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Why your Google Ads Optimisation Score is too high and what to do about it?

By John Woods  |  November 29, 2021

On 24th September 2021, we had the pleasure to host a session on Google Ads Optimisation Score as part of the Leeds Digital Festival

During the virtual event Dr John Woods, Founder and Director of Sharp Ahead, shared his expert observations on B2B paid media best practices. Dr Woods emphasised that, as Google progressively gamifies “good practice” for paid search advertising, we need to bear in mind that what’s good for Google isn’t necessarily good for B2B advertisers. 

You can now watch the full video recording of the event to learn more about:

  • Paid media campaigns
  • Whether automatic bidding beat manual bids set by a human expert
  • If an AI conversion optimiser reduce your cost per lead
  • Should you trust a machine to write your ad copy
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly of Google Ads’ optimisation score and automation.

We would like to thank all the attendees for their active participation and great questions in the Q&A part of the event.

Find out more about our PPC services or get in touch to see how we can help you deliver successful PPC campaigns.

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Constant Contact Acquires SharpSpring

What does this mean for your company?

By Dan Winter  |  June 28, 2021

Last week it was announced that SharpSpring has been acquired by Constant Contact – an established leader in online marketing technology.

As many of our valued clients are currently using, or in the process of implementing, SharpSpring, we wanted to give you a quick update on the latest news.  

In a session for agencies late last week, SharpSpring’s CEO Rick Carlson assured us that the fundamentals of the software will not change – Constant Contact and SharpSpring share the same values and vision. The acquisition provides the opportunity for further investment in the platform – meaning more great features for you and us!

What happens next?

Well, mainly, it’s business as usual. Constant Contact and SharpSpring will spend the next couple of months completing the legal necessities, and at Sharp Ahead we’ll continue to drive growth for our clients through the SharpSpring platform. 

We’ve been informed there will be no major changes for the foreseeable future. There are, however, a range of exciting new features already in the pipeline for this year, including: 

  • An SMS marketing tool
  • New integrations
  • New navigation
  • New opportunity manager
  • An updated mobile app
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Any questions?

We’ll keep you updated as and when we hear more about the acquisition and any exciting new features, but if you have any questions, or if you’re interested in becoming a SharpSpring user please do get in touch!

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Digital Spring Clean - 3 Quick Tips

Spruce up your digital marketing and stay top of mind with your customers

By Jennifer Esty  |  March 24, 2021

This past weekend marked the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, so we thought we’d give you a few quick tips for your digital spring clean.

1. Tidy up your SERP (search engine results page)

Sharp Ahead Google Search Results

This is a key part of the experience for your prospects, customers and other important stakeholders interacting with your business and if you haven’t Googled your brand name in a while, now is as good a time as any.

Here’s how to check your SERP the right way. 

First, use an incognito window so you’re not biasing what you see based on previous search behaviour. Then check for these signals:

  • Are you in the top position (P1)?
  • Is anyone running an ad on your brand name?
  • Is your Google My Business / Knowledge Panel listing up to date with accurate contact details (phone, website, opening hours etc.)?
  • How are your reviews looking? Are there any that you could respond to? These are people in close contact with your business and they deserve your attention.

What if things are looking a bit dusty?

This is your shop window – if it looks unloved, you’ll be losing out to other businesses. Run a brand ad. It might seem wasteful to bid on your own brand names, but for most B2B companies, those searches are relatively low volume but very high value. Plus, those ads will keep the competitors out of your P1 spot, enable you to curate and quickly update your SERP and align it with your current campaigns and brand messaging.

Pro tip: for most B2B companies, applying a few negative keywords, for example around jobs and careers, can keep costs down and focus the campaigns on your key prospects.

2. Refresh your website (inside and out)

Sharp Ahead Header Contact Info

44% of B2B marketers say the main reason they abandon websites is that there’s no contact info immediately visible*. Unless you are selling something that can be purchased on your website, your prospects will need to speak to someone in your sales team at some point.

Make it easy for visitors to choose you with a quick look at the following:

  • Make your phone number clearly visible – Make it easy for visitors by clearly displaying your phone number or at least an email address in the header of your site. Or go one better and enable live chat on your site like 11 out of the 50 fastest growing B2B companies**!
  • Does your copyright notice still say 2020?? It’s March already and I’m still finding websites without an updated copyright notice footer. With the upheaval of the last year, if your website doesn’t have signs of recent activity, prospects could be forgiven for thinking you might not be around anymore. Update that copyright, refresh your COVID-19 message, and make sure you have a recent blog or news story prominently displayed. These are all important signals to your customers that you’re open for business and ready to help them.
  • Get the LinkedIn insight tag, the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) tag and Google Tag Manager (GTM) in place – These tags each have a role to play in best practice digital marketing and if you’re not using them, you’re missing out on key insights, future analytics and easy tag management. These are all ways to learn more about your customers and how to delight them on your next interaction.

