More Data, Better Results: How We’re Leveraging Google Analytics 4 To Drive Growth

Working in Google Analytics 4

Whether it’s optimizing paid spend, identifying the right channel mix, updating the user flow to improve CVR, pulling a creative analysis, implementing technical SEO fixes, or more, as a growth marketing agency, our entire team is in Google Analytics on a daily basis. So as we prepare to say goodbye to our longstanding and trusted analytics sidekick, Universal Analytics, the team at Tuff has been busy testing the new Google Analytics 4 platform with a variety of our partners. 

In this blog, I’ll take a look at a few ways we’ve started to leverage Google Analytics 4’s new or updated features to gain analytics insights to drive better learnings and key results for our partners. 

Customize Your Reports To Find The Data That Matters Most

We’re not going to lie, Google Analytics 4 seems very cumbersome at first. For example, there are ‘bread and butter’ reports, like the ‘source / medium’ report from Universal Analytics that are no longer configured for you from the start. Little things like this make the transition to Google Analytics 4 a bit more painful than it probably needed to be. 

But, one area where Google Analytics 4 really shines is in the ability to customize reports and visualize data in a much easier and simplified way when compared to Universal Analytics. Head to any of the initial reports created on the left hand menu, such as the Acquisition Overview report, and you’ll see a few pre-populated graphs, charts, and cards. 

While the initial layouts of these reports are great to start, Google Analytics 4 allows you to go a bit further by customizing each report to your liking by adding any number of dozens of pre-made cards to make the report more efficient and useful for your specific needs. 

As an example below, I’ve added two new cards, ‘Conversions by Source/Medium’ and ‘Conversions by Device Category’ to my Acquisition Overview report. As a PPC Strategist driving paid traffic to a website, these are two metrics that I care about greatly, so adding these as cards to my Acquisition Overview report will allow me to find these metrics as quickly as possible without needing to go further into other reports. 

custom google analytics 4 report

Customizing reports with additional cards is simple, but so is creating entirely new reports to find the information most important for you. 

In the example report below, we’ve created a report detailing repeat purchasers by the campaign that brought them to the site and the length of time it took to make a repeat purchase. This information is particularly useful for understanding which campaigns are creating the most ‘sticky’ customers – those who are willing to come back to our partner’s site and purchase more than once. 

It took only a few minutes to create this report, and by adding it to our reports section via the Library feature, we’re able to quickly find and interpret this information within Google Analytics 4, thus enabling us to act and allocate our ad spend accordingly to the campaigns that are driving the most repeat purchasers:

google analytics 4 campaign report

Act Efficiently With The New & Improved Insights Tab

ga4 insights tab

One of my personal favorite features of Google Analytics 4 is the new and improved Insights tab. First released in Universal Analytics, the Insights tab has gotten a new facelift in Google Analytics 4 and is offering a simpler, more efficient way to find important insights to help drive marketing decisions.

By simply opening the Insights tab, we’re presented with a few pre-configured sections to help spark our data investigation and find key information driven by Google’s AI, including: 

  • Basic Performance
  • Demographics
  • User Acquisition
  • Traffic Analysis
  • Technology
  • eCommerce

But, it doesn’t stop there. To find the exact measurements we’re looking for, we can type in a quick sentence to find the relevant data quickly. 

The key benefit of these insights is efficiency – while you may be thinking of data that you want to find, many times you may be unsure of the best way to configure your reports to find this data, especially when using a new platform like Google Analytics 4 that requires a learning curve. Instead of setting up a new report or editing an existing report, hop up to the search bar and type in exactly what you are looking for and you may just be surprised at how efficient and easy it is to use this enhanced Insights feature.

By typing into the search bar exactly what I wanted to see – in this case, ‘revenue and transactions and users by channel last month’ – I’m presented with a clear table that I can view in platform, share a link to, or download in PDF, PNG, or CSV format to share elsewhere. 

This insights tab has proven particularly useful early on when learning Google Analytics 4 as I’ve been able to find the most relevant information quickly, without needing to edit or configure existing or new reports. 

Conversion Paths to Determine Where Your Budget Should Be Allocated

Conversion paths and model attribution is one feature of Universal Analytics that all growth marketers love to use when looking to find a clearer picture of how their various marketing efforts are interacting with each other and contributing to traffic and revenue, especially as channel diversification becomes more and more important. Luckily, Google Analytics 4 has kept this feature and, in my opinion, improved it further by making it easier to use and more insightful, allowing growth marketers to more efficiently find the insights to their user paths that are most valuable in order to take this information and act on it.

Now living in the new ‘Advertising’ section and under the ‘Attribution’ dropdown, the Conversion paths section provides us with a clear look at which channels, sources, mediums, or campaigns are being credited at various touchpoints along the user journey. Take the following example below which shows the various touchpoints of the user journey for purchases for an eCommerce partner:

ga4 purchase flow

How can we use this information to drive better marketing decisions? 

First, what we can notice right away is that the Paid Social channel gets the most conversion credit out of any channel in the early touchpoints. However, as we get later into the user journey, Paid Search becomes the channel that is gaining the most conversion credit.

This means, for this example, that the Paid Social channel is highly important for our top-of-funnel marketing efforts. Users who later make a purchase are coming to the site first from Paid Social more than any other channel. So, it’s critical that we continue our top-of-funnel marketing efforts on this channel, and if possible, look to expand here to introduce the brand to more people via Paid Social since we know that these users are likely to convert.

On the other side, Paid Search is receiving the most conversion credit for late touchpoints. For this example, this means that when users are ready to make a purchase, they are turning to Paid Search to find the site and make the purchase. Many times, we see the final touchpoint be from a Branded Paid Search campaign, as users are searching for the brand name on Google to be taken to the site and make their purchase. 

Additionally, Email is playing a crucial role across all steps of the user journey. We can see Email as a top three channel across the early touchpoints, mid touchpoints, and in particular at the late touchpoints. Email is proving to be incredibly important in nurturing the user along the journey from initial interaction to final purchase.  

Universal Analytics 3 Says Goodbye in Less Than a Year

Although you may be inclined to push your Google Analytics 4 transition to as close to the cutoff date as possible, we recommend familiarizing yourself with the new analytics platform as soon as possible to begin enjoying some of the new features and benefits. Play around with the new layout, test and configure new reports, and you’ll soon find ways to enhance your marketing efforts in conjunction with Google Analytics 4 like some of the ways detailed above.

 

team working on google ads

How Much Do Google Ads Cost?

team working on google ads

Author’s note: This post was originally published in 2020, it has since been updated!

Whether you work in eCommerce or simply market your business online, you’ve likely heard of cost-per-click (CPC) advertising in which the advertiser is charged each time their ad has been clicked and the user is redirected to the advertiser’s website. CPC is the primary way that advertisers are charged when running Google Ads along with other first tier search engines, but what advertisers don’t always know, however, is how much Google Ads cost.

With CPC advertising, advertisers will typically place bids on keyword phrases relevant to their target audience. When a potential customer searches for this keyword phrase, search results will display the advertisement. Among the first-tier search engines that offer CPC advertising, Google reigns supreme. This makes sense, as the search giant controls nearly 90% of its market share and has around four billion users.

This degree of market reach is both astounding and unequaled across other online advertising venues like Facebook or Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Advertising). Google Ads’ dominance is such that, for many small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs), it represents the only online forum in which they advertise. In fact, of the 65 percent of SMBs that invest in CPC advertising, the vast majority utilize Google Ads. Since it can make up a majority of your online advertising, how much Google Ads cost becomes an important consideration.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. You may read online that Google Ads average between $1 and $2 per click. For SMBs, this can come out to $9,000 to $10,000 a month. That’s not chump change for anyone, much less a small business. 

