About Lee Goldberg

Lee Goldberg is the Co-Founder and President of Vector Media Group, a NYC-based digital agency focused on Search Engine Marketing and Website Development. Having worked with firms ranging from local startups to Fortune 100 companies, Lee specializes in Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Analytics consulting, Conversion Rate Optimization, and Paid Search Management, with a particular focus on campaign attribution.
Lee is a Google Adwords Qualified Partner, a Yahoo! Sponsored Search Ambassador, and a Microsoft adExcellence Member, and is a published author and frequent columnist on several industry websites. Lee is a graduate of the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, and is a frequent guest lecturer on venture financing, closed-loop Internet marketing, and Search Engine Marketing.

His favorite aspect of the Acquisio platform is the bid management optimization feature.

Bidding to Win: The Art of Building a Great Bid Rule


“And the winner is….. The guy in the yellow hat!”. We’ve all been in auction environments where we’ve heard an auctioneer declare a winner with the chant above. As PPC managers, we actually deal with this situation every day. The difference from a regular auction, of course, is that we’re dealing with thousands (if not millions) of auctions every single day, as we bid on keyword phrases to drive traffic and conversions. With so many keyword phrases doing so many different things in a dynamic auction, it’s all but impossible to keep track of things accurately by hand. That’s where campaign automation comes in.

At its core, campaign automation, as its name suggests, automates the process of setting your bids. Essentially, you (as the PPC manager) develop a rule (or set of rules) and then apply it to specific campaigns or ad groups. A bid rule basically takes the work that you’d do manually and automates the tactical bid changes that you’d be forced to implement manually into AdWords, Bing Ads, or even Facebook. While it sounds great in theory (and it is!), keep in mind that bid rules will simply automate what we tell them to automate. So it’s up to us to define our rules properly.

There are four core components of a bid rule:

  • Scope – This refers to the set of campaigns or ad groups that the rule will apply to. Keep in mind that different campaigns across publishers often have different goals and targets… So it’s rare that a single rule will apply properly to all of the campaigns in your account. Just as we group similar keywords together into ad groups, you should group similar campaigns together into bid rules. You can apply bid rules at the campaign or ad group level.
  • Lookback Period – This is one of the most important parts of the bid rule. Essentially, the lookback period is defined as the amount of data (in terms of days) that the rule will look at to make a decision. You need to determine the lookback period based on a number of factors:

• Volume of clicks and conversions – If your account gets a high volume of clicks and conversions, you’ll generally need a shorter lookback period to get to statistical significance. That is, you don’t want your bid rules making decisions off of only 1 or two clicks, so you may need to set a longer lookback period for a rule that’s scoped to low-flow campaigns or ad groups. I like to use Thumbtack’s A/B calculator  to estimate statistical significance on an ad group or campaign level to determine if my lookback period is appropriate

• Conversion Cycle – Some businesses have longer conversion cycles than others. If your company has a longer cycle, be sure to use a longer lookback period. Remember to integrate in attributed data into your bid rules so that you are factoring in keywords and ad groups that may introduce or influence (rather than close) conversions. In a future blog post, I’ll cover how to actually define the length to conversion for a website using data from Google Analytics as well as paid search.

• Seasonality of the business – Businesses that see seasonal trends need to change their lookback periods incorporate the seasonality. If, for example, your company is a retailer that sees a major uptick during Q4, you don’t necessarily want to use data from 90 days ago to make a decision.

  • Execution Frequency – Quite simply, how often do you want your rule to run? This goes hand-in-hand with lookback period, generally. Typically, you won’t want your rules to run every day off of 14 days of data (for example), as there won’t be enough variance to make a good decision. As a starting point, I like to set my execution frequency to the same time as my lookback period
  • The Actual Rule – Bid rules work on a series of “if, then” statements. Examples:

• If cost >$50 AND conversions <1, THEN decrease bid by 15%
• If conversions >3 AND ROAS >2.5, then increase bid by 20%

Rules Image

I want to leave you with a couple of other tidbits of information about setting the perfect bid rule:

  • Don’t be afraid to integrate in data from different sources. You can use click conversion data, phone call data, and even engagement data from Google Analytics (or other web analytics packages) to make your rules richer and more targeted to your goals.
  • If your account is comprised of many long tail phrases which don’t each send a lot of traffic, you should consider setting bids (and your bid rules) at the ad group level rather than the keyword level, so that you can aggregate statistics together to get to a higher degree of statistical significance. This does require that you have a good account structure so that you can be sure that all of the keywords in your ad groups behave similarly. Also, you’ll generally want to have a longer lookback period for rules scoped to long-tail ad groups or campaigns, so that you have more data to work with in making a bid decision. I actually like to have totally separate rules for my long tail ad groups.
  • Don’t overlap rules. This is one of the most frequent mistakes that I see. You don’t want too many rules touching the same ad groups or keywords. You won’t know which rule is driving a change in performance. Keep your scopes clean.

So there you have it… A couple of surefire ways to automate the process of bidding on millions of keywords in a dynamic auction. Set up your rules properly, and you’ll not only win the auction, but you’ll win a higher ROI on your campaigns as well.

The Bridge to Conversions Requires the Right Structure

ppc-conversion-bridgeAny SEM or PPC professional typically has the same goal – To get more conversions at a lower cost.

Let’s face it – There are a ton of things that can influence conversion (ad copy, landing page creative, competitive environment, and time of year, to name just a few). While we as SEM professionals can’t control what we can’t control (i.e. if your client has an uncompetitive product at an uncompetitive price, no bid strategy will save it in the marketplace), there are some things we definitely CAN control to hopefully drive more conversions. Just as a bridge needs to have the proper engineering to make it structurally sound and safe, your PPC campaigns also need the right structure….

