Contextual Advertising: How to Make It Effective

Let us share with you the insights that come through 10,000 hours of our practice. The Promodo specialists, who launched more than 300 advertising campaigns, explain how to make things work and what details to remember when launching a contextual advertising campaign.

In this article, we reveal some important but unobvious things that you should keep in mind when setting up an advertising campaign. This will allow you to make contextual advertising as effective as possible.

Campaign for a Web Development Project

The basis of any advertising campaign is a careful preparation. From our experience, the following steps are required:

  1. 1. Developing a promotion strategy;
  2. 2. Creating a client’s portrait;
  3. 3. Writing a unique selling proposal;
  4. 4. Selecting keywords;
  5. 5. Creating ads;
  6. 6. Setting up remarketing audiences;
  7. 7. Adding extensions.

Vital Ingredients of a Sample Campaign

  1. 1. Strategy. The key goal is to minimize the cost of conversion. To reach this goal, a special attention is paid to negative keywords and breakdown of keywords into groups. Our experts usually use Gmail Sponsored Promotions to display ads to people who have left requests on the sites of competitors.
  2. 2. Portrait of the client. Let’s presume that the target audience is the following: 24+ years old; interested in the field of web development; the countries of residence are England, Switzerland, and Germany; students and employees are excluded.
  3. 3. Unique selling proposal. A company with more than 400 clients; 17 years of experience; a team of 400+ specialists; a UK-based business with development centers in Europe.
  4. 4. Keywords. They are selected as the most appropriate for business – “Web development company in UK” and general “Web development” because we do not have many keywords to target to in this field. We control them through careful study of negative keywords.
  5. 5. Ads with additional links, structured descriptions, and details, e.g.:

  1. 6. Remarketing audiences are set up for the main page and for every service provided by the company. So, those who left the Web development landing page, see ads about Web development services provided by the client.

The last step requires some more explanation.

Automation of Keywords Selection (Step 7)

Effective keywords selection means the fastest way to get all possible user requests on the relevant topic and group them correctly.

If the project is complex, you can save a lot of time by using automation.

We use the following keyword selection methods:

  1. 1. Manually. The advantage of selecting and grouping keywords manually is the quality of the semantic core. The disadvantage is the long process of collecting and breaking down the keywords into groups. We use this approach for smaller projects that include a fewer number of keywords.
  2. 2. Using software. The selection and breakdown of keywords by groups using software, for example, Key Collector, is a faster option, but it requires double checking each group and a separate selection of negative keywords. It can be used for medium-size projects.
  3. 3. Using script. Generating a set of keywords using script is a pretty quick solution, but many variations of keywords can be lost. This method is used as an additional one.
  4. 4. Adopting a semantic core of another project. Using keywords collected for another, yet similar the project is a workable idea. This is fast, but you need to double check the obtained results and take into account the differences between the two projects.

Automation of Creating an Advertising Campaign

If there are a plenty of key requests and ads, you need to automate the creation of your Google Display Network (GDN) campaign. Google provides its tool, Adwords Editor, which makes things work faster. Our team also uses Excel to create campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords for them. Excel formulas allow us to

  • • Change the headers according to the category or subcategory title that you can add to the common list in the next tab;
  • • Add visible URLs according to the same list;
  • • Track whether the created headers and descriptions fit into AdWords ads or not;
  • • Change the required part of the ads’ descriptions or entire descriptions.

Example from a Case Study

For one of the projects for a household appliances company, we applied the formulas “IF”, “SUBSTITUTE”, “CONCAT”, “LEN”:

  • • To name the ad groups, we used the following function:

= CONCAT (“category”, “| category + brand”).

The obtained result was “smartphone Samsung | category + brand “. We combined this category with the tags needed to maintain and optimize the campaigns further.

  • • To create an ad, we considered whether the keyword is fine with the prefix “buy”. If so, we entered “Buy a Samsung Smartphone”; otherwise, wrote “Samsung Smartphone”.

= IF (LEN (heading1)> 23; “category”; CONCAT (“Buy”; “category”))

  • • Heading 2 was made using a single template “Choose in our store”. The description contained a function. We connected the template with the product title to create a more relevant ad. However, if the template with the product title contained more than 80 characters, we used a simple template.

