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A Dangerous Change To Google’s Content Targeting Options

By John Woods  |  February 2, 2023

It’s not unusual for Google to tweak things in Google Ads in ways that can impact campaign performance. For instance there was a change to keyword match types two years ago: Usually these changes have only modest implications for running campaigns. 

But yesterday we learned about a Google Ads change that is a bit of a shocker. It won’t affect every advertiser by any means, but if the changes are relevant for your campaigns then the impacts could be horrendous. Here’s the core part of the announcement: 

“Also, to help you reach more potential customers, your ads will now show on content that matches any of the topics, placements, or display and video keywords you target. For example, an ad targeting a topic and a placement will be eligible for impressions which match either. 
Currently, your ads can only show on content that simultaneously matches all of the topics, placements, and display and video keywords you target.” 

In summary: Google are changing some display ad targeting from “AND logic” to “OR logic”. So previously we could target display ads to pages that are on specific websites AND that relate to specific topics. Now that “AND” will change to “OR”. The changes will be applied automatically to running campaigns and there’s no way to avoid this. 

This might not seem all that dramatic. But here’s an analogy: 

Suppose you’re a business that makes chutney. You have a regular order with a supplier for green tomatoes. Things go well for several years with your green tomatoes turning up each day. Then one day you receive a shipment with: 

  • A few green tomatoes – way fewer than your normal order 
  • Loads of red and yellow tomatoes 
  • Loads of cabbages, cucumbers, peas and broccoli  

I think you’d be unhappy! You call the supplier. “What’s the problem?” they say. “You asked for green tomatoes. Everything we’ve sent you is either a tomato, or green. Or even both!” 

The same problem applies to display campaigns that are impacted by this change – instead of reaching the exact intended audience, they will go to much broader audiences that are largely irrelevant to the advertiser’s original strategy. 

Let’s look at a realistic B2B PPC example: suppose I want to show an ad for a B2B technology-related product. I might decide I want to focus my budget on – because I think their readership is a good fit for my target demographic – but obviously the whole readership of the Daily Mail is far too broad for me to target. So I can choose to combine a second criterion and show the ad on pages that relate to technology industry news. With Google’s current setup – which has been in place for many years! – those targeting options combine to give this result: 

So there are around 5,000 impressions available for ads on on pages that relate to the technology industry. That’s a very affordable, niche target that I can go after with a budget of perhaps only a few pounds a week. 

With Google’s change the number of impressions goes up dramatically: 

So instead of 5,000 available impressions there are now 1.8M+370K=2.2 MILLION impressions! The audience is nearly 500x larger. 

That might sound exciting but in fact it’s a disaster for this campaign. I wanted to reach Daily Mail readers who read content about the technology industry. Instead I’m now reaching ALL Daily Mail readers, and ALL pages (on the whole internet!) that carry content about the technology industry. The original strategy behind my campaign has been destroyed. In the worst case – the campaign might spend 500x more and deliver the same return. So the campaign ROI could be 500x worse! 

Budget/spend implications: 

Depending on budget settings, there’s a risk that some display campaigns may suddenly start spending dramatically more money. And this extra spend will mostly be wasted as the additional impressions will be outside of the original targeting intent of the campaign. 

What we think: 

This is an unfortunate change by Google for two reasons. Firstly, it takes away a strategy that has been really valuable for niche B2B marketers who want to make some use of Google’s Display Network. The GDN is substantially less useful for B2B marketing as a result of this change. 

But secondly it sets a worrying precedent. If Google feels entitled to implement automatic changes that totally undermine the original intent behind a campaign setup, and that may dramatically damage the ROI from running campaigns, that undermines trust and confidence in the Google Ads platform. 

I think this change is poorly thought out, and I  hope  Google will reverse it, or at least implement it in a “safer” way. But for now we have to take Google at their word and assume the change is going ahead. 

What you need to do: 

If you run Display campaigns on Google Ads, you need to immediately review whether any of your existing campaigns will be impacted by this change. The change may go live as soon as 1st March 2023, so you only have a few weeks. If you don’t take action you risk seeing your Google Display spend rising dramatically for little or no return. 

