HERO Conference 2016 – PPC Strategy Recap

Each year Hero Conf brings the biggest names and brightest minds, like Microsoft’s John Gagnon and Chris Haleua from Adobe, together under one roof to discuss the tactics, strategies, present and future of pay-per-click advertising.

With 50+ speakers, 36 breakout sessions, 4 keynotes and 700 PPC like-minded attendees, the event serves as platform for innovative ideas, creative discussions, and connections.

David Weichel, CPC Strategy’s Paid Search Director and Roman Fitch, CPC Strategy’s Retail Search Manager organized a series of highlights and main takeaways from the presentations.

Presentation: Making Your Ad The SuperHero

Speakers: Matt Umbro & Helen Edwards


ppc strategy



With so many new ad formats and extensions, writing great ad copy isn’t as simple as writing a headline and two description lines. Your ads need to wow your audience by standing out from the competition.

Ultimately, while the numbers are vital, writing emotionally powerful ad copy is of equal importance (and has a tremendous effect on those numbers).

Toying with the emotions of anger, affirmation, disgust, and fear – adding a little creativity from the right side of our brains to an overly analytical left brain driven field – can significantly improve click through rates, resulting in better quality scores, cheaper clicks, and definitive success in paid search.

    • Ways you can use all available ad extensions to supersize your ads while providing relevant information
    • Ad formats that catch the eye in the ultra-competitive search listings real estate
    • How to try out fresh, inventive ads that capitalize on the feelings of users at the exact moment they are searching





In 2007, the SERP featured 2 top ads, 4+ side ads, with no extensions. In 2016 the SERP featured 4 top ads, PLAs on right (or top), and all text ads eligible for extensions. Headlines for text ads tend to be extended (description lines are part of the headline). This has expanded it’s reach to tablet and mobile devices.

“Friendly reminder, and a bit of an aside, that you need to be writing mobile specific ad copy. It shows up significantly different than on desktop. And also make sure your most compelling offer is included in the description line 1 so it qualifies for the extended headline,” Weichel said.

“Be intentional about your title casing with display URLs. Google usually lower cases your display URL, but if display URL appears in headline, the casing you use will appear (ie: BestBuy.com vs bestbuy.com).”

Types of Dynamic Ads:

    • DSA
    • Ad Customizers
    • Dynamic Remarketing
    • Shopping ads


A major challenge for search marketers is how to create campaigns at scale that are well targeted and don’t take too much manual time. The solution is Dynamic Search Ads.

DSA Shopping campaigns are currently in beta and feed off the data you submit in the shopping feed. DSAs can have headlines of up to 65 characters, depending on the page title.

RDSAs (Remarketing for Dynamic Search Ads) are a great way to expand your eligible remarketing audiences beyond the minimum 1000 user eligibility requirements.

Main takeaways are that standard text headlines and description lines matter less. Think of them as one.

Use punctuation at the end of desc line 1 to get that extended headline and strategically use all eligible extensions to make your ad more appealing. Advertisers should use dynamic ads to help them scale their efforts and make their ads more compelling

Despite Google claiming and processing that there are multiple inputs for Quality Score, the biggest factor is CTR. Quality Score of 10 can decrease cost by 50% and a Quality Score of 1 can lead to increased costs up to 400%.

DKI doesn’t make your ads extraordinary, but adding emotion can. Humans are rational, but emotion often plays a factor in our decision making (like what ad to click).

Don’t just write what you sell in your ad copy, write how/what you want your customers to feel when they purchase or consume your product/service.

How to Write Emotionally Charged Ad Copy:

1. Identify who you are talking to
2. Establish which persona you want to be when you are communicating with your audience.
3. Write an emotionally charged ad for that person

Pro-Tip: So, how do you write emotional ad copy when you’re writing it for clients? Some clients can be very committed to certain kinds of language and generic tone when it comes to their business. Advertisers should implement the copy and try to get wins on behalf of their client first, ask for forgiveness later.

