It's the end of the year as we know it, and we're feeling fine. Why? Because this year we read – and fell in love with – some truly amazing articles about all things PPC.
In fact, what you're about to read are my picks for the 21 best PPC marketing articles that were published around the web in 2016. These articles are the unicorns that managed to stand out from a sea of donkey articles.
Here's a look back at the best of the best content this year on paid search, remarketing, conversion rate optimization, and paid social.
Paid Search, Case Studies & Research
1. Google’s right-side Adpocalypse: What really happened (DATA) – Search Engine Land
When Google changed its layout earlier this year, PPC marketers freaked out and warned the end was near for all of us. Spoiler alert: it wasn't, as I showed in this post. CTRs and traffic increased while CPCs remained static.
Takeaway: Don’t panic whenever Google makes a change to AdWords or the SERPs. Patiently collect and analyze your data so you can react wisely.
2. 5 ingredients for writing the perfect expanded text ad – Search Engine Land
Speaking of collecting and analyzing data, the brilliant Frederick Vallaeys of Optmyzer studied 1.2 million ads after AdWords started rolling out Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). He wanted to figure out what all the best performing ETAs had in common.
Takeaway: Just as I suspected, it's time to break up with dynamic keyword insertion (DKI)! Also, don't worry too much about headline length; worry more about writing great headlines (emotional triggers FTW!).
3. Bing’s Expanded Text Ads Even Outperform Google’s [Data] – WordStream
We can't leave the topic of ETAs before checking in with Mark Irvine (not once, not twice, but THRICE). First up, our chief data scientist looked at aggregated data from WordStream client accounts to assess the performance of Bing ETAs, which look identical to AdWords ETAs. And the winner was... Bing Ads:
Takeaway: Many advertisers get higher CTRs and lower costs from Bing Ads than they do on AdWords. So don't forget about Bing.
4. Did Google’s New Green Ad Labels Affect Ad CTR? - WordStream
Next up, Irvine wanted to see how the change from yellow to green ad labels was impacting CTR. What he found after looking at nearly 3,000 WordStream client accounts: the quantity and quality of ad clicks had improved significantly.
Takeaway: Test in times of uncertainty. You'll almost always find the answer you seek in your data.
5. Google AdWords Benchmarks for YOUR Industry [NEW DATA] - WordStream
Our Mark Irvine trilogy concludes with a look at click-through rates, cost-per-click, conversion rates, and cost-per-action by industry. Truly awesome stuff here:
Takeaway: Unless you're a unicorn, there's always room to improve your PPC campaigns. Use these benchmarks to figure out whether you're on the low end or about average for your industry – and if so, strive to exceed these benchmarks and become a unicorn.
6. The Best Hidden Features of the AdWords Editor - Certified Knowledge
This post by Frederik Hyldig highlighted some hidden gems in AdWords Editor that serious PPC marketers should check out. Shortcodes for smarter bulk edits, hiding empty types from the navigation, and duplicate ads or keywords within their respective ad groups are particular worth a read.
Takeaway: AdWords Editor has so many amazingly helpful features, but not all of them are obvious. Always be educating yourself about the tools you use so you can make something that's already great even that much better.
7. 3 Google AdWords hacks to drive high-quality leads – Search Engine Land
Do you know how to bulk modify broad match modified keywords? Or how having one keyword per ad group can improve your Quality Score? Or how to enable call-only campaigns? If not, you'll want to check out this helpful post from Todd Saunders.
Takeaway: As Saunders puts it, using these hacks will "keep your accounts lean, precisely targeted and better optimized to drive high-quality leads."
Remarketing & RLSA
8. 33 Retargeting Campaigns You’ve Never Heard Of Before – KlientBoost
In this truly exciting post, Johnathan Dane shares 33 types of remarketing campaigns and how to take advantage of them. He covers so many awesome types of remarketing: from CRM, to search, to content, to mobile app retargeting.
Takeaway: Remarketing is an incredibly powerful tool and, when done right, can outperform any other marketing channel.
Larry Kim (hey – that's me!) says you should break up with unbranded vanilla search ads and only do RLSA. Why? RLSA brings you people who will click through at twice the rate, for half the costs, and convert at triple the rate. Really, you'd be better off using the power of social media ads to start making people aware of and familiar with your brand.
Takeaway: RLSA campaigns have huge potential when combined with a viral marketing strategy. Dramatically increasing the size of your cookie pools will give you the power you need to make the most of RLSA.
Most PPC strategies focus on the purchase stage of the conversion funnel. But in this excellent edition of Whiteboard Friday, Samantha Noble shares some brilliant tips on how you can use paid media at the loyalty and advocacy stages.
