#SMX East Day 1: Paid Search Bytes from the Big Apple

SMX East kicked off yesterday, and what better place for a search marketing conference than in the city that never sleeps? Caffeine fix in hand and eyes drawn from the sites to computer screens, day 1 found us exploring everything SMX had to offer on search PPC, from ad extensions and creative to platform changes and tools.

Creative & standing out from the crowd

Differentiate your brand from the competition
Kicking off the day, Virginia Tonning of Schneider Electric outlined B2B challenges and emphasized the importance of brand differentiation. For large brands like Schneider, with comprehensive B2B portfolios, hundreds of thousand of products and tough competition, standing out from the crowd is a must.

How do you differentiate your paid search efforts from the competition? First, maximize all things Google. Leverage every possible extension that Google gives you: sitelinks, callouts, structured snippets, price, app, etc. Including all of these extensions also maximizes real estate in the SERPs. For Schneider, sitelinks have proven the most successful, increasing average click through rate (CTR) by roughly 23 percent.

Next, go local. Help your national, or international, brand compete locally where it makes sense. Use local targeting, messaging and keywords. Look at your competition in the local space. Who’s there? What are they doing?

Finally, test, test and test some more. Believe it or not, many brands still aren’t testing ads! Be sure to test the basics, including headlines, description copy and call to action. Also, test messaging that resonates with your target audience. Learn industry buzzwords and test them in ad copy. You may be surprised by the results.

How to actually get there with creative
Our very own Marty Weintraub proclaimed that the creative role in marketing is the last thing left for marketers, ironically. Artificial intelligence (AI) can’t make creative for us…yet. However, by 2018, approximately 20 percent of ad copy will be AI generated. Optimization will be less in the hands of marketers and more in the hands of skilled analysts. There’s a five- to eight-year window where we can differentiate ourselves with creative. Here’s how you do it:

Ideate in brainstorms and package afterwards. Crafting headline theories rather than final headlines is an efficient way to approach creative. Furthermore, in an ideal situation, advertisers would get approval for individual creative elements, not exact ads, resulting in the ability to use approved concepts when desired.

When creating ads, use a construct for colorful ad writing. To start, lock in immovable keywords that can’t change and will ultimately affect quality scores. Second, lock in other words that are essential to the concept. From there, fill in the rest with a semantic framework to generate a more meaningful, engaging ad.

If you’re going to be feeding a machine, you must think like a machine but create like a human. Remember, creative is the final place where we still have a human differentiator in marketing. Use it to your full advantage.

Recent & upcoming updates to AdWords & Bing

Expanded text ads

By far the most heavily discussed topic, the introduction of expanded text ads (ETAs) in Google has generated mixed results for many brands. Google claims CTRs have increased by 92 percent, but other datasets say otherwise. Andy Taylor of Merkle emphasized that performance varies widely by dataset for a variety of reasons, including top- vs. bottom-of-page position.

Andy and his colleagues found that:

  • Brand ads at the top of the page are underperforming in CTR and have seen a slight increase in CPC
  • Non-brand top-of-page ads have stagnant performance and a modest increase in CPC
  • Non-brand bottom-of-page ads have seen a 7 to 9 percent CTR increase with a modest increase in CPC

How should you handle this big change? First, don’t panic. Aaron Levy of Elite SEM insists that ripping off the band-aid is not the best approach. Try running ETAs with standard text ads (STAs) and analyze the results to find what’s working in your space. Most importantly, TEST. Test character counts, paths, countdowns, headline CTAs and anything else you can think of. There’s more capability with the new ETAs. Test them to find what works for you.

RIP converted clicks
It’s happening this October. Converted clicks and its counterparts will no longer exist as a metric in AdWords. Aaron discussed what agencies and brands should expect with the long-time converted click metric disappearing. First, expect a 20 percent lift in “conversions” that you were already getting. This lift will be due to cross-device conversions being included by default. Most important, expect high volatility throughout the month of October and place a heavy emphasis on full-funnel attribution – last click is dead.

The download on Bing
Mirroring Google has been a go-to strategy for Bing with these recent changes, and rightfully so, as Bing’s Purna Virji discussed. The platforms are similar by design, and Bing is continuing to roll out additional features to better serve its advertisers and users.

Bing ETAs are officially coming! Currently in a pilot stage, anyone can gain access by filling out a quick survey. On another positive note, there’s no need to rush into migrating all STAs into expanded ads as there’s no timeline for the Bing migration. Can these ETAs be exported straight from AdWords? Absolutely.

Another few topics on Bing’s most-wanted list are shared budgets, custom labels, ad extension scheduling and ad group remarketing exclusions, all of which are on the horizon.

New tools!

What, when & how to use ‘em
Tools inherently offer us efficiency. On average, 1 out of every 15 seconds of a marketer’s day is spent dealing with an interruption, according to Brad Geddes of AdAlysis. Once interrupted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to resume a task! To top it off, heavy multitasking lowers the IQ of an individual by up to 15 points, on average. Statistics like these demonstrate the value of key tools we must learn to use — and use well.

Brad outlined the steps to take before using your fancy new marketing tools. The most important part isn’t WHAT tools you use, it’s WHEN you use them. If you can’t clearly identify your own objectives, you have no business using these tools in the first place. In short:

  • Define and know your goals
  • Recognize what needs to be automated
  • Select a tool to streamline your process

Top free tools
Effective tools usually come at a cost, but not all of them ask for large chunks of media spend or significant monthly subscription fees. There are some great freebies out there, and Sahil Jain of AdStage highlighted a few of the greats:

Keyword research:

  • Ubersuggest
  • Soovle
  • Wordstream’s Keyword Niche Finder
  • Google Trends
  • AnswerThePublic
  • 5minutesite

Keyword wrapping:

  • Merge Words
  • SEOBook’s PPC Keyword Wrapper

Ad copy creation:

  • AdWords Ad Preview
  • Word Counter
  • CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
  • Perry Marshall’s SplitTester

Top paid tools
With substantial media spend available, a wise plan of attack may include a powerful paid tool. Daniel Gilbert of Brainlabs shared his two cents on the top paid tools for small (<$1 million/year), medium (near $5 million/year) and large ($10+ million/year) accounts:

Call tracking:

  • Small: CallRail
  • Medium: ResponseTap
  • Large: Invoca


  • Small: Google Analytics (free)
  • Medium: Mixpanel
  • Large: Adobe Analytics

Feed management (shopping):

  • Small: GoDataFeed
  • Medium: ResponseTap: FeedSpark
  • Large: Invoca: Productsup

Competitor insights:

  • Small: Adgooroo
  • Medium: SEMrush
  • Large: cClearly


  • Small: Swydo
  • Medium: Supermetrics
  • Large: Periscope

Account management:

  • Small: WordStream
  • Medium: Optmyzr
  • Large: Brainlabs (of course)

That’s a wrap for day 1! Stay tuned for insights from SMX East day 2 and 3, comin’ atcha later this week.

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