7 Ways AI Took My Job [To The Next Level] via @sejournal, @CallRail

With AI-powered call attribution, you can gain valuable insights into which channels are driving the most conversions.

How Call Attribution Works

  • Step 1: Assign – Select unique call tracking numbers to assign to each campaign or listing.
  • Step 2: Track – Potential customers see your ad or listing and call the associated phone number.
  • Step 3: Forward –The calls ring directly into your main business phone, regardless of which number they use.
  • Step 4: Analyze – Because they used one of your tracking numbers, you instantly know which ad or campaign inspired them to call.

With AI-powered call tracking, gone are the days of wondering how your digital marketing efforts are tied to high-value inbound calls.

For agencies, this helps prove the real value of your services and extend the life of your client relationships.

2. AI Can Help You Save Time On Manually Reviewing Calls

Listening to and analyzing phone calls manually can be time-consuming and inefficient for agencies.

However, it’s an important part of understanding the customer experience and sales team performance.

With AI-powered call analysis tools, you get quality, keyword-tagged transcriptions with near-human-level accuracy.

Not only can this technology help you save over 50% of the time spent listening to phone calls, but it can also help you deliver actionable recommendations to clients and drive better results.

Conversation Intelligence, for instance, is trained on over 1.1M hours of voice data and enables real-time analysis for instantaneous results.

This advanced tool provides opportunities for you to improve your strategy through the following granular insights:

  • Spotting disparities in the industry-specific lingo your sales team uses, compared to the lingo your prospects are using to describe their business challenges and goals.
  • Identifying trends or gaps in your service offerings based on what your prospects are asking for.
  • Identifying frequently asked questions and other important topics to address through content marketing.
  • Setting goals for lead qualification — not just the quantity of leads generated for your business.

Conversational AI is perfectly suited to summarize the content of long conversations – however, the call summaries still require a human to read them and determine the main takeaways.

But if you work in a bustling small business, it’s unlikely you’d have the bandwidth for tasks such as call transcription, summaries, keyword spotting, or trend analysis.

Rather than displacing human labor, conversational AI is assisting businesses in taking on tasks that may have been overlooked and leveraging data that would otherwise remain untapped.

3. AI Can Help You Lower Cost Per Lead / Save Money On Tools & Ad Spend

Ever wonder why certain campaigns take off while others fall flat? It’s all in the data!

Even failed campaigns can offer invaluable insights into your client’s audience and messaging.

But if you can’t spot the underperformers quickly enough, you risk wasting your ad budget on ineffective tactics.

The quicker you can identify what’s working and what’s not, the quicker you can pivot and adjust your marketing strategy.

With AI-powered tools, agencies can access instant insights that enable them to reduce wasteful spending and improve overall campaign efficiency.

How To Deliver More Value With AI

  • Make a bigger impact in less time: AI-powered technology creates a force multiplier within your agency, allowing you to make more of an impact with the same level of inputs you’re already using.
  • Unlock actionable insights from call data: AI is revolutionizing the way companies leverage call data by enabling them to gain insights at scale. As a result, businesses can increase their ROI and deliver greater value to their clients by analyzing hundreds of calls efficiently.
  • Foster alignment with data-driven strategies: By analyzing customer conversations with AI, businesses can align their marketing strategy with data-driven recommendations, enhancing overall coherence. Additionally, the ability to create triggers based on specific phrases enables automated analysis and reporting, further streamlining the alignment process.
  • Drive effectiveness with rapid insights: Leveraging Conversation Intelligence enables agencies to deliver better insights faster, increase conversion rates, refine keyword strategies, and develop robust reporting capabilities.

With the right AI-powered tools, you can access the insights you need to ensure maximum ROI for your clients.

4. AI Can Help You Improve Overall Agency Efficiency

Are you spending too much valuable time on tasks that produce minimal results?

Many agencies find themselves bogged down by routine, administrative tasks that don’t contribute much to their bottom line.

But with AI automation, agencies can streamline their operations and redirect their energy towards more strategic endeavors.

From email scheduling and social media posting to data entry and report generation, AI can handle a wide array of tasks with precision and efficiency – giving you time to focus on high-impact activities that drive growth and deliver tangible results.

Ways Your Business Can Benefit From Automation

  1. Automatically transcribe your calls to boost close rates: See how your team is handling difficult objections and ensure that they’re delivering your businessʼ value proposition in an effective manner.
  2. Score calls based on quality and opportunity: Take the time-consuming work out of scoring your calls and determine which campaigns drive the best calls to your business.
  3. Classify calls by your set criteria: Qualify, score, tag, or assign a value to the leads that meet your criteria, automatically.
  4. Automatically redact sensitive information: Protect your customers by removing billing or personal information. Keep your data safe and secure through complete HIPAA compliance.
  5. Monitor your teamsʼ performance: Use Conversation Intelligence as a valuable sales training tool to ensure your team doesn’t miss any key messaging marks.
  6. Know your customersʼ needs: Identify conversation trends in your phone calls and stay privy to evolving customer needs.
  7. Improve your digital marketing strategy: Use AI-powered insights to inform your digital marketing strategy and boost your online presence.

