7 Takeaways from SMX Advanced 2016 - Blog

SMX Advanced Recap: My Top 7 Takeaways

It was another great week in Seattle at SMX Advanced. In my opinion, it’s one of the best conferences out there for search marketing professionals. This year’s session was no exception. If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, or if you did attend and don’t know where to start with applying the topics that were discussed, here are my top 7 tactical takeaways from the 2016 SMX Advanced Conference.


1. Expand Your Remarketing Efforts

If you’re like me, your remarketing conversion rates and cost per conversion are great, so how do you expand your retargeting efforts? You can’t just allocate more budget; it doesn’t work like that. What you need is to find more users to retarget, but how do you that?

Applying takeaways today:

  • Create more top of the funnel traffic that drives initial awareness, and leverage those visitors with your remarketing efforts.
  • Create downloadable content offers that your target audience would be interested in and promote on social media channels
  • Use Google Analytics or other audience insight tools to analyze the characteristics and behaviors of your current audience and place display ads on relevant websites
  • Develop blog content that your audience is interested in and that also has high search traffic


2. Think About AdWords Quality Score Differently

Are your quality scores hurting your CPC and ad position? Search Guru, Brad Geddes, shared some valuable information during his Mad Scientists of PPC session: Quality Score Under the Microscope. He discussed the factors that go into both ad rank and quality score and the weight of each.

Ad Rank
SOURCE: Quality Score Under the Microscope by Brad Geddes]


Some key insights he discussed were the correlation and non-correlations between different metrics.

  • As quality score increases, so does your position. This often causes you to compete with different advertisers, so you rarely see a direct correlation.
  • As quality score increases, so does impression share. This results in direct correlation with a variety of metrics because your ad is shown more.

Applying takeaways today:

  • If your quality score notes “Below average ad relevance,” look to create new ads and/or reorganize ad groups, keywords and ads
  • If your quality scores are not linear with your CTR, this is usually a landing page issue, so look for opportunities to improve your landing page experience


3. Use Different Audience Segments Strategically

Going off the previous remarketing takeaways, it’s important to also think about what you can do with your audiences in relation to search remarketing. From excluding audiences to leveraging competitor keywords in a more tactical way, it’s important to always be thinking about audience segmentation.

  • If you’re bidding on branded keywords for your search remarketing campaigns, consider excluding your current customer base since they most likely would still visit your website organically from a search query
  • Create a Dynamic Search Ad (DSA) campaign for all your website and blog content on your website and target previous website visitors. Searches for blog content (resources, guides, etc.) typically have little competition, so it’s a great way to get your remarketing lists back to your website for a much cheaper CPC.
  • Create a search remarketing campaign focused on using competitor keywords. You typically will see good CTRs and higher quality scores than you would with a regular search campaign.

Applying takeaways today:

  • If you haven’t already, start creating audience segments in Google Analytics and Google AdWords based on time on page, number of sessions, pages viewed and type of content viewed
  • If you have a good size customer-base, upload your email address list into Google AdWords
  • From there, consider the above strategies along with your objectives, and implement a strategy that makes the most sense for you


4. Start Planning for Google’s Expanded Text Ads

Google is making one of its biggest changes to AdWords since launching almost 15 years ago. Expanded text ads are going to completely change the game for advertisers. How you approach this major change will determine your success.

Here is a look at the standard ad compared to the next expanded text ad via Rob Lenderman’s presentation at SMX Advanced:

Expanded Text Ads
SOURCE: What Google’s Expanded Text Ads Really Mean for You by Rob Lenderman


As you can see, this will be a major change from how search ads look currently. This change, along with the Google’s Ad Tag Going Green, are making search ads look more and more like organic listings.

Applying takeaways today:

So what you do you about this major change? If you were selected for the beta (we were!), you need to start making the change now. If you aren’t in the beta, you should start planning for the change as it will be rolled out to all advertisers by the end of this year (if not sooner).

  • Break up your account(s) by traffic volume and focus on the top 10-20% and implement custom ads
  • From there, look to see if you can implement templates and/or ad customizers throughout the rest of your account(s)


5. Take Advantage of Google Tag Manager

While the name Google Tag Manager may leave you to think it’s a tool for only managing tags, it can do so much more. And it’s not as hard as you think.

Steve Guberman, Direct of Search Marketing at GolfNow.com, presented a session full of demos on what Google Tag Manager (GTM) can do. Several of his demos were built using templates and guides that are easily available for anyone to use:

Steve demonstrated outbound link tracking, timing engagement, scroll tracking, YouTube tracking, form field tracking and even tracking how people use copy text from your website!

Applying takeaways today:

  • If you haven’t implemented GTM yet, do it now. Its free: tagmanager.google.com
  • Download a starter template from Lunametrics or from us!
  • Check out our setup tutorial and tutorials from measureschool.com


6. Don’t Overthink Attribution

If you’re like me, attribution is one of your least favorite topics. We all know that a user rarely converts on their first engagement with your brand, but how do you prove that?

Google AdWords recently added a feature that lets you change your attribution model in your Conversion Settings.

AdWords Attribution Model
AdWords Attribution Model

You can now pick the attribution model that works best for you. But, what model is best for you?

This topic was heavily discussed in the AMA (Ask Me Anything): SEM panel session. Many of the panelists recommended comparing assisted conversions to click-through conversions to determine similarities between keywords. There was discussion about the problems with last-click attribution modeling, but it was also noted that this model is actually best for most advertisers. However, industries with longer-buying cycles (ahem! – higher education) should look at other attribution models.

Applying takeaways today:

  • Look at your Multi-Channel Funnel assisted conversion data, conversion path, time lag and path length (Google Analytics) to determine trends. This should help you decide what attribution model will work best for you.


7. Take Your Google Display Network (GDN) Campaigns to the Next Level

Google’s Learn with Google: The Google Display Network was the last session of the conference, and while I wasn’t expecting any life-changing information, their presentation did make me rethink what I considered “best practices” for GDN.

If you’re like me, you often question the effectiveness of Google Display advertising and the quality of websites your ads appear on. While so many advertisers are looking at programmatic display advertising through platforms like The Trade Desk, it might be worth reconsidering your luck with GDN.

  • Use both display and text ads on GDN: Many people don’t employ text ads in their display campaigns, but there is so much additional inventory out there (that is often cheaper).
  • Implement a Target CPA bid strategy: This will help Google help you get your ad in front of users that are most likely to convert. Of course, this is dependent on you having enough historical conversion data.
  • Create a shared library of placement exclusions: Quality of website placements has always been my big issue with GDN, so take the next step and start creating a list of placements you don’t want your ads appearing on. Then, apply to your campaigns accordingly.
  • Target similar audiences: Google has some great case studies that show significant conversion lifts when targeting similar audiences to your previous converters or website visitors.
  • Remarketing your YouTube viewers: Take advantage of your YouTube audience and remarket them with relevant messaging and CTAs.

Applying takeaways today:

While the above is a lengthy list, take a few minutes and decide what your biggest pain points are and go from there.

Did you attend SMX Advanced? What were your top takeaways? Check out some other conferences we recommend attending this year.

Hayley Warack
Hayley Warack
June 30, 2016