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stephanie.courtney@icommunicate.ie

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I have been building, running and tracking Google PPC accounts since 2008. In Ireland, I built eircom’s first Google AdWords account for their broadband roll out. When Vodafone moved their European advertising to OMD, I built their Irish Google AdWords account from scratch. I’ve built and run Google AdWords accounts for Arnott’s, Failte Ireland, MBNA, Bank of Ireland, and many more. I built and currently run the Google Ads accounts for PetDrugsOnline.co.uk and PetPersctiption.co.uk.

There is quantifiable success with every account I work on, sometimes after mistakes and losses – especially on accounts with steep learning curves – but I’m a competitive American and I have the tenacity of terrier. I work and test and refine and optimise until my stats are the best – no matter how long it takes or how much work (and I don’t charge clients for my own learning curve).

In March 2020, the Google Ads accounts I currently run drove revenue of £1.58 million, with an overall conversion rate of 13.43% and ROAS of £11.19/£.

Those are extraordinary numbers and they are not anomalies because of the Covid-19 crisis. January 2020 revenue was £1.65 million, the conversion rate was 12.59% and ROAS was £13.14/£.

That performance is derived from 6 accounts (for budget/spend purposes) with an average of 80 to 90 currently active text and shopping campaigns, promoting about 1,500 products. Those overall numbers include every ad run through Google Ads – nothing was removed to boost the stats – and only 20% of that total is attributed to brand or brand + terms.

One of the reasons those stats are achievable has nothing to do with me directly. It has to do with how I require my clients to track Google Ads.

Because of my long career in this sector, I’ve worked with every tracking and bid management system on the market. Not only are they not worth the cost and effort required for Google Ads, they actually get in the way of driving the most revenue attainable for the lowest costs possible. (For those in the know, I’m not talking about attribution models.)

For Google Ads, all tracking systems that are not Google’s are third party tracking systems – even DoubleClick, which is owned by Google and part of the Google 360 package.

For those in the tall grass at this point, that means that when someone clicks on your Google ad, if you’re agency is using DoubleClick or any other tracking system, the click is routed through a third party (non-Google) server, which effects how the cookies drop and ultimately how conversions are tracked, how much you pay for the click and even how the user’s behaviour is optimised for conversion. Third party cookies can also be cleared automatically by web browsers, manually by users or they can just drop off for various reasons.

Google’s own tracking (what used to be called ‘Conversion Optimiser’ and is now mostly referred to as ‘Google Smart Bidding’) is a first party tracking system, which utilises first party cookies – as long as and only if – there is no additional tracking tacked on to the Google Ad. First party cookies are stored on Google’s servers, they are not blocked or cleared by browsers the way third party cookies can be, and this gives Google access to user behaviour that third parties can’t touch. Not to mention the access Google has to users of gMail and other Google products that require the user to sign in. So Google can leverage its own data and optimise for conversions in ways that third parties can’t begin to fathom – even and especially DoubleClick. Even though DoubleClick is a Google company, it can only use DoubleClick, not Google, servers.

Now if you’re a global brand, and you’re interested in programmatic digital strategies with a lot of automation, remarketing and retargeting across online platforms, and you’re seriously invested in de-duping because you’ve been raised that way, stop reading. I am not the Google Ads consultant for you because I am not interested in dulling Google Ad’s direct sales potential to support conversion data for display, social and non YouTube video campaigns.

First and foremost, de-duping is not a thing – and if it is, you’re marketing strategy is really piss poor. If there’s more than 20% overlap between your Google Ads, display, social and online video advertising, you’re paying at least twice as much to reach the same audience and you’re agency is probably doing so inefficiently – and probably dulling the overall effectiveness of your advertising.

If your agency is tracking correctly, they should be able to pull reports showing which creative drove conversions. If your creative is appropriately aligned across all channels, what you need to know about creative and engagement overlap is in that data, and the information therein is far more valuable than merely a conversion number that has eliminated where two or more creatives or two or more engagements overlapped.

If your online marketing strategy is sound, assume there’s a 20% overlap and stop – for the love of god – spending so much time, money and effort de-duping. You know there’s conversion overlap, what you don’t know is how each marketing platform stands on it’s own – and that’s far more valuable information.

If your agency has always run Google Ads through a tracking system like DoubleClick’s, what you really don’t know is how good Google Ad’s internal tracking, conversion optimisation and bid management tools truly are.

Within the first week of moving PetDrugsOnline to what was then Conversion Optimiser, ROAS went up 24%, revenue went up 129% (that also had a bit to do with the new ads I’d written), conversion rates went up 47%, and conversion volume went up 123%. Over the following 6 weeks, the CPA came down 50%.

Without Conversion Optimiser, I wouldn’t have been able to gain that much ground that quickly. Over time, Google’s optimisation tools keep growing and getting more robust with much less effort – not only saving a ton of time and effort, but also a lot of billable hours.

Which brings me to an interesting aside. I bill by the hour. Third party tracking systems like Google 360 (which uses DoubleClick) take about 30% more time than without using them. So if I was merely interested in making money, I would be touting third party tracking ’til your cheque clears my bank account. But I’m not interested in making money at the expense of my client’s revenue and ROI potential.

Lastly if you’re using third party tracking and programmatic bidding to save €0.002/click but you’re paying an extra €0.003/click for the software plus whatever you’re paying your agency, are you really saving money? And since third party tracking systems take more time, and that severely limits your agency’s efforts, your campaigns are probably losing out on the kind of attention that gains high revenue and low costs.

If you’re relying on third party tracking for your remarketing campaigns are you really remarketing? Or are you just serving the same ads to someone who has already visited your site? Because that’s just a waste – not to mention as a user, it frustrates and bores and makes the internet a less fun place to visit.

Are you offering an incentive specific to that user and their onsite behavior to get the conversion? Are you up-selling additional products based on their conversion histories? If you are, I applaud you, and there is a way to get the best of both worlds with Google Ads, but that a proprietary strategy that I would offer after completing an assessment of your Google Ads account.

When you look at the bottom line (CPA, ROAS, revenue) are you making sure to include the cost of every click/interaction before the conversion? Or are you just looking at remarketing conversions as a single click cost? Because by definition, there were at least 2 clicks involved in a remarketing conversion.

And while it may sound sleek and savvy to use tools like dynamic remarketing, remember that Google is in this to make money and what better way to do that than to serve an ad to someone who already clicked – often at a higher CPC the second time.

Make no mistake, I’m very pragmatic about my assessment of Google’s tools and advertising suites. Some of their offerings are pure genius, some are pure shite. Some have incredible sales and cost benefits and some just make them money hand over fist.

The trick is knowing the difference, and to use that insight to create strategies that make the most of what works, to minimize or eliminate the chaff – especially when it’s ingrained in the status quo to the point that no one questions if it actually works – and to change and test where necessary to make it work.