By automating mundane tasks, agencies can optimize workflows, increase productivity, and improve efficiency across the board.

Looking for 5 – 7? Download The Full Guide

Rather than fearing AI, the future belongs to those who embrace it.

By strategically combining human creativity with artificial intelligence, you can unlock capabilities that transcend what either could achieve alone.

Want to discover even more ways to level up your agency with AI?

Get the full guide here.

SEM Vs. SEO: What’s The Difference? via @sejournal, @searchmastergen


It’s possible the only field that uses more acronyms and initializations than web marketing is the military.

The military uses them to save time.

Sometimes, it seems like our industry only uses them to confuse newcomers.

And it’s not uncommon for even experienced professionals to mix them up.

Some of the most common mistakes happen when it comes to the similar and related, but distinctly different concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days of the early internet (that is, circa 2001), SEO referred to a part of SEM.

But, as the language and nuance of web marketing shifted, search engine marketing came to refer to a specific type of digital marketing. So, what’s the difference?

Sometimes also referred to as organic (SEO) and inorganic (SEM) search, both are focused on using Google (and to a lesser extent other search engines) to drive traffic to a specific website.

From a high-level view (and don’t worry, we’ll dive into the details a bit later), SEO is the process of improving your website to generate traffic, while SEM is using paid methods to show up in searches.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve mixed these terms up. It happens all the time.

To help you avoid any embarrassing mishaps when speaking with other digital marketers, we’ve compiled this handy guide to give you an overview of these concepts.

Confused? Don’t be, all will be made clear in the end. Now let’s get started.

PPC, Another Variable In The Mix

As we get started, just to make everything even more confusing, let’s add one more initialization into the mix: PPC or pay-per-click.

Okay, that one isn’t really fair because PPC is just another term for SEM – or at least, a part of it.

PPC is most likely a term that evolved through the Wild West days of early search engine strategies when different people used different terms to refer to the same thing.

Eventually, pay-per-click and search engine marketing came to mean the same thing: paid digital marketing advertisements on search platforms.

Pay-per-click, regardless if it’s called PPC, CPC (that is cost-per-click), paid search, or search ads are referring to paid search marketing, typically through search engines like Google and Bing.

Other terms and tactics used in digital marketing initiatives – especially those tied to search marketing tactics (both paid and organic) – may not be so simple and clearly defined, though.

What’s The Difference Between SEO & SEM/PPC?

We know SEO is search engine optimization.

Marketers aren’t optimizing search engines, however. We’re optimizing content and websites for search engines (and humans, too), so they can better understand, access, and direct searchers to our website.

Again, initialism doesn’t always make sense. So, naturally, this is a bit illogical.

Just like other things in life that don’t always add up, there are some acronyms that will never make sense either.

Like Humvee, which doesn’t stand for any words that start with U or E in them. (It actually stands for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, and was spawned from the original acronym, HMMWV.)

We’ve also determined that PPC marketing is (at least now) the same as or a very large part of SEM. Here’s where they overlap:

  • Both are paid initiatives.
  • Both need a budget.
  • Both make search engines like Google and other advertising platforms a lot of money.

But, while Wikipedia defines SEM as “a form of internet marketing that involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising,” it’s not so quick to call them the same exact thing.

In fact, pay-per-click marketing has its own Wikipedia page separate from search engine marketing (despite there being plenty of discrepancies and confusion throughout the page).

The bottom line is this:

SEO is not a component of SEM.

And, while PPC is typically the largest and most demanding component of SEM, both PPC and SEM are paid initiatives that offer real-time data, ROI, and protected data that can only be accessed by advertisers on certain platforms.

Why It Matters

Consistency is the main reason it’s important to clarify these terms.

Too many novice marketers, or marketers who aren’t specialists in maximizing value through search, have adopted these industry definitions and crossed them, combined them, confused them, or used them in a way that only further diluted their true meaning.

And even well-seasoned marketers who simply didn’t agree with or possibly even completely understand the terms themselves help contribute to the turning tide, as well.

Conferences have set up entire segments of their educational offering around the SEM naming convention when referring to strictly paid marketing efforts, but those efforts aren’t strictly done through search engines.

SEM, at least from this perspective, includes PPC ads on search engines but also on third-party platforms like Amazon and YouTube, as well as industry-focused platforms like Houzz, Thumbtack, or Yelp. It also includes display ads and remarketing efforts.

And, as the opportunity to advertise on social media continues to grow, it is usually used to refer to paid advertising on those networks, too.

Here at Search Engine Journal, we’re doing our part. Keeping the definitions and their usage consistent is going to be the best way to keep the information organized in a way that makes sense for marketers.

