Today I’d like to share with you an amazing success story that demonstrates how a relatively simple idea, well executed and properly timed, can improve performance on a PPC account.
Sandals is an all-inclusive resort brand known across North America and Europe as providing Caribbean tropical vacations for couples looking for luxury beach and activity breaks. They have been a client for some time now and we have grown and enhanced the account in many ways. It reached the point where it was pretty clear that the search account was plateauing and we also wanted to ensure we had better efficiency so as to allow greater spend growth in broader marketing channels (such as display).
To this end, we saw a potentially valuable test was to replace (in a reversible way) all the broad match keywords with broad match modified versions. We expected that the traffic quality would be improved and we therefore expected higher conversion rates and lower Cost of Sale percentage (i.e. CoS – that is spend divided by revenue, also sometimes referred to as Cost Per Revenue). The outcome was far more profound than we expected and provided good lessons to retry this approach with other appropriate clients.
Why did we choose to focus on broad match like this? Broad match can spend a fair share of your budget for less than its fair share of conversions and it delivers ads in circumstances you may not expect.
Broad match was making up a nearly a quarter of spend but it allowed things like matches to the term “vacation” when the keyword was “all inclusive vacations to the caribbean”. In addition, broad match features session-based impressions where in the same browser session, regardless of the search, Google will serve the ad again on search if, earlier on, a search by the user triggered your ad. We thought it was worth the risk of avoiding these types of impressions and clicks as part of this test.
The summary of the outcome is in the case study published here and is based on comparing 12 weeks of data. However, as we saw the effect of this test build, the case study has proven to describe only an indication of the performance improvements this looks like yielding. The review was performed prior to the client’s peak period and now that we’re a good way through the peak we can see the pay-off of this test even more profoundly.
There were so many improvements across the board, it was a pleasure to review the account. To date, based on Year on Year comparison, we have seen:
- 21% lower CPC
- Ad rank has improved by an average of half a place
- By cutting out the broad traffic, we reduced spend by 30% (money to be used elsewhere than search)
These charts show how the traffic is more Exact match-focused than before, which drives efficiency. Exact match impression share rocketed thanks to there being more room in the budget for traffic peaks to be met with broad spend share subsiding.
However, despite the reduced spend, the growth numbers are really excellent and the YoY growth has accelerated as time as passed.
In September 2013 (the first calendar month after the modifier was rolled out), the core conversion metrics were:
- 39% lower CoS
- 2.8% more conversions
- 40.7% higher conversion rate
In November we saw:
- 53% lower CoS
- 11.3% more conversions
- 30.3% higher conversion rate
In the 30 days to February 6th, we have seen:
- 48% lower CoS
- 43.8% more conversions
- 40% higher conversion rate
We did this not just by flicking a switch and unthinkingly replacing all broad with broad modified but by doing this on the most appropriate campaigns and by adding the modifier on the terms within a keyword that counted. So we ensured the most mature campaigns were worked on and we didn’t add the “+” modifier to minor words in a phrase like “the” or “in”.
This meant the impact was more limited than the less nuanced approach but also ensured that valuable traffic was less likely to be lost. It was always expected that traffic would fall to some extent since full broad match was no longer in play.
So both we and the client are delighted with the results and this test, along with every test we perform, will factor into our work with all our clients.
Keep an eye out for more case studies to be published in the coming weeks and months.
Written by Steven Plimmer, Short-listed as the Best Account Manager at the Performance Marketing Awards 2013.