If you wonder why so many businesses fork over that kind of cash, consider this: Google Ads offers an average return of $8 to every $1 spent on advertising. That’s a lot of “averages,” however, and it doesn’t tell the whole story. To learn the truth of Google Ads’ cost, and how this investment works, requires a little more digging.

Google Ads Cost By Campaign Type

As stated above, how much Google Ads cost depends on your targeted keywords. If you want to target a keyword like “insurance,” for example, get ready to lay out some cash. As the most expensive keyword, “insurance” has cost as much as $54.91 per click. Keyword bidding aside, the type of campaign you choose determines the way in which your charges accrue. 

Your Google ads cost will accrue differently based on which of the six types of campaigns you pursue. These campaigns include:

  • Search ads
  • Display ads
  • Discovery ads
  • Shopping ads
  • YouTube ads
  • Performance Max

The type of cost associated with each appears in the table below.

Campaign Type Cost Options
Search CPC
Display CPC, Viewable CPM (cost per mille or cost per 1,000 viewable impressions)
Discovery CPC
Shopping CPC
YouTube CPV for video discovery ads and instream ads, CPM for bumper ads and instream ads
Performance Max CPC

Google Search Ads

The most basic of Google Ads, search ads display within Google search results. If you perform a search, you will typically see at the top of the page sponsored links marked as ads. Search ads are CPC and have the benefit of display in the same spot searchers look for information. The shared format of these ads and standard search results helps ensure users see them. The familiar look also encourages more clicks.

Example of Google Search Ads

Google Display Ads

Google has a network across various industries that appeal to a wide range of audiences. These websites have opted into Google Ads to display advertising across the Google Display Network. Website owners receive payment per click or impression. 

For advertisers, Google display ads put content directly in front of audiences while they visit a website of interest. Display ads typically take the form of images that draw the eye away from a site’s written content. Display ads determine price through CPC or viewable cost per mille (CPM). CPM measures cost through viewable impressions. Viewable impressions occur simply as the ad appears, and do not require a click. For CPM advertising, Google Ads cost a set amount per 1,000 impressions.

Discovery Ads

CPC determines the cost of one of Google’s newest types of advertising, Discovery ads. These are native ads that appear across multiple Google-owned properties, including the YouTube homepage, Google Discover feed, and Gmail feeds. Visually compelling and designed for mobile devices, these ads rely on the “power of intent.” This means that Google uses information derived from a customer’s site visits, video viewing, map searches, and more to determine the content of the advertising. Learn more about why we love Google Discovery Ads at Tuff.

Highly targeted marketing like this has an obvious benefit in that it should automatically appeal to customers’ tastes. At the time of its launch, Google announced that Discovery ads would reach a global audience of 800 million users.

Shopping Ads

These types of ads allow you to promote individual products or lines, rather than a brand as a whole. Like other types of Google Ads, these appear on search engine results when a customer searches for a product or service. 

For example, if you were to search for “running shoes,” you might see a detailed ad on the right side of your screen for Nikes. Shopping ads can include prices, photos, and customer ratings. As with other types of search ads, these Google Ads run a set CPC.

Shopping Ad Feed Apothékary

YouTube Ads

YouTube video ads open up a vast marketplace for advertisers engaged with Google Ads. In fact, YouTube represents the third-most visited website in the world, behind only Facebook and Google. There exist many types of YouTube ads, most of which appear either before or during viewable content. 

The cost of YouTube ads depends on which type of ad you run. Video discovery ads are cost-per-view (CPV), while bumper ads are CPM. Instream ads that run while the viewer engages with a video can be either CPV or CPM.

However you can also choose to use a Maximize Conversions bidding strategy when utilizing conversion optimized YouTube campaigns known as Video Action campaigns. In the case of Video Action campaigns, advertisers are charged by CPC.

Performance Max

Performance Max is the newest campaign type revealed by Google Ads in early 2022, and it relies heavily on algorithmic bidding. It also requires advertisers to input a wide variety of assets including video, display graphics, shopping feeds, and even search copy. With all of the assets given to the campaign in an ‘asset group,’ Google uses its algorithm to determine when and where to show ads created with combinations of the assets provided.

Performance Max campaigns are currently charged by CPC, but advertisers are not allowed to set their own CPC. Instead, advertisers can choose between Max Conversions and Max Conversions Value bidding strategies with or without a target CPA. Learn more about how Tuff clients are leveraging Google’s Performance Max campaigns.

Here’s how Performance Max can use similar assets in different formats – both on the Discover and Youtube placements.

Example of Performance Max Assets

Google Ads Cost By Industry

You might assume that since you know the average CPC of Google Ads, along with the method for measuring cost, you’re ready to build a budget. In reality, this is not the case. As illustrated in the example of “insurance” mentioned above, Google Ads cost vastly more or less across different industries.

Below, you can see a table that compares the CPC of Google Ads from search campaigns across various industries. The data for this table was taken from actual Tuff-managed search campaigns from January 2021 – May 2022.

Industry Average Search CPC based on internal data
Business Services $16.38
Career & Employment $2.91
eCommerce $1.81
Financial Services $3.35
Legal Services $6.31
Online Education $4.62
Online Health Providers $2.65

This table is not meant to be exhaustive and only includes a handful of the countless number of industries in which companies are utilizing Google Ads to market their businesses. However, this snapshot could give you an idea of what to expect if you are in one of these industries looking to begin advertising with Google Ads.

You can also expect that Google Ads costs will differ widely within the same industry. For example, in the fashion industry, “activewear” and other exercise-related terms appear near the top in terms of cost. In this case, you can tie the difference to societal factors. In the wake of Covid-19, personal fitness saw a boom, as it gave consumers an excuse to leave their homes for a walk or run. 

This provides an important lesson: when the time comes to estimate the cost of your Google Ad campaign, you’ll need to consider a wide array of factors.

How to Estimate the Cost of Your Google Ads Campaign

To better understand how much a campaign or specific keyword will cost, you can employ Google Ads’ Keyword Planner. It’s important to understand that Google Ads’ cost is determined through ad auctions. As the advertiser, you set the maximum CPC you will pay. This bid then gets compared to the bids of other advertisers who targeted the same keyword. The higher your bid, the better your ads’ placement in the campaign type of your choosing.

Before you start bidding on keywords, you will want to use the Keyword Planner tool to help outline your Google Ads cost. This tool allows you to search for specific keywords and see their historical cost, along with cost forecasts.

Google’s Keyword Planner essentially reveals the industry benchmarks for your targeted keywords. Remember, if you want better placement in search results, you will need to bid higher than the benchmark provided in the average CPC. Keyword Planner also estimates the number of clicks and impressions your ad will receive on a daily basis. Between this and your CPC bid, you can easily derive an estimate for the cost of your campaign.

Once you define your targeted keywords and get an idea of their cost, you can create a daily or monthly budget for your Google Ads campaign. These budgets represent the maximum amount of money you will pay for a campaign across the chosen time period. This ability to control your ad spend makes advertising on Google a safe bet for your budget. Once you set your maximum bid and budget for Google Ads, you’ll suffer no surprises from unexpectedly high bills.

Quality Matters

Quality represents one final factor of Google Ads’ cost. In fact, the quality score ranks alongside your maximum bid as one of the most important factors that influence your AdRank, or the placement of your ads.

Google determines your quality score based on the relevance and quality of your advertising. More clicks on an ad will give you a higher overall Quality Score. Curious about how to raise this all-important score? 

There’s really no secret to it. If you create compelling ads with relevant keywords that deliver what the searcher expects, you’ll do just fine. The quality of your landing page will also affect your Quality Score, so make sure your website offers a compelling experience for its visitors. 

The Cost of Google Ads: It’s All Up to You

As you can see, many factors can influence Google Ads’ cost. Some of these come from clear-cut choices, such as the type of campaign you run and your maximum bid at an ad auction. Other things, such as industry competition, are outside of your control. 