It also helps us, as marketers, convey our thoughts and ideas to clients and stakeholders, peers, or a friend who is curious about just what exactly it is we do for a living.

But, you should never assume someone else knows what you’re referring to when you use these terms.

Be concise and explain exactly what you’re talking about and make sure everyone agrees on term definitions.

Before we move on, let’s recap:

  • SEO is the organic effort that goes into marketing through search engines.
  • SEM and PPC are paid initiatives through search and other platforms.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

Should I Use SEO Or SEM?

Now that you hopefully have a grasp on the differences between SEO and SEM, you’re undoubtedly asking yourself a question: Which one should I be using?

Ideally, both.

But if you don’t have the bandwidth and can only choose one, here are some things to consider:

What Are Your Goals?

If you want to drive traffic quickly, whether to promote a sale, try out a new offer or just give your website more exposure, SEM is the choice for you.

SEO, on the other hand, is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes more time to show results but is good for long-term growth and compounding value.

What Is Your Budget?

Obviously, SEM campaigns are going to cost you money. After all, there’s a reason it’s called pay-per-click.

If your budgets are tight or you have low product margins, it may not make sense to run SEM.

SEO, on the other hand, is more of a time investment than a financial one. And, you can probably enlist people already on your payroll like writers, IT personnel, and marketers to help.

How Is Your Site Currently Performing?

If your website already ranks highly for your keywords, your SEO needs will be primarily driven by changes to the Google algorithm and competition.

In this situation, SEM is a great augmentation. Conversely, if you’re not getting a lot of organic traffic, you probably need to get your SEO in order before you start spending money on paid ads.

How Much Data Do You Have Or Need About Visitors?

SEM lets you capture a lot more visitor data than organic search.

You can run your PPC campaigns through dashboards like Google Analytics, where you can see clicks, impressions, CTR, sessions, conversions, etc.

You can then use this data to track trends and attract new customers.

How Is Your Online Reputation?

SEO is a great way to control the narrative around your brand.

Using the same techniques you use to climb to the top of search rankings, you can control the way your organization is seen online.

In one famous (albeit unsuccessful) example, UC-Davis paid a consulting firm $175,000 to scrub the internet of negative postings.

Of course, if you can swing it, you should combine SEO and SEM as complementary search strategies.

This way, you can use the data you gather from your PPC campaigns to refine your SEO campaigns. This will give you a better idea of exactly what your audience is looking for when they click your links, so you can customize your content to it.

Combining both practices also lets you create remarketing campaigns.

If your SEO work is driving visitors, but you’re not seeing the conversions you want, you can use SEM to actively reach out to those targets and bring them back to your website.

Pairing SEO and SEM can also allow you to completely dominate search engine results pages (SERPs).

If you have the top ranking on the first page of results, plus paid listings on the same page, you’ve just claimed a lot of real estate.

The downside of this, however, is that your paid listings may cannibalize your organic traffic, which costs you unnecessary money.


Hopefully, by this point, we’ve successfully impressed on you the difference between SEO and SEM. But just in case it wasn’t clear, here it is once more for the people in the back:

SEO is using non-paid tactics to drive traffic to your website organically. It’s a slower process (usually three to six months) but can pay long-term dividends.

SEM, including PPC, is the use of paid search platforms to drive targeted traffic to your website. It requires a budget but can drive results very quickly.

Too many people either see these as the same thing or as completely separate initiatives and miss out on the benefits of using them together.

To get the best results, both should be a part of your digital marketing strategy.

They each have different strengths and weaknesses, but when properly united, can give you a real competitive advantage.

More Resources:

Featured Image: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock


When should a business prioritize SEM over SEO?

Businesses should prioritize SEM when they need quick results, such as promoting a sale or testing a new offer. SEM is also ideal if the business has a product with a limited-time offer or requires rapid visibility for critical events. Essentially, if the objective is immediate traffic and short-term goals, SEM, including PPC campaigns, should be considered the primary strategy, provided there is an appropriate budget in place.

How do SEO and SEM complement each other?

SEO and SEM complement each other by addressing both short-term and long-term marketing goals. SEO helps build a foundation for sustained organic traffic over time, while SEM provides immediate visibility and traffic through paid ads. Combine data from SEM campaigns to refine your SEO efforts, ensuring that content aligns with what your audience seeks. When used together, these strategies can occupy more search engine real estate, increasing both paid and organic reach.

What factors should influence the choice between SEO and SEM?

Your choice between SEO and SEM should consider several factors:

  • Goals: If you aim for quick visibility, opt for SEM. For long-term growth, focus on SEO.
  • Budget: SEM involves ongoing costs for ad placements, while SEO requires time investment, with potential internal resources.
  • Current website performance: If your site already ranks well organically, SEM can augment your traffic further. Conversely, if organic traffic is low, prioritize SEO.
  • Data needs: SEM provides detailed insights through platforms like Google Analytics, which can be advantageous for in-depth analysis and strategy adjustments.