Typically, if you’re generating positive results compared to the “safer” copy the client can be persuaded.

Presentation: The E-Commerce Tools You Shouldn’t Go Without

Speakers: Carrie Albright, Associate Director of Services at Hannapin Marketing
ppc strategy


This presentation will focus on providing the seasoned PPC manager with a clear-cut picture of the highs, lows, benefits and pitfalls of the greatest of these. It will also address how to integrate these results into the larger PPC strategy.

Not every e-comm strategy works for every advertiser, but there are opportunities within each of these ad types that can be successful. Instead of receiving a step-by-step ‘How To’, attendees will bypass the introduction to these ad options and head straight into the application of results.

From here advertisers can not only optimize their own performance, but create a better collaboration of marketing efforts.

  • A checklist for eligibility and fit for the ad platform, such as Instagram
  • The quick & dirty data we get from these ads and how to leverage it
  • An easily applied layout for integrating these channels and others in the PPC vein



1. Shopping Feeds

Make sure you’re following these basic steps:

    • Utilize custom labels
    • Write your own product types
    • Include GTINS

Then, Create your own campaign architectures leveraging your own data:
– One campaign for Best Sellers
– One campaign for Low Sellers

2. Instagram

Make sure to differentiate between new vs. returning visitors. Once you have that, cater your CTA to each individual audience to make the offer more compelling for that persona.

3. Pinterest

Although Pinterests ad platform may not generate the results we’re looking for just yet, they are a valuable segment that represents users that are interested in the specific products we’ve posted to our board(s). So, advertisers should create Google Adwords audiences for people that come to their site from  Pinterest (this can be set up through Google Analytics).

4. Dynamic Search Ads

Make sure that branded conversions aren’t coming in through DSA targeting. Often times people are forgetting to add branded terms to these areas and we’re getting a false view of performance in this way (edited).

Dynamic Keyword Insertion​ may be old school, and in certain cases worse CTR than static text ads, but the ROAS is often higher.

The worst performing ​Dynamic Remarketing campaigns have been the ones targeting an audience of shopping cart abandoners w/ a simple, generic product carousel that shows a bunch of products that don’t really mean anything to the user.

Pro-Tip: Localization ​Ad Customizers can lead to a 2x improvement in CTR and Conv Rate, especially for retailers that have multiple brick -and mortar stores. 

Pro-Tip: Make sure you take the time to think about how you can combine multiple re-targeting features to amplify your strategy. For example, combining RLSA+DSA or RLSA+Shopping to really dial things up.

Live Audience Q&A:

Q. Any tips for improving AOV?

A. Follow the data. If the returning visitors happen to have a higher AOV,invest into either a.) increasing the total number of returning visitors or b.) increasing conversion rates for returning visitors.

Q. Which products do you start with when trying to convince them to get onto Google Shopping?

A. Don’t always start with high-margin products since they sometimes can be incongruent with the products that actually sell. Find the intersection of high/healthy margins and best sellers so that your sales and performance predictions have a better chance of happening.

​Q. Do you have any favorite CSEs (comparison shopping engines)?​

A. These were a hot topic a couple of years ago, but seem to have dissipated. There was a shared anecdote about losing Google organic rankings temporarily. In an effort to get their pages re-indexed they signed up for some of the major shopping engines and saw an positive incremental lift in traffic and their pages got re-indexed (seemingly) faster.

Presentation: Advanced Bidding in 2016

Speakers: Chris Haleau, Senior Product Manager at Adobe

ppc strategy


Even the best systems need to be held accountable and pointed in the right direction. How then can we find balance between man and machine in a way that both saves time and improves performance?

    • How to stay on the cutting edge of bid optimization and stay a step ahead of competition in each auction
    • Manual bid patterns and compare our numerous bid automation options
    • The toughest questions you deserve answered before investing in any optimization technology



Conversion Distributions can be a great way to visualize and/or communicate “lift”. Take one month’s’ keywords each on the x axis, y axis is revenue. Then overlay that same report over the one above, and you see “clusters of lift” in areas that you allowed to breathe. These are bursts of “lift” that you generated.