Though you can’t control the cost of popular keywords, you can absolutely plan a campaign around creative phrases that precisely target your market. All it takes is a little research, some time on Keyword Planner, and a daily or monthly budget that reflects your means and goals. Put work into these, and you’ll start seeing those 8-to-1 returns before you know it.

running ads on spotify

Spotify Ads: How Our Clients Are Using This (And You Can Too!)

running ads on spotify

Testing new ad platforms to diversify the channel mix for your business is never a bad idea. The age-old adage of ‘don’t put all of your eggs in one basket’ is certainly true for growth marketing. 

The truth is, there are frequent changes to ad platforms, such as Facebook’s iOS 14 update in 2021, that can throw a wrench into a business’s advertising plans and have an impact on its revenue and growth. If you haven’t been spending your time diversifying your channel mix, or at the very least testing new ad platforms, chances are a major update to your primary advertising channel would have a negative impact on your business. 

At Tuff, we’re constantly looking for new channels to test for our partners, especially when the ad platform has specific features that could provide synergical benefits with the brand itself. One of these ad platforms we’ve been testing is Spotify Ads. 

Why Spotify Ads? Well, Spotify is by far the world’s most popular audio streaming service, holding 31% of the global streaming music subscription market, more than double their largest competitor, Apple Music, who holds just 15%. An opportunity to get a message out on a self-service ad platform with 381 million users? Yes, please! 

And we’re hardly the only ones – in fact, Spotify’s ad revenues increased 75% YoY in Q3 of 2021. Startups and businesses everywhere are leaning into Spotify Ads as a new channel to reach an engaged and targeted audience. 

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can do this too!

Compelling Targeting Options

As a growth marketer, is there anything better than a self-service ad platform? I mean, being able to set up an account and hit the ground running with ads is a thing of beauty. Spotify makes this easy, but it also makes targeting your ideal audience easy. In fact, Spotify has some downright cool targeting options that stand out, in addition to the classic demographic options like location, age, and gender. 

Some of the more interesting targeting options are on the Podcasts side of the house. It’s no secret Spotify is home to some of the most popular podcasts in the world, and getting the chance to advertise on them is huge. But what really stands out is the ability to prevent your ads from playing next to similar ads, also known as ‘Competitive Separation’, as well as the ability to exclude topics that don’t align with your brand, or even targeting relevant episode topics, known as ‘Content Controls.’ 

For example, an online education platform targeting adult learners may wish to ensure that they’re ads are not playing next to a competitor with similar offerings:

spotify ads targeting options

So, with Spotify Ads, you can not only target your ideal audience by demographic, but you can also narrow in on the the topics that most closely match your brand and offering, while ensuring that you’re not being played alongside your competitor. Pretty cool, right?

On the Music side of things, Spotify provides the ability to target audiences based on interests, real-time context (as indicated by the playlist they’re currently listening to), or genre. 

Audio or Video Ad Types

Another surprising attribute of Spotify Ads is the actual quality of the ads themselves, and the various ad types that are available. 

When targeting Music placements, brands can leverage Audio ads, as well as Video ads (either horizontal or vertical). For Podcast placements, ads are limited to Audio ads. But, even still, the Audio ads look and sound great. When running a Spotify Ads test for Tuff partner and device insurance provider, AKKO, we tested both Audio & Video ads. An example of how an Audio ad looks on a mobile device is below:

spotify ad example

Don’t have a professional voiceover artist to make a high quality Audio ad? Don’t worry – we didn’t either! Instead, we wrote a script (up to 90 words) and submitted it to Spotify to be read by a professional voice actor, and we were even able to select from a library of royalty-free music to use as a backing track. When the ad was returned within 48 hours, it was surprisingly and refreshingly professional. The cost for this audio creation? Nothing. 

Performance & Cost

You’ve made it this far and are convinced that Spotify Ads are at least worth a try. But how much do Spotify Ads cost? And, are there any downsides?

So far in this blog, I’ve had all good things to say about Spotify Ads. But I promise, this isn’t a sales pitch, and there are some cons that we’ve experienced in our campaign testing. Primarily, during our testing we learned that Spotify Ads are probably best used by businesses with a large ad budget – think 5 figures plus. 

Why? Because even though we’ve spent thousands of dollars on campaigns testing Spotify Ads, both Audio & Video ad types, we haven’t seen frequency get over 1.1, even when we geo-target, which means that the vast majority of users hearing the ads only heard them once per campaign. To increase this frequency and therefore your ads’ stickiness with the user, you’ll have to spend much more.

Additionally, we’ve experienced higher than average CPCs and CPMs when compared to similar ad platforms such as YouTube, at $5 and $23 respectively across all campaigns tested. But, we’ve also seen stellar play-thru metrics, surpassing what you can expect to find on other platforms like YouTube Ads, with most campaigns averaging an 89% or higher ‘Completion Rate’, ensuring the full message is being heard the vast majority of the time. 

In short, our testing has revealed that Spotify Ads are a great way to get your message heard all the way through by a targeted audience, but you can expect to pay a bit more for the privilege, especially if you want the user to hear your ad more than once.

Tracking Your Campaign Performance

Tracking the success of a campaign run on an audio-first platform is tricky, but there are ways that it can be accomplished. 

First, setting proper UTM tracking links on all of your ad creative will ensure that you’re tracking the clicks on your ads into Google Analytics. A simple source/medium combination of spotify/cpc works, with additional parameters like utm_campaign and utm_content for your campaign and ad specificity. 

You can take this further, and direct this UTM tagged traffic to a specific landing page optimized for Spotify listeners. For our partner AKKO, we developed and directed traffic to getakko.com/spotify and provided a special ‘first month free’ offer to entice sign ups. This offer matched the message delivered in our audio and video ads to tie the journey together for the user. 

With UTMs and a dedicated campaign landing page, we were able to ensure that any user that clicked through from our Spotify campaigns would be tracked effectively and efficiently in Google Analytics, siloed away from other traffic efforts.

However, being an audio-first platform means many users that hear ads won’t necessarily engage via a click to the website. In fact, the vast majority of users who your ad won’t click-thru. So how can you track sign ups more effectively? You can leverage the power of ‘Zero-party Data’.

What’s Zero-party data? Forrester Research first defined the term as follows:

“Zero-party data is that which a customer intentionally and proactively shares with a brand. It can include preference center data, purchase intentions, personal context, and how the individual wants the brand to recognize [them].”

For example, you can include a very simple question during your sign up or checkout flow – “How did you hear about us?” 

This method is incredibly effective at filling in the gaps that online tracking and attribution so often miss. 

Spotify Ads: Great at the Assist 

If you’re a business currently spending on channels like Facebook, Google, YouTube, and TikTok and you’re looking to explore a new advertising platform in 2022 to diversify your channel mix, consider Spotify Ads. 

With a self-service platform of audio and video ad capabilities, some nifty targeting options, and engaged audiences, Spotify Ads could provide you with a fresh, new channel to expand on your messaging efforts. Spotify ads might not rival what you can do on some of the other more established ad platforms like Google and Facebook, but this channel can play a strong role in increasing your brand’s awareness, favorability, and overall conversions and revenue.

typing on ipad

How To Build a YouTube Ad Strategy From Scratch

typing on ipad

Advertising on YouTube can be an incredibly effective and efficient way to reach your brand’s target audience. As the world’s 2nd most popular website, YouTube combines endless inventory opportunities with advanced targeting capabilities that enable you to reach your target audience at any stage of the funnel. 

In this blog, we’ll look at how our team at Tuff, a YouTube Ads Agency, builds a successful YouTube ad strategy from scratch, from audience identification to campaign subtype selection, even if you’ve never done it before.

‘Start With Why’

A successful YouTube ad strategy begins with identifying the goals of your campaign. What are you hoping to achieve with your YouTube ad campaigns?

