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Five smart ways to increase your ROI in AdWords

Whether you are managing your AdWords yourself or outsourcing to an agency, there is always one question that gets raised again and again: How can we increase campaign performance? Whether you are measuring return on investment (ROI) or return on advertising spend (ROAS) there are a range of activities you can undertake to improve ROI from AdWords.
While the overwhelming focus of your activity to improve your AdWords performance will be increasing your account’s overall average keyword quality score and refining your keyword targeting, there are a number of other considerations that you can use to increase your ROI.

  1. Understanding which channel generates best return. Adwords provides a range of channels as part of your campaign. While paid search is the most popular others can provide a real opportunity to get better value clicks. If you understand how to utilise each channel, and target it with relevant messages based on the role it plays in the customer journey, you can get significant and unexpected returns.
  2. Segmenting campaigns strategically. How you organise your campaign can be the difference between success and failure. Get this wrong and you can have keywords that might deliver a great return on investment, but that need more than their fair share of the budget to perform. Relevancy is the key when looking at this aspect of your AdWords performance. Organise your campaigns and ad groups around customer intent and relevancy to make your budget work harder. Divide and subdivide to refine over time and watch your ROI from AdWords edge higher and higher. In addition, Google Analytics has a powerful segmentation engine. Break your audiences down into parts and understand how each part interacts with your site, then tailor your bidding strategy, copy and landing pages accordingly. Using secondary dimensions in Google Analytics can provide additional insights. They work like AdWords segments except that there are more of them and they’re more flexible. Want to know if your campaigns are working for you? Find out more about out measurement and analytics services.
  3. Link offline transactions to online campaigns. ROI is often underreported because you only end up tracking sales that happen on or through your website. For many companies the majority of sales still happen offline. Get some help connecting your EPOS systems, CRM and offline sales activity to your analytics and AdWords accounts. With the right technology in place you’ll get a better idea of how your AdWords performance is driving offline sales as well as online.
  4. Understand ROI in each location (as granular as postcode if needed). AdWords location targeting allows you to choose geographic areas where your ads appear, but it can also be used as an optimisation tool to help increase your return on investment. You can even target by postcode if you want to really flex this targeting option. Campaigns will perform better in some areas than others for a variety of reasons: coverage, visibility, store location, product relevance, and so on. A good way to optimise your campaign is to target more successful areas with more budget to maximise ROI from AdWords. Tailor your message to each area, for example surfing gear may be more relevant if you live by the sea. You can even split out your campaigns by location to help with targeting.
  5. Fully understand the role of each device. Different devices are used in different ways. As a result the customer intent and place on the path to purchase can vary. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth model describes this very accurately. Customers researching a B2B product may well read content and consume articles on their phone, but only purchase on a desktop computer. Alternatively a consumer looking to buy a product may choose to research on a tablet at home and then find the store location and directions via their mobile before heading to the bricks and mortar store. Understanding what role each device plays in your product path to purchase is critical to maximise your ROI from AdWords campaigns. Target your keywords and refine your messaging to suit the device and intent of the user.

Need a hand boosting your ROI from AdWords?

If you want a hand implementing some of this advice, or for a complimentary audit of your own Google Adwords performance by a qualified Google certified Professional in the Organic team, contact us today.

It is all about the customer! Said everyone. Always.
But not everyone has the time or expertise to really understand the customer perspective when planning spend on Google Adwords. Often short-term necessity, or the demands of the business, will trump those of the customer and in this instance everybody loses and your ROI from Google AdWords activity will plummet.
If you find yourself targeting the wrong customer at the wrong time with the wrong message you will simply end up throwing money down the proverbial Thomas Crapper (It is a brand – look it up)
And nobody ever got a pay rise for doing that.
Here are five ways that you can use better customer insight to boost ROI in your Google Adwords account.