For Sharp Ahead retained clients: 

We will be proactively reviewing the impact of this change on all Google Ads accounts where we are currently engaged for PPC management. At a minimum, we will arrange to pause any campaigns where we are concerned about the negative impact. 

As usual, if you have any concerns or need help with this or any other aspect of PPC management for B2B marketing, please get in touch! 

Are UK VARs investing too much time and money in social media, at the expense of basic best practice?

By Jennifer Esty  |  February 22, 2019

Analysis of the digital footprint of the UK’s top 100 value added resellers reveals the sector lags behind in implementing digital best practice—and may need to reconsider how marketing time and spend is allocated.

What is digital best practice?


In a report commissioned by channel marketing experts, coterie, 61% of VARs were missing at least one basic digital best marketing practice. The most common failures were not properly curating their Google knowledge panel or their Google search engine results pages.

Why is this important?


90% of B2B buyers will look online before making a purchasing decision, failure to be found—and to provide basic information—means not even getting on the consideration list for new opportunities.

What should VARs focus on?


From the research, 69% of companies are doing a good job generating social content, specifically on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Social content strategies are labour-intensive and require ongoing investment, whether in internal or external resource. Whilst organic social content is important, companies run the risk of investing time and money publishing content in an echo chamber of existing contacts (customers, employees, suppliers and, yes, recruitment agents).

Prospects are harder to reach with organic social and for growth-focused companies this investment might need a rethink.

Conversely, only 35% of companies are doing a good job with onsite user experience. Arguably a conversion optimised website focused on prospect journeys will have a higher return on investment. Even if it is hard work to get right, positive UX only requires one-off investment every few years and should easily pay for itself.

What next?


To find out how you can outperform the top 100 UK VARs, and for more best practice tips, download the full report or contact us.

Silhouette of man holding up numbers 2019

Your Digital Marketing New Year’s Resolution

By Jennifer Esty  |  December 28, 2018
Do these 7 things before January 31.

The good news about these seven B2B digital marketing best practices is that they do not involve diets, giving up wine, or loads of investment.

1. Make sure your site is https

In July 2018, Google started displaying a “not secure” warning in its Chrome browser for any site not using https. Over 70% of desktop users and over 50% of mobile users are on Chrome, so well over half of your visitors will see a “not secure” warning on every page of your site. Although a security warning isn’t the end of the world, it is distracting for web visitors and is an ongoing blot on your website’s user experience which will result in lost conversions and drip-drip damage to your brand.

2. Buy your own brand name on Google Ads

I know what you’re thinking: but I’m already P1 one for my brand name, why should I pay for it? First, are you sure? It’s worth checking that a competitor or business with a similar name hasn’t moved into P1 either through a paid or organic listing. Second, it won’t cost much. Third, it allows you to own more of the real estate on your search engine results page. Fourth, it enables you to control the messages that your prospects and customers see (I’ll bet your careers page appears as one of your site links, is that really relevant for prospective customers?).

3. Claim your Google Knowledge Panel

Google has two types of Knowledge Panels, local and branded panels. They’re really important for displaying key business information such as contact details and opening hours, plus they increase the amount of real estate you own on the search engine results page for your brand. Both types of panels can be claimed through the listing that appears on the right hand side of a desktop search results page, but if you don’t see one appear, you can open a Google My Business account and verify your business information. This will increase the chances of a local panel appearing; sadly there isn’t a way (currently) to do the same for the branded panels. Check out this excellent article from Yoast for a more detailed explanation.

4. Check that your Google Map isn’t broken

Google changed the Maps API and we’ve spotted loads of broken Maps, just have a quick look across your website and landing pages to make sure yours is still displaying correctly.

5. Put your phone number at the top of your site

Most B2B products and services are relatively complex and will ultimately require person-to-person selling. The best outcome of your digital marketing campaign is almost always inspiring a prospect enough to call you. So make phone numbers prominent on your website, ideally in the header(and as click-to-call on mobile).