Put simply, a YouTube strategy can be broken down into two primary objectives:

  1. Introduce the brand to targeted top of funnel audiences and optimize for low cost per views and high watch rates.
  2. Retarget to a variety of audiences based on length of time since last site visit and/or site interactions, as well as YouTube video viewers while optimizing for traffic to the site & conversions. 

Maybe you want to do a bit of both – prospecting and retargeting – and this would be encouraged as YouTube ads provide the capability to efficiently target top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel audiences. With YouTube ads, a truly successful strategy requires a lot of testing, across various audience types and campaign subtypes. 

Identify Your Audience Segments

Once you’ve decided on your primary campaign objectives, begin identifying the audiences you want to reach.

To keep track of all of the audience segments you are testing, and to help visualize the full funnel of your audience targeting approach, a simple spreadsheet like the one below can help.

Here, we’ve mapped out the audience types that we want to target at each stage of the funnel, the source of the audiences, the demographics, location, campaign objective, and ad type. More than anything, putting your structure ‘on paper’ helps to keep track of all of the audiences tested and their objectives.

YouTube audience testing plan

As mentioned earlier, YouTube provides many targeting options, which makes it so effective and efficient to use. We won’t go into every single available audience or targeting option in this blog (we’ll let Google handle that), but ultimately, what works best for you and your brand will only be discovered through efficient testing.

A few ideal targeting options for testing at the brand awareness level include affinity, in-market, and custom intent audiences. In short, affinity audiences are Google-created interest-based audiences similar to interest targeting on social ad platforms, while in-market audiences are audiences identified by Google as having purchase intent, or being “in-market,” for a specific product or service. 

custom intent audiences on YouTube

Custom intent audiences offer the chance to target users based on search terms that they have recently searched on Google. This audience type can be used for campaigns running on Google properties, and since YouTube is a Google property, this means that we can use custom intent audiences for our YouTube ad campaigns.

This is an excellent opportunity to put a brand-focused video in front of an audience that you know has actively been searching for your targeted keywords on Google. In our extensive testing of YouTube ads, we have consistently found custom intent audiences to be an effective audience type. 

If you’re looking to re-engage an existing audience of site visitors, YouTube ads provide an attractive opportunity to expand beyond the Google Display Network and social media by staying in front of your retargeting audiences with video ads.

Generally, we think of building retargeting segments of site visitor audiences in Google Analytics and importing them into Google Ads as the recommended way of creating segmented retargeting audiences due to the advanced audience creation filters available in Google Analytics that are not available in Google Ads. However, using Google Ad’s audience creation tool gives us the ability to target recent YouTube video viewers as a retargeting audience, building further on a YouTube advertising strategy and funnel that begins with brand awareness ads at the top.

In the sheet above, you can see that we have chosen segmented audiences to test both types of retargeting audiences – site visitors and ad viewers. Further segmentation of these audiences by the length of time since visit can also help you identify how often and for how long you should be retargeting to audiences.

Beyond simplistic ‘site visitor’ audiences lies the opportunity to get more creative with retargeting. For example, consider retargeting to product viewers and/or abandoned cart users if you are advertising for an eCommerce brand. These audiences are now a lot ‘warmer’ than someone who visited the site and bounced after a page or two. 

Choosing The Right Campaign Types & Measuring For Success: 

After establishing your goals and identifying the audiences you want to target, the real fun of campaign creation begins. 

In line with your campaign goals and audiences, you want to choose the right YouTube campaign subtype to give yourself the best chance of success and YouTube’s explanations of each provide a good reference point for which is best to select when:

If you are looking to drive awareness and introduce your brand at a low cost per view, consider pairing some of those top of funnel audiences we discussed earlier with non-skippable in-stream ads, outstream ads, or a custom video campaign with skippable in-stream ads and bumper ads. These campaign subtypes give you the best opportunity to introduce your brand at affordable costs, while also building your retargeting lists for future campaigns.

After you’ve warmed up your audience with brand introductions at the top of the funnel, consider beginning to optimize for conversions as your audiences move further down the funnel. With the Drive conversions campaign subtype, you can create a TrueView for Action campaign (soon-to-be ‘Video Action’ campaign) optimized to drive traffic to your site and increase conversions by encouraging more click-thrus with prominent CTA buttons, sitelink extensions, headline text overlays & more. 

Regardless of the campaign subtype you’ve selected, it’s important to identify and stick with a handful of KPIs for each level of the funnel. 

For campaigns that are awareness focused, it is best to measure your performance based on awareness metrics, such as cost per view, cost per thousand impressions, average watch times, video play-thru metrics, and cost per clicks. Remember, as we are introducing the brand, it is critical to measure success based on the interactions we would expect from someone who has never heard of your brand before. 

As you look to target further down the funnel with warmer retargeting audiences, your measurement KPIs should change and you should begin to monitor your conversion rates, view-thru conversions, and cost per conversions from your conversion-optimized TrueView For Action campaigns more closely.

Conclusion

Although we didn’t touch on creative in this blog post – an obvious key component to YouTube ad success – you can dive deeper into this blog post regarding channel specific ad creative best practices from Tuff’s genius Creative Strategist, Elle Ossello, to get insight on how to develop successful, high-performance ad creative.

YouTube ads

How to Create a YouTube Advertising Strategy (with Examples)

YouTube ads

With iOS 14 having a large impact on Facebook’s audience targeting and tracking capabilities, many brands have been left wondering how to replace the impressions & traffic they used to rely on getting from Facebook. Luckily for brands and advertisers, other options exist, and YouTube Ads is coming into its ‘golden age,’ providing an excellent opportunity to advertise on the world’s second most visited website. 

Not only does YouTube have more traffic than Facebook, YouTube’s average visit duration is far higher than Facebook’s, with users averaging 21 minutes and 56 seconds on the site compared to Facebook’s 10 minutes and 13 seconds. While we won’t suggest ditching Facebook Ads in this blog, we will show you why, with the right full-funnel approach in mind, YouTube Ads is an excellent option to help scale your paid traffic along with a couple of examples of how we’ve helped Tuff partners grow with YouTube Ads.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Before beginning your advertising journey on YouTube, it’s important to first ensure that you have the proper tracking configured on your website. For YouTube Ads, this means that the conversions you are hoping to track inside Google Ads should be configured with the Google Ads tag. In other words, importing goals from Google Analytics will not suffice. This is because a standard Google Analytics conversion does not also track view-thru conversions, but rather last click interactions. 

If, for example, you have been importing your ‘Transactions’ goal from Google Analytics into Google Ads to measure conversions, you will need to update your purchase conversion tracking with a new Google Ads purchase conversion tag.

I’ve spoken with many founders & marketers alike who have believed that their YouTube Ads were not successful during their previous attempts. Many times, when digging into the conversion tracking setup, I can see that they had been relying on imported Google Analytics goals and were missing view-thru conversions, leading to missing data and the inability to judge their campaign’s true impact. With YouTube Ads, it’s not uncommon to see low click-thru conversion volume, and this is where having access to view-thru conversions can help you measure your campaign’s true influence. 

There is a comparison that can be made here to a much older medium of advertising – the billboard. It’s impossible to know exactly how many impressions a billboard received, or how many sales converted because they saw a billboard and decided to make a purchase. Instead, its purpose is to drive brand awareness or help keep a brand top-of-mind. 

YouTube Ads can be viewed as a type of digital billboard – one which gives you the opportunity to drive brand awareness or stay in front of your prospects via thousands of impressions per day by putting your brand in front of where your prospects are. One very big difference, however, is that YouTube has more effective measurement via conversion and view-thru conversion tracking to prove whether it’s actually working to influence your bottom-line or not, as well as a slew of granular targeting options that makes it an option to test for nearly any brand. 