3. Welcome new visitors (and then look after them)

We're Open Sign

You’ve done the hard work by getting someone who doesn’t know you to choose your website. Whether the onsite experience is perfect or not, you now have a chance to be remembered and convince your prospects that your business is the right choice for them.

One of the easiest ways to be remembered is with remarketing campaigns: even if you’re not using paid search or social for lead generation, you should run remarketing ads. 

Consideration cycles for high end B2B products and services usually take months, or longer, and remarketing is the most efficient way to keep in touch with those decision makers during that time. Remind them of your brand, tell them something they might not know about your business and show them why you’re the right choice. 

Pro tip: Don’t wait a year to refresh the creative and mix it up with different ad formats.

What next? - The BIG clean!

If you're looking to go a bit deeper, here are three things that are vital to digital marketing success in the coming year.

Say goodbye to Broad Match Modifier

We discussed this in a blog article back in February but if you haven’t had time to sort out your match types, you could be wasting valuable media spend. In short, Google is combining two existing match types, phrase match and broad match modifier. This means that with nuanced search terms that are standard fare for B2B search marketers, it would be very easy to bring in a lot of irrelevant clicks and quickly reduce the ROI on your campaigns. Read our top tips for sorting this out as soon as possible!

Core Web Vitals

This was another new development from Google that we flagged back in 2020 but the deadline is approaching faster than most digital marketers would like. If your site doesn’t meet Google’s criteria, or you don’t have a plan in place to make sure it will, you’ll need to think now about making a reasonable investment in speeding up your site—or risk losing valuable search rankings to better prepared competitors. If this is the first you’ve heard of CWV, read our previous blog article and then get yourself over to Google Tools for measure them!

Mystery Shopping

And last on our list of big cleans, a plea to B2B marketers everywhere. Check that your customer and prospect contact channels work. Does someone answer your phone during business hours? How quickly do you respond to lead enquiries? Is your online chat staffed consistently? I know what you’re thinking, this is ridiculous of course the answer is yes. But when was the last time you checked? Do some mystery shopping and find out for yourself. In the high end B2B market, one missed phone call or a few days’ delay on replying to a form fill, could be the difference between a successful or failed campaign.

We work with intelligent marketing managers to make budgets go further and cut your cost per lead. 

If you have any questions on your own digital spring clean, get in touch for a free 30-minute B2B consult. 

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Google Ads Bids Adieu to Broad Match Modifier…Or Does It?

What next for match types for B2B search advertisers?

By John Woods  |  February 15, 2021

Last week Google announced some significant changes to match types. This is a big deal: the last major change to match types was the introduction of broad match modifier back in 2010. So this is a once-in-a-decade event.

In B2B search marketing we often need fine-grained control over search terms to deliver acceptable ROI from search campaigns, and match types are a key tool in maintaining that control. So while Google’s changes will have big implications for most search advertisers, they are particularly significant for B2B search marketers.

In this post I will outline the changes that are happening and some steps that B2B search marketers should take right away to ensure their Google Ads setup remains cost effective.

What is Google changing?

Google is combining two existing match types, phrase match and broad match modifier (sometimes called modified broad match and abbreviated “BMM” or “MBM”).

Phrase match keywords are written with quotation marks like this: “b2b digital agency”.

Broad match modifier keywords are written with a plus sign, like this: +b2b +digital +agency

Prior to the recently-announced change, phrase match required a search term that contained all of the same words and in the exact order, matching the full “phrase” in the keyword. So for example:

Search phrase Keyword (phrase): "b2b digital agency"
b2b digital agency in Reading
b2b agency in Reading specialising in digital

Broad match modifier provided more flexibility in the search term – the words must all be present, but they do not need to be in the same order. So:

Search phrase Keyword (BMM): +b2b +digital +agency
b2b agency in Reading specialising in digital

There are some nuances around this. In particular, both match types allow some flexibility for words with similar meanings. So for instance:

Search phrase Keyword (phrase): "b2b digital agency" Keyword (BMM): +b2b +digital +agency
b2b digital consultancy

Once the recently-announced change has been completed, the old BMM syntax (with the +keyword signs) will disappear. The old “phrase match” syntax remains, but with a very important difference:

The new phrase match is (more or less) the same as the old BMM (!)

 

So for example:

Search phrase Keyword (new phrase): "b2b digital agency"
b2b agency in Reading specialising in digital

There are some slight differences between old-style BMM and new-style phrase match. In particular Google says that the word order will be significant in deciding whether to match, in some cases. But the differences are quite minor. For more detail, see this Google help article.