= IF (CONCAT (heafing1)”Low Prices, Official Warranty, Wide Assortment”;”category”)>80; “Low Prices: Official Warranty: Wide Range of Products”;”Low Prices. Official Warranty: Wide Assortment”;”Category”)

  • • The displayed heading was created in the same way. If a number of characters in the “category” exceeded 15, we wrote the general title; otherwise, we left the “category” only.
  • • The website URLs were created based on the following principle: Cyrillic titles were transliterated. We used a Transliterator tool to translate the titles of the “categories” into the Latin alphabet and inserted these data in a column next to the corresponding “categories”. Then, we used this function:

= SUBSTITUTE (“final URL”;”basic category transliterated”; VLOOKUP(“basic category transliterated”; table “category: category in Latin”; 2(corresponding column))

Applying the functions and preparing the data took about 2.5 hours. 300 categories and subcategories were generated in a minute. We also spent about 1 hour to double check and edit long titles.

The benefit of such an approach is that you can quickly launch an advertising campaign for any number of products.

Launching a Large-Scale Campaign

Advertising campaigns for product categories can still be launched manually. But creating a separate ad, picking keywords and extensions for every individual product is an impossible mission.

We use our own software package, which allows us to generate a large advertising campaign automatically. Moreover, there is an opportunity to insert an actual price of the goods in ads, check product availability, and include advertising of items of a certain value.

The basic features of the Promodo API include

– Unloading products of the online store (a category, title, manufacturer, price, availability, URL, etc.);

– Creating campaigns based on customizable templates (an ad text, product limitation by price, keyword generation);

– Automatic updating of ads and prices in ads.

Having our own software solution allows us to quickly launch and maintain advertising campaigns for online stores with thousands of products.

Creating Audiences for Remarketing

To maximize the return on advertising, we need to return users to the page where they left the site. For example, if a user scans a page with smartphones, it makes sense to return him or her to the smartphone landing page, not a homepage.

If a user visits a product page, we use dynamic remarketing and show ads for the viewed product.

Difficulties usually arise when a site has 100-200 subcategories. It takes forever to create a remarketing audience for each one of them manually. We solve this problem by using a script that automatically creates remarketing audiences in AdWords for the product categories (see the sample script and how to use it here).

Example from a Case Study

We needed to launch an advertising campaign for a large online store:

  • • Work with 80 categories and subcategories for electronics, household appliances, and gadgets;
  • • Separate each category depending on requests:
    • – By category (buy a refrigerator in Ukraine);
    • – By category + brand (buy Samsung refrigerator);
    • – By model (Samsung RS57K4000WW/UA) for every model of every category.

Our software coped with the task in less than half a day. We received

  • • Separate remarketing and dynamic remarketing lists for each category (90 lists);
  • • Dynamic search campaigns for each category;
  • • Launching separate campaigns for promotions on GDN and on YouTube;
  • • Duplication of all search campaigns in Yandex.Direct.

The campaign was launched in a week by a team of 3 specialists.

After we launched the campaign, the main work was automated. The weekly reports were generated automatically, the rates were corrected by the rules, and our software monitored the model ads to ensure that they contained updated offers and prices.

Campaign’s Analysis

Custom Reports

After you have launched any campaign, you start gathering various data that can help you improve advertising. It is important to understand what data is truly useful.

The most basic data include the cost of conversion and data that show differences depending on a city, time of the day, and device. Of course, for your project, a set of vital data may differ.

In the following example, we created a personal report that contained the information useful for the campaign’s optimization. This can also be a report on a number of clicks, transactions, or additional goal. And it’s all filtered out only by traffic from Google/cpc.

Automated Reports

The Supermetrics plugin allows you to fully automate the creation of reports on Google AdWords (find how to set it up here). It is possible to gather data from Google AdWords and Analytics simultaneously in a single document. At the same time, we can supplement this document with formulas and format it according to the given requirements.

As the result, we have a complete report (see a sample here) that requires a few touches, about 5-10 minutes of work.

Campaign’s Optimization

Working with a bunch of routine tasks is the cornerstone of contextual advertising. The Promodo experts point out the following details to remember.

