Increase PPC Efficiency by Segmenting Google Search Partners

This is a guest post from Amanda West-BookwalterDigital Media Marketing Specialist at Formstack.

It seems like every third or fourth update Google makes to AdWords is related to getting us to use some kind of automated bidding feature. They can be a time-saving and money-saving options for users who don’t have the time, funds, and/or resources to implement more complex strategies either manually or through popular third-party bid platforms. However, most advanced users tend to shy away from giving up control to automated bidding tools. I’m one of those users. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tested some with success in some campaigns. Enhanced bidding, target CPA, display conversion optimizer…they’ve been tools in my PPC belt at some point in my career, but it seems like every call with an AdWords rep involves them trying to get me to use more automated bidding like Maximize Clicks and me being all like:

James Harden - Interview Gif

One thing that these automated bidding features lack that is important to me when manually performing bid analysis and making changes is segmenting Google search partners from regular Google Search. This segmentation can be very impactful depending on the account.

Most bid analysis will look at things like click-through rates, average positions, conversion rates, etc. The issue here is that all of these metrics are averages. Looking at average trends isn’t inherently a bad thing, because it lets you see trends, which is how you make decisions about what’s working and what isn’t. However, if you’re averaging things that influence performance very differently, you’re not getting an accurate view. You wouldn’t average data from a video campaign and your branded campaign to judge the video campaign’s performance, because the targets there affect performance so differently. The same is true here for Google Search and Search Partners.

Don’t believe me? Fiiiiine. Let’s just look!

  • Toggle over to segment and select “network (include search partners)”
  • Expand “all enabled campaigns” to get a quick look at the impact here

I recommend comparing the difference between Google Search & Search Partners. I did just that and got these results:

Search Partners vs Google Differences

To be clear, this shows Search Partners had a 39.35% lower CPC, 20.68% higher CTR, 20% lower ad position, and 60.38% worse conversion rate than Google Search.

New Girl - Big Deal Alert

You can imagine if I’m making bid changes that aggregate data from Search Partners and Google Search how one is making the other look worse than it is. Depending on how your traffic volumes compare on each network, the impact could be huge!

You might be saying “Sweet, thanks Amanda, but what can I do about it? You can’t bid separately on Search Partners so what is even the point?” Ok, you’ve got me there. You can’t modify bids based on Search Partners or build a Search Partners only campaign (yet, I’m hopeful for the option one day…). However, the knowledge can still impact your bid change decisions, which can affect overall campaign performance.

Let’s take a look at how you could effectively look at data from Google Search and Search Partners while doing manual bid changes:

  1. Go to the keyword tab. Set your date range and metric columns for whatever your preference is when pulling bid reports. Select to segment “network (with search partners)” and download the file.
  2. If you’re like me, your account has too many keywords to manually look at every single one and judge how impactful the difference in metrics is. So, what I do is select the top 15% of keywords in terms of cost and conversions (normally these are the same keywords, anyway).
  3. Look and see which network is providing more conversions. Are you in a good average position there? Ignore the poor performing network and evaluate how your bid is impacting performance on the better performing network. Maybe you have way more impressions on Search Partners which is the biggest influencer for your avg. pos, but all your conversions are coming from Google Search, where your position is much lower, so you should actually be increasing your bid.

I want to add a caveat that this should only matter if you’ve made the call that Search Partners are even working for your campaign. I’ve had accounts where it’s not worth even running anymore, so I’ve opted out. If that’s what you discover in this analysis, that’s just fine!

After you’ve ran analysis like this, you might be able to make this report more customized. For instance, in the example I mentioned earlier where you have lots of impressions coming from Search Partners but most of your conversions come from Google Search, you could just look at Google Search metrics when making bidding decisions as long as Search Partners are within a tolerable CPA range for you.

In summary, be careful with your bidding strategies because there are lots of ingredients in the bidding pie that can be misleading all jumbled together, such as aggregated network data. Mmm. Bidding pie.

How do you handle segmenting data between Google Search and Search Partners? Have you found the difference to be impactful? How hard do you wish you could report on individual partners and segment targeting like you can in BingAds? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Amanda West-Bookwalter - Head Shot

Amanda West-Bookwalter is the Digital Media Marketing Specialist at Formstack, responsible for implementing and scaling digital advertising strategies for the SaaS company. Prior to joining the Formstack team, Amanda served in a senior account management role for a pay-per-click agency and has spoken at multiple online marketing conferences, including HeroConf, SMX East, and SES Denver.

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