6. Set up remarketing on the Google Display network

B2B products and services usually have a long consideration cycle: use remarketing as a way of staying in touch with your prospects throughout their decision-making process. A couple of pro tips: set the frequency caps at something reasonable, you want gentle reminders not exhausting in your face selling; and make sure you change the creative and messaging every few months to keep things fresh and interesting.

7. Use the LinkedIn Insight Tag

Love it or hate it, LinkedIn remains one the most important platforms available to B2B marketers (and yes, recruitment agents). The LinkedIn Insight tag enables you to collect data on your website visitors and match them with LinkedIn’s formidable database of over 500 million users. You’ll need a Campaign Manager account to generate a tag and then you’ll need to add it to all of your digital properties (website and landing pages), plus set up some Matched Audiences. For more detailed help, check out our previous blog article on these features.

And of course if you need any help, give us a call. We offer a free 30 minute consultation to qualifying businesses. But please don’t ask for diet tips or help with dry January!

Save Money on Early Years Products with YPO Banner

300 Qualified Leads in 3 Months

By Jennifer Esty  |  September 28, 2018

Sharp Ahead provide digital marketing consultancy and lead generation services to YPO, the UK’s largest public sector buying organisation.

Our latest campaign for their Early Years range produced outstanding results in the first three months of its launch:

  • 300 qualified leads (and counting)
  • Cost per lead of less than £19
  • 82% opt in for further marketing communications

The campaign focused on paid media and conversion optimisation, using a combination of search, display and social.

It proved that YPO’s unique value proposition for this sector is servicing latent demand for high quality, cost effective products in UK nurseries, clubs and preschools.

For more information on this campaign, or how Sharp Ahead could provide similar results for your B2B organisation, please contact Jennifer Esty.

Hand scrolling on a phone

6 simple things B2B digital marketing gets wrong

By Jennifer Esty  |  May 18, 2018

At Sharp Ahead we often get asked to do audits of our clients’ (and prospects’) digital footprints, which is a great way to start to understand how to make immediate improvements to your digital marketing.

Here are six things that come up time and time again.

1. Phone numbers: most B2B products and services are relatively complex and will ultimately require person-to-person selling. The best outcome of your digital marketing campaign is almost always inspiring a prospect enough to call you. So make phone numbers prominent on your website, ideally in the header of your landing pages and website.

A few other phone number rules:
– don’t make your prospects choose from multiple phone numbers, more often than not they’ll just choose to phone someone else. And when they do call, don’t give them 6 different options to choose from.
– don’t charge your B2B prospects for phoning you
– and most importantly, during business hours, make sure the phone is answered by a trained member of staff. Every. Single. Time.

2. Don’t hide your best content. Content marketing is not a treasure hunt. If you hide your best content, no one is going to come looking for it. Social proof like case studies, testimonials, and client logos needs to be featured prominently on key entrance and landing pages.

3. The Ronseal Principle: tell visitors to your site exactly what you do in plain language. Taglines, mission statements, and post-branding workshop catch phrases are all well and good, but don’t assume your prospects know you already or that you naturally have enough credibility to be on their short list.

4. Most prospects don’t even want to visit your website. Google has taught us to expect its search engine results pages (SERPs) to answer our questions without visiting actual websites. Make sure the SERPs for key terms, like your brand and contact information, are as carefully curated as your homepage. Google gives you lots of good tools for doing this, including free ones like Google My Business.

5. Prices: do not be afraid of talking about price. At some point, the cost of your products or services is going to be very, very relevant to your prospects. You can save a lot of everyone’s time by giving at least an indication of price during the lead generation process. The hard work of establishing your price points and your place in the market should have been done already; be confident in your decision making and honest with your prospects.

6. Landing pages. Use landing pages for your lead generation campaigns. Make sure they are optimised for conversion, which includes paying attention to every detail from page load speeds to the wording and colour of your CTA to which fields you put on the form. Do not send your hard won and paid for traffic to a page on your website.

And last but not least, if you have any questions or need help with any of the above, please get in touch.

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