Google Instant and The Polarising of PPC

The introduction of Google Instant last Wednesday has thrown up many questions for PPC Account Managers the world over. Will my CTR plummet? And Do I need to change my whole account structure? Are just two on an ever increasing list. As we get to grips with the impact of Google Instant over the coming months those dedicated ones amongst us will quickly identify, evolve and act to increase on the KPIs we already measure ourselves by. Its in our nature, as it is with all those passionate about PPC to do so. Below are some of my thoughts on what could occur and become best practice as we move forward with Google Instant.

Death of Traditional Broad Match

The release of Modified Broad Match earlier in the year was a great addition to the PPC armoury. Those advocates of traditional broad match teamed with a lengthy, quality researched negative keyword list (which includes myself) still found rich pickings targeting niche markets and the tail. Where (session-based) broad match was applied by Google with little defence or opt out from those broad matchers amongst us, Instant Search could prove more deadly. The ability of instant search to serve new ads every three seconds makes short tail broad match laced with peril. Aside from irrelevant impressions being served along the search in real time, the application of broad match keyword usage could prove just too costly. Both in subsequent irrelevant clicks and the cost in effort involved in optimising an account to defend against an immeasurable related broad match threat.

3 Second Impressions

Google’s ‘3 second rule’ on impressions is frankly about as brutal as it could be, given their own admission that the average user takes 9 seconds to enter a search term. I’m no touch typist but certainly no slouch, however the vast majority of people can’t find the correct key to type next in three seconds, let alone know at that stage their search term before they’ve begun. Yes SEO circles may say you’re not charged by impression so why the panic but indirectly you are and the cost will be a high one. Increased irrelevant impressions harm CTR, which lowers quality score which raises CPC. As mentioned by @richardfergie on the recent @kelvinnewman podcast, these problems will affect all PPC advertisers on a level playing field so its a universal handicap. Clients the world over though will want to know why they are paying more for their orders and leads and the explanation, although valid, may not cut it.

Quality Score

The quality score algorithm has always proved a problem for those of us that see the dreaded ‘low search volume’ enter our accounts. Experienced PPC Analysts and Account Managers that target niche markets or the long tail do so for the great ROI and CPA that can be obtained, only to see poor quality scores attributed down to lack of keyword history and historical CTR data. This has been a flaw in the quality score for too long but hopefully instant search may just start to address some of the issues. Instant search already seems to be pushing the long tail, albeit through suggested search. This process of auto fill will help those of us looking for a solution to delve that bit deeper into the web for our answers and for the masses at large, condition their searches to a format that both us and Google would like them to use. Hopefully this change in the methodology of search will start to create richer history’s for niche and long tail keywords to combat current quality score issues and cement the foundations for low volume keywords to start finding favour in search.

Increases In Short Tail

In this current age of impatience people don’t like to type any longer than they have to. All of us are guilty of using Google suggest currently to get to our info that bit quicker, especially auto completing for sites we visit regularly. It’s become an intrinsic part of the search process for us all that we would surely miss it if the functionality was removed. Instead of with Google Suggest where we see the correct keyword and click this has now moved on with Google Instant to there’s what I’m looking for and click. This change will make bidding on the short tail essential especially for brands and those trying to pre-emptively rank for high CPC mid length terms.

Reduction in Mid Length Keyword Searches

Google Instant as discussed above looks to be an attempt to polarise search. For one part driving more short tail to brands and informational searches, the other to more expansive long tail. This newly conditioned way of search should suit both Google in serving more accurate content and and advertisers for getting exposure to niches and the long tail. A browse through suggested terms on Google Instant does seem to back this up. A reduction in the size of the suggest box from a 10 pack down to a new 5 pack ,although necessary so as to not dominate the SERPs results, has led to a point where Google has to cover all the bases in less space. The architecture of Google Instant has dictated this so suggested keywords featured should see an increase in traffic to the detrimental affect of those mid term keywords.

Account Architecture

One final thought on account structure. As discussed above polarising of search should make PPC account structure based on separate short tail and long tail ad groups a must. Many of us already use this technique to marriage with user intent based on an ever refining search cycle, from initial search to final conversion. Google Instant however should make user searches by intent more defined for advertisers as to better identify, analyse and target through ever more appropriate ad text.

Using Analytics New AdWords Beta to Find Exact Search Phrases

The recent release of the AdWords beta tab in Google Analytics is a long overdue and welcomed addition to the search engine marketers arsenal. Features such as day parts and the ability to cross analyse keys metrics is now far easier than before. My personal favourite being CTR vs bounce rate.

Accessing the keyword data relating to the exact search phrase has always been a problem, as AdWords only shows you the keyword in your account that triggered the search. Unless you use advanced filter Google Analytics hacks or slave over pages and pages of Search Query Reports, knowing the exact search terms referrals from the search engines was never known. Through Google analytics new AdWords Beta though, there is a new more accurate and convenient way of tracking those elusive terms.

From the AdWords beta tab select campaigns. In the first drop down select Keyword, then from the second metric select Matched Search Query. Now we can see the account triggered keyword and the exact search term side by side. Great for spotting new negative keywords or discovering new opportunities from search terms coming from broad or phrase match keywords.

The example above  is taken from an account with full ppc referrer analytics filters applied. As we can see from the first search term, ‘funky mirror’ is missing the bracketed search term but a matched search query is displayed. This shows the inconsistencies in advanced filters not capturing all the data, unlike this new facility.

Search Query Reports and advanced filters provide some great data. Where filters can be inconsistent and SQR’s a lack of interaction and an intense csv induced overload of information and data nightmare, especially in any medium or large account. This feature makes a far more consistent and coherent on screen approach to exact search term analysis.