Pro-Tip: Don’t look at all signals, because some of them are noise. Apply Pareto’s Rule, the 80/20 rule

There are some important considerations that you should consider when approaching a bidding methodology including:

– How are we defending our top terms?
– How are we avoiding waste?
– How are we capturing interest?

– How are we supporting growth?
– How are we balancing returns?
– How are we maintaining visibility?

– How are we qualifying prospects
– How are we engaging visitors?
– How are we demonstrating relevance?

Advertisers can address this simply with what is coined a 3×3, essentially 9 segments of traffic.

The image below represents 9 different segments of traffic that can help to filter out the noise from your data.



Live Audience Q&A:

Q. When applying the 3×3 what is the default date range?

– Go to Google Analytics and find the Time to First Purchase report.
– Find the date range that covers ~70% or more of the total conversions.
– Apply that date range to your performance reports.

​There’s an additional cost associated with adding keywords.

– More than just the cost of ad spend, it’s also the cost of:
– Mental capacity due to the distraction away from higher priority items
– Loading time for my search query reports

Presentation: Finding Actionable Insights with AdWords and Google Analytics

Speaker: Sean Quadlin

ppc strategy


Determining success in your AdWords account comes down to what happens after a click. This session dives deep on reporting & analysis techniques across AdWords and Google Analytics. Find out how you can generate the types of insights that lead to sustained account success.

1. Special reports in AdWords
2. AdWords and Google Analytics: Better together
3. 8 AdWords analyses to run in GA
4. Smart goals


​Special Reports in AdWords

First, define clear and consistent success metrics. Why? Without focusing on clear goals it’s easy to get lost in the details. Focus on insights that lead to changes for success metrics. Understanding what’s happening in your account and why it may be happening is crucial to replicating success and eliminating shortcomings.

​Figure 1.1

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  • Use line graphs to look for wow, yoy trends and get to know the business trends.
  • Detect anomalies by being aware of baseline performance. The earlier you spot anomalies in your performance, the quicker you can take advantage of new opportunities or fix poor performance.

​Figure 1.2

ppc strategy

– Choose the right time periods when analyzing performance. Why? Context is important. Seasonality, strategy changes, external market pressures can influence performance.
– Use statistical significance for all testing. Why? – Early returns can be misleading.
– Make it easy to repeatedly surface the insights that you find most valueable. Best practice; save recurring analyses as reports: search terms, geographic, hour of day, paid vs. organic, etc.

Adwords and Google Analytics: Better Together

  • Import goal completions and ecommerce transactions so you can perform richer analysis on customized Analytics goals, and then optimize them in Adwords.
  • Create custom remarketing lists like came to your site but not from paid. This will create highly-specific remarketing lists based on pages viewed, goal completions or other GA segmentations. You can even take it next level and create lists based off specific behavior flow (ie: viewed category page, then viewed product page). Or to help you scale, let Google automate these lists.
  • Create list of people who haven’t converted because conversions only tell part of the story, Google Analytics tells you more about how users engage with your site, so it’s important to understand what drives on-site engagement.

​8 Adwords Analyses to Run in GA

1. To visualize and analyze your conversion cohorts: Use treemaps in the acquisition or AdWords 

2. To see if a landing page needs to be optimized, see sessions, or time on site: acquisition > adwords > keywords, filter for conv. rate=0

3. To add querty match type dimensions: acquisition > adwords > campaigns, add querty match type dimensions

4. To find out if certain keywords that perform really well for mobile users: acquisition > adwords > keywords, add device dimension

5. To find out if there is behavior beyond on site conversions that a practitioner should factor in: acquisition > adwords > bid adjustments – choose between device/locations/ ad schedule