Bid Adjustment

When all campaigns are created, reports are automated, and data required for optimization are gathered, start using this data, for example:

A city. We usually analyze in which cities the greatest number of targeted actions occurs. Then, we correct the rates.

Device and time. We analyze from which devices and when the ads are the most effective. If there is a need for a frequent and flexible change of these adjustments, we use a script.

Ad position. If our goal is to keep the ads on certain positions, we use a script that adjusts the rate hourly, maintaining the desired position.

Working with Keywords

If your account has several hundred thousand keywords, there are not many optimization options. You can either use automated bidding, which does not always work effectively, or adjust the strategy manually, which is very labor-intensive.

We use automated rules created in Google AdWords. This allows us to raise bids for keywords which have no impressions due to low rates. If the cost of conversion is high, we set up a rule to reduce the cost per click per a keyword that does not result in conversions within N days.

Also, we can disable keywords that have a high failure rate over the last N days. For every project, the values in the rules are different, and the rules themselves vary. Therefore, we do not use the same rules for all projects.

For instance, for one of the major Ukrainian e-commerce projects, we set up a rule that increased the keyword rate by 15% if it had a cost less than 200 UAH in the last 7 days and the average position was lower than 2.5.

The second rule set was to lower the rate by 15%, if there was a cost of more than UAH 450 over the last 7 days and this keyword did not bring any conversions.

Another rule was set up primarily for new keywords. And also, this rule is effective for new, just created accounts. The cost per click was increased if the keyword had no impressions in the past 14 days. So, we tested whether these keywords will work well after all or not.

Checking Negative Keyword Intersect

Such a check is important for projects where ad groups are very fragmented. We minus keywords so that they do not intersect.

This is necessary for every project, both large and small. Google AdWords shows when keywords are blocked by negative keywords if the account is small. Otherwise, the system lacks time to check an account. Using a script to check for blocking keywords is a good solution.

As a result, we receive a document with ad groups and blocking negative keywords. Then, specialists make the necessary corrections and move forward.

Stopping Categories that Have a Few Products in Stock

The assortment of online stores is changing constantly. For example, at the time of creating an ad group, there were 25 products in the category, and later only 2 left. Advertising a page with only 2 products is not a good idea, except that this is not a unique category, which contains only 5 products.

It is simply impossible to monitor every category manually. Usually, we use a script that pauses ad groups that have fewer active products than reasonable.

Selecting Placements for GDN and YouTube Channels

Perhaps, the main problem of GDN and YouTube advertising is irrelevant placements.

We use scripts to exclude children’s channels and videos and add channels with inappropriate content to the list of exceptions. For GDN, our script excludes sites by words in domain names. For example, you can keep out sites somehow related to “games”, “betting”, etc.

As a result, the team works with a list of excluded placements that can be used for any campaign. This saves tons of time and makes a campaign far more effective.

Other Hints

Monitor a Site/URL Status

Nobody wants to pay per clicks when his or her website is down, so advertisers should find out about any changes in the work of the site. Using a script, we check the URLs from ads for availability every hour.

This also helps when the URL of a category has changed and redirect has not been configured or autocorrect has been set and the URL has been accidentally changed.

Enable/Disable Campaigns for Holidays

If the specificity of your or your client’s business does not imply the growth of sales on holidays, then it does not make sense to start a holiday campaign. You should probably stop advertising 24/7 if your call center works from 9 AM to 5 PM. Either way, the specific features of your business should be considered.

We use rules to disable campaigns so that the human factor is excluded.

Test New Tools

The effectiveness of new instruments is difficult to estimate in advance. Nevertheless, we try to test them as often as possible. Some of them may be truly helpful for some projects.

As a major agency, Promodo has a possibility to test the tools that have not yet been released to the public.

Final Thoughts

We use all the possibilities to automate the routine tasks. So, we save the time of our team.

The released hours are used for a deeper, manual analysis. Is the tool appropriate for the current business strategy? Is there a need to create a more accurate portrait of the client? Is our bidding strategy effective? How do other advertisers compete?

Answering these questions allows developing an effective strategy of contextual advertising, which will be the right one for you or your client’s business.

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