So while this announcement has been reported as “Google is retiring Broad Match Modifier”, the truth is a bit more nuanced:

  • Google is retiring the old BMM syntax, with the +keyword signs.
  • There is a new-style phrase match, which behaves very similarly to the old-style BMM (with some subtle differences)
  • There will be no way to recreate the behaviour of the old-style phrase match.

It would be more accurate to say that phrase match is being retired, and BMM is being renamed!

When is this happening?

Google’s announcement says that the keyword behaviour “will begin to transition…starting mid-February [2021]”. The change will be applied to a list of 8 languages (including English) first, with other languages following along later.

So keep an eye for a further announcement or a Google Ads account alert to tell you that the change has gone into effect. It may still be a few weeks or even months before this behaviour switches over for your account.

Another key date is July 2021 – Google says that, by then, the change will have been rolled out globally, and it will then no longer be possible to create new keywords with the old-style BMM syntax.

What should B2B search marketers do about this change?

Bear in mind that this change mostly impacts phrase match. So your action plan depends on how heavily you use old-style phrase match in your Google Ads accounts.

Start by auditing your Google Ads accounts and see how important phrase match keywords are to you at the moment. You can do this in two ways:

  • Simply count how many phrase match keywords you have as a percentage of all of the active keywords in the account; or
  • Count the fraction of total account impressions, clicks and spend that is allocated to phrase match keywords.

The first approach is easier but may over- or under-state the importance of phrase match if, for example, you have a lot of phrase match keywords that have very low search volumes. The second approach is slightly more complex to do, but still only a few minutes’ work with a suitable spreadsheet, and will give you a more robust view.

Quick tip: there’s a convenient “Match Type” filter in Google Ads that makes it easy to separate out your phrase match keywords:

Keyword Search Phrase Match Screen Grab

Interestingly there is no BMM setting in this filter – BMM keywords are currently combined with broad match. If you want to filter for BMM, here’s a trick you can use:

Keyword search screen grab

Here are the steps I recommend:

  1. For your existing phrase match keywords: be aware that their matching behaviour is going to change significantly, and this may bring in bad matches that could harm the ROI of the associated campaigns. So as soon as Google’s change has been implemented, monitor these phrase match keywords closely and be ready to adjust bids, add negative keywords and perhaps even remove some keywords altogether.
  2. Existing BMM keywords won’t change their behaviour very much, but there are some nuanced differences. So you should still audit and monitor these keywords in case the small differences catch you out. In particular if you work with a lot of searches where the word order is significant to you, you may need to make some changes here.
  3. If you currently have a campaign with both phrase match and BMM keywords that are otherwise identical – for example if you bid on both “b2b agency” and +b2b +agency – then these are going to behave as exact duplicates. It would make sense to pause the BMM versions of these keywords as soon as you know the change has been implemented. (Duplicate keywords have no benefits and just cause headaches for account maintenance and performance analysis.)
  4. As soon as you know that the change has been implemented for your accounts, stop using the outgoing +keyword BMM syntax for any new keywords that you create. Use the “phrase match” syntax instead. (Although you CAN still continue to use the BMM syntax until July, it will be retired soon anyway, so why create a problem for the future?)
  5. Consider a planned account update to switch out your existing +keyword BMM keywords for phrase match. This isn’t essential: the old BMM syntax will continue to work indefinitely as a synonym for phrase match. But because it will soon become impossible to create keywords with the old BMM syntax, in the long term these keywords will become a headache for account maintenance. So a planned retirement of the +keyword syntax makes sense. Ideally, work to complete this before the July deadline.

If you are unlucky enough to currently make heavy use of phrase match, consider a more strategic review of your keyword strategy – it may be that you need to make more substantial changes to your keyword mix. 

What are the wider implications of this change for B2B search marketers?

B2B search marketing often relies on very nuanced use of keywords. If matching is too broad, it is very easy to bring in a lot of expensive clicks from irrelevant matches, and so destroy the ROI from a campaign. So any change to match types is naturally a concern and needs to be assessed carefully by search marketers.

But on the whole I think this is a sensible rationalisation of match types. At Sharp Ahead, we’ve rarely needed to use much phrase match in the Google Ads accounts that we manage for our clients. We find that in most cases, BMM gives a good balance between specificity and reach, and allows us to design campaigns that give great ROI. So the old-style phrase match isn’t much of a loss.

There are a few nuanced cases where we’ll need to change our approach. For instance the mixing of BMM and broad match keywords like this:

+b2b digital agency

…won’t work any more – the whole keyword has to be phrase match. But on the whole, the changes will be minor. We just have to get used to the new terminology! Just remember:

+Broad +Match +Modifier is dead.
Long live “Broad Match Modifier”!