What’s in Search Ads 360’s Secret Sauce? - Part Two: Spreading the Sauce in SA360

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Search Ads 360’s bid automation is amongst the most sophisticated in the industry. Capable of pulling in user intent and interaction signals, SA360 enables paid search practitioners to bid strategically at scale. Incorporating Google Ads’ Auction Time Bidding (ATB) technology into SA360 further enhances performance outcomes as each keyword that enters the auction receives a unique bid based on an even greater portfolio of data points that Google is able to derive from the searcher. These technologies culminate into an ability to introduce scale to their existing performance gains and achieve a level of optimization sophistication that would be nearly impossible to reach through manual bidding.

The Story So Far

In our last installment, we talked about how you can use the Floodlight to capture additional information at the time of conversion through the use of Custom Floodlight Variables (CFVs). With our Floodlight now using CFVs, this additional information will be piped into every conversion action, allowing us to know a whole lot more about the conversion action itself. Using the info from the first installment, we’re now able to see which product type the user had initially signaled interest in when they performed a form submission. Our example centered on a CFV that’s populating the product the user had indicated interest in when submitting the lead form.

The Hypothetical Scenario

Expanding on the example, there are three possible product selections the user could have made within this lead form:

  • Demo
  • Enterprise
  • SaaS

Let’s also say that during a recent review, the Business Intelligence team had concluded that inquiries relating to the Enterprise product yield the highest lead-to-sale conversion rate, which has an outsized impact on gross revenue. Secondarily, they also learned that clients who adopt the Enterprise product are also more likely to engage via additional a la carte services and consulting. Overall, the picture the BI team has painted indicates that the Enterprise tool is what digital marketing efforts need to cultivate for the second half of this year.

With business-side actuals as the North Star, we can now take this information and begin incorporating it into a media activation strategy within SA360, where the metaphorical rubber meets the proverbial road.

Meanwhile, Back in SA360

With our Floodlight gathering conversions, and those conversions telling us the product the user was interested in, we can now implement an activation strategy that hones in on our Enterprise conversions. To do so, we’ll need to take a few preliminary steps, which begin with telling SA360 that it can incorporate CFV values into its reporting functions.

Enabling the Custom Floodlight Variable for Reporting

First, find Advertiser Settings in the left-hand nav. Then, under the Floodlight drop-down, select Custom Floodlight Variables. Here, we can discover every CFV available to us, which matches the list where these were originally created back in CM360. Since we’re only concerned with the Product_Type variable, we’ll want to locate this within the list and update its status from the default type of “not set” to “dimension”.

How to enable the Custom Floodlight Variable for Reporting in SA360.

Pro tip: You can validate if the CFV is capturing data by looking to see if the “unique daily values (est)” column is returning a value.

Creating a Custom Conversion Column Segmenting by the CFV

Now that we’ve told SA360 that we intend to use the Product_Type CFV in some way, it has opened the pearly gates to the next realm of reporting. Here, we’ll want to create a new custom conversion column so that we can now make use of our new and shiny CFV. For our example, we’re creating a duplicate of an existing custom conversion column that looks at non-segmented (that is, doesn’t use the CFV we just enabled) data. The benefit to this approach is that you can compare the unsegmented vs. segmented reporting data to understand the proportion of conversions that contain your desired CFV value - in our case, where product_type = “enterprise” - from the aggregate.

Pay special attention to the “Add Filter” section of the column setup as this is precisely where we’re able to specify the CFV. Selecting the Product_Type CFV, we can then specify the Enterprise value using either contains or exact operators. Since we know the precise expected value, we’ll use exact.

Creating a Custom Conversion Column in Search Ads 360 (SA360) for segmenting by a Custom Floodlight Variable.

Pro tip: Create a formula column that converts the proportion of the segmented vs. non-segmented conversions into a percentage to quickly gain additional insights

Bid Strategy Approach

We now see that we have a total of nine conversions from this Floodlight, and of those, there are three that matched the CFV value for an Enterprise form submit. At this point, all the pieces are now in place to create a bid strategy that optimizes to the subset of Enterprise conversions from this Floodlight.

In keeping with bid strategy best practices, we’ll first want to understand what the historical cost-per-action (CPA) over the prior 30 days has been for the content we want to apply the bid strategy to. This value will then be used as our starting CPA target when we create the bid strategy. By adjusting our date range and reviewing the conversion volume from our Enterprise-segmented custom conversion column, we see that there are a total of 41 conversions, making the historical CPA about $26 for the prior 30-day period.

How to create a formula column in SA360 that calculates the CPA for your CFV-segmented custom conversion column.

Pro tip: Create a formula column that calculates the CPA for your CFV-segmented custom conversion column, dividing it by cost, to quickly reveal historical CPA performance

Setting up the Bid Strategy

Next, we begin the bid strategy setup as we normally would, by navigating to the Bid Strategy tab from the left-hand nav and clicking +Bid Strategy. Next, we’ll define our goal (Conversions in our case) and enable Auction-Time Bidding (ATB) before moving onto the next page. Here, our conversion source will be Floodlight and we’ll then be able to choose our Enterprise-segmented column from the list. The final step is to enter our CPA target, which is the same value we determined from our analysis just prior to the bid strategy creation ($26). Clicking Save Bid Strategy will then complete the setup.

Setting up your Search Ads 360 (SA360) bid strategy (floodlight based).

Pro tip: If you know which campaigns to apply this bid strategy to ahead of time, you can add them to the bid strategy directly via step 2 of the wizard. Just make sure the historical CPA analysis you performed earlier is aligned to the campaigns you’ve chosen

Segmenting Conversions, Not Operations

From here on, SA360 will optimize our content toward the same business-side goals that the BI team had helped formulate originally. This will lead to a more direct business impact and foster cohesion between paid search efforts and operational KPIs. Ultimately, we should always strive to break down any barriers between paid media and business-side KPIs, as we should treat the KPIs as shared goals that are not mutually exclusive.

This can be an inflection point for organizations that can implement this type of data collection strategy, as this can be repeated in a myriad of additional ways. 

Applying Tactics Elsewhere

The third and final part of this blog series will unpack how conversion segmentation tactics can be applied elsewhere, such as offline conversions or other Google Marketing Platform products like Display & Video 360 (DV360). Stay tuned for part three of this article coming soon!

Please contact us if you’d like to discover how conversion segmentation can help your organization maximize its paid media investment.