Introducing Your Brand With YouTube Ads

After your conversion tracking is set up correctly, it’s time to build out campaigns for success. Most importantly, think about your true campaign goal as you will use this to guide your campaign type and audience selection. This can also be thought of as stages in a funnel, and YouTube’s campaign and audience targeting options provide a way to get in front of targeted users with the right message no matter where they are in your funnel.

For top-of-funnel targeting, YouTube offers a variety of targeting options and campaign types that will help introduce your brand to targeted users at scale. When beginning a new campaign on YouTube, it’s best to test as many different targeting types as possible. Oftentimes when testing audience types for partners, we will find certain targeting types that work best for the particular offering or brand, and are able to push spend towards the campaigns that are driving the results. 

This is what we did for our partner, Sabio. Sabio offers online coding bootcamps and has some awesome testimonial videos on YouTube. We knew that with this solid creative and the right targeting approach, we could introduce the Sabio brand at scale and even drive conversions from a top-of-funnel branding approach. 

Example of a YouTube Ad

When launching our first batch of prospecting in-stream ads, we tested a variety of audience types and placement targeting options including affinity, in-market, custom intent, topics, and channels. After a few thousand dollars in spend, we quickly identified that campaigns with our chosen topics had the best CPA costs and conversion rates. Even better, because topics are made up of a wide selection of channels, inventory is plentiful, and we can comfortably scale our campaigns’ budgets. After hitting a successful CPA of $55.63 in our first full month of campaign testing in 2021, we’ve been consistently running YouTube Ads to drive sign-ups for Sabio since. 

While other targeting options did not perform as well for Sabio, that does not mean that they should be avoided altogether. 

When we set out to lower the overall Cost Per Sign Up for Tuff partner Bootcamp.com’s Anatomy Bootcamp product, we tested a variety of campaign types including Search and YouTube, and found surprising results.

When testing various options of audience targeting on YouTube, we found excellent results with non-branded Custom Intent audiences at the top of the funnel. So much so that we paused non-branded Search campaigns because while our non-branded Search campaigns had an acceptable average CPS of $11.25, our non-branded Custom Intent audience targeting on YouTube outperformed Search with a CPS of $3.55. 

Since we could safely assume that the users in the Custom Intent audience had recently searched Google for our targeted non-branded keywords, we are able to hit our target prospect, just at a different time and with different costs. 

Staying Top of Mind With Retargeting

You know that injury lawyer billboard you drive passed every time you get on the interstate? Yes, you do. Billboards work so well because of repetition. Online, we can achieve this with retargeting, and YouTube Ads do a great job of helping to keep your brand top-of-mind with effective retargeting options.

Still, creating retargeting audiences should require more thought and intention than simply setting up an All Users list and hitting play. This is an area in which YouTube Ads dominate the old faithful billboard any day of the week. Setting up various retargeting audiences based on the level of engagement the user has already taken will help you create winning audience targets and campaigns, and gives you the ability to tailor your message to your audience even further.

For Tuff partner and device insurance provider, AKKO, we knew that getting users to purchase device insurance from a relatively new name would require a fair bit of nurturing, and retargeting with YouTube Ads has 

Example of a YouTube Ad.

provided us the ability to retarget to users as they journey through the middle of the funnel to the bottom and finally to purchase by creating specific retargeting audiences at each stage. 

For the middle of the funnel, we began retargeting site visitors & ad viewers. For the bottom of the funnel, we retarget the most engaged site users based on on-site behavior metrics and actions, as well as those who have started the device insurance purchase process, but didn’t complete the journey. 

With this level of retargeting segmentation, we can provide CTAs and offers depending on the position of the user in the funnel, as well as test different creative or campaign types on different audiences. 

Since we know that our bottom of the funnel audience members are highly engaged and have shown the desired intent to purchase, we can nurture them a little further with a special offer, like getting their first month for $1, to help close the deal. 

Conclusion

YouTube Ads provides an effective & cost-efficient way to introduce your brand at scale, as well as successfully retarget to your users, staying top-of-mind throughout their purchase or conversion journey. If you’re ready to see how YouTube Ads can work for your business, reach out to our YouTube Ads agency.

 

Non-Branded Custom Intent Targeting on YouTube: Cut Your CPCs by 50%

Person reading a book about YouTube ads strategy.

It’s no secret that YouTube Ads are extremely effective if done right. The perfect combination of quality video creative with strong targeting can help a business achieve its online marketing goals, whether that is to increase brand awareness or increase on-site conversions. 

While placement targeting options such as channel, video, and topic targeting are all great options to reach your specific target on YouTube, YouTube audience targeting is also incredibly effective. But, going beyond Google, creating affinity and in-market audiences, and leveraging powerful Custom Audiences may help you achieve your best results – and, potentially save some money on expensive search terms. 

What are Custom Audiences?

Custom Audiences on Google can be created using recent keyword searches. However, only campaign types with placements entirely on Google-owned properties, such as YouTube campaigns, have the availability to create Custom Audiences that are created with people using keywords recently searched on Google. On non-Google owned properties, such as websites opted into the Google Display Network that your ad may show on, the Custom Audience is created with people with any of the search term interests or purchase intentions. 

When creating audiences using keywords, you have two options: create an audience using your branded keywords, or create an audience using non-branded keywords. 

When To Try Custom Audience Targeting on YouTube

With the ability to target the people who are searching for your targeted keywords in a potentially more cost-effective way, Custom Audience targeting is an exciting and effective audience type, particularly for industries with high search CPCs. This is often the case with non-branded keywords. 

Imagine, you are getting your best performance out of your non-branded search campaigns, but CPCs continue to rise. How else can you continue to get in front of people actively searching for your keywords if you don’t want to pay for ever-increasing search campaigns CPC prices? By creating a Custom Audience out of your non-branded keyword targets, and targeting this audience on YouTube, of course!

Additionally, if you already have video assets, this strategy is a no-brainer. To prove it, check out this example from a test we recently ran for our partner, Team Bootcamp. Team Bootcamp had already been highly successful at advertising their ‘Anatomy Bootcamp’ all-in-one online study tool with YouTube by targeting a list of highly matched YouTube channels. 

When looking to scale this success on YouTube and increase the volume of free trial sign ups, I knew that we would have to look for additional targeting options available. At the same time, we also had been testing a non-branded search campaign on Google that was yielding very promising conversion rates, but high CPCs, resulting in a cost per conversion that was higher than we were comfortable paying for. Enter our non-branded Custom Audience test!

To target those same keywords that we had proven to convert with search, we created a Custom Audience of non-branded keywords using the keywords that delivered the best results from our search campaign. 

Here is what the audience creation process looks like. As you can see, you simply plug in your keywords and Google will also provide audience insights on the right hand side.

youtube ad targeting

 

(Although Google recommends creating a Custom Audience using 50 or more search terms, I have actually seen better results when creating the audience using 5 terms or less.).

Before even spending $100, we saw excellent results, with a cost per conversion of less than a third of the cost from the search campaign. The combination of winning video creative with a highly targeted audience was producing great results. This signaled to us it was time to invest a greater percentage of our monthly ad budget in the YouTube campaign.

 

What If You Don’t Have Video Assets?

If you don’t have video assets but would like to try out a Custom Intent audience made up of actual search terms and not just “purchase interests,” you can still achieve this through using a campaign type with placements only on Google-owned properties, such as Gmail or Discovery. In fact, running a Google Discovery Ads campaign will also get you placements on YouTube mobile, without even needing a video ad.

This is a strategy we leveraged for Tuff partner, Dial + Bezel. When helping Dial + Bezel launch their brand new website and watch auction platform, we wanted to attract an engaged audience, but after testing a non-branded search campaign, we knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for this start-up to pay a premium on search CPC clicks. 

