Maria Corcoran has been at Microsoft for about a year and a half. Before that, she was part of the in-house team at Adobe. In her SMX Next 2022 session, she discusses the evolution of page search and what that means for advertisers and brands.
The advancement of technology has led to the creation of third-party tools that have bidding algorithms and the ability to advertise on multiple search engines such as Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu, etc. Those tools have replaced the manual processes of bidding and campaign optimization, allowing page search managers to focus on more meaningful tasks. However, the question arises on how to trust the bidding algorithms and the data being uploaded, as well as the automation being done by the tools. This has led to the need for page search managers to find new ways to add value to the company and prove their worth.
Corcoran says that one area where page search managers can add value is by spending their time on high-impact items and deeper analysis to drive insights that other channels cannot provide. This includes understanding the keywords and phrases that people are searching for and using that analysis to help the business focus its efforts. Testing is another area where page search managers can add value, by determining the impact of tests on the bottom line and prioritizing them among other channels.
It is also important for page search managers to evaluate the right KPIs and understand how they fit into the funnel for page search. This may involve pushing back on mandates from stakeholders and ensuring that the KPIs align with the overall goals of the business. The presentation will cover various topics related to testing, including new features and opportunities, the impact of tests, and the priorities of other channels.
Testing at Microsoft
A testing planning sheet was devised at Microsoft to prioritize tests based on their impact on the bottom line. The sheet included information about the quarter in which the test will be run, the channel it will run in, the test and learning categories, a description of the test, the type of approval needed, the reporting timing, the expected performance impact, an estimated budget, and a test theme. The sheet also includes the business opportunity that the test is aiming to achieve, beyond the actual hypothesis.
Corcoran says this type of information was presented to stakeholders to ensure that the testing approach is well thought out and takes into account the impact on the bottom line. The testing planning sheet helps to find the right balance across all proposed tests and channels, as they all aim to drive improvements to the bottom line. The focus is on providing a comprehensive understanding of the test, including the business opportunity and the expected impact, rather than just a hypothesis.
Impact and outcome
The expected impact is a crucial aspect of testing, as it outlines the goals and objectives of the test. In this case, the expected impact of running a test for free in Excel is to drive users to test the free version, convert them to active monthly users, and eventually upsell them to the paid version. The learning questions for the test include understanding the cost per monthly user, whether the free keywords will result in any paid subscriptions, and other related questions.
The approach for the test involves laying out the keywords, ads, landing pages, and deployment strategies. The campaign information includes the exact campaigns that will be run, the flight dates, keyword themes, device types, markets, and landing page. It is important to be specific about the targeting and to consider regional holidays, promos, and localization when laying out the test approach.
Finally, the measurement approach is crucial, as it outlines the primary KPI for success, the optimization metric, and the goals of the test. The optimization metric should align with the KPI goal and be something that can be ingested into the bidding algorithms. The primary KPI for success should be identified, but it is okay if it is not met, as this goes into the learning questions bucket.
Corcoran continues explaining that the success of the test needs to be defined and any potential roadblocks or considerations should be taken into account. The reporting cadence is also crucial and should be clearly communicated to stakeholders. The stakeholders should be provided with regular reports that include the KPIs, trending data, and historical data.
At the end of the test, a wrap-up report should be provided to the stakeholders that includes the primary goal and whether it was achieved. If not, why not and what were the unexpected results. The report should also include insights, such as which engine outperformed the others, which device type performed better, and which keyword or product theme had better results. In case of a test that did not meet its success goals, the team can evaluate the data and determine how to move forward, such as turning the test into an evergreen campaign or adjusting the KPI reporting to reduce delays. The team should also be provided with information about the ads, verbiage, and landing page being used in the test. The presentation will also touch upon various new ad types, including Performance Max.
Corcoran discusses various other strategies and considerations for ad testing in the digital marketing world. Performance Max, which is a type of ad that can be run across multiple channels like YouTube, display, Gmail, and maps, but raises questions about tracking and cross-channel implications. She discusses Responsive Search Ads (RSA) and the importance of considering company branding and ad copy testing when creating RSA campaigns. Corcoran also touches on landing page testing and emphasizes the importance of making clear and significant changes to landing pages rather than just minor adjustments.
It is also important to always take into account the performance of other channels. Has a landing page test already been conducted, and does this have any relevance to paid media? While it may be performing well on the web, paid traffic might only require one click to make a purchase. This is especially true for bottom funnel tactics.
In terms of campaign maintenance, it is important to ensure that messaging is aligned and there are opportunities for quarterly expansion. To do this, one should outline their business objectives, funding source, target audience, campaign types, keyword themes, messaging, landing pages, and KPIs. This will help to ensure that the strategy is clear and concise, and will aid in running the campaigns.
It is also important to ensure that all campaigns are consistent and that the same bidding strategies, site links, and other elements are used globally. This can be done by creating a keyword matrix, which outlines the general brand keywords, messaging, landing pages, and KPIs.
In addition, teams should ensure that they are looking at the same data and that the data source is trustworthy. The data should also be reported and optimized correctly, and there should not be any delays between reporting and optimization.
When looking at data, it is important to consider the impact of different markets, product themes, devices, and seasonality. This can be done by looking at sales funnel metrics such as demand generation, conversion, and post-sale, and by examining the impact of data slicing on these metrics.
For example, you can analyze the performance of different product themes year over year to identify growth and decline opportunities. The same can be done for funnel intent, such as conversion, consideration, and awareness, and this information can then be used to optimize and categorize different intentions.
Finally, a high-level view of performance can be created by combining keyword themes, regional themes, and all-up performance into one chart. This can be a useful tool for stakeholders to understand the performance at a high level.
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