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Google Conversion Optimizer: The Best-Kept Secret in PPC? Part II

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Last week's installment, "Google Conversion Optimizer: Best-Kept Secret in PPC?," generated more interest and response than anything I've ever written. Seems the promise of simplifying the time-consuming, complicated chore of regulating keyword bids is especially appealing to many of you.

Before I get to answering questions from the mailbag, I want to underscore and clarify some of the points I made last week.

First, the help files for Conversion Optimizer (CO) are very detailed and informative -- a definite "must read."

Second, Google recently lowered the barrier to entry: the minimum number of conversions per campaign over the previous 30 days dropped from 50 to 30.

Thanks again for your emails and tweets to @Szetela. One reader reminded me that CO works especially well on Content Network campaigns, both placement-targeted and keyword-targeted ones. In fact, Google told me that CO varies bid by target site; that's a real time-saver.

A few readers wrote to say they tried CO subsequent to my article, got poor results, and switched it off. Take some Ritalin, fellas; as Google and I have emphasized, it can take a week or more for the CO algorithms to properly calibrate. Try it again and wait longer. You can minimize your risk by trying it on less-critical campaigns first.

Another reader pointed out correctly that the advertiser sets the maximum CPA, not the target CPA. So it's likely you'll need to set the max CPA somewhat higher than the average CPA you want to attain over time. Non-risk-averse advertisers can use Google's suggested maximum and lower it gradually over time. More-prudent advertisers can start just north of their target CPA, say 10% higher, and gradually increase it.

One reader said that they were unpleasantly surprised that when they turned off CO, their original CPC bids had disappeared, and they had to spend months to get the campaigns back to their original state. That may have happened when CO was still in early beta; Google says now that original bids are retained and become active when/if CO is switched off.

One final note: I'm happy to see that automated bid management software vendors are building multiple-attribution tracking into their products, making it possible to use that data to weight bid prices appropriately (see last week's column for background). Our friends at Marin Software just announced the release of such functionality in their Marin Search software.

Please do keep letting me know about your experiences with CO. Next week I'll wrap up the discussion of landing page design and optimization. Then the following week, I'll start bringing you up to date on latest developments and cool techniques in Content Network advertising.

A lot has happened since I wound up the Content Advertising column last June. Anything else you'd like me to cover? Tweet me and/or join the discussion at the Profitable PPC forum!


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