Instead, we again leveraged a non-branded Custom Audience and used it to target people searching for the keywords we tried paying for on search. Not only did we see CPCs of one-tenth of search, we saw on-site performance that was nearly identical, indicating that we were hitting the targeted audience that we wanted to hit, without having to pay for search CPCs.

Youtube Campaign Results

Even if you don’t have video assets and therefore can’t advertise on YouTube, you can still find your audience, and good results, using Custom Audiences on Discovery.

Conclusion

As the competition continues to increase year-over-year for placements in the top 4 results of Google Search ads, costs continue to rise for clicks across multiple industries. Although search campaigns have the highest intent targeting available, they also often have the highest costs. Utilizing Google’s Custom Audiences on Google-owned properties such as YouTube can give you the ability to reach your desired audience without breaking the bank.

tuff-the-biggest-mistake-most-businesses-make-when-investing-in-ppc

The Biggest Mistake Most Businesses Make When Investing in PPC

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and examples for you to use! 

What is the ROI on your PPC channels and how does it compare to your other digital marketing efforts?

If you can’t answer this question, you’re not alone.

When it comes to digital marketing, PPC is a critical piece of the client acquisition mix. Done right, it can bring you more leads, more sales, and more revenue. Done poorly, it can quickly become a big expense with minimal return.

After managing millions of dollars in ad spend, $4.4 million in 2020, to be exact, we’ve learned that one of the most critical components to account success is managing campaigns to an efficient ROI. It’s our favorite and most telling metric. Understanding ROI from your paid digital advertising campaigns means tracking leads from click to close and measuring revenue on a per-channel (or campaign) basis.

When you understand which campaigns and channels are actually generating revenue, you’ll know where you’re making or losing money and have a powerful data set to share with your fellow executives and investors.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to invest in Google, Bing, and YouTube for the long-term and learn about the unlimited opportunity to maximize your ROI.

How to identify an ROI target

When it comes to maximizing your results with PPC, the first step is to identify an ROI target. While this can be difficult to track, it’s one of the most important KPIs for your business and advertising health.

How do you determine an ROI target for your PPC efforts? Here’s how we do it:

(Sales – Marketing Cost) / Marketing Cost = ROI

So, if a PPC campaign generated $1,000 sales and the PPC campaign cost $100, then the campaign ROI is 900%.

($1000-$100) / $100 = 900%

While this doesn’t account for Lifetime Value (LTV), it’s still one of the most important metrics for you to track so you can make informed budget decisions.

How to invest in and evaluate your PPC to yield the highest ROI

Now that you’ve set an ROI target, the next step is to evaluate your performance based on ROI. It seems simple yet too often companies come to us after running PPC campaigns with uncertain feelings as to whether or not it’s working. Instead of just looking at top of the funnel metrics like reach or clicks, once you have your ROI targets, we monitor results and evaluate performance based on ROI.

The cadence of your reports should be determined on your lead-to-close time. For example, if you typically close a lead in a 7-day window, you might look to do weekly reporting. We’ve also worked with clients with longer lead-to-close times, as long as an average of 3 months. In cases like this, you might look to do quarterly evaluations.

With ROI reporting, we track the following metrics at the account level:

  • Spend
  • Traffic
  • Sales/Leads
  • Cost Per Visitor
  • Sales Conversion Rate
  • Cost Per Sale/Lead
  • ROI

The biggest mistake most businesses make when investing in PPC

To evaluate your PPC campaigns and their true effectiveness, it is important to ensure that you are tracking your conversions properly within the PPC platform. It is also crucial to understand your conversion’s attribution window, which can be set on a conversion level within the PPC platform, and what this attribution window means. Not understanding this will lead you to measure the success of your PPC campaigns with an ill-informed understanding of how your campaigns are performing and will lead to bad optimizations and poor return.

The attribution window of a conversion is different than the lead-to-close time discussed above and specifically refers to conversions. Simply put, the attribution window is the length of time in which a click or a view (in the case of Display or YouTube) from a campaign can be credited for a conversion.

It is important to determine and set the attribution window for each conversion based on your specific business and conversion goals within the PPC platform so that you can measure your campaign’s true effectiveness.

Consider this example for Tuff partner, Joyn. In a push to register free trials to Joyn’s subscription at-home workout platform in 2021, we’ve heavily leveraged YouTube in-streams ads to gain brand awareness at a low cost.

Because we’ve optimized our YouTube ads for brand awareness metrics, like lowest cost per view, we knew that if we measured cost per sign up with a short click-through and view-through conversion attribution window, YouTube ads would look to be underperforming as rarely will a viewer click through on a brand awareness ad and sign up, especially when introducing the brand to new users for the first time. 

Brand awareness ads are playing a top of the funnel, educational, and nurturing role in the customer journey. With this in mind, to measure their true impact, we determined a click-through conversion window of 1 week and a view-through conversion window of 2 weeks from awareness YouTube ad view to sign up was a fair measure of the campaign’s success.

This means that if someone views our ad and then signs up for a free trial within 2 weeks, the video ad last viewed will be credited for the conversion. Or, if someone views our ad and then clicks to the site and converts within 1 week, the last ad clicked will be credited for the conversion. Now, we can determine if these video ads played a role in influencing free trial sign ups beyond a simple last non-direct click conversion like the standard measurement within Google Analytics.

In a situation similar to this, you may elect to use view-through conversions in your total conversion calculations when determining the role your ads have played in the customer journey.

Why thinking long-term yields the greatest returns

In this blog post, we’ve talked a lot about ROI and managing your PPC accounts to an accountable ROI target. Ensuring you are understanding the true impact of your PPC campaigns and conversion tracking will set you up for long term success and more informed decision making.

While a high return is generally the key goal for your PPC efforts as a whole, optimizing for the right conversion and understanding how your campaigns play a role in the customer journey will help you get there..

From plug-in equations to determine your ROI to higher level strategy focused on customer retention, PPC is a powerful and important digital marketing tool. 

Empowered with data, you can learn how to yield the highest PPC ROI for your campaigns.

We’d love to work with you.

Schedule a call with our team and we’ll analyze your marketing, product, metrics, and business. Then, present a Growth Plan with actionable strategies to find and keep more engaged customers.

Why We Love Google Discovery Ads: Cheap CPCs and High Quality Traffic

Google Ads has a plethora of strengths when compared to other advertising platforms. The ability to target users as they are searching for specific keywords with Search campaigns is the most obvious and, oftentimes, most effective. Expansive audience creation tools and a massive display network on Google helps brands stay top of mind across millions of websites. And YouTube continues to accelerate its growth and become an ever more attractive option for advertisers who want to tell stories with motion and sound, and reach audiences on one of the world’s biggest platforms. But for all of these strengths, Google Ads has historically lacked a truly visually appealing, ‘social media-like’ option for its advertisers, falling short in its quest to compete with other advertising platforms such as Facebook Ads. That is, until Google Discovery Ads arrived.

What are Discovery Ads?

Made available worldwide in May 2020 but a few months earlier in the US, Discovery Ads are a new campaign type and ad placement option within Google Ads that enables advertisers to place image ads on some of the top placements online, including Gmail, Google’s Discover Feed, and, perhaps best of all, the YouTube Mobile Homepage. 

Taking aim at social media advertising platforms, Discovery Ads consist of large image assets, headlines, and short description text that take users to a destination URL, or can open into a lead form similar to Facebook Lead Ads. Additionally, Discovery Ads also feature a carousel ad type options.  

Unlike the Google Display Network’s clunky, invasive, and oftentimes easily ignored, Discovery Ads give advertisers the ability to tell stories with visually engaging assets and better image placements. 

Is it clear that Google is aiming for social media advertisers?

Benefits of Discovery Ads

In our testing (more on this below), Discovery Ads have been proven to be a cost-effective branding solution on an advertising platform that has historically lacked good branding options (unless you have stellar video creative). 

