Creating Countdowns with Customized Ads

Creating Countdowns with Customized Ads

Creating ads has been made a lot easier with the new Customized Ads feature from AdWords. Ads with many different products, prices or events can now be automatically generated. Customized Ads eliminate labor-intensive ad text changes, while also preserving ad data.

What may be more exciting is it is now possible to have time sensitive information relayed in ad text that will automatically update. We have used it in an automotive campaign in which there is an impending sale end. The advantage to this is that the ad will reflect the timeline of the sale without us having to update it manually while keeping stats on ad performance..

These Customized Ads are easy to setup from the Google interface. From the ads tab, engage the +Ad button and select a new Text ad.

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From here, ad interface populates with the new feature denoted by the arrow to the left side. The below example shows how to build the countdown in an ad, which is literally writing out a piece of basic code and filling out the corresponding prompts (when the sale ends, starts and any advanced features you want to include.) Countdowns don’t start showing until 5 days before the end date.

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The result is that your ad reflects the number of days left for your sale, hopefully creating urgency in your customer. In the ads featured below, the number of days will change from 3 to 2 to 1 as time runs out.

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Problems with Location Data

Local SEO: Visible. Accurate. Complete.

Two Octobers’ Local SEO program manages business listings and develops citations for hundreds of brick and mortar store locations nationwide.

We use Moz Local to monitor the quality of our clients’ business listings on 15 sites. We have developed our own business listing management score based on Moz numbers that we call Visible, Accurate, Complete (V.A.C. Score). Each month we use the Moz reports to capture performance for each of our locations. Looking at how every location is performing on every site is very helpful in identifying stores and sites that need attention.

This month (end of April 2015) we saw some pretty large and unexpected changes – mostly in the wrong direction. It’s common for a few scores to fluctuate by a few points, but they all tend to trend up over time. In April, the Moz “Complete” score dropped for 61% of our listings, month over month!?

What happened? Is something wrong with the reporting tool (Moz)? Did something change with individual sites? Did one of the root databases shake things up? Did we screw the pooch somehow?

Because we collect the same data points month over month for all business locations and all websites that Moz reports, we were able to do a meta-analysis that spanned individual listings, clients, websites, tools, and time. Thus we eliminated variables that might be specific to a given location or client to get a cleaner look at anything hiding underneath.

Here’s what we found.

Yahoo Local

We’ve noticed that Yahoo is pretty random. Sometimes we find a listing, sometimes not – both manually and via Moz. This certainly has something to do with duplicates, but also Yahoo listings just seem to come and go. When we looked across multiple stores there was no unusual pattern with Yahoo (other than the usual nonsense that is Yahoo).

Keep looking.

Bing Local

We bulk manage our Bing Local profiles via Bing Places for Business. We noticed that several of our Bing listings disappeared from Moz. When we checked in the Bing dashboard and Bing Local they were, in fact, missing. What gives? Again, we looked for patterns with Bing across the locations we manage. Most listings were fine. The problem was confined to a handful of listings.

If you use Bing Places for Business you probably noticed they updated their dashboard. In the process it seems that some listings were lost. At least one of ours was improperly merged into another and removed. Fortunately Bing support has been helpful in restoring these.

Bummer about Bing, but still not the problem we’re hunting.


A number of Facebook profiles disappeared from the Moz reports. In a few cases it seems that the profile is actually gone from Facebook, but mostly there is at least one profile, and usually several “unofficial” profiles as well. My guess is that Moz is having trouble with the Facebook API.


As we worked through our reports this month, we found time and again that Moz could not get data from Factual. Moz support told us that Factual is having some issues with their API. Moz got the Factual data for some of our store locations with no problem. For others there is an error about not being able to connect. This affects about 40% of our listings reported in Moz.

So there’s part of the answer. But I don’t like it. This isn’t just about missing data.

Next, we looked at the Factual scores for all locations excluding those with missing data. 84% have lower quality, as reported by Moz. The drop ranged from 5 to 14 points.

There it is. Something’s up with Factual.

Has anyone else noticed similar issues? What are your thoughts?