6. Destination urls help to identify new / returning users and track how first time users from AdWords react to the site

7. To find out which pages deliver strong page values or low bounce rates for organic traffic and / or could they be used as landing pages for AdWords traffic: behavior > site content > landing pages, organic or referral traffic segment

8. To find out if your keywords are reaching demo(s) differently? This can also help practitioners identify if they need to update their keyword list: audience > demo > age, query match type

Presentation: When Abandoning Best Practices is the Right Thing To Do

Speaker: Brad Geddes

ppc strategy


We create best practices around what works for most accounts. However, there are times you should abandon best practices. You might due this due to resource constraints, simplifying complex problems, or just failures of a best practice to account for your specific situation. In this session, we will look at some bidding and attribution management scenarios where abandoning best practices improved the account’s performance.


Best practices are tricky, because they depend on the context. According to Geddes, practitioners can debate why broad match is the best keyword match type but they can also argue why exact is the best. It can switch depending on the context.

But when Bing and Google give out best practices a lot of times it lacks the public data to back it. That data actually exists and that’s how they’re end up at those decisions but they’re just not sharing it with the public.

Best practice that you should delete all keywords that don’t have any conversions has led to some serious declines in performance 2, 3 months out.

Best practices around language targeting is hairy, because no engine gives you true conversion rates by language. Here’s an example – when someone in a country who doesn’t speak the native language is a traveler and therefore we should serve them ads for Car Hires. In this scenario, they were right!

CTR looks stronger when there is a mismatch. 

But then they took a look at conversions by day and noticed that they convert only M-F and adjusted their ad schedule modifiers. The result was that performance decline drastically, because in B2B people do research on one day and convert on another. So, they oversimplified a complex problem and ended up hurting performance.

Another example is the ROAS / volume dichotomy – when you focus on ROAS you can target only a very slim selection of keywords which can have an adverse effect on conversions. Make sure to revisit your geotargets because the targeting methods have changed drastically. There can be a lot left on the table potentially.

When it comes to remarketing, there is banner blindness that we need to take into consideration. It can create some unintuitive results. Like for example, if you take the best ad from a group of 5, pause the worst 4, then the only remaining ad ends up performing worse than the average of the 5 originally. How is that? Best practice fails here, because display is not search and shouldn’t be subjected to the same assumptions.

Main takeaways

Changing the nomenclature from “best practice” to “common practice”. Sometimes the failure is in the process or definition rather than the best practice itself.

  • Breaking Best Practice: Deleting non-converting keywords; look at assists instead.
  • Breaking Best Practice: For languages, added in one language/month and evaluated conversion lift.
  • Breaking Best Practice: Choosing a winner ad variation in display remarketing. Found better CTR when 3-5 ads were live.
  • Breaking Best Practice: Conversion rates were better when Quality Scores and CTR were lower. This case was a b2b client where the ads were very specific and served as a pre-qualifier.
  • Breaking Best Practice: Slower page load with better conversion rates. This case found 90 seconds was the sweetspot, where a spinning wheel would show how many results are being generated. Users felt invested after waiting so long. Resource constraints can sometimes make it tough/okay to go against best practices.

In summary, best practices are a great place to start, but the goal should always be to break the best practices and show data that proves otherwise. Cautionary tales abound around oversimplifying complex problems. This can cause us to not trust our own data. In PPC, live to break the rules.

Presentation: Facebook Ads – How to Build a Funnel for Sales, Not Likes

Speakers: JD Prater, Hannapin Marketing & Massimo Cheiruzzi, CEO at AdEspresso

ppc strategy


The last time you heard about a great product from a friend, the recommendation probably didn’t start with “buy this now”, but instead a story of your friend’s experience with that product. Yet, as marketers, we forget this and more often than not try to lead with a “buy now” message. See how to use Facebook Ads to tell the story of your brand and move your users through the funnel, from total strangers to happy customers. In this session, you’ll learn:

  • How to set up Facebook ads that get results
  • How to move your audience down the sales funnel
  • Tactical examples of Facebook ads from real companies



The traditional Funnel Tactics that work on Adwords do so because it is Demand Fullfilment. However these don’t work on Facebook because it’s Demand Generation which is significantly different. People don’t go to Facebook to make decisions, they go there for other social engagements and distractions – so retailers need to cater their strategy and funnel to this reality.

Create a strategy and content specific to each one of the following stages:

1. Attracting Visitors (edited)

2. Converting Visitors into Leads

3. Converting Leads into Customers

  • Make sure to test your targeting first – Start with basic tests and segmentations, but use the ones that that will generate significant insights. (example: gender or age. Does my message or product resonate with males significantly more than with women?)
  • For opt-ins, make it quick and easy to consume. Lead magnets should provide immediate gratification. (example: The ask should be proportional to perceived value & the content should be specific to your targeted persona.)
  • Clear CTA (example: Specify it’s FREE.)
  • Use Website Custom Audiences. Exclude existing leads with a CA.
  • Determine your proper placement, mobile or desktop.
  • Make sure to test your design for each of the targeted personas that you’re speaking to and hone in on the ones that are converting well.


Live Audience Q&A:

Q. We do well with lead ads, but the quality is low. Are you seeing the same things?

– Make sure to layer retargeting with lead ads.
– There are ways to sync your CRM with your lead ads.
– Make sure you’re setting the right expectation as to what your intentions are w/ re: to you following up with sales calls and emails, etc.
– You can also add additional fields to make it more difficult to drive a lead, but increase the qualification in do so.

​Q. How do you identify where a user is in the funnel? Who’s a lead, who’s a potential buyer?

– You can do sequencing with CA (e.g. first they did this, then didn’t do the subsequent action). Follow up with them with a CTA that is catered to pushing them further down the funnel with one more step.

Q. What are the most successful ad formats?

– It depends on the target audience, especially age. Younger are more likely to watch videos, and they’re on their mobile, older on Desktop.
– “Mobile is for discovery, Desktop is for transaction.”

Q. When we launch a campaign it does well at first, then declines. Any tips?​

– Check your frequency. You want to keep it below 5.
– Once you go above 5, then you can try to change your messaging, but this is if you have time.
– And also checkout the reach of your audiences.

Presentation: The Best PPC Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Speakers: Lance Bachman, President at 1SEO, Purna Virji, Senior Client Development Manager and Trainer at Microsoft

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Most marketing managers make mistakes because they are not paying attention or too busy.

The 3 most common PPC mistakes include tracking code implementation, keyword strategy and importing Google campaigns into Bing.

1) Dynamic keyword insertion can input the wrong text depending on the keyword match type and the search query length. Look out for an upcoming change to text ads – expanding character limits to 30 for headline and description lines. Make sure you check your Bing imports, sometimes certain ad groups won’t actually copy all the way over to Bing Ads for whatever reason.

2) Applying heat maps across all columns is a mistake we make often and doesn’t tell the right story we’re looking for. Make sure that you’re selecting only the right column, one at a time, and select whether or not color maps or data bars help you to create your story.

Pro-Tip: The reason to upgrade to Excel 2016 is because the =IFS() function which allows you to easily nest multiple if statements without getting too messy.

3) Ignoring new ad extensions – There are new social extensions on Bing Ads which link to your social profiles and give your ad a lot more visibility as well as brand new video ad extensions (in beta) that only apply to mobile devices

4) Title content improvements – Practitioners should use real language that a user might actually search for and add more descriptors in the descriptions. Bing Ads ​actually use the content in your description line to influence the shopping relevancy score (Google doesn’t). Bing Ads also allows you to promote subscriptions in Bing Shopping (Google doesn’t).

Pro-Tip: Don’t ever leave any fields blank. Especially don’t leave a category value as “misc.”

For more on the 2016 Hero Conference, email [email protected]

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