All three of the placements available in Discovery Ads have one thing in common – they are owned by Google. This means that there are advanced audience creation and targeting options available, including Custom Intent audiences created using recent searches on Google, that are not available in other campaign types.

While it’s still possible to create custom audiences for other campaign types like Display, only campaign types with placements entirely on Google-owned properties, such as Discovery and YouTube campaigns, have the availability to create Custom Intent audiences that are built using the exact search terms recently searched on Google. On other campaign types, the search terms used to build the custom audience will be referenced as interests or purchase intentions, instead of the actual search term. 

For this reason alone, Discovery Ads have a massive benefit over traditional display ads on Google, particularly when it comes to prospecting. Instead of visually prospecting by targeting affinity groups, interests, and website placements, we can create our own very targeted custom audiences that we know have been recently searching for our targeted terms on Google. 

In addition to these awesome audience targeting options, Discovery Ads give advertisers without video assets the opportunity to advertise on YouTube – one of the most sought after placements in online advertising. More specifically, as mentioned above, Discovery Ads offer placements on the YouTube Mobile homepage, an ideal spot for reaching your ideal audience for branding or retargeting campaigns.

How we use Discovery Ads at Tuff

At Tuff, we’ve been testing Discovery Ads throughout 2020 for a variety of our partners and have implemented these campaigns at both the prospecting and retargeting level. Below is one example of recent PPC strategies that Discovery campaigns have featured largely in. You can find another example in our article about YouTube Advertising in 2020.

Using Custom Search Term Audiences To Reach New Users

In early September, we had the opportunity to help online vintage watch auction startup, Dial + Bezel, officially launch their website and brand. With the launch of the website came the launch of all of the marketing strategies.

As a brand new company without any revenue, we knew we had to be cost conscious when it came to targeting and acquiring high quality traffic to the site. 

Initial search campaign tests showed high CPCs over $3.25, and although bounce rate and pages/session for these new users wasn’t bad, the traffic simply did not have the conversion rates we needed to justify the CPC. 

With these early results in mind, we went back to the drawing board and posited that leveraging Custom Audiences created by search terms that we knew our target audience would be searching would be an effective way of reaching more of our target audience for a lot less. This proved to be the case.

To start, we performed extensive keyword research with SEMrush to identify more search terms that we could leverage to build our Custom Audiences. We were able to identify three key ‘themes’ of high volume search terms that we segmented to create three Custom Audiences. 

Early results were very positive and we saw on-site performance that was on par with, or better than, the search campaigns we had previously run. Even better – the CPC of the Discovery campaign was less than 10% of the Search campaign, meaning we can get 10x the traffic for the same cost AND the traffic converted. 

What You Can Expect from Discovery Ads

In short, if done properly, you can expect to receive cheap CPCs and high quality traffic.

Since we have begun running Discovery campaigns at Tuff for a variety of partners and industries this year, we have seen a very healthy $0.27 average CPC vs. $0.61 average CPC for Display ads. When compared to Search ads, the discrepancy is even larger. 

However, although CPCs are cheap (for now), we have also seen traffic that performs better than the other image options currently available on Google Ads. For example, when split-testing the same retargeting audiences with Display and Discovery campaigns for our partner, QuietKat, over the past three months, Discovery campaigns have continued to outperform Display in all key on-site metrics such as transaction rate, bounce rate, pages/session, time on site, and more. 

Conclusion

Many of Tuff’s partners are successfully advertising with Discovery Ads in 2020. Ready to give Discovery ads a go with our PPC team?

Thalamus Case Study

From Qualified Traffic to Booked Demos: How We Helped Thalamus Increase Sales 3x

Thalamus Case Study
When it comes to driving demos, it’s rare that a business can rely exclusively on one channel to generate all their leads. A demo, unlike a website click or impression, is a commitment from a potential customer, and to get them to take that step, it’s a bit of an ask.

That’s why, more often than not, you’ve got to figure out the right mix of channels and touchpoints to get quality traffic to your site the first time, the second time, the third time, and then convert. It’s a funnel.

You’ve got to remind them, often and at the right times, about who you are and what makes your product valuable for them. Then, if done well, after a few site visits, they’ll agree to a demo. From there, your sales team can come in and close the deal and the rest is history.

When it comes to booking demos, there are steps. It’s a journey. You’ve got to match your marketing to this path and nurture them down the funnel.

In this post, we’re going to look at how we tackled this for Thalamus and grew their bookings consistently month over month with LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, and Bing.

Meet Thalamus

Thalamus is the premier GME interview management platform that connects residency and fellowship applicants and programs. They are a small, 20 person team, based in Nashville and distributed throughout the US. We started working with them in March 2020 with the primary goal of testing out new paid channels to help increase bookings.

“Tuff is amazing. For about 11 years, I’ve always been involved with or owned some element of a brand’s marketing efforts. I’ve been given teams that already existed or tasked with finding the right partner. Tuff is honest the first time someone/s REALLY nailed it. I mean completely nailed it! They understood us quickly. They report in weekly and the reports make sense to me. :) They have awesome ideas and follow through. I feel completely at ease that they are in charge of that critical part of the our SaaS business. They truly know everything there is and give amazing advice, direction, and take action constantly on our behalf.” – Kristi Anderson, Head of Sales, Thalamus (View our reviews on Google and YouTube)

Before we get into the process and details of our partnership, here’s a look at the last couple of months from Google Analytics. This is a 150% increase YoY in booked demos.

Results from Google Analytics

Before we get into the details….it’s worth noting that the interview process, due to the state of the word, had to shift virtual overnight. Thalamus was in the best position to help them with the transition so natural demand was at an all-time high.

Now, let’s talk about the details!

Step 1: Select channels based on targeting and cost

Since Thalamus hadn’t experimented on any channels we knew we would need to start lean, test out each channel, kill anything that didn’t work quickly, and then scale up what worked.

In order to determine the channels and tactics we wanted to test first, we started with their target audience.

For Thalamus, it looks something like this:

Residency coordinators or program directors at academic medical centers and hospital systems throughout the US & Canada.

Using what we knew about the target audience, as well as our experience running campaigns on almost every major channel, we selected these three channels to start:

LinkedIn Ads
LinkedIn advertising has behavior-based targeting and we knew we could get in front of people with very specific job titles. LinkedIn advertising, unlike the other channels, allows you to get very niche with professionals and industries. While expensive, testing here was a no brainer.

Facebook Ads
While we couldn’t target specific job descriptions on Facebook, we knew we could use this platform for cheap retargeting. We put a small percentage of the budget here to capture eyeball
Google

Google Ads
With Google, we wanted as many high-intent searches as possible. For Thalamus, there is a bit of seasonality so we needed to pull historical CPCs and impressions to get started. At first, we kept the keywords tight to ensure the traffic would stay healthy, and overtime we’re able to expand. We relied on a mix of competitor keywords, brand terms, and search terms to make this work.

Increase in search volume and search impressions

We are continuing to see an increase in Search volume and Search impressions

Bing Ads
We didn’t start out with Bing (I wish we had) but added it once we saw such good results on Google. We were able to duplicate our strategy, make small tweaks, and scale bookings with an added lift from Bing.

Bing advertising isn’t right for every industry or company but it’s less crowded (and cheaper in most cases) than Google. This helped us cover more ground and capture additional high-intent terms for Thalamus.

Step 2: Develop highly-target messaging with social proof

Now, we can’t really take credit for this but getting the copy and content right with ads, especially social ads, is really important. Our writer, Elle, dug into the target audience and helped pull out very specific trust-indicators and product features we know would stand out.

 

While Thalamus had never run paid campaigns, they’ve been the leader in the industry for years. We leaned hard on this experience to build as much trust with our cold audience as possible.