  1. Understand customer behaviour by linking your Google Analytics and AdWords data. If you can use Google Analytics to better understand how your customers behave then you can begin to identify the behaviours that increase the probability of a customer making a purchase or completing a specific action. For example, you can use retargeting to drive cross sell. If you understand that clients who bought product X are also likely to buy product Y, you can setup a campaign to target those customers. Similarly you can begin to understand the lifecycle of your customer journey and how long it takes a customer to buy. You can then tailor the timing and message of your ads to make sure the message is relevant to where they are on the customer journey. Effective use of data to create targeted campaigns will dramatically increase the ROI from your Google AdWords budget. Find out more about how we can help you with measurement and analytics here.
  2. Strategic approach with Google AdWords audience creation. Making sure you have a strategy around how you organise your audiences is a great way to improve campaign ROI. If you know that users that return twice to the website are more likely to buy a product then you can create an audience for these users to retarget them with quality, relevant ads. You can also ensure you do not make the classic mistake of targeting customers with ads for products they have already purchased.
  3. Identify upselling opportunities by analysing each individual user using User Explorer. User Explorer is a great tool in Google Analytics that allows you to see the historic behaviour of anonymous individual users. This enables you to see what an individual person might be doing over the lifetime of their interactions on your website. You can see what kinds of content they engage with or see purchase patterns. This will enable you to target people more efficiently with more relevant ads based on rules such as days since last purchase, or days to renewal.
  4. Understanding the role of each marketing channel. Attribution allows you to see where in in the customer journey you’re getting the best ROI from Google AdWords. For example, your display ads might be great for driving first click, but the final visit and purchase may happen on the third or fourth click. With that in mind, you need to understand the value of each campaign in that context. A final click ROI model might discount an AdWords campaign based on poor ROI when in actual fact it delivers most of your first click engagements. In addition you need to know how different AdWords campaigns interact with each other. One campaign might drive new engagements and one might drive the same people to convert. You can speak to a member of the Organic team to learn more about attribution.
  5. Understanding your most valuable customers and how to capture them. As time passes and your campaigns mature you can begin to see some customers are more valuable than others. They may come back time and time again, or make larger purchases. You can begin to understand what campaigns these users responded to and therefore what campaigns generate the highest value customers by looking at the actual revenue displayed in Analytics, or by linking your AdWords data to your CRM or EPOS system. You can then build out tactics to target the highest value customers with highly relevant messages that give a better customer experience. This will improve the efficiency of your campaign and deliver higher ROI.

The secret to high quality, highly relevant marketing is always understanding your customer. The same goes with Google Adwords and display products.
To learn more about your customer and how you can improve you Google Adwords performance, or for a complimentary audit of your own Google Adwords performance by a qualified Google certified Professional in the Organic Team, contact us today.

If you want your Google media spend to hit the Bullseye (forgive the 1980s TV references throughout, but I’m grieving the loss of a cornerstone of childhood memories in Jim Bowen) you need to work with a Google partner agency.
You can tell if an agency is certified because they have a validation badge like the one you find on our website (zip down to the bottom of this page to have a look, I’ll wait till you come back). You can also click through to see agency specialisms and how many qualified team members they have here. As well as knowing they have trained and skilled staff, there are a range of other benefits that you can take advantage of.
Here are five reasons to opt for a Google Partner agency for any of your search marketing needs.

In One: Access to the latest Google innovations and betas

When you work with a Google AdWords partner you get access to tools and products that non-Google partners cannot use. These betas allow better targeting, more diverse ad formats, and a range of specialist services for research, customer insight and better marketing intelligence. In short, a Google certified agency gives you an edge on your competitors.

In Two: Greater understanding of your sector or vertical

Google can provide your partner agency access to insights, benchmarking and performance statistics for your vertical. This means you get to understand industry cost-per-click benchmarks, what budgets others are spending, performance across device types, conversion rates and more. You’ll know if you are underperforming or outperforming your competitors, and be able to make intelligent choices regarding how and where you put your money.

In Three: Access to seasonality insights

Your Google Partner agency will be able to tell you what times of the year your products and services are most in demand and when competition is at its hardest. They will be able to help you understand when in the week your customers are likely to be clicking on ads and buying. This will help you decide when you increase and decrease spending and when you launch more intensive campaign activity for maximum Google Adwords ROI. You can find out more about how we can use insights and data to help you by finding out about our measurement and analytics services. 

In Four: Whitelisted AdWords features

Some features of Google AdWords are not available to all agencies, only to those partners who are whitelisted. These specialist features can only be accessed by meeting certain pre-requisites. An example of a product you cannot access without access to a whitelisted agency is Google Brand Lift. This tool measures the direct impact your ads are having on brand perception and customer behaviour throughout the consumer journey. These types of insights can make all the difference when you’re spending serious money on your Google campaigns.

In Five: Keep up to date with best practices

 We all know that change is constant in digital, and unbelievably fast. In order to become and remain a Google AdWords certified partner your agency team will have to take regular certifications and exams covering Adwords, search, display, shopping, video and mobile advertising. Partners also get training and support to keep up with the latest strategies and tactics as they evolve.

And Bully’s special prize…

Most of these benefits hinge on one super huge advantage that you get with a Google Partner: the fact that as a Google Partner agency they will have access to a real life, walking, talking, human being at Google. This allows them to expedite the resolution of issues and provide you with a far more personalised service.

Go for the bullseye

Don’t think about what you could have won. Our Google Certified professionals are waiting to help you take your Google AdWords campaigns to the next level. Contact us today.