Ultimately, assess these factors to determine the best approach for your marketing strategy.

Google Ads Restricts Brand Names & Logos From AI Image Generation via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google has provided details about the capabilities and limitations of its AI image generation tools for Google Ads.

The clarification came after search marketer Darcy Burk expressed excitement about the potential for AI to create product images.

This prompted Google’s Ads Liaison, Ginny Marvin, to outline some key restrictions.

Branded Content Off-Limits

Marvin confirmed that while Google’s AI tools can generate generic product images, they are designed to avoid creating visuals that depict branded items or logos.

Marvin stated:

“The tool will generate product images, but it won’t generate product images that include brand names or logos.”

She provided an illustrative example:

“So, for example, you could ask it to generate images of ‘a dog in a pet stroller in a park,’ but if you asked it to generate images of ‘a dog in a pet stroller in a park with a Doggo logo,’ you’ll get an error notification to remove mentions of brands and branded items from your description.”

Guidelines Outlined

Marvin points to Google’s support documentation for more details on using the AI image generation and editing capabilities.

When attempting to generate branded product images, users will likely receive an error message instructing them to remove any branded terms from their prompts.

Google’s support page notes:

“Generative AI tools in Google Ads are designed to automatically limit the creation of certain content.”

It lists “Faces, children, or specific individuals” and “Branded items and logos” as examples of restricted subject matter.

Restricted Verticals

Google’s documentation also addresses concerns around safety and responsible AI development.

Generated images include digital watermarking to identify their AI-generated nature and deter misuse.

Sensitive advertising verticals like politics and pharmaceuticals are also restricted from automatically receiving AI-generated image suggestions.

“As this technology evolves, we’re continuously evaluating and improving our approach to safety,” Google states.

Why SEJ Cares

As generative AI capabilities expand across the advertising ecosystem, clear guidelines from Google help provide guardrails to mitigate potential risks while allowing advertisers to experiment.

Understanding current limitations, such as restrictions around branded visuals, is critical for marketers looking to incorporate AI image generation into their workflows.

How This Can Help You

For advertisers, Google’s AI image generation tools can produce large volumes of high-quality generic product and lifestyle images at scale.

By following the outlined guidelines around avoiding branded references, you can generate a variety of visual assets suited for ecommerce product listings, display ads, social media marketing and more.

This can streamline traditionally time-consuming processes like product photoshoots while maintaining brand safety.


How does Google Ads’ AI image generation tool handle branded content?

Google’s AI image generation tool can create generic product images but is designed to exclude any branded items or logos.

If a user tries to generate an image with specific brands or logos, the system will trigger an error notification directing them to remove those references before proceeding.

  • The tool generates generic product images
  • It excludes brand names and logos
  • Users receive error notifications guiding them to correct prompts

What kind of content is restricted when using Google Ads’ AI image generation tools?

Several types of content are restricted when using the AI image generation tools in Google Ads.

Restrictions include creating images featuring faces, children, specific individuals, branded items, and logos.

Sensitive verticals like politics and pharmaceuticals are also barred from receiving AI-generated image suggestions.

How does the restriction on branded content benefit marketers using Google’s AI tools?

By focusing on generating only generic product images, advertisers can utilize the tool for a variety of applications, such as ecommerce product listings, display ads, and social media marketing, without risking any legal issues related to brand misuse.

Featured Image: DANIEL CONSTANTE/Shutterstock

Google: Proximity Not A Factor For Local Service Ads Rankings via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google has clarified that a business’s proximity to a searcher isn’t a primary factor in how Local Services Ads are ranked.

This change reflects Google’s evolving understanding of what’s relevant to users searching for local service providers.

Chris Barnard, a Local SEO Analyst at Sterling Sky, started the discussion by pointing out an update to a Google Help Center article.

In a screenshot, he highlights that Google removed the section stating proximity is a factor in local search ad rankings.

Ginny Marvin, Google’s Ads Liaison, responded to clarify the change.

In a statement, Marvin said:

“LSA ranking has evolved over time as we have learned what works best for consumers and advertisers. We’ve seen that proximity of a business’ location is often not a key indicator of relevancy.

For example, the physical location of a home cleaning business matters less to potential customers than whether their home is located within the business’ service area.”

Marvin confirmed this wasn’t a sudden change but an update to “more accurately reflect these ranking considerations” based on Google’s learnings.

The updated article now states that location relevance factors include:

“…the context of a customer’s search… the service or job a customer is searching for, time of the search, location, and other characteristics.”

Proximity Still A Factor For Service Areas

Google maintains policies requiring service providers to limit their ad targeting to areas they can service from their business locations.

As Marvin cites, Google’s Local Services platform policies state:

“Local Services strives to connect consumers with local service providers. Targeting your ads to areas that are far from your business location and/or that you can’t reasonably serve creates a negative and potentially confusing experience for consumers.”

