing as long as I’ve been in PPC. Not new. But it is changes in competition mostly. – Bryant Garvin
  • Increased competition for sure. But also better tracking — willing to place high bids for high profit kws. – Claire Remmetter (@cremmetter)
  • Increase in advertisers and their respective budgets are growing faster than the volume of searches. – Joseph McConellogue
  • Not just more competition though they have made it increasingly more “crucial” to be in a #TOP position so you need to bid up. – Bryant Garvin
  • Competition, barriers to entry are very low. Plus better converting websites higher CPC’s affordable? – James Hume (@zerospin)
  • As discussed already, but blending of organic and paid listings. Is organic position #1 as important when the top PPC ads have so many features including sitelinks, product images, phone #s, etc. – Matt Umbro
    • Brilliant question. I’d side w/the bells & whistles for the click, but position #1 still important to achieve (for QS). – Emily Las
    • Organic #1 is even more important because lower positions are getting pushed even farther down the SERP. – Eric Farmer
    • Yes…it’s still free traffic. & a lot of folks still don’t trust ads. – Chris KOstecki
  • Also PPC Hacks bidding for clicks instead of conversions! Good thing there are none of those here. – James Svoboda
  • One possible factor, Google tightening quality requirements and people bidding up to maintain position. – Dennis Petretti
  • Lots of focus on PPC as Social factors come into SERP minimizing control w/SEO (and scaring some marketers). – Emily Las
  • Can’t ignore the rise of CRO and sites/conversion funnels becoming more efficient. – Chris Kostecki
  • More people using AdWords (due to drive by Google) who don’t understand how to target KWs hence unnecessary inflated CPC’s. – Andrew Baker
  • Possibly the negative vibe of “tail terms” in an adwords account. e.g. – “Low search volume”. – Mark Kennedy
  • Not just more competition, but I think more highly optimized competition – more people bidding on tail/well-targeted keywords. – David Fothergill (@fothergilld)
  • Many companies have increased their budgets for online advertising. – Bassovita
  • Can’t forget we are at the mercy of Google in terms bid pricing. It’s their auction & they can set the minimums. – Emily Las
  • Maybe b/c I am just w a brand now, but I’ve seen cpc’s coming down, especially w more targeted terms. – Chris Kostecki
    • That’s awesome. I think you’re brand is doing really well. People associate the product w/ your brand now. I know i do. – Michelle Morgan
      • “Official Site” is a powerful headline (especially when the domain backs it up). – Chris Kostecki
    • Really depends on the brand and the industry my industry it is increasing some even on brand stuff. – Bryant Garvin
    • It definitely depends. I’ve seen some trending down, others the complete opposite. – Cassie Allinger (@_CassieLee_)
  • Markets are always growing, more and more advertisers are becoming sophisticated (or switching from yellow pages to search). – Rick Galan (@RickGalan)

Q3: Discuss a unique trend or set of competitive metrics you review that has been highly beneficial for optimization?

  • Sitelinks rarely get clicked on, but ads w/ sitelinks benefit from added real estate. I now make as many sitelinks as possible. – John Lavin
  • Tracking sitelinks independent of KWs w/3rd party tool (i.e. Marin, Kenshoo) then optimize, test based on Orders/Revenue. – Emily Las
  • Top vs. Side/Other is a competitive metric that has changed how I gauge “Statistically Significant” in AdWords. – James Svoboda
  • I get query trend data from our G rep. Let’s me know if fluxes in leads are my fault or just an overall trend. – Michelle Morgan
  • I’ve been breaking down more and more adgroups by match type, especially since the launch of the new BMM. – Mark Kennedy
  • Impression share on MVP kws. – Lisa Sanner
  • Step 1-Think of ads to test. Step 2-Locate the one I’m least likely to click. Step 3-Test it. It almost always wins CTR & Convs. – Claire Remmetter
  • Custom segments, and managing within those buckets that make sense to my business. – Chris Kostecki
  • Good to track est. SV trends for KWs so you can budget accordingly month over month. – Eric Farmer
  • Also been doing “buzz harvesting” — using social post engagement data to fine-tune messaging – it works! – Emily Las
  • Rating stars (especially for ecommerce) proving successful / competitive advantage. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Segment by hour to use ad scheduling and advanced bidding. – Lisa Sanner
    • Wish you could do more than 6 separate hr bids/day. – Claire Remmetter
  • Social can be major optimization tool. How people talk about something, affects how they search for it. – Emily Las
    • Yep, I mine FB posts on client wall to find new keywords. Have found some gems. – Lisa Sanner
  • Impression share is very useful also using Insight for Search http://t.co/R9KrPv2E alot! – James Hume
  • Impression share vs Click share data especially on Brand terms is a huge benefit. – Bryant Garvin
  • Search funnels under to get more info on how conversions are happening, how long, how many clicks, etc. – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
    • Multi Channel Funnels in GA as well! – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Been using the word “layers” a lot lately in speaking to PPC optimization. The more layers we create the more we have to work with. – Emily Las
  • Merging custom reports with advanced segments in GA. Going beyond clicks, page views, and time on site. – Joseph McConellogue

Q4: What specific trends differ when comparing keyword based advertising to audience based advertising (ie: Google vs FB)?