Apache vs nginx {performance comparison}

Turns our old post about this is one of our most popular posts, who would have thought it! It was written by my predecessor Lee Parsons way back in 2013 so I’ve been asked to do an updated version for 2018.
Lee concluded that NGINX was 4.2 times faster than Apache overall. I think the difference will be less stark this time as Apache has had to make great gains in the intervening years to stay relevant. Apache is still used by 46% of websites overall as opposed to 39% NGINX however of the top 10,000 websites 64% use NGINX and 21% use Apache, so they must be doing something right!
I won’t be using a site that requires a lot of processing this time just a default Laravel 5.6 site, I think this will give a fairer comparison of the webservers. I will also be using a remote server for the tests rather than a local server. The sites will also be served with SSL as all sites should be using SSL these days.

The server

So I created a new virtual server on our UKFast eCloud Hybrid server with the following settings:

  • Ubuntu 16.04 x86_64
  • 2 vCPUs
  • 2GB RAM
  • 10GB Hard disk

This should simulate a fairly standard webserver. A little more powerful than you’d get on free tier AWS but nothing particularly special.
I then installed Apache, NGINX and PHP7.2 using ‘apt install’ and ran `apt upgrade` to get everything else on the latest versions. Both web servers where in their default production configurations. The versions installed are as follows:

  • Apache – 2.4.18
  • NGINX – 1.10.3
  • PHP-FPM   – 7.2.5

MySQL was not installed as it won’t be required for these tests.
The SSL certificate was generated using Let’s Encrypt and Certbot. The virtual hosts have been configured using the Mozilla SSL Configuration Generator, modern option and got A+ rating in the Qualys SSL Labs test.
PHP-FPM has been left in it’s default production configuration. The webroot will be the same for both servers and during each test the other will be stopped, so they will both use port 80.
I then cloned my default Laravel install into the webroot. No files were changed from default, other than generating the APP_KEY environment variable, so PHP will simply be compiling the index template and sending the HTML to the webserver, both cache and session drivers in .env are set to ‘file’. The compiled template will have already been cached by the Blade template system before the test begins by visiting the URL in my browser to try to eliminate PHP’s speed from the tests and give each webserver as level playing field as possible.
Enough about the server, on to the tests.

The tests

I’ve used Apache Bench for testing, as it’s what was used in the previous post, and included the same metrics as before as well, although removed the failed requests metric as none of the requests failed. The tests were performed using Apache Bench (e.g. ab -n 500 -c 10 <url>).
The y-axis labels  (e.g. 500/10) refer to the number of requests and the concurrency; i.e. 500/10 is five hundred requests with a concurrency of ten; i.e. five hundred requests were made for the URL with ten being made simultaneously. I’ve upped the number of requests and the concurrency because I think they were pretty low by today’s standards in the old post.

Connection time

Connection time is the average number of milliseconds (ms) that it takes for the server to start sending data to the client from when the request is made. A lower value is better as this means that the client’s browser will be able to begin rendering the page more quickly. As you can see from the chart NGINX performs better until we get to 1000/200 where Apache is on average 114 ms quicker at responding.
Connection time

Requests per second

Requests per second is the number of requests that were received by the client in a second. A higher value is better here as this means that more clients can be served more quickly at the same time. As you can see NGINX is marginally better, about 4% more requests per second.
Requests per second

Time per request

Time per request is the average number of milliseconds (ms) that each request took to connect, process and be sent and received by the client. A lower value is better here as it means that the client has to wait less time for their request to be completed. NGINX is the champion of this metric by a small margin. However the request time becomes unacceptably high above 500/100 for both webservers, this is where some kind of load balancing would be required.
Time per request

Transfer rate

Transfer rate is the speed at which data was sent from the server to the client, a higher value is better. Again NGINX wins but only just in most cases although it wins by a fair amount for the 500/100.
Transfer rate


In conclusion NGINX is still the better choice for performance in most situations.
Personally I also find it a lot easier to configure virtual hosts with NGINX due to it’s more readable configuration files. Apache does have the advantage of it’s .htaccess distributed configuration but I rarely find it necessary to change the configuration of a virtual host once it’s working well and this probably contributes a little to the reduced performance (it has to check for these files in each directory). Another advantage of NGINX is that it can be used as a reverse proxy to serve up NodeJS powered sites with ease although this can be accomplished with Apache using the proxy_http module as well.
Neither server was configured for high concurrency specifically so YMMV when using either web server also PHP-FPM pools were not adjusted from defaults.
I did try running some very high concurrency tests (ab -n 5000 -c 500 <url>) but they produced too many SSL handshake failures on both servers. This might be something to be aware of if you’re expecting a very large concurrency on your site.