Located in Denver, Colorado, Two Octobers is a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in paid, organic, and local search marketing. Forget about buzzwords, let’s talk real results. Give us a call to learn more.

Why Use Video SEO?

To Rank Higher and Increase Click Through Rate of Course!

There is one specific reason you should want to use video content as a means of driving your website to the top of a search listing: to provide unique content for your user/potential customer. Of course, the video content should be both impressionable and valuable. Having a valuable and unique presence in the marketplace is the derivative of any successful offering. It is also essential to recognize that “value” is derived from a consumer’s point of view, not the content publisher’s, so be sure you don’t waste time on meaningless video content. Depending on the product or industry, the video content can be anything entertaining, educational, a product demonstration, advertising message, etc. Just be sure it is relevant for your target audience.

As a direct effect of offering this unique content and (note the italics) optimizing it for search, your site will organically accumulate traffic or, as said by Google, “result in more clicks to your pages” by means of higher rankings and a more noticeable listing in the search engine results page. This traffic will aid in driving immediate conversions, building brand awareness and, thusly, driving long-term conversions.

Hosting content on sites like YouTube or Vimeo and embedding on you own site is always a simple option, but rarely the best. Of course, the YouTube/Vimeo hosted content will have a larger audience base than your own site, which provides the potential for a higher number of impressions, but any link building, page rank, or content value gained from these videos will not be attributed to your site. Seeing that these are all ranking factors for the engines, it would be a huge missed opportunity! Be smart and capitalize on your content. Whenever possible, it is best to host videos on your own site.

When putting up the video content on your site, following the guidelines for marking up video content is also smart. Why skip the opportunity to let crawlers know you’re an extra-super-smart digital marketer? When filling in these schema tags, it is very important to create a transcript of any dialog in the video so the content can be indexed. Crawlers cannot obtain any information from images or videos embedded in your site’s source code (not yet anyways. However, Google is working on an automated delivery project). The transcript can be hidden from the visible version of your page if desired. Using the guidelines for sharing a video transcript is likely to be your best option. It is also advisable to post only one video per page in order to maximize content and encourage site navigation.

If you choose to enable users to share and embed your video, it is a good idea to install a custom tracking code into the video’s embed code.

A final important step in optimizing your hosted content is to create a video site map and submit it to Google webmaster tools. Doing so will create a clickable thumbnail from your video (of your choosing, assuming you added it to your sitemap) and rich snippets that will be displayed in SERPs (search engine results pages). Having these additional items attached to your organic listing make it far more noticeable. And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading! Happy optimizing.

Close Variant Changes Coming to Adwords

Close Variant Changes Coming to Adwords

Google announced it will soon remove exact and phrase match variation options from all accounts. No, the PPC sky is not falling. Yes, close variant changes will affect how all those handpicked exact and phrase match keywords in your account function.

These changes now mean that “exact” and “phrase” match keywords will trigger for plurals, misspellings, acronyms and abbreviations. Yes, plurals and misspellings. It is important to note that this change is estimated to effect only 10% of all Adwords users who have manually chosen to opt-out of variant matching prior to the change.

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Historically, PPC account managers have had the option of changing their keyword matching preferences for exact and phrase match. By default, Adwords exact and phrase keyword options were (and still are as of this writing) by default set to close variant. That changes, according to Google, sometime in September.

Some PPC account managers see this as the worst-case scenario, their clients are too niche or in too competitive markets to allow for such blasphemy from potential customers. For example, an account manager for a higher education account may not want to spend money on searchers who can’t spell “college degree” properly.

What To Expect
Perhaps, there might be a reduction in the amount of redundant keywords in accounts, as there will be no need to find and add every plural, misspelling and acronym for every keyword.

Others, who have opted out of close variant, may see slight increases in impressions, clicks and spend until they adjust to the changes.

Ultimately, 90% of PPC accounts won’t notice any changes. As for the other 10%, anyone who actively and properly optimizes and observes his or her accounts will be just fine. A good account manager should already be actively adding positive and negative keywords and optimizing accounts for maximum performance. In the end, this close variant change doesn’t change how pay-per-click should be managed—don’t sweat it.