  • Audience needs a more fresh message. Harder to get sales from an audience. – Chris Kostecki
  • Number of clicks and impressions at the highest level. – Matt Umbro
  • Obvious answer… intent. – Joseph McConellogue
  • Well, your image is as important as the text on FB at times. Adcopy alone may not cut it like on Adwords. – Mark Kennedy
  • I would say the level of intent is different. – MarketingProfs (@MProfsEvents)
  • KW-based vs. Audience-based are diff ball games. Trends in FB advertising are much more fickle, less staying power. – Emily Las
  • Ad optimization… more often & different messaging for FB vs. search for example. – Crystal Anderson (@CrystalA)
  • Costs can be less but I’ve seen far less conversions with audience targeting because you have much less say so overall. – PurePPCCom
  • However, the more variables involved in the ad (image/text/URL/etc) – the more optimization layers. – Emily Las
  • Pull vs Push marketing. KW they are “searching”, FB/Audience you are trying to grab their attention in the middle of ADHD land. – Bryant Garvin
  • I find kws to have intent (use benefits) but audience has the right potential (use emotions). Not extremely easy to get overlap. – Michelle Morgan
  • Visitors from audience targeting might not know as much about the product, very different from proactive searchers. – James Hume
  • Ads need to be updated more often in FB than in Google. – Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey)
  • FB ads especially need to go to fan pages more often than not. – Matt Umbro
    • Make sure fan page is optimized so you’re not just wasting those clicks. – Eric Farmer
  • Also rotate more ads than you would in search.. forget a/b testing… go with a/b/c/d testing! – Crystal Anderson
  • I’ve noticed conversion rates dip after a month or so running ads on Facebook. It’s important to rotate either the targeting of facebook ads or offer/creative. – George Revutsky (@MyNextCustomer)
  • Ad fatigue is a real problem on Facebook. The same users see the same ads. Ad refreshes on FB are necessary much more often. – Neil Sorenson
  • Banner vs Search, TV & Print VS Search, Audience is about education grabbing the “potential customers”. – Bryant Garvin
  • I think FB is less “trend” than “blip.” Hard to sustain. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

Q5: How do you portray and explain to clients how their campaigns are trending (ie: graphs, analysis, etc)?

  • Graphs and written findings MUST supplement the report data when presenting to clients. Paint that picture! – Emily Las
  • Step back to look at trends, 3, 6, & 12+ month views. Pretty graphs help. – James Svoboda
  • All of the above and more. Reports, Emails, lots of communication. – Mark Kennedy
  • Analysis! Macro level charts/graphs w/ micro level detail. MVP KW performance can vary month 2 month, so micro level is needed. – Joseph McConellogue
  • Graphs & Charts are a must for portraying trending to clients. Month/Month most often. – Cassie Allinger
  • All of the above! Important to not just show data, but explain as well. – Crystal Anderson
  • Pictures are worth a thousands words, whether its internal or external clients their attention span can’t handle the details. – Bryant Garvin
  • I also abuse the phrase “marry up” – but do it…Use the engines, Analytics, etc- marry up micro/KW data to show macro trends. – Emily Las
  • Depends on the client, really. I like to focus on hard metrics: sales and revenue. That keeps them happy. – George Revutsky
  • Write ups are good, and I like what I get from my agency, but I also like the consistency of a graph. I feel like I am being had if I am talking about ROI 1 week, and the next week it is AOV. – Chris Kostecki
    • Definitely is good to have, I’m not as visual and prefer everything clearly explained. – Matt Umbro
  • The key to written findings is taking that analysis and making it actionable. Propose optimizations/testing/etc. – Emily Las
  • Agency write ups tend to focus on positive, no agency wants to be pessimistic or bearer of bad news, but that’s what clients need. – Chris Kostecki
    • Good to point out bad as an agency so you can offer recommendations for improvement. – Matt Umbro
    • 100% agree. Always call yourself out & have a solution or let them know you’re working on 1 – before they call it out! – Crystal Anderson
  • Also, more important than indiv metrics (vol) are the rates. CTR, CVR, ROI more important than # of clicks, conversions, & revenue. – Chris Kostecki
  • Q5.1 Do you find the trending graphs within the AdWords (and now adCenter) interface to be valuable? Why or why not?
    • Consistently showing the same trends. High level, w data below the surface if they have the time or inclination (most dont). – Chris Kostecki
    • Graphs are good to show clients, but I prefer to write an in-depth analysis that clearly explains performance. – Matt Umbro
    • They are the *most* valuable for me, cost/conversion in adwords lets me know what is happening at a glance. – Chris Kostecki
    • High level yes. But when getting into specifics, those graphs are thrown out the window. – Joseph McConellogue
    • I see them as “symptoms” that point me in the right direction to really find out what is wrong. Always have to dig more. – Luke Alley
    • Yes. Useful to spot dips and spikes that need further investigation. Much easier to see then when looking at numbers. – Dennis Petretti
    • Graphs in AdWords can be intriguing but deeper/better insight is found within Analytics. – Nicole Mintiens
    • I use Google Analytics > Advertising, E-commerce & especially MCF Reports – clients love those, always get a “rightttt I see”! – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
    • Graphs/trending are great ways to quickly spot trouble and dig in to perform “ad-endectomies.” but are tools, and just like any other they are only as good as the person wielding them. – Bryant Garvin
    • No, don’t really use them. Not enough context. – Theresa Zook