It Starts NOW – Lighting Up Your Campaigns for Holiday Success

Get started early for holiday marketing success“Plan for the holidays early” is a well-known proverb in the online advertising space. For many online advertisers, the Q4 holiday season is what makes or breaks the year. While general planning of offers, product mix, and pricing is obviously crucial, it’s equally important to prep your campaigns for the upcoming holiday season. I know what you’re thinking – “Do I really need to start this in September?” The answer, actually, is yes. Let’s take a look at some key tactics that you should begin to explore sooner rather than later. …

Matching for Success: Using Match Types to Optimize Performance

Image credit: Digital-Clarity.com

Image credit: Digital-Clarity.com

As Paid Search professionals, we pay attention to a lot of factors when optimizing our accounts – Ad copy, landing page creative, bid strategy, and keyword selection, to name just a few of the variables that we need to keep on our radar. While we tend to sweat over choosing the right keyword phrases for our accounts (justifiably slow – keywords are the backbone of any SEM campaign), it’s equally important to consider the match types of those keywords.

The concept of using keyword match types isn’t new at all, but it is often overlooked. While I won’t deep dive into the particular definitions of each match type here (see this guide from Google for that), I do want to review the basics, and talk about how aligning your bid strategy to your match type strategy could improve your ROI. I’ll cover each of the different match types below….

Making the Leap to Enhanced Online Campaigns – What it Means, and How to Adapt

Image credit: google

Image credit: google

Without a doubt, one of the most-talked about subjects in the SEM sector these days is Google’s launch of Enhanced Campaigns. This launch represents a fundamental shift in the structure of PPC campaigns, and as marketers and agencies, we owe it to ourselves and our clients to be ahead of the curve in adapting to the changes coming to AdWords. In this post, I’ll break down some of the major changes between so-called “legacy campaigns” and new Enhanced campaigns….

Blending Attribution and Bid Management

Attribution and bid management PPCIn the past, I’ve spoken in great detail on the value of attribution management. Indeed, having a proper attribution model is crucial in improving the return on your ad spend. But simply having access to data isn’t enough… You need to act on that data if you want your knowledge to bear any fruit. Thankfully, with tools like Acquisio, it’s easy to turn the attribution data that we get from the platform into action. We simply need to combine our attribution data with advanced bid management.

Before I dive into some of the specifics of how to tie attribution data into your bid rules and algorithms, it’s important to note the role of automated bid management in optimizing an online advertising account. While bid automation plays a major role in improving ROI (and certainly plays a major role in improving your efficiency), it is not a replacement for tweaking your keyword selection, pausing off underperforming ad creatives, and adding negative keywords. So while integrating the suggestions that I’m about to describe will definitely help, don’t forget about some of the other optimization tactics that we’re all familiar with.

So with that said, here are 4 ways to tie attribution data into bid management:…

Four Tips for Display Advertising Success

Display advertising skepticismAdmit it. Most of us Search Engine Marketers are inherently skeptical of display advertising. After all, for years, we’ve been living in the throngs of the Google Content Network’s long tail of poor quality domains, coupled with an inability to truly measure the results of our rather high display spends. Indeed, the first move of many a PPC manager is to disable the Google Display Network (GDN) from their campaigns and watch the ROI soar. Sounds great, right?

Well, not quite. Like everything else in our industry, display has changed. What was once expensive, time consuming to implement, and hard to measure is now actually cost efficient, easy to implement, and inherently trackable, thanks to improvements made by Google, as well as the advent of Real Time Bidding. The fact of the matter is that if display is used properly, it can be a major boost to your campaigns and CAN actually generate a positive ROI. In this post, I’ll document a few steps you should take to make sure that your display campaigns rock….

Five Tips for Managing SEO Accounts

As search marketers, we have a lot to deal with – New keywords, bid adjustments, creating ads, managing landing pages and conversion codes, and preparing reports, just to name a few of our tasks. While it would be unfair to characterize any of these tasks as easy, per se, they all fall in second place compared to the most difficult part Search Engine Marketing – managing your client (note: client can be defined as either an agency client, or even an internal stakeholder within an organization). So today, I’m going to break from tradition in talking about attribution models, analytics, and SEO, and am going to focus on five things that you can do to better manage your clients….

4 Ways to Blend SEO and PPC Data for Better Performance

Most of us in the agency world frequently hear and even talk about the importance of blending organic search data with paid search data, but it seems that no one really knows what that means or how to do it. Nevertheless, aligning your paid campaigns and your organic efforts can have a quantifiable impact on your traffic. Indeed, according to a recent study conducted by Google, having a top paid listing, in conjunction with a top organic ranking leads to, on average, a 50% incremental increase in clicks.

Sounds great, but how do we actually get our campaigns and efforts aligned? Here are 4 things to consider:…

Engaging Your Audience: Bid rules that go Beyond the Conversion

engaging your audienceLet’s face it – Most of the time when we’re managing online campaigns, we tend to devote most of our focus to the “end goal” conversion metric, such as a transaction or lead. While it obviously makes sense to optimize campaigns to the primary metric that we tend to get evaluated on, marketers who focus solely on macro conversions as part of their campaign optimization  process are missing a significant opportunity to capture more volume and to ultimately drive more results.

In this post, I’ll explore three bid management strategies using Acquisio that can drive results even though they’re not end-conversion focused.