Why SEJ Cares

By de-emphasizing proximity, Google is giving its ad-serving algorithms the flexibility to surface the most relevant and capable providers.

This allows the results to match user intent better and connect searchers with companies that can realistically service their location.


What should businesses do in response to the change in Local Services Ads ranking factors?

With the recent changes to how Google ranks Local Services Ads, businesses should update the service areas listed for their ads to reflect the regions they can realistically provide services. You’ll want to match the service areas to what’s listed on your Google Business Profile.

Companies should also ensure their service offerings and availability information are up-to-date, as these are other key factors that will impact how well their Local service ads rank and show up for relevant local searches.

Why is it important for marketers to understand changes to Local Services Ads ranking?

These changes affect how businesses get matched with potential customers. Google no longer heavily prioritizes closeness when ranking local service ads. Instead, it focuses more on other relevant factors.

Understanding this shift allows businesses to update their local service ad strategies. By optimizing for Google’s new priorities, companies can get their ads in front of the right audience.

Can a business still target areas far from their location with Local Services Ads?

No, Google doesn’t allow businesses to target areas they can’t realistically service.

This is to prevent customers from being matched with providers who are too far away to help them. Businesses can only advertise in areas close to their location or service areas.

Featured Image: Mamun sheikh K/Shutterstock

Do More with Less: Navigating Customer Acquisition Challenges for Today’s Enterprises via @sejournal, @lorenbaker

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, businesses face unique challenges in acquiring customers and expanding their digital footprint. From limited resources and intense competition to lack of insights, navigating this terrain requires innovative acquisition strategies.

Watch on-demand as we delve into a two-pronged strategy of driving campaign efficiencies while laying the foundation for long-term success.

You’ll learn expert tips for:

  • Driving efficiency in paid media campaigns.
  • Working towards long-term success.
  • Leveraging cross-channel strategies.
  • Integrating CRO with Paid channels to deliver optimum results.

With Tim Murphy and Susovan Ray, we explored a scalable and sustainable acquisition framework to support long-term growth objectives.

Whether you’re a marketing leader seeking practical strategies or a performance marketer looking to enhance your company’s digital presence, check out these insights to break through barriers and achieve success in digital acquisition.

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for more details.

Google Performance Max For Marketplaces: Advertise Without A Website via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google has launched a new advertising program called Performance Max for Marketplaces, making it easier for sellers on major e-commerce platforms to promote their products across Google’s advertising channels.

The key draw? Sellers no longer need a website or a Google Merchant Center account to start.

The official Google Ads Help documentation states:

“Performance Max for Marketplaces helps you reach more customers and drive more sales of your products using a marketplace. After you connect your Google Ads account to the marketplace, you can create Performance Max campaigns that send shoppers to your products there.”

The move acknowledges the growing importance of online marketplaces like Amazon in product discovery.

For sellers already listing products on marketplaces, Google is providing a way to tap into its advertising ecosystem, including Search, Shopping, YouTube, Gmail, and more.

As ecommerce marketer Mike Ryan pointed out on LinkedIn:

“Polls vary, but a recent single-choice survey showed that 50% of consumers start product searches on Amazon, while a multiple-choice survey showed that 66% of consumers start on Amazon.”

The source for his data is a 2023 report by PowerReviews.

Getting Started

To use Performance Max for Marketplaces, sellers need an active account on a participating marketplace platform and a Google Ads account.

Google has yet to disclose which marketplaces are included. We contacted Google to request a list and will update this article when we receive it.

Once the accounts are linked, sellers can launch Performance Max campaigns, drawing product data directly from the marketplace’s catalog.

Google’s documentation states:

“You don’t need to have your own website or Google Merchant Center account. You can use your existing marketplace product data to create ads with product information, prices, and images.”

Conversion tracking for sales is handled by the marketplace, with sales of the advertiser’s products being attributed to their Google campaigns.

While details on Performance Max For Marketplaces are still emerging, Google is providing information when asked directly.

Navah Hopkins states on LinkedIn she received these additional details:

“I finally got a straight answer from Google that we DO need a Merchant Center for this, we just don’t need one to start with.”

Differences From Standard Performance Max

These are the key differences from regular Performance Max campaigns:

  • No URL expansion, automatically-created assets, or video assets
  • No cross-account conversion tracking or new customer acquisition modeling
  • No audience segmentation reporting

Why SEJ Cares

Performance Max for Marketplaces represents a new way to use Google advertising while operating on third-party platforms.

Getting products displayed across Google’s ecosystem without the overhead of a standalone ecommerce presence is a significant opportunity.

How This Can Help You

Through Google’s ecosystem, merchants have new ways to connect with customers.

Performance Max for Marketplaces is a potential difference maker for smaller retailers that have struggled to gain traction through Google’s standard shopping campaigns.

