Recap: Hero Conf. 2018 London

For two consecutive days in October, the PPC community descended upon London for the Hero Conf. As the name suggests, Hero Conf brings the biggest names and brightest minds together under one roof to discuss the tactics, strategies, trends and future of the Paid Search Industry. With 44 speakers, 44 sessions, 4 keynotes and 275 like-minded attendees, the event served as a platform for innovative ideas, creative discussions, and networking. 

Each Hero Conference is focused around generating a series of key takeaways that can be implemented immediately to further increase account performance and efficiency. The speakers discuss the strategies that they are currently utilising across Google, Bing, Amazon, and Paid Social. However, it’s far from all work and no play; the conference held multiple networking events – including a bar takeover and the best (free!) conference lunch we’ve had in a while. 

 

The digital advertising industry is constantly evolving. Hero Conference looked at the year’s rising and falling trends, and consequently covered 2018’s biggest topics: how to increase social media leads, how to build successful multichannel strategies, how to engage the audience, eCommerce strategies, GDPR, and machine learning. 

One of our personal highlights was when Frederick Vallaeys, the CEO of Optmyzr, concluded his keynote – ‘The PPC Experts AI Handbook’ – by showing us one of their latest technologies: an Alexa skill for Optmyzr that provides voice-enabled performance analysis for PPC accounts. It totally blew our mind, so go check it out for yourselves here. Happily, Optmyzr is one of the many tools we use here at Peak Ace, consequently we’re excited for what the future has in store! 

So, without further ado, here are our key takeaways from one of the largest gatherings of PPC nerds in Europe – Hero Conf 2018:

Amazon Sponsored Product Ads 

Recently, there has been a shift in the eCommerce landscape: no longer do most product searches start on Google – they now start on Amazon. Around 53% of product searches now begin here 

On Amazon, the searcher’s intent is clear: a customer is on Amazon to shop and is ready to purchase. This narrows the scope of optimisation to concentrate on the factors leading up to the sale. Optimisation for rankings and conversions on Amazon works very differently than for global search engines, such as Google or Bing. Whereas the latter want to present an ad that is closest to the search query, Amazon wants to present product ads that the searcher is more likely to buy. 

Amazon doesn’t use the term Quality Score for their sponsored products, however, their algorithm still combines several factors which influence the ranking of an ad. These factors can be broken up into three categories: performance, customer satisfaction and relevance.

There are many ways to improve these factors, a few of them include: 

  • Optimising images: show the product from all angles, include lifestyle images rather than just images of the product itself, use video if necessary to show-off the product.   
  • Generating reviews: if the customer has a bad experience, they will most likely give you a low rating and/or a bad review. Make sure you have a great product & buyer experience and follow-up with an e-mail strategy if required. 
  • Product descriptions: people looking for your product want to know what they are buying. Sure, pictures are the first step to getting a customer hooked, but great product descriptions are paramount to closing the sale – otherwise you risk customers moving on to a product page with a better description.
  • Start with automatic: Amazon plays out your ads based on relevancy. However, the keywords you might consider relevant to your product may not necessarily be the keywords that Amazon deems relevant. Let your campaign run for about two weeks on automatic bidding and use this time to harvest keywords. Keep in mind that more generic keywords tend to work better on Amazon then long-tail keywords.

 

Google Shopping 

This campaign type has been around for quite a while, but there’s still a lot of room to test out new strategies and improve your Google Shopping performance. 

Increased control & transparency can be achieved by using a search term-led shopping structure such as the model espoused by Martin Röttgerding. With this, you can achieve much more by being able to separate your brand from your generic queries, as these perform markedly differently. You can read more about this here. 

There are 3 main features that can help you achieve better control: 

  • SPAGs (Single Product Ad Groups) 

Have a good, solid naming convention (product title + item ID) and then create separate ad groups for each item ID so that you can use negatives, labels and automated rules more efficiently. 

  • Expanded campaign structure 

Of course, there are different levels of Generics, so differentiate between these and group your campaigns accordingly.  

  • Custom scripts for ad groups 

Step 1 once a product isn’t covered, it is possible to utilise a script that makes use of the shopping API to fetch the feed and place it into Google Sheets.
Step 2 – if there’s an item ID that’s not present as an ad group name yet – so that once it’s uploaded it is added into a new ad group for all the campaigns – this ad group then gets a label (“product new to go” and an appropriate bid is then set for the product).
Step 3 – move the ad group bid onto the product group level.

The following shopping strategies will give you a competitive advantage by making sure that  you’re getting the most out of your campaigns: 

Standard strategies you can follow to improve your Shopping performance: 

  • Carry out image testing (pixel usage, tricks to catch the eye, variety)
  • Use seller ratings as they improve performance considerably
  • Utilise Merchant Centre promotions when you have offer codes or similar
  • Try to get automated extensions (price drop extensions e.g. try to increase the price a few weeks before an important sale period e.g. Black Friday) 
  • Keyword stuffing for image optimisation (use a variety in the titles, try not to mention the brand so much)

Pricing and promotion are the key to a well-performing Shopping campaign because this form of campaign is highly competitive and transparent as people can easily compare your offerings to someone else’s. Here are some pricing and promotion tips: 

  • Test different offer types on Search to then apply to Shopping later 
  • Run graduated discounts instead of % discounts (e.g. €14 vs. €11.25) 
  • Promotion mechanic bias (use offer prices instead of codes if possible as they don’t always display, and the reduced price is more eye-catching) 
  • Keep an eye on your competitors (pricing changes etc.) 

To conclude, here a few advanced feed strategies to maximise your visibility: 

  • Keyword stuffing vol.2 (identify search queries to use in Shopping titles) 
  • Fight Google’s bad automation (e.g. if a higher priced or incorrect item consistently displays, mark the item as temporarily out of stock and make sure the algorithm readjusts, or try to differentiate products so as to have multiple products showing simultaneously and thus dominate the search results) 

 

Baidu PPC 

With sales through China’s #1 search engine significantly increasing over the past couple of years (source) PPC advertising has grown in importance. Needless to say, Baidu Ads work very differently, and they are not as easy to get your head around as with Google or Bing, especially considering the requirement to understand the Chinese interface.  

Rod from Clean Digital gave us 10 valuable tips for running Paid Search campaigns on Baidu:  

1 Perform extensive market research to better understand the colossal scope of the market 

2 Push back your launch date as setup takes between 6-8 weeks minimum 

3 Examine your analytics set-up as Google is firewalled in China (use GA AND Baidu Analytics!) 

4 Localise your content (shipping, tax, delivery, etc.) 

5 Don’t just copy & paste your Google ads account as there are many differences within the platform: 

  • No ad group-level budgets  
  • Accelerated delivery is on by default 
  • Avg. positions are not in the dashboard by default (there are 5 ads above the search results!) 
  • It’s not very clear what’s paid and organic 
  • Can’t mix match types 
  • Separate mobile and desktop quality scores with less insight than in Google ads (no LP relevance etc.) 
  • Account credibility score (no correlation to quality score, V1-V3) 

6 Forget what you know about match types 

7 – Ad content policy changes are erratic 

8 – CPCs can be much cheaper 

9 – Learn all the different ad types 

10 – Don’t limit yourself to Baidu Ads 

Moreover, there were many other sessions concerning interesting topics such as AI, YouTube, voice search, online to offline but also programmatic and there were many great tests, examples and suggestions shared by everyone. We are overjoyed to have spent two such insightful days in London at this year’s #heroconf – see you again next year! 

 

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