***Not satisfied? Completely bypass Google’s new settings (for the tech savvy) here.

Workarounds for Google Analytics ‘(not provided)’

Workarounds for Google Analytics ‘(not provided)’

We’re going to start in the middle here. Google Analytics organic keyword information is lacking. Their goal is to protect the privacy of all users searching on Google. The issue here is that it leaves marketers with a lack of information as to how people are finding their websites. It originally started with the assurance that only a small amount of search queries would be affected by this ‘(not provided)’ update. Almost Google, almost. I have seen clients with up to 80% of their organic keyword traffic falling under ‘(not provided)’ in part due to Google encrypting all searches under SSL in September of 2013. That’s a lot of missing information.

How Do We Figure Out What’s Hidden Behind ‘(not provided)’

We can’t. Plain and simple. However, we wouldn’t be good at what we do if we didn’t test and figure out ways to get as close as possible to recovering that data. Here are a few ways you can get a much better idea as to what’s being hidden behind ‘(not provided)’ and answer the question of which keywords are sending traffic to your site.

The Dan Barker Approach

Dan Barker at eConsultancy came up with a custom filter you can apply in Google Analytics, which has proven to be very valuable. With this filter, you tell Google that you want to see which page a user landed on after searching on Google and clicking your site listing. With this you get a better idea of searcher intent, the search terms that were used (based off of the landing page triggered), and what percentage of those are branded versus non-branded. I won’t walk you through how to set it up, as it’s explained very thoroughly on his site, but if you would like to talk about it further I’d be happy to help.

This is what it looks like before the filter application:

No provided

This is what it looks like after the filter application:

No provided 2

The Moz Approach:

They now offer a new data view, which groups tracked keywords by landing page and are correlated with ranking position and visits. While this is just a guess on their end, Moz doesn’t just throw darts at ideas and see which one it hits. There is a LOT of back end data they are pulling and displaying in order to give us this data.

more not prov

Google Analytics Acquisition Data

A much more limited option compared to the first two, it is still worth glancing over your SEO queries in order to get an overview of how people are finding your site through organic search. It can give you some insightful long-tail information, along with content generation ideas.

search queries

Webmaster Tools:

This is useful as it tells you approximately how many search impressions your keywords are attracting. A caveat here is that since the data is not 100% accurate and the number of keywords reported on is not comprehensive, you should consider this as trending data and will need to be considered in conjunction with total traffic, URL traffic, and search rankings in order to form a comprehensive view of the overall effectiveness of the SEO program during any particular time period.

Internal Site Search

I wrote internal site search back in July, covering how to set it up and how it benefits your analytical insight. This information can be used to identify gaps/opportunities within your content. If there are numerous searches around a product you offer but do not feature on the site, then it’s time to highlight that! Build out content around that product and feature it on your website. If they are searching for a product you do not offer, then consider a conversation around what it would take to create that product/information and present it to your users.

From ‘(not provided)’ to ‘(now provided)’

With these tactics you can get a much better understanding as to which keywords people are using to find your site. They aren’t as accurate as the information we once received, but from this you can then make more informed decisions about where you will allocate your efforts if you know that certain keywords are attracting a large number of impressions.

Location Extension Updates – Manually Entered Addresses No Longer Supported

Location Extension Updates – Manually Entered Addresses No Longer Supported

Google is updating how you can edit and add location extensions in Google AdWords accounts.  The transition to the new way of managing location extensions is rolling out in September. Below is an overview of why location extensions are important, what is changing, and what next steps you should take to ensure location extensions continue to display with your ads.

Why Location Extensions Are Important

Example of a location extension on mobile device. Location extensions are just one example of ad extensions offered in the Google AdWords interface.  Other common ones you see with ads are sitelinks, call, and review extensions.

According to Google, on average ads that display with ad extensions see a 10% boost in CTR compared to ads that don’t have extensions.  Google now also takes into account ad extensions when calculating where your ad will rank on the search result page and favors ads with extensions, so it is important to have a variety of ad extensions implemented in your account.

Location extensions in particular are helpful for businesses with physical locations. They help drive foot traffic by displaying your address with your ad. Searchers can also get directions directly from the ad by clicking on the address link, which then loads Google Maps.  This is especially beneficial for people searching on mobile devices.   Google research shows that 50% of consumers visit a store within one day of searching for local information on their smartphones.

Example of a location extension on a desktop device. The image above is an example of what location extensions look like on a smartphone.  The image to the right is an example of what it looks like on a desktop or laptop.   Location extensions are indicated with a red arrow.

What is Changing With Location Extensions in AdWords

Previously, addresses used for location extensions were manually entered into AdWords. Starting soon these will no longer be supported and will be removed from accounts.

Moving forward, AdWords accounts must be linked to each location’s Google My Business page (formerly Google Places).  All location information (name, address, phone, etc.) will be managed in your Google My Business (GMB) dashboard.  Any addresses you add to your GMB account will be eligible to show as location extensions in AdWords and can be applied to specific campaigns with filters.

Ensure Location Extensions Continue To Display With Your Ads

We’ll be walking each of our clients through the transition process, but if you’re managing an account on your own here are the next steps you can take to make sure location extensions continue to show.

  1. Search Google or Goole Maps with your business name to find your Google My Business account and identify if it has been verified/claimed by your organization.  If you don’t have a Google My Business account sign up for one. You can sign up with Google by visiting
  2. If the business has been verified figure out the appropriate Google login to access and edit the account.  You’ll need this login to link AdWords & Google My Business. If you find your business has not been verified start that process.
  3. Once the account is verified, and you have the login, link it to your AdWords account.  More information on the linking process can be found on this Google support page.

Have questions or looking for expert help with your Google presence and local marketing? Our Local SEO service can help.

AdWords View-Through and Analytics Assisted Conversions

AdWords View-Through and Analytics Assisted Conversions

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View-Through Conversions

“Appearing only for the Display Network, View-Through Conversions happen when a customer views your image or rich media ad before converting, but never actually clicks on the ad. If these customers later convert, this metric counts their conversions as “View-Through Conversions.” This conversion type automatically excludes conversions from people who’ve also clicked your Search ads.”I  – Jennifer Johnstone, Ultimate Guide to AdWords Conversion Types

The advantage to view-through conversions in AdWords (ads A and C in the graphic) is that you can talk more to the value of a Display campaign when it comes to your branding or awareness impact. Display campaigns have cheap clicks and low post-click engagement, but with the View-Through conversion model, we can report on how many times our ads were part of the conversion process.

Likewise, Assisted Conversions (ads B and D) provide additional context for accounts. An assisted conversion occurs when a user sees your ad, returns to your site through another channel and then converts. You can find this information in Analytics under Conversions < Multi-Channel Funnels < Assisted Conversions. Once there, you have the option of seeing how many times your ads assisted other channels before the conversion. There are two sub-categories to this:

  1. Click Assisted Conversions: someone clicked on your ad but it was not the last click before a conversion. It contributed, but didn’t get final attribution.
  2. Impression Assisted Conversion: Someone saw an impression of your ad, did not click, but ultimately converted. (I believe this is the same as View-Through Conversion with the distinction that View-Through Conversions are limited to Display campaigns and Impression Assisted Conversions include all campaigns.)

The metrics you report on should be dictated by the goals of your business model or marketing strategy. View-Through and Assisted conversions can be very helpful in branding and awareness campaigns as well as provide you with additional context on how your other campaigns are performing and which other channels they integrate well with.

Google Analytics Account Permissions – What Does Each One Mean?

Google Analytics Account Permissions – What Does Each One Mean?

We’ve talked before about how we use Google Analytics to take SEM management to the next level and the importance of using Google Analytics goals to track conversions, but today we’re going to take a more tactical approach and discuss what the different account permission levels in Google Analytics (GA) actually mean and where you can assign them in the GA interface.

Google use to offer just two account permission options, administrator and user, but now they offer four which you can assign to users individually or as a combination.  These four permission levels are:

1) Read & Analyze
User can see report data and change their data view with filters, segments, and secondary dimensions.  Users with this permission can also create and share personal assets (e.g. segments and custom reports).  They also see assets shared with them, but can’t collaborate on them.

This access level is good to assign to individuals who just need to see data and don’t need to worry about setting up goals or accessing the tracking code.

2) Collaborate
Includes all Read & Analyze capabilities, plus the user is able to create and share personal assets and can collaborate/edit assets shared with them, for example edit a dashboard or custom report.

This access level is good to grant to a team of people assigned to analyzing your data since it allows them to share things more easily within the interface, while still preventing them from interfering with goal and filter settings or accessing the tracking code.

3) Edit
Includes all Collaborate and Read & Analyze capabilities plus the user can conduct certain administrative tasks and additional report functions such as adding, editing, and deleting accounts, filters, and goals.

When we request access to a Google Analytics account this is the permission we prefer to receive as it allows us to conduct more of the complex reporting, conversion tracking setup, and other account maintenance we do to help clients better measure and understand their ROI.

4) Manage Users
Does not include Edit or Collaborate abilities. Users with this permission can determine who should be added or deleted as users for a Google Analytics account and assign permission levels.

This access level only needs to be provided to individuals that are in charge of granting people access to the Google Analytics account and assigning permission levels.

How To Assigning Permission Levels

To assign permission levels to people with access to your Google Analytics account (assuming you have Manage User permission) do the following:

1)     Login to Google Analytics and select the appropriate website profile.

2)     Select “Admin” from the top menu.
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3)     Under the Account column on the far left, select “User Management”

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4)     On the right side of your screen you’ll see a list of email addresses.  Find the one you want to edit and then select the appropriate permission level from the drop down on the right.  Done!

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*Bonus tidbit – this is also where you go to add users to your GA account.  Below the list of email address with permissions there’s a box where you can enter someone’s email.

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Four User Engagement Metrics to Get Comfortable With

Four User Engagement Metrics to Get Comfortable With

Paid Search is qualified by a few metrics. CTR is a good indicator on the surface, while Bounce Rate, Pages Per Session and Average Session Duration are good post-click engagement metrics. All of these metrics help you hit your KPIs. With that, let’s review what these metrics mean for your or your client’s account.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

Google defines CTR as, “the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown (impressions).”  In general, this is a good measure of how relevant your ads are to your target audience. That said, the definition of CTR success may be relative to your campaign type or goal.

  • Awareness. Awareness campaigns are used in both Display and Search campaigns. They are top funnel keywords that are less targeted but result in exposure for your brand to a larger, broader audience. In this way, they may not have as high of a CTR because your audience is less segmented, but a larger reach.
  • Branding. Branding is an easy and cost-efficient way to get your CTR up. Buy the branded keyword and get clicks when consumers search that term and click on your ads. Branded keywords tend to be cheaper and drive great traffic. That said, unless discussed otherwise, Two Octobers does not buy branded keywords because we believe our clients can get those results for free through their organic search.

Pages per Session & Average Session Duration

First, it would be helpful to define a session.  A “session” is, “a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.”   Sessions last 30 minutes by default. Here is a graphic that helps explain what a single Session entails.


Souce: Google


Pages per Session

Google defines Pages per Session as, “the average number or pages viewed per session.”  The above graphic illustrates six pages over the course of a single session.  Before creating a goal for this metric, consider: How many pages does the average user view on my website?  Does this align with our campaign expectations?  What does this mean in terms of our conversion funnels?

  • Top Funnel – We expect higher average Pages per Session rate in the Top Funnel for two reasons.  First, these users are in the early research stages.  Secondly, these ads direct users to a generic landing page (usually the home page) forcing them to navigate deeper into the site to find the product or service that may interest them the most.  For instance, a user might type in “new trucks” when starting their research for their next truck purchase and dive into their research based on these Search results.
  • Bottom Funnel – We would expect to have a lower average Pages per Session rate here.  Why?  Users that are targeted in this funnel have already done their research and/or are close to making a purchase.  Thus, ads that are being triggered for these users are much more specific.  For instance, our user who recently searched “new trucks” has now narrowed his sights and is now searching “2015 Ford F-150 for sale” to specific websites/landing pages with this particular model for sale.  If the Search campaign is set up correctly, this interaction can be accomplished on a single landing page.

Average Session Duration

Google defines Average Session Duration as, “the total duration of all Sessions (in seconds) divided by number of Sessions.”  With this metric, consider: How long is the average user interacting with your site?  Is this long enough to accomplish the goals that you have identified while building your advertising campaign?  What does this data say about your conversion funnels?

  • Top Funnel – Top Funnel users are at the beginning stages of product/service research, so they may take a long time on a site after clicking a Search ad or not.  Look at your product or service and think like a potential customer.  How long would it realistically take you to decide on making a purchase?
  • Bottom Funnel – You would expect bottom funnel searchers to spend the least time on site. They have done their research and are being landed on an interior page with a more specific product. These people are closer to converting and for this reason, less engaged on moving around the site. We should see high conversions for this group, but less time on site or pages visited.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is a tenuous metric.  Google defines the Bounce Rate as, “the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).”  This means that the Bounce Rate skyrockets when a potential customer enters and exits on the same page, with no other movement on the site. Best practices for paid search dictate landing consumers on the most specific website page to their search. If done correctly, this could result in a higher bounce rate because the need to find the product or service on site is lost. Consequently, you have a high bounce rate on a well-placed ad.

  • Top Funnel – It is not unusual to want a Bounce Rate of 50% or lower for this type of user.  This is because they will generally land on a more generic page and the campaign might be designed for them click through different products or services (think about our initial truck buyer searching for “new trucks”)
  • Bottom Funnel – Bounce Rates for this type of user may be higher because of the decreased need to navigate through the site. Our truck buyer searches “2015 Ford F-150 for sale” and reaches a dealership site with all the information on this specific truck with dealership info in the footer. The user sees then calls the dealership, closes his browser and leaves to purchase the truck.There is no need for this user to click around the site if the Search ad directed him to the perfect landing page.

As you can tell, there is never a hard and fast rule when it comes to analyzing user engagement metrics. But, the more we understand about user engagement data the more informed decisions we can all make whether we want to increase brand exposure or to close sales.

Google Engage for Agencies

Google Engage for Agencies


Some time very soon Google will announce the 2014 selections for the Google Engage All-Stars event. Last year, they fully sponsored the participation of 100 agencies world-wide and your friends over at Two Octobers just happened to get on that list.

Hosted at Google’s Mountain View campus, the event runs two days and covers a lot of information including, but not limited to: new rollouts, digital trends and broader marketing advice. Below, you’ll find a run down from the 2013 conference.


RLSAs stand for Remarketing List for Search Ads. These were rolled out in late June last year and were discussed a great deal at Google Engage.  RLSAs are an excellent way to target your bids and messaging to different audiences that have previously visited a site. Remarketing lists can be used to target ads toward people that visit your site but don’t convert; in this case, you could increase the bids for marketing to those audiences and change the ad text to move them down the funnel (think special offers, % off language, similar products.)

Two Octobers has been utilizing Remarketing Lists since the event and you can learn more about how we do it here.


Google promoted both mobile and video heavily at the conference. At the time, mobile constituted 50% of search queries and certain verticals had seen an 80% yearly increase in mobile use. Likewise, Google covered video growth: there are 1 billion YouTube views per month making it a more popular search platform than Bing/Yahoo!. Even more impressive, companies report seeing up to a 20% increase in traffic to their website when they use video.  (Look for a blog in the next month on how Two Octobers utilizes video for their clients.)


The event also had a heavy emphasis on story telling that engages the consumer. Jonah Berger flew in to present Contagious – Why Things Catch On, and the hypothesis that good ideas need to be basic, fresh and credible. Maybe the best part of his speech, and possibly this blog, was/is Top 7 Panda Cheese Commercials.

In summary, Google Engage is fantastic and we strongly encourage going if you get that invite.