Established merchants invested in Google Ads may find the program opens new merchandising opportunities. By making an entire marketplace catalog available for ad serving, sellers could uncover previously undiscovered pockets of demand.

The success of Performance Max for Marketplaces will depend on its execution and adoption by major players like Amazon and Walmart.

Featured Image: Tada Images/Shutterstock

Google Ads To Automatically Pause Low-Activity Keywords via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google is emailing advertisers to notify them it will soon begin automatically pausing low-activity keywords.

According to the email, positive keywords in search ad campaigns will be considered low-activity if they haven’t generated impressions in over a year.

This change is designed to help advertisers focus on valuable keywords rather than clutter their accounts with underperforming keywords.

Google’s Email To Advertisers

In an email circulated to advertisers, Google states:

“Starting in June 2024, we will begin to automatically pause low-activity keywords.”

The email defined “low-activity” as keywords created over 13 months ago that have registered zero impressions during that time.

Rationale Behind The Change

Google explained the reason for this change:

“We want to help advertisers simplify their accounts and focus on keywords that drive results.”

Advertiser Options & Recommendations

You can unpause automatically paused keywords, though Google recommends only unpausing keywords that will receive impressions in the coming weeks.

Unpaused keywords will be automatically paused again if they fail to generate any impressions over the next three months.

Google’s email reads:

“If you decide that a paused keyword is necessary for your campaign, you can unpause it. However, we strongly recommend that you only unpause keywords that you believe will receive impressions in the coming weeks. Unpaused keywords will be automatically paused again if they don’t receive any impressions over the next 3 months.”

Why SEJ Cares

By automatically pausing low-activity keywords, Google aims to declutter advertiser accounts and encourage a more focused approach to high-performing keywords.

However, some advertisers may find value in maintaining low-activity keywords for various reasons, such as capturing long-tail searches or aligning with specific marketing goals.

What This Means For Advertisers

This change means advertisers need to review and refine their keyword strategies.

With Google Ads set to pause low-activity keywords automatically, advertisers must be more proactive in identifying and prioritizing high-performing keywords.

This may involve revisiting campaign goals, adjusting bidding strategies, and ensuring that keyword lists are up-to-date and relevant.

Use this update to reevaluate keyword strategies and consider new, relevant keywords with potential.

Featured Image: foxanst/Shutterstock

Maximizing ROI: Expert Insights for Google Shopping Ads Success via @sejournal, @lorenbaker

If you’re an ecommerce brand or retailer, then promoting your products through Google Shopping Ads is likely a large part of your performance marketing strategy. 

But in today’s competitive market, how can you make sure you’re getting the most return on your ad spend?

Join us on May 8 for a live panel discussion with ecommerce experts on how to improve your campaigns and elevate your paid ad strategy. 

In this engaging session, Bryan Butler, VP of Sales and Marketing at SearchLogic, Joshua Young, Director of E-commerce and Marketing at Mezlan, and Ben Riggle, North American Managing Director for Channable will share innovative ways to:

  • Craft compelling product listings using Google Merchant Center Next.
  • Strategically bid on keywords.
  • Leverage audience targeting to reach the right customers at the right time.
  • Measure your success using best-in-class metrics.

You’ll leave this webinar with a better understanding of how to: 

  • Reduce Costs While Maximizing ROI: Learn ways to effectively enhance the cost-effectiveness of your campaigns and increase ROI on Google Shopping Ad Spend by utilizing the entire Google Ads ecosystem.
  • Target New Shoppers With Keyword Bidding: Expand your reach to new potential customers through strategic keyword bidding strategies, while maintaining engagement with your existing audience.
  • Seamlessly Set Up Google Shopping Feeds: Discover how to leverage Google Merchant Center Next, including advanced product bucketing techniques, to ensure flawless setup and optimization of your Google Shopping feeds. 

Are you ready to start leveling up your ecommerce strategy through Google Shopping Ads? 

Sign up now and access expert tips and insights to help you to improve your Google Shopping Ads campaigns and leverage the changes that Google has announced for its merchant center.

Plus, save your questions for the live Q&A session at the end of the panel, where you’ll get to ask the experts directly.

Can’t attend the live event? Don’t worry – simply register here, and we’ll send you a recording after the webinar.

Google Ads Performance Max Updates For Full-Funnel Optimization via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Google Ads has announced a series of updates to Performance Max campaigns.

The enhancements give advertisers more granular control over their campaigns, improve customer insights, and manage budgets better.

New Customer Value Mode & Acquisition Goals

Google Ads has introduced Customer Value mode, currently in beta, designed for purchase conversion goals.

This update allows advertisers to focus on high-value customers and optimize their campaigns accordingly.

Additionally, new customer acquisition goals are now available in Search Ads 360 (SA360), enabling businesses to target and attract new customers.

Winning Back Lapsed Customers

Google Ads has launched a customer retention goal (in beta) to help advertisers win back lapsed customers.

