Last week, Search Marketing Expo (SMX) took over New York City and brought together a number of the best minds in digital marketing. I had the honor of attending Wednesday’s sessions, which kicked off with a number of Google feature announcements before jumping into several in-depth sessions.

If you weren’t able to make it to the big show, here’s what you missed.

Google Keynote Announcements

Wednesday’s morning keynote featured Jerry Dischler, VP of Product Management for AdWords, and Babak Pahlavan, Senior Director of Product Management for Analytics. In this session, the Google team talked about performance of recent rollouts and announced several new products and features.

Jerry talked about the moves Google has been making to help advertisers with brick-and-mortar locations to measure the total value of their search ads. Technology to measure in-store visits from people who previously clicked ads has helped immensely to track conversion offline. Now, Google offers in-store visit tracking in 14 countries and can measure for both search and display.

Jerry also discussed the value of RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads), which allow you to layer remarketing over search campaigns. While the feature has been in place for multiple years, Google is now expanding RLSA to target users across devices. In addition, demographic targeting for search will allow you to layer age, gender, and income parameters over search campaigns.

Babak revealed that Google is releasing a free version of its Optimize 360 tool with beta signups now available. This will allow users more powerful opportunities to test website performance. In addition, Google Analytics will soon include a new session score metric to measure the value of a session based on engagement and other factors. Finally, Tag Manager is adding new integrations with 20 third-party tracking codes to allow for easier setup (including Hotjar, one of our favorite heatmapping tools).

Perfecting SEM Testing

This session revealed secrets from three seasoned industry pros on how to approach testing in PPC campaigns. Ted Ives of Ted Ives Consulting emphasized the need to factor in phone calls in addition to form submissions when comparing conversion metrics. Jake Pinocchio of Red Ventures talked about Full Funnel Testing, focusing down the marketing funnel toward the metrics that matter most to your business (past engagement and initial conversion to revenue).

Susan Waldes of Five Mill walked through using the relatively-new Drafts and Experiments feature in AdWords. Compared to the old AdWords Experiments, the new setup allows for more advanced testing of campaign settings and features beyond just testing ad copy and keywords against each other. She offered several examples of tests to run that may challenge existing assumptions: using or not using certain ad extensions; CPA vs. CPC bidding; enhanced CPC vs. regular CPC; or different geographic targeting approaches.

Creating the Ideal Account Structure

Justin Freid of CMI Media spoke about building out an account with micromanaging in mind. While your focus should be on working toward exact match keywords, phrase match is potentially useful for capturing longer tail keywords that come from the increasing influence of voice search.

In addition, carefully maintaining some broad/broad match modified helps to mine for unpredictable queries, as 15% of searches typed into Google daily are brand new. However, be aware of how broad match can skew data in the process of matching multiple queries, and dig for the exact queries driving conversion to control spend. Finally, think of ad groups as groups of ads, not groups of keywords, when determining structure.

James Svoboda of WebRanking spoke about his approach to organizing ad groups, talking about scaling spend based on match type and number of words in a query. Phrase match tends to be extremely limited in volume beyond two words, so BMM (broad match modified) tends to work better beyond that length for capturing new queries. He also shared an approach to geotargeting in which a more tightly geographically targeted campaign focuses on more generic queries while broader geographic campaigns focus on queries specifically containing regional terms.

Susan Wenograd of Five Mill spoke about focusing on business needs and cutting waste in accounts. In the process of taking over an account, she cautioned about moving too quickly to build completely new campaigns, being careful to preserve as much historical data as possible.

One case study talked about moving a client whose campaign currently focused on generating free trial signups toward a focus on generating leads from larger, higher paying customers. Removing free trial callouts for ads targeted toward enterprise level clients, along with adding qualifying text about client size, helped to narrow the audience toward more relevant converters.

Other general tips from this session included:

  • Using Excel pivot tables to look at queries duplicated across ad groups. This tactic allows you to weed out areas of overlap where ads in multiple ad groups could be matching to searches, limiting fine-tuned control.
  • Putting high performing exact match keywords in their own campaigns for better control of budget.
  • Giving users targeted through RLSA unique ad copy from those targeted through general search campaigns

How to Find, Hack, & Build Great AdWords Scripts

This session offered an overview to AdWords scripts, which allow you to automate management and setup in AdWords beyond what can be done with built-in automated rules. Marcela De Vivo of Gryffin Media talked about applications of scripts, such as tracking quality score, moving high performing queries to new ad groups, checking links for bad URLs, and pulling data for reporting. She recommended that agencies run scripts on the Manager Account level for easier maintenance.

Steven Hammer of RankHammer walked through the basics of coding as it relates to AdWords scripts, inspiring the audience to experiment even when lacking a background in programming. He pointed to several resources to get started, such as the list of free AdWords scripts on RankHammer.

Fred Vallaeys of Optmyzer spoke about scaling AdWords scripts for the real world. PPC automation helps you to be more efficient, but doesn’t negate the need for human oversight. Ultimately, combining computer automation together with hands-on management helps you achieve the best results. He offered several technical tips for using scripts efficiently in accounts, such as being aware of limits in how much data can be pulled at once, filtering with scripts to pull only the data you need, running multiple tasks in parallel, and updating scripts depending on deprecated metrics such as converted clicks.

The day spent at SMX offered much wisdom from throughout the digital marketing industry. We’re looking forward to taking what we’ve learned to improve strategies for our clients! To see more from the conference, view the speakers’ presentations.

And get ready, because next week the Overit team invades Pubcon Vegas – exhibiting, speaking and providing full liveblogging coverage. Stay tuned for details.