Takeaway: Get more lifetime value out of your existing customers with the help of remarketing lists (to bid on competitors names, offer unique discounts, and cross-sell or upsell). It's much cheaper than acquiring new customers.
11. All the Remarketing Audiences You Should Be Targeting in PPC – WordStream
Speaking about the funnel, Maddie Cary does a great job of breaking down all the remarketing audiences you should be targeting by the stage they're at right now, whether it's research, awareness, intent, action, or loyalty.
Takeaway: PPC doesn't stop with a conversion. Go beyond acquiring new customers and find ways using PPC to create continued loyalty and lifetime revenue from your consumer base.
Landing Pages & CRO
Boosting lead generation by 9x and conversion rate by 290 percent? Yes, please. Andy Beohar shows us how he helped one client by following PPC optimization and landing page best practices.
Takeaway: Never settle for average. You can always turn your PPC donkeys into magical unicorns if you do the work
13. Boost your conversion rate by 45% today… no, really! – Search Engine Land
Jacob Baadsgaard asks an important question: are you tracking all of your conversions. After looking at more than 2,000 accounts he discovered that 42 percent of advertisers didn't track any conversions – and only half of the advertisers who were tracking conversions were only tracking a portion of possible conversion actions. All these advertisers have no idea whether their campaigns are unicorns or total donkeys.
Takeaway: Set up conversion tracking (duh!).
Most CRO efforts focus on on-page elements. But really, if you want to dramatically increase conversions, you're better off doing what I do: focus on increasing brand awareness and making your offer far more compelling.
Takeaway: Start biasing people toward your brand using social media ads, remarketing, RLSA, and video ads. As for your offer, it must be massively different and more valuable from what your competitors are offering. If you can get people excited enough to click on your offer, then they're more likely to convert!
15. Why Facebook and Google Analytics Conversions Don't Add Up – PPC Hero
Why are your Facebook conversions higher than Google Analytics? Simply, the way Facebook and Google report conversions differ. But Cassie Oumedian explains how you can close the gap in this helpful post.
Takeaway: Figure out how Facebook and Google Analytics track and report conversions so you don't end up comparing apples and oranges. (P.S., PPC Hero rocks – thanks for all the awesome PPC content this year!)
16. How to Target Your Audience With Facebook Ads – Search Engine Journal
Facebook ad targeting is both extensive and complicated. There's a lot to know if you really want reach your target audience. Luckily, WordStream put together an epic infographic (reported on by Danny Goodwin) to help you do just that.
Takeaway: Use this infographic as a checklist or cheat sheet when you're planning your Facebook advertising strategy.
17. 9 Tips for Better Facebook Video Ads – Social Media Examiner
If you want more engagement and brand recall, then Facebook video ads are one way to get it (and for cheap!) – as long as you're posting memorable content. Mari Smith shares advice on how you can create more attention-grabbing Facebook video ads.
Takeaway: You never know which one of your Facebook videos will become a unicorn, so make sure any videos you do upload have a great headline, great visuals, some personality, and a compelling offer.
18. We Tested 48 Facebook Ads To Bust 6 Marketing Myths - SketchDeck
Facebook ads must be relevant; you should use text on images; it's better to show people rather than products or objects; smiling women are better than unhappy men; using your logo is bad; and super simple images work best. Fact or fiction? This article reveals some surprising truths.
Takeaway: Do research, testing everything, and collect real data. Never assume that "best practices" will work for you.
19. How to Create an Evergreen Facebook Ad Campaign – Jon Loomer
Is there a way you can create a Facebook campaign that doesn't die after a while? Absolutely – and Jon Loomer shares a process you can implement in this fantastic article.
Takeaway: By creating some smart website custom audiences, and targeting those audiences at the right time intervals, you can do magical things to help sell your product.
Is Twitter an effective channel for influencing the lead-to-customer conversion rate? To find out, Lauren Mattos ran an interesting experiment splitting a list of leads into two groups: one that saw remarketing ads on Twitter, and one that did not. She found that the former group converted into customers 64 percent better than the latter group.
Takeaway: Twitter remarketing works. There are many reasons to love remarketing – more leads and conversions, higher visitor engagement, and improved brand recall, to name a few. (Also, check out my post on how to run a Twitter lead generation campaign.)
21. We Analyzed 7,712 Twitter Ads And Here’s What We Learned – AdEspresso
What makes for a successful Twitter Ad? Andrew Tate analyzed nearly 8,000 ads to answer that question, looking at elements like text length, usage of words, numbers and hashtags, and sentiment.
Takeaway: 90 percent of the tweets in this study featured an image, but most of images people see on Twitter are boring donkeys. Make sure you use an image that stands out. Be the unicorn!
What was your favorite PPC marketing article from 2016?