This feature enables businesses to re-engage with inactive customers, potentially increasing customer loyalty and retention rates.

Detailed Demographics & Audience Insights

Performance Max now offers detailed demographics, including age and gender groups, in its audience insights.

This update gives advertisers a more nuanced understanding of their target audience, enabling them to create more targeted and effective campaigns.

Budget Pacing Insights & Forecasting

To help advertisers better manage their budgets, Google Ads has introduced budget pacing insights.

These insights provide projected campaign spend and forecasted conversion performance.

This feature allows businesses to make informed decisions about their budget allocation and optimize their campaigns for maximum ROI.

Account-Level IP Address Exclusions

Performance Max now supports account-level IP address exclusions, giving advertisers greater control over their campaigns and enabling them to exclude specific IP addresses from their targeting.

Advertisers can refer to the official Google Ads blog post for more information on these updates and how to leverage them for improved campaign performance.

Testing Optimization Strategies

Perhaps the most intriguing update is the ability to run experiments testing optimization strategies directly within Performance Max campaigns.

The first strategy being tested is “Final URL expansion,” which dynamically points ads to the most relevant landing page.

According to Google data cited:

“Advertisers who use Final URL expansion with Performance Max campaigns see an average increase of over 9% in conversions/conversion value at a similar Cost Per Action (CPA)/Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).”

The experiments will split traffic, with a portion dedicated to testing while tracking performance against the original setup.

Data will “reveal how this change impacts your campaign’s performance.”

Why SEJ Cares

These updates demonstrate Google Ads’ ongoing commitment to providing advertisers with tools and insights to succeed in an increasingly competitive market.

The ability to optimize for different customer lifecycle stages, test optimization strategies, and detect audience opportunities are all valuable enhancements.

Performance Max is Google’s future for performance marketing, so staying up-to-date on new features and best practices is critical.

How This Can Help You

The new customer lifetime value and retention goals could open up strategies to better nurture customers through the entire marketing funnel from acquisition to repeat purchases.

More sophisticated audience insights about age and gender may highlight opportunities to tailor messaging better.

Running optimization experiments could unlock unique performance gains, especially if utilizing the dynamic Final URL expansion option.

Taking advantage of these new controls and insights within Performance Max could improve marketers’ efficiency and return on investment.

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Ad Strength Deep Dive: All Your Tough Ad Strength Questions Answered via @sejournal, @adsliaison

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about Ad Strength in Google Ads, including debate about its value, how it works, whether it plays a role in the auction (it doesn’t), and how to think about it in your accounts.

Like almost everything in paid advertising, there’s nuance to Ad Strength. No, it’s not a perfect indicator of how your ads will perform nor do well-performing ads with lower Ad Strength mean it’s useless information.

And what’s up with Ad Strength decreasing with pinning? We’ll get into that, too.

What Is Ad Strength?

It’s first important to understand the fundamentals of Ad Strength and what it’s designed to reflect.

Ad Strength is a diagnostic tool developed with the introduction of responsive search ads (RSAs) to help advertisers understand how the diversity and relevancy of their creative assets can maximize the number of relevant ad combinations that may show for a query.

More ad combinations typically mean more opportunities to show relevant ads to more users.

Ad Strength has four ratings: Poor, Average, Good, or Excellent.

As you construct or edit your RSAs, you’ll see the Ad Strength rating adjust in real-time as you build out or edit your assets.

Having a variety of quality assets (e.g., ensuring your headlines aren’t repetitive) is not only helpful for the system to learn, but it also gives you the opportunity to serve relevant assets to subsets of searchers you may not have reached otherwise.

This is why you may see some assets perform well even though they have a relatively low number of impressions.

Why Does Google Ads Seem To Put So Much Emphasis On Ad Strength?

After years of building and testing static text ads, RSAs required a mindset shift in how to build, test, and optimize search ads.

The fundamentals of what makes a good ad haven’t changed, but the mechanics have.

Responsive search ads use AI to test and learn which assets and ad combinations perform best for each query.

Ad Strength was developed to give advertisers a tool to understand which attributes have been shown to correlate with the increased performance of RSAs.

You may have seen the stat that advertisers who improve Ad Strength for their responsive search ads from “Poor” to “Excellent” see 12% more conversions on average.

That’s a look across search campaigns globally, and of course, your actual performance improvements may vary from that average. However, it’s a statistically significant indication that Ad Strength can be a useful tool to consider as you build out and test your ads.

What Does Ad Strength Look At?

Ad Strength looks at four categories that have been shown to result in better performance through Google regression analyses (holdback experiments).

The categories Ad Strength looks at are:

  • Number of headlines.
  • Keyword relevance of headlines and descriptions.
  • Uniqueness of headlines.
  • Uniqueness of description lines.

The score reflects the variety and relevancy of your assets. Rating-to-rating improvements are expected to result in increased performance based on the factors we’ve seen lead to improvement.

