SMX West – Day Two Recap

Mindstream Media Group’s Allison Eckberg, Heather Ottenhausen and Stephanie Cheek are at Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West, a leading conference for search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing professionals (SEM) since 2007. Mindstream’s search pros will be providing their analysis of the day’s most interesting sessions. Their recap of Day Two is below. For more coverage, check out our SMX Day One Recap and SMX Day Three Recap.

Special Flash Session: Changes To AdWords exact match


Ginny Marvin | Contributing Editor | Marketing Land

Matt Van Wagner | President | Find Me Faster

Recap by:

Stephanie Cheek | Paid Search Manager | Mindstream Media Group

SMX Day Two kicked off with a panel discussion on a Google update so earth-shattering it warranted a “special flash session.” Mindstream’s Stephanie Cheek was there and provided her analysis of what the update means for exact match keywords.

Google made a huge announcement last week: The exact match setting in AdWords is going through a significant change. Exact match is going to transition from a syntactic match type (matching the search word for word) to a semantic match type (matching the meaning or purpose of the search). Advertisers are going to have to retrain themselves in how they think about and use exact match.

After this announcement, SMX added a “special flash session” to the Day Two agenda to have an open discussion about the potential impact of the change and what advertisers can do to prepare.

So, what kind of change should advertisers expect related to exact match keywords over the next few months?
  • Close variant matching will expand to include rewording and reordering:
  • Function words – prepositions (e.g., “in” and “to”), conjunctions (e.g., “for” and “but”) and articles (e.g., “a” and “the”) – will be ignored:

Google is “selling” these changes as a time saver to advertisers – making it so they won’t have to build out exhaustive keyword lists to reach their customers. The company has reported that early tests show that advertisers may see up to a 3 percent increase on exact-match clicks with comparable click-thru and conversion rates.

Google explained that they will only match to rewording if it doesn’t change the intent of the keyword, but there’s concern that this would mean Google’s machine learning is solely responsible for discerning the intent of an advertiser’s keywords. “San Diego to San Francisco Flights” has a completely different meaning than “San Francisco to San Diego Flights” – if Google gets this wrong, advertisers will pay the price. Many advertisers attending the session expressed concern with relinquishing the tight control they have been accustomed to with exact match.

Google plans to roll these changes out over the next couple of months in English and Spanish, and to other languages throughout 2017.

Here’s what can advertisers do to prepare:
  • Monitor your search query reports closely.
  • Take a closer look at your most popular exact match keywords. Examine them to see if changing the order of the words also changes the meaning. If you uncover cases where it does, add those as negative keywords.
  • Review your search query reports to see what close variants have been triggering your ads. If you find that the variations currently triggering your ads will be affected, add them as negative keywords.
  • Consider using phrase match in cases where syntactic matching is necessary to preserve the meaning of the keyword.

Session: Survive and thrive with SMB PPC


Kirk Williams | Owner and Minion | Zato

Recap by:

Allison Eckberg | SEM Specialist | Mindstream Media Group

Moving from a new paid search challenge to one as old as AdWords itself, Allison Eckberg reviews what it takes to run a successful campaign on a tight budget.

When working with small or medium-size businesses (SMBs), it can be difficult to run a successful pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. The biggest challenge facing SMBs is typically their very limited budget, often less than $2,500 per month. Since you can’t just throw money at it, like you might be able to with a large corporate campaign, you’ll need to rely on hard work and skill to manage SMB campaigns effectively. Here are four tips to help you excel at running SMB PPC campaigns.

SMB PPC Tip No. 1: Set everything up well from the beginning

“The slower the getaway car, the more important a good head-start (is).” – Kirk Williams, Zato

Setting your campaign up for success requires a well thought out and organized foundation. As the session’s presenter, Kirk Williams of Zato, put it: “The slower the getaway car, the more important a good head-start (is).” One suggestion for setting up SMB campaign structure is to segment campaigns by match type to push spend towards the keywords and match types that are driving the best performance. This allows you to have more control over a very limited budget and, in turn, spend your budget more effectively. (When naming your campaigns, it’s also good to use naming conventions that will avoid confusion in the future.)

SMB PPC Tip No. 2: Always be conscious of your budget

It’s always important to keep tight control over campaign spend, but it’s even more so with smaller budgets. Williams provided a few strategies for managing smaller SMB budgets:

  1. Use an SMB automated budget rule strategy – assign campaign labels and pause poorer performing campaigns throughout the month. You can then apply an automated rule to find your designated labels, and push campaigns live at the beginning of a new month.
  2. Turn shared budgets into an SMB win – this will allow you to keep your most important campaigns separate and split budgets amongst your remaining campaigns.

SMB PPC Tip 3: Focus on targeting

Thanks to a more centralized audience, SMBs typically have a significant advantage over their larger competitors in terms of precision targeting. SMBs have plenty of options to optimize their campaigns – keywords, geo-targeting, re-targeting, etc. – to reach specific target audiences.

SMB PPC Tip 4: Provide relevant reporting

Instead of putting time and effort into low budget, weekly reporting, focus more on beneficial monthly or quarterly reporting.

It’s important to provide and review as much relevant data about PPC campaigns as possible while avoiding wasting time evaluating unnecessary metrics.

Here are some additional reporting tips from Williams:

  1. Avoid pointless metrics – it’s important to not waste their time with metrics that are not as crucial to their PPC campaign. Instead, focus on the main goal, or KPIs, of each campaign and how the campaign is meeting, or working towards, that goal.
  2. Don’t over-report – instead of putting time and effort into low budget, weekly reporting, focus more on beneficial monthly or quarterly reporting. This a larger dataset to review, compared to the small amount of information provided by weekly reporting.
  3. Make it pretty – nobody wants to sit down and review a bunch of pages of excel reporting. Instead, focus on providing a visually appealing summary of performance data that can be reviewed in a timely manner.

While it can be challenging, SMB PPC campaigns can be extremely successful even when working with limited budgets. If we set up our campaigns the right way, target audience accurately and budget intelligently, we can pull off SMB campaigns that are just as successful, or more so, than PPC campaigns from even the largest of companies.

Session: SEO for Google’s mobile-first index and mobile-friendly world


Eric Enge | CEO | Stone Temple Consulting

Gary Illyes | Webmaster Trends Analyst | Google

Leslie To | Senior Director of SEO | 3Q Digital

Recap by:

Heather Ottenhausen | Team Leader, Local Solutions | Mindstream Media Group

Google announced its mobile-first ranking index months ago and it seems like it’s inching closer to go fully live. Heather Ottenhausen attended a session with Google’s Gary Illyes to find out what brands need to do to make sure their websites are ready. 

In November 2016, Google announced that it started testing its mobile-first index, which looks at the mobile version of your website for ranking signals to determine the site’s position in search results.

On Day 2 of SMX, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes let us know that “2017 will be an interesting year” thanks to the mobile-first index launch, but urged the crowd not to “freak out.” Illyes said the mobile-first index is still in the experimental phase and, while the company isn’t sure when it’ll be 100 percent ready, he assured the SMX crowd that the launch is probably still months away.

Here’s a list of tips from Illyes to help webmasters get ready for a mobile-first world:

  • Copy over content that you want to rank for from your desktop version to the mobile version.
  • Take your time on implementation so that it’s done right.
  • Follow the advice of SEO industry experts.
  • Implement structured data.
  • If you have a mobile responsive site, you should be good to go.
  • And, again, don’t freak out!

Although it is tougher for Illyes to release details about the mobile-first index, Leslie To from 3Q Digital presented some dos and don’ts of mobile, regardless of configuration: