Devon’s Design Dish #2


Below is a weekly roundup of design articles I pulled this week that I thought were A) very interesting or B) useful in our PPC world. Comment below with your thoughts on the articles or what you would like to see in next weeks Design Dish.

Guide To Using Heat Maps
Heat Maps are a tool that provides actionable data specifically about how your visitors use your site. They show you how to get the most out of your site, not someone else. Heat Maps show you exactly how visitors are using your site, so you know how to design, build and layout a site to make your visitors happy and achieve your end goal.
Conclusions from heat map testing:

  • Menu Bars are distracting; remove them from a homepage and landing pages
  • Images receive the most clicks
  • Sidebars generally are ignored
  • Call to Actions work better above AND below the fold (use both)
  • Remove any unnecessary fields to capture more emails

7 Habits Of Effective Web Designers
As a designer this article was very insightful to read. Its not about the skills that make a good designer, a point that blog articles belabor, but instead the habits that make an effective designer. It lists 7 habits that are key when working with an agency and clients that are going to lean on your expertise to deliver a great and effective product.

9 Awesome Tools That Pro Web Designers Use
Designers often look to tool that can make our lives easier or make our process better/faster. This article lists 9 tools to enhance your web design workflow. Being a typography-lover, I immediately installed the WhatFont extension to be able to identify different fonts on webpages to inspire my own work and build my knowledge on typefaces.

New Identity For Sonos
At YSA we constantly have our sonos on and switch between various playlists throughout the day to foster creativity and culture. That is why this article stood out to me. Sonos has undergone a visual identity “update.” The logo has remained the same but the identity around it has been remixed to advance the idea of the modern music experience. The article itself definitely provides inspiration in my work as I look to update and rework landing pages and banner ads.

Devon’s Design Corner: #1


Below is a weekly roundup of design articles I pulled this week that I thought were A) very interesting or B) useful in our PPC world. Comment below with your thoughts on the articles or what you would like to see in next weeks Design Corner.

The Dawn Wall
The NY Times created a interactive microsite utilizing interactive parallax scrolling and javascript. It is a very cool web design that serves to open the eyes to what could be accomplished with parallax scrolling techniques when used creatively and in a way that make sense to the overall purpose of the page. When designing content it is important to think beyond trends and delve into the way the design can bolster understanding and interaction.

2015 Design Trends
A fun, easy to read infographic about what we have to look forward to in the design world during 2015. In our Landing Page world, we can utilize many of these elements to stay current and fresh.

How To Have Successful Conversations With Your Visitors
A really interesting take on the interaction between a visitor and your website – think of it like a conversation. “Great websites have successful conversations with their visitors and they provide an engaging experience that satisfies both their needs and yours.” The article lists three key questions that I will always ask myself when first approaching and  designing the Landing Pages and Ads.

How To Get Great Testimonials
A great read on how to leverage the power of testimonials on your webpages to close more leads. This is something that we have on a majority, if not all, of our landing pages, so it is very important to know what a good converting testimonial should include. “Good testimonials can increase conversions by up to 20% on your homepage or email marketing.”

A Case For Display Ads & Attribution Modeling

typical-roas-shareWe’ve known for a while that display ad impressions and social media ad impressions have value. But without solid data, how do you explain that to direct response and lead generation marketers that demand high Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) and exact Cost Per Lead data?

The truth is, until recently, we couldn’t. Not without huge data sets and proprietary attribution modeling software…things that most (okay, all) of our clients don’t have.

Increasingly, we come across studies like that conducted by Datalicious that suggest display ads and social media ads (Facebook, in this case) have demonstrable value for financial services marketers.

Here are the key findings from the study, but I would encourage you to download and read the entire report to get the full story.

  • Facebook and display advertising are significantly undervalued and on
    average deliver 830% more revenue than anticipated once measured
    accurately with multi-touch attribution.
  • Given most advertisers have very mature search marketing programs
    that offer little opportunities for additional incremental growth, display
    advertising in general represents one of the most attractive growth
  • Facebook advertising in particular still holds significant growth potential
    compared to other more established channels as it provides a high
    average ROAS yet comparatively does not receive a lot of media spend.
  • While Facebook and display advertising do generate clicks, they are
    not typical direct response channels, but instead indirectly influence
    conversions and build awareness that is then captured further down the
    purchase path by other channels such as search.
  • Search, whilst important in capturing awareness generated by display
    advertising or other channels, is overvalued in the amount of impact it
    has on the consumer purchase decision.
  • Accurate multi-touch measurement and the ability to exploit the resulting
    media optimisation opportunities at scale holds tremendous potential for
    advertisers to develop a strategic competitive edge, build market share
    and deliver incremental growth.

Our experience with trying to explain attribution modeling and assisted conversions is that clients really only understand last click metrics. Even those that believe in the value of display impressions are more likely to max out spending in last-click channels first (primarily search), before spending on display or social ads.

As the industry begins to accept and integrate display & social contributions to ROAS, it becomes incumbent on agencies like ours to understand how and when to shift media dollars from direct response to branding and awareness channels to boost the overall performance of a campaign. Looks like we have a lot of work ahead of us in 2015!

Do You #ppcchat? Tell Us About Yourself!

As communities grow, it often becomes harder to keep track of who’s new, who’s returning after a hiatus, and the backgrounds of people that you are interacting with. The #ppcchat community is no different. Not only has the audience grown considerably over the past year, but the content and format has become increasingly useful as the “wisdom of the crowds” kicks in. There’s still room for n00bs but it feels like we have reached a critical mass of active contributors.

Since it helps to know who you are talking to, we put together a very brief, informal (read: not scientific) survey of #ppcchat users. We asked a few basic demographic questions and received 30 responses. None of the data below are statistically significant, but there are some interesting nuggets of data that would be interesting to extrapolate to the entire PPC community (whether or not they participate in #ppcchat).

Here’s what we learned…

Geographic Distribution of #ppcchat Contributors

Folks tune in from all over the world! It’s great to see so many countries and continents represented. PPC is different by country, time zone, and across cultural divides. Personally, I’d like to hear from more non U.S. participants, but it seems that there is no easy way to pick a time slot that works for people across time zones.

ppcchat User Locations

#ppcchat User Locations


#ppcchat Job Titles

Job titles are nearly impossible to compare across companies, so we didn’t even try. A Director at one company could be a Specialist or Manager at another. The best we could do is a simple word cloud showing the most prominent titles from our survey respondents.

PPC seems to be slightly more prominent than Search, Online, or Digital, and we even have one Anarchist in our midst!


ppcchat Job Titles

#ppcchat Job Titles


Company Type & Company Size

Perhaps a little more telling about #ppcchat folks are the types and sizes of companies that we come from. Again, this data set is not large enough to draw any significant conclusions, but it does seem pretty clear that most of us are in some sort of PPC or digital marketing agency, with healthy representation from in-house marketers and independent PPC pros.

My hypothesis is that agency folks have a little more leeway in our schedules and incentive to contribute to (and learn from) #ppcchat so we might be over-represented as a percentage of the actual PPC universe.

ppcchat Company Type

#ppcchat Company Type


Company size ranges dramatically, but most of us are in small-to-midsize companies (1-100) with a pretty healthy group of large/enterprise PPC’ers. Definitely some different challenges and opportunities in the enterprise space, but the day-to-day PPC tactics are often the same.

ppcchat Company Size

#ppcchat Company Size


So, What Did We Learn?

It’s hard to draw a lot of insights from a small sample size, but the #ppcchat contributors are as diverse as any group of data geeks can be. We come from companies large and small, countries far and near, but we all speak the same language.

I am constantly amazed at how helpful and sincere the PPC community is. In a world where we focus so much on competition and out-performing our (or our clients’) competitors, we certainly do share a lot of information. This, in my opinion, is what has helped the #ppcchat community survive and thrive.

Thanks to all who submitted their survey responses, and especially thanks to Matt and James for organizing and MC’ing each week. It has certainly helped our team feel more connected to the PPC world!

Pimp Your Ads: Guide to AdWords Ad Customizers

Pimp My Ads

Remember the sheer TV genius that was MTV’s Pimp My Ride? When it came to customizing cars, there was not a paint job too outlandish or shag carpet too tacky for Xzibit and his crew at West Coast Customs. Well, move over Xzibit – Google’s new Ad Customizers are giving you a run for your money! As exciting as Ad Customizers are, they can be a bit scary. That’s why we put together this rundown on what exactly they are, how they work and a few examples of how you can put them to use. Think of this as an Ad Customizer FAQ.

Kevin O'LearyIf at any point you feel your inner Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank coming out, feel free to say “Stop the madness!” and scroll down to the examples (with images) provided below. Seeing these bad boys in action can really make it all come together.

What Are Ad Customizers?

Think Dynamic Keyword Insertion on steroids: Using a series of parameters, Google automatically updates your ad, in real-time, by inserting a keyword, countdown timer, or any other information that you want. That means you upload one ad and get nearly unlimited variations, automatically. Pretty cool right?

Where Can I Use Ad Customizers?

You can use Ad Customizers in any text ad on the Google Search or Display Networks. They can be used in any part of the ad except for the display URL.

How Do They Work?

Ad Customizers work using parameters that sit within brackets {like this}. These parameters get replaced in real-time by information that you have previously designated using Ad Customizer Data, COUNTDOWN functions, or both.

How Are The Parameters Structured?

Parameters are made up of two parts; a data sheet reference and a column reference.

Ad Customizer Parameters

If you’re using a Countdown, refer to the section “How Do Countdowns Work?

What Is Ad Customizer Data?

Ad Customizer Data is a spreadsheet that you upload into the Business Data section of your Shared Library within your Adwords account. (You can download Google’s CSV template here). The spreadsheet must be uploaded as a .csv, .tsv, .xls, or .xlsx file.

What Goes In The Data Sheet?

The Data Sheet is made up of columns containing information like price, models or any other relevant data. You tell Google how to format the data by listing one of four attributes in parentheses next to your column headers: text, number, price, or date.

What Kinds Of Things Can I Use As Customizers?

Here are the Ad Customizer standard attributes. Of course, you can add any type of data you want, but these are the essentials.

Ad Customizer Standard Attributes

How Do I Target My Ad Customizers?

Google locates the appropriate Ad Customizers by referencing specific keywords, ad groups, campaigns or your entire account. You set this in advance by including targeting columns like “Target Keyword” in your Data Sheet. If you want your customizers to apply to your entire account simply leave out the targeting columns.

How Do Countdowns Work?

Countdowns work two ways depending on whether you are counting down to one event or multiple. If you are counting down to a single event, simply use the COUNTDOWN function:

{=COUNTDOWN("YYYY/MM/DD 09:00:00")}

If you are counting down to multiple events, you’ll need to upload a data sheet with all of the dates and then use the countdown parameter like this:


How Long Do Countdowns Run?

Countdowns run 5 days in advance of the end date by default and stop afterwards. Start dates can be changed by adding the desired number of days after the function. In the example below, I changed a countdown function to start 3 days in advance of the end date:

Ad Customizer Countdown

How Do Countdowns Interact With Timezones?

Countdowns can either adjust to the user’s timezone (using the COUNTDOWN function) or they can end at a universal point in time (using the GLOBAL_COUNTDOWN function)

  • COUNTDOWN example – If you’re running a sale that ends at 11pm Eastern and someone in Atlanta sees your ad at at 9pm, they’ll see “Sale Ends In 2 Hours” while someone in LA would see “Sale Ends In 5 hours”.
  • GLOBAL_COUNTDOWN example – In the example above, the user in Atlanta and LA would both see “Sale Ends In 2 Hours”.

What Happens If A Customizer Breaks or a Countdown Ends?

Google requires you to have one text ad without customizers enabled in any ad group with ad customizers. This serves as a backup in case something goes wrong, a countdown ends or has not started yet.

How Do I Set Up Ad Customizers?

  1. Open the Ad Customizer Data CSV Template.
  2. Define your custom attributes – make sure you include an attribute type (text, number, price or date).
    1. Google recommends not using spaces in the attribute names.
  3. Define your targeting (if you’re targeting by keyword, ad group and/or campaign or entire account).
  4. Enter your data & upload to AdWords – Shared Library – Business Data (.csv, .tsv, .xls, or .xlsx).
  5. Write your ad using appropriate parameters (character limits still apply to the final ad).
  6. Upload a standard text ad in the same ad group that has no ad customizers.
Ric Flair


How Do I Celebrate The Launch Of My Ad Customizers?

Oh you just uploaded your first Ad Customizers? Celebrate like Ric Flair!

Examples & Use Cases

Example 1: Keyword-Targeted Sale Countdown

Problem: You have a large inventory and want to show specific product details based on keywords. You also want to countdown to the end of a sale.

Solution: Upload a data sheet with details about each product then create one ad with a countdown and customizers that reference specific columns of the sheet.

Ad Customizer Example 1

Example 2: Campaign & Ad Group-Targeted Ad

Problem: Your account is structured with category specific campaigns and brand specific ad groups. You want to highlight your selection of products.

Solution: Customize your ads by ad group by using the “Target Campaign” & “Target Ad Group” columns.

Ad Customizer Example 2

Example 3: Countdown to Multiple Events

Problem: You host a wrestling match featuring a pro wrestler at your sketchy, run-down warehouse several times a month and want to run countdowns for each one.

Solution: Upload a data sheet (in this case we’ll call it “Matches”) with all scheduled dates and any text you want to replace.

Ad Customizer Example 3

Example 4: Countdown to a One-Time Event

If there is a one-time event that you’d like to run a countdown for, there’s no need to upload customizer data. Simply include this function in your text ad:

{=COUNTDOWN("YEAR/MO/DY 09:00:00”)}

Ad Customizer Example 4


The YSA Team Celebrates National Boss’ Day


We are afraid of how much we love Andrew.

We are afraid of how much we love Andrew.

What happens to a company if somebody takes a boss away? I will answer your question with a question. It’s like, what happens to a chicken when you take its head away? It dies.” – Michael Scott

Today, on the most sacred of United States secular corporate holidays, the YSA team would like to take a moment to recognize the head of our chicken, Andrew Miller.

It’s an unenviable task trying to keep a team of four Millenials happy, focused, and motivated, but Andrew does just that every day. He encourages us to take ownership of our work, and to explore new and better ways to get things done. Despite YSA being such a small company, Andrew has created a culture where the opportunities are as endless as we want them to be.

One day, as we’re sipping bourbon in our corner offices, interns eagerly gathered around to soak up our vast knowledge, we’ll speak fondly of our time under Andrew’s tutelage. We can already imagine how several of our stories will start:

“I had this one boss who used to let his 4-year-old shoot us with Nerf guns while we were trying to work.”

“This one time, my boss brought a Crock-Pot full of chicken and onions into our relatively small office, and cooked his family’s dinner during the workday. The office smelled like onions for days.”

But most importantly…

“You know Andrew Miller, the CEO of Google? Yeah, I used to work for that guy… Great darts player.”

So, Happy National Boss’ Day, Andrew, and thanks for all you do!

The First 6 Things We Load in Google Tag Manager…Every Time

Google Tag Manager

Rarely does a software tool come along that fundamentally changes how we do things across all of our clients at one time. Google Tag Manager is one of those tools, and for good reason. We can quickly and easily update analytics tags, call tracking code snippets, conversion tracking pixels, remarketing audience tags, and A/B testing code without having to cross-train the team as coders or IT specialists.

Rather than re-hash the tutorials on how to implement GTM, I thought it would be more helpful to share the ways we use it as a PPC team.

Here are the 6 things we implement first in Google Tag Manager, each and every time we set it up. Helpful links to tutorials are included, but don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and try them out!

1. Outbound link clicks & PDF downloads as Google Analytics Events

Many interactions on a website don’t generate a pageview in Google Analytics, such as a click on a link to another site, a PDF download, or a form submission. These types of events are usually ignored, but are extremely valuable for marketers, IT, and sales teams. Google Tag Manager makes it relatively easy to detect and track these occurrences with Google Analytics Event Tracking. It’s a bit complicated at first but well worth the time to learn!

2. Custom Audience  & Remarketing Pixels

Need to paste a remarketing or audience pixel on your site but don’t have sway with the IT guy or gal? We use Custom HTML tags to dynamically build remarketing audiences based on visitors’ interactions on the site. For example, want to create a custom AdWords remarketing segment for your best customers? Create a remarketing pixel in AdWords that only tracks high-value transactions based on a set of rules in GTM.

3. Conversion Tracking Pixels

This is a no-brainer, and possibly the most widely used feature in GTM. Tracking e-commerce transactions, sales leads, or content engagement is hard if you have to hack on code yourself or get stuck between release cycles. We let Tag Manager do its thing so we can do ours. When we need to track Facebook, AdWords, or Google Analytics conversions, we configure tags and rules to make sure we are tracking only the goals we want to track for each advertising platform.

4. Call Tracking Scripts

If you’re familiar with phone call tracking, you know it can be a pain to paste call tracking code on each page. A few months ago (the stone age, in Internet years), dynamic number replacement scripts need to be wrapped around each instance of a phone number.  Ifbyphone has updated their platform to play nice with GTM so we can save time and eliminate the headaches simply by including their script in a container.

5. A/B Testing Snippets

This is a tricky one, but well worth the time to learn and get it right. If you use Optimizely or other A/B testing tools, you’ll be happy to know that it is possible to deploy the JavaScript snippets through GTM with some custom configuration. Basically, you’ll want to make sure your snippet fires before the rest of the page loads to minimize the impact on your visitors’ experience and page load times.

6. 404 Error Pages

Is your site bleeding visitors and squandering sales from error pages? These are typically referred to as “404” errors and result in a less-than-gratifying “page not found” message. Talk about a conversion killer! LunaMetrics has a wonderful tip on how to create Google Analytics events for 404 errors so you can identify these holes in your funnel. Taking it a step further, you could apply the same logic to track pages on your site with “out of stock” inventory or missing images.

Bonus! Show Your Work

We need to verify the contents of our GTM containers every time we make an update. Get the Google Tag Assistant extension for Chrome to check your pages in realtime to ensure that your tags are firing properly. Need to preview and debug your tags? Yeah, there’s a tool for that too!

We’ve implemented dozens of other combinations of tags, rules, and macros for outlier scenarios but these are the most common and deserve a spot in your default GTM setup.


[Video]: Unbounce & YSA, BFF’s Forever!

Unbounce Shirt

We’ve even been known to wear their shirts on casual days…

It’s no secret that we love the Unbounce landing page testing platform. We’ve been a customer for over 3 years, hosted a user meetup at our office and partnered with them on a case study for a new Dynamic Text Replacement feature.

Without getting too mushy, we have really enjoyed getting to know their team and alpha testing new features (*cough* responsive design).

They really took the relationship to the next level when they asked if they could feature us in a video case study about how a PPC agency uses landing pages to improve our clients’ businesses and our bottom line.

Of course, we said yes!

Dating metaphors aside, we are extremely honored to be featured and help tell the Unbounce story. A huge thanks to Gary and the Unbounce team for making us the stars of their show.

Richmond Unbounce Meetup at YSA

Landing Page Optimization

Get Notified of Future Events
Unbounce LogoAre you using landing pages in your business? Want to show off your best landing page testing skills and learn from other experts in Richmond?

We’re partnering with our friends at Unbounce to host a meetup at our office on Thursday, June 26th at 6:00pm.

Join us! Even the beer is free…

This meetup will be a fun, intimate gathering, complete with tasty treats & casual beverages, where you’ll learn how Unbounce customers & online marketers are marketing online, using landing pages & optimizing their campaigns.

Get Notified of Future Events

Update, With Pics!

The Unbouce meetup was a great success, and definitely worth doing again. We had a great time and met a lot of cool people.

It’s very encouraging to know that there are many other users in #RVA and from as far away as Farmville (Note: for non-Virginians, Farmville is an actual, cool, historic location in Richmond and not a crappy Facebook game).

Want to get on the list for the next meetup? Contact us and we’ll make sure you are the first to know.

We Just Don’t Click Anymore: When PPC Relationships Fall Apart

PPC BreakupBreaking up sucks. We’ve all been there. It hurts, even if you’re the one initiating it. The nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach that something just isn’t right. You’re not clicking. The relationship isn’t going anywhere. It has to end.

Just like relationships between people, relationships between PPC agencies and their clients can fall apart. The initial honeymoon period after a new client win can take you to the highest highs while the dreaded, “It’s just not working out” phone call can ruin your week.

If a client doesn’t get what they need from the relationship (i.e. sales, leads, or ROI), they’re going to break up with you.

After 7 years in PPC, I’ve experienced all of this and it is still hard to acknowledge that all good things must come to an end. After a lot of soul searching (and a few cartons of ice cream), I realized there are 3 primary reasons that agencies and clients split up.

Agency Meets Client, Client Meets New Agency

PPC is hard and we don’t always achieve the results we expect for our clients in a reasonable timeframe. I’m not going to lie and pretend like every campaign is a home run. We suffer the occasional strikeout. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually unsatisfied clients will find a hotter agency that can fulfill all of their KPI needs.

I Need My Space

Some of our most disappointing client breakups weren’t over another agency at all. Our clients liked the results and potential so much that they decided to bring PPC in house. We call this, “The Kidney Punch” because things seemed to be going well…until they’re not. We were clicking, you know? Then they decided they didn’t need us after all.

A little bonus – these often turn into “Boomerang” clients that leave briefly then come back when they realize how hard PPC is and how much they need you. We have several former clients that continue to refer high-quality prospects to us. Don’t burn any bridges, ever.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

There’s an often-overlooked (and under-utilized) reverse breakup scenario: agency fires client. Most likely this is due to one of three scenarios:

  1. The scope has exceeded the fee with no room for re-negotiation
  2. Client places unrealistic demands on the PPC agency
  3. Agencies shift course and some clients no longer fit in the roster

I’ve talked with many, many other agency leaders that would fire a few clients if they could. I say you should! There’s no reason to waste time, overload your staff, or sacrifice quality for your other clients. Just like learning to say “No” to new business that might not be a good fit, it’s even harder to walk away from paying clients. Sometimes it has to happen, and I have ended up happier and better off every time we’ve had to exercise our right to terminate a contract.

But it doesn’t have to end on a bad note. Coming soon, check out our next post on How To Gracefully Part Ways With A PPC Client (A Checklist).

CC Photo Credit