Step 3: Measure the results and get better

Once we aligned with Thalamus on their key objective from the paid campaigns – getting more demos booked from their website – we knew that everything we did from a measurement and optimization perspective needed to be shaped around this sole KPI.

Perhaps the most important aspect of setting yourself up for success is being able to accurately measure the results and trust the data you are receiving. Optimizing your website or campaigns based on inaccurate data may be just as bad, and in some cases even worse, than not attempting to optimize your performance at all.

With this in mind, we worked closely with Thalamus to ensure the tracking of the demo request submission form was accurate. We used this goal, along with other on-site performance metrics, as the baseline for analyzing the value of the paid traffic arriving from our paid campaigns. We also reported on leads coming from paid channels by timestamp. The Thalamus team could then score the relevancy of the form fill submissions and subsequent contact to help us determine the true value of the leads we were receiving.

Cost per demo results

With this baseline KPI driving our measurement, it naturally also drove our campaign optimizations, and we continuously reviewed our campaigns, ended campaigns, and launched new campaigns across platforms to identify the best sources of traffic. Intent-driven Search campaigns on Google and Bing were optimized by reviewing the converting keywords and search terms. For social, campaigns were optimized by reviewing the converting ad copy, audiences, and image assets. With continuous measurement and optimization, we have been able to see a steady MoM decrease of cost per lead.

Data on eCommerce with YouTube ads.

4 Reasons You Should Be Using Microsoft Ads For Your Business

Data on eCommerce with YouTube ads.

Microsoft Ads, formerly known as Bing Ads, is the often overlooked PPC platform that many marketers and businesses treat as a lower-budget extension of their existing campaigns that are running on Google Ads.

But as Microsoft Advertising Partners and veterans of the platform, we know the value that Microsoft Ads can bring, especially in certain industries.

In fact, when recently split-testing the exact same campaign and keywords across Microsoft Ads and Google Ads, we found more value from Microsoft Ads in multiple KPIs.

You can see this for yourself in the KPI table below:

This platform-based split test experiment was done alongside our partner, CITI Program. Essentially, we wanted to know which search network would provide higher quality traffic for CITI Program’s target market of research organizations searching for research-specific training courses.

Although Google eked out higher pages/session, Microsoft Ads had a lower bounce rate and much higher conversion rate. 

Had we run this search campaign solely on Google, we may have paused, thinking that perhaps Search isn’t the right channel. Or, had we not split tested Google against Microsoft Ads, we may have never known that there was better performance to be had on the latter platform.

Now that you’re convinced Microsoft Ads is worth a try for your business, let’s take a look at a few of the benefits and efficiencies we’ve found in our recent experiments.

Enjoy Lower CPCs & Scale

“But who even uses Bing search?”

That’s one of the most common rebuttals when discussing advertising on Microsoft Ads, and I admit, I’ve fallen to this misconception before.

But in reality, Bing search accounts for 6.4 billion monthly PC searches and 36.9% of PC market share in the US. 

Source: Microsoft Ads

Simply put, if you’re not advertising on Microsoft Ads, you are missing out on a whole lot of traffic.

And, the fact that there are less advertisers on Microsoft Ads than on Google Ads, means less competition, which also means lower CPCs.

So, you could be also missing out on cheaper search traffic.

There are anecdotes all over the internet of companies and agencies who have achieved lower CPCs on Microsoft Ads than on Google Ads when testing the same keywords, but we have multiple first-person examples where this has proven to be true.

In the scenarios below, we’ve been split testing the same campaigns and keywords with the same budget splits across Microsoft Ads and Google Ads during the same dates. In both cases, CPC is lower on Microsoft. 

With more than enough search volume available and comparably low CPCs, experimenting with Microsoft Ads can help you identify opportunities to introduce your business via Search to a new audience that has the same high intent, but in many cases, costs a lot less to get to your site. 

Access Premium Placements With Audience Ads

Although Microsoft Ads doesn’t have a traditional display network in the same vein as the Google Ads Display Network, Microsoft Ads does boast access to some top quality native ad placements, many of which are currently in beta, or ‘pilot’, for Microsoft Ads.

One such available pilot is the Audience ads pilot, which provides access to premium placements on msn.com, the Outlook inbox, and the Microsoft Edge browser.

It’s only been a short couple of weeks since we began our testing with Audience ads in Microsoft Ads, but so far, the results have been promising. I’ve also been enjoying the flexibility and appearance of the ads, which are automatically cropped to fit a variety of responsive placements.

Even better, Audience ads feature expansive job and industry specific targeting options ala fellow Microsoft product, LinkedIn. This makes Audience ads an excellent choice for B2B businesses looking to reach their targeted audience.

With these placement and targeting options available, we’ve been able to scale our prospecting efforts for Vision33, a B2B partner, by reaching their targeted industries and buyer job titles through Audience ads and maximizing clicks and impressions in a way that simply wasn’t possible through Search ads alone.

We’ve also seen early success in our retargeting efforts through Audience ads – a previous pain point of running campaigns on Microsoft ads.

Compared to our RLSA Search campaigns that are set up to target the same audience of previous site visitors, Audience ads have provided greater impressions and much lower CPCs, with a $0.47 average, compared to $5.12 via Search ads.

Same retargeting audience, but a huge difference in the cost to get them back to Vision33’s website. I’ll mark that as an early win for Audience ads!

Snag More Desktop Searches

You may have missed it earlier, but the chart linked earlier from Microsoft mentions that the Microsoft Search Network accounts for 36.9% of all PC aka desktop searches.

Here it is again, so we don’t forget.

In a world where mobile traffic is ever-increasing, it can be easy to overlook desktop traffic as we continue to optimize campaigns, landing pages, and entire websites for a “mobile-first” world.

But in some cases, like that of our B2B partner, Vision33, desktop traffic is still incredibly important.

In fact, when analyzing Vision33’s primary conversion (form fills) from January – June 2020, I noticed that desktop traffic converts much higher, across every single channel, than mobile traffic on the Vision33 website.

In fact, in some instances, desktop converts at a rate more than double that of mobile and/or tablet.

Knowing what we know about form fill conversion rates and desktop performance on Vision33’s website, coupled with what we know about Microsoft Search Network’s search market share of 36.9%, it’s clear to see why Microsoft Ads is working well for this B2B business.

Every business has different performance on its website, so “mobile-first” may not always be the best approach. If your business is converting higher on desktop than other devices, it’s time to increase that traffic by increasing your search volume through Microsoft Ads. 

Save Time By Importing from Google Ads

If you like saving time automating things as much as I do, Microsoft Ads makes this easy by allowing and even encouraging you to import your ads from Google Ads.

If you’ve already begun running ads on Google Ads and have a campaign structure set up that you’re comfortable with, it is incredibly easy to import these campaigns into Microsoft Ads and even set the import on a schedule. 

With this in mind, split testing Microsoft Ads vs. Google Ads, or even adding additional campaigns to your overall PPC mix becomes a lot easier. And, let’s face it, building campaigns in Google is still a much cleaner and more familiar process (sorry, Microsoft). 

The import feature has allowed us to experiment with the Microsoft Ads channel fast, while making sure we are still serving top quality campaigns and ads, leaving more time for optimizations and data analysis.

Note: If you’re ready to test Microsoft Ads for your business and decide to import your existing campaigns from Google Ads, be sure to double-check the fine details, like device bid adjustments, time and days of week, audiences, etc.

Conclusion

Although Microsoft Ads may not be the first choice for businesses when deciding where to allocate their PPC funds, it certainly deserves a closer look, and preferably an experiment or three, to decide if it’s right for you and your business goals. 

Certain industries thrive on the platform, and the lower CPCs make it incredibly enticing for those who are running out of room to scale their core search campaigns on Google, or are looking to increase high intent traffic for a lower cost through search campaigns.

If you’re ready to give Microsoft Ads a try, reach out to Tuff today.