Note that Ad Strength also now takes automatically created assets into account if enabled in your campaign.

We’ve also introduced the Ad Strength concept to Performance Max campaigns. More on that in a bit.

Is Ad Strength A Factor In The Auction?

This is probably the biggest misconception I hear about Ad Strength. No, Ad Strength is not a factor in the auction.

Ad Strength is a feedback mechanism for your creative assets. It is meant to be used as a helpful guide to improve the effectiveness of your ads. It is not used directly in the auction.

Ad Strength has no effect on bidding or the ability of your ads to enter the auction.

To quote directly from the “About Ad Strength” article in the Help Center:

“The Ad Strength rating of an ad doesn’t directly influence your ad’s serving eligibility.

Instead, the Ad Strength rating identifies opportunities (during the ad creation or editing stage) to improve your ads to optimize their performance.”

Does A Low Ad Strength Rating Limit My Impressions Or Prevent My Ads From Serving?

A low Ad Strength could explain a lack of impressions because it indicates that your ads likely don’t have the asset diversity or relevancy to be eligible for many auctions, and your ads are not resonating with users.

However, a low Ad Strength does not prevent ads from entering into auctions. Ad Strength is not a factor in the auction. In other words, the system doesn’t “hold back” or “promote” ads based on Ad Strength.

Ad Strength is a forward-looking tool that reflects whether you’re maximizing the number of high-quality, relevant ad combinations your ad can serve.

Is Ad Strength Related To Quality Score Or Ad Rank?


The Quality Score that is shown in your account is a separate (and older) diagnostic tool that looks at expected ad click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.

It’s worth noting that Quality Score is also not used in the auction. Keywords are given a Quality Score based on historical impressions for exact searches of the keyword.

Quality Score reflects some of the values in Ad Rank, which determines whether your ad is eligible to show and where your ad is ranked relative to other eligible advertisers’ ads.

Ad Strength is not used in Ad Rank.

Further, bidding plays no role in Ad Strength.

Why Does Pinning Change My Ad Strength Rating?

We know pinning can be necessary and valuable, but it restricts the number of ad combinations that can be matched to a query.

That’s why you’ll see an impact on the Ad Strength when you use pinning. A lower Ad Strength score shouldn’t stop you from pinning when needed or helpful.

It’s also why we recommend pinning two or three headlines or descriptions to each position when possible to increase the number of combinations available. We know many advertisers find this to be a successful strategy.

What Should I Do If I See A Low Ad Strength Notification?

When you’re creating new ads, you’ll see Ad Strength suggestions based on the categories covered above.

Are these recommendations hard and fast rules? No. Like any best practice, they’re recommended starting points based on observed past performance.

A low Ad Strength notice indicates that your ads may have limited impression opportunities based on the number, diversity, and relevancy of the assets you’ve provided.

Again, though, a low Ad Strength won’t prevent your ads from entering auctions.

And, yes, you may see ads with lower Ad Strength perform well and meet your targets.

However, there may still be opportunities to remove low-rated assets and test new ones, or to add new assets that could appeal to subsets of your target audiences, for example.

Does High Ad Strength Guarantee Strong Performance?

Across campaigns globally, we see better performance on average when there is at least one ad with Good or Excellent Ad Strength in each ad group.

However, Good or Excellent Ad Strength doesn’t necessarily guarantee your ad will meet your performance expectations.

Regardless of your Ad Strength rating, you should continue to evaluate the performance of your ads and assets and continue testing and optimizing.

What Is Ad Strength In Performance Max & Demand Gen?

Ad Strength was introduced in Performance Max in February. In Performance Max, Ad Strength reflects the quantity and variety of assets that can serve across Google channels, not just search.

For example, Poor Ad Strength in Performance Max reflects that an asset group doesn’t have the breadth of assets to serve on all available inventory formats – and an Excellent Ad Strength reflects that you’ve included all asset types and have a diverse variety of text and other assets.

You can read more about the Performance Max asset recommendations for text, images, videos, and more in the Help Center here.

Similarly, Ad Strength is also available in Demand Gen campaigns. In this Help Center article, you’ll find Ad Strength guidelines for the various ad formats supported in Demand Gen, including single image, dynamic, carousel, and video.

How Should I Use Ad Strength?

To put it all together, Ad Strength is a feedback mechanism for creative content and meant to be used as a helpful guide to improve the effectiveness of your ads.

Ad Strength is a tool. It isn’t a key performance indicator (KPI). It isn’t used in the auction. It shouldn’t inhibit your testing.

Use Ad Strength as a guide to understand what may help improve performance during ad creation and optimization.

The reason we recommend having at least one ad with Good or Excellent Ad Strength per ad group is because that’s what has been shown to increase conversion performance on average.

To dive in even deeper, I recommend checking out the Responsive Search Ads technical guide. You’ll find more on Ad Strength on pages 5 and 6 of the guide.

More resources:

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