Q6: As we move into 2012 what are some PPC trends you expect to see over the next year?

  • I expect to see more social integration with paid search. – Lerna Terpanjian (@Lerna)
  • Being in #mobile, I’m expecting increased volume in addition to higher CPCs. – Claire Remmetter
  • I’m hoping to see mobile campaigns get more popular. With all the smart phones out there everyone should have mobile campaigns! – PurePPCCom
  • Hmm I’m thinkin competition is probably going to increase. – Cassie Allinger
  • Not sure it’s a ‘trend’, but very curious to see the social extension and +1’s impact on AdWords. – Dennis Petretti
  • I expect to see CPCs to further increase. – John Lavin
  • More Beta products and ad extensions. Also the continued disambiguation/disintegration of SEO VS PPC in SERPs. – Bryan Garvin
  • I think phone calls (and associated metrics) are going to get more features and exposure. – Matt Umbro
  • Bigger focus on hard metrics. Less focus on clicks. More focus on conversions. – George Revutsky
  • More social, more mobile, more “media” blending. – Crystal Anderson
  • A lot more social, and more linking to offline activity (sales). – Chris Kostecki
  • Broken Record Alert: Competition. – Nicole Mintiens
  • In 2012, even more settings for tablets. – Eric Farmer
  • More push to ‘keywordless ads’ from Google. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I’m “hoping” that the major search engines will follow the trends & start providing relevant metrics that match the trends. – Cassie Allinger
  • Increased monetization of SERPs… more pixels dedicated to ads and/or increase in CTR for ad locations. – James Svoboda
  • I will become increasingly annoyed at the pressure to incorporate social media even if it’s not appropriate. – Theresa Zook
  • More ways for Google to increase their bottom line. So, more developments like extensions that increase CTR & clicks. – Neil Sorenson
  • Can see PPC turning even more to CPA based marketing ‘the system’ doing more of the ‘per click’ stuff. – James Hume
  • Mobile going to become even more essential to companies. Mobile Tracking & optimization will become more efficient. – Bryant Garvin
  • I expect to see more vertical specific ad types – retail, travel, auto, etc. – Rick Galan
  • I wonder if at some point they test ads in the seo results. Maybe less up top and more mixed in. – Mark Kennedy
  • More mobile features and more seamless integration from adCenter with Adwords. – Nicole Mintiens
  • I’m hoping the GDN figures out it’s mobile location targeting so it actually works. – Claire Remmetter
  • SoLoMoPPCSEO will be a session at conferences. – Michelle Morgan
  • Google will find new creative (and un-trackable) ways of taking our money. – Emily Las
  • Neverending SERP stream, with ads sprinkled into organics (ala twitter and fb). – Chris Kostecki
  • In ad video pop outs and user interaction with the ad itself. – Andrew Baker
  • I expect the big brand/top spots to become more entrenched and tougher for new, smaller advertisers. – Lisa Sanner
  • Mobile searches. Smartphone market grew 7% last quarter. – Joseph McConellogue
  • Also think better and larger uptake of microdata from sites e.g. product data, review, events and dragging that into ads. – James Hume


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About the Author

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Minneapolis, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap gatherer, rare SEO Blogger, SEO Padawan, Tweeterer @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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