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Is Google Ads Broad Search The New Facebook Ads Lookalike?

google ads facebook ads

 

What do Google Ads and Facebook Ads have in common? Well nothing really, but hear me out.

When you think of Facebook LAL (Lookalike) audiences I highly doubt Google Ads and Broad Search Keywords cross your mind.

But you would be surprised at the similarities.

Before we dive in, let’s briefly review Facebook Ads Lookalike audiences.

 

What Are Facebook LAL (Lookalike) Audiences

 

With Facebook Ads you target an audience but you don’t necessarily have intent signals. LALs allow you to build an intent based audience using a customer list or actions that signal high value.

Facebook LAL audiences are powerful because they allow you to expand your prospecting reach without having to guess relevant interests or rely on/question the accuracy of Facebook’s available interests. Some of the highest performing campaigns in many accounts are LALs (and I say many, not all because you can get a lot of success with interest based prospecting campaigns as well) modeled off of a strong seed audience such as existing customers, qualified leads or identified high quality web traffic.

There are a ton of strategies and resources on how Facebook marketers have leveraged LAL to scale their campaigns. For this post I am going to leave it here with this brief overview.

The key point is that the higher the quality or value of your seed audience the better your LAL audience performs.

 

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The Scalability of Google Ads vs Facebook Ads

 

With search you are targeting keywords which is a smaller but intent based audience. The available audience size is contingent upon the number of people actively searching for those keywords. This translates to limited scale.

Facebook, on the other hand, consists of audience based targeting. Rather than wait until a user is actively searching for your product or service you are identifying people that would be interested in what you are selling. Naturally, audience based targeting has scale.

To recap:

Intent = Keywords

Keywords = Limited Inventory

Limited Inventory = Limited Scale

Audience Targeting = Broader Reach

Broader Reach = Scale

 

How Are Facebook Ads Such A Successful Channel For Advertisers Without Intent Data?

 

The reason that Facebook has become such a valuable channel is that its algorithm has gotten really good at identifying signals that signify intent. With Facebook Ads you have both the reach and scale of a display network and the intent precision of search.

Search however can be somewhat limited in scale. Typically, the closer you get to the source of high intent keywords the more limited your scale.

This has allowed D2C brands to crush scale using Facebook Ads as a huge driver of growth.

 

Can Search Give Advertisers Intent + Scale?

 

Google Ads has been slowly taking away control from advertisers:

First, exact match keywords are not really exact any more as of early 2020.

Then it started limiting visibility into the search terms report in fall of last year.

Recently they announced sunsetting BMM (Broad Match Modifier) keywords.

Why are they doing this? Google knows that there are an infinite number of search variants. Taking more control away from the advertisers will force them to depend and rely on the Google Ads algorithm, their first party data intent signals, and automation features. Google Ads wants advertisers to move away from a highly manual and granular approach to account management where you are micro optimizing for specific keywords and keyword variations.

Is this good or bad? That depends on who you ask. However, as digital marketers we need to adapt.

 

Where Do Google Ads Broad Search Keywords Fit In?

 

Until now the ‘safer’ alternative to broad match campaigns has always been BMM. Broad match targeting is, well broad, and historically the quality of the traffic was low and search term reports were filled with keywords that are not relevant to your business.

But what if you use high converting keywords as your seed audience for broad match campaigns?

 

Google Ads Broad Match Seed Audiences (Keywords)

 

Google Ads broad match campaigns have come a long way. I have found that if you feed it a high intent seed audience (think keywords) then they can perform extremely well.

So I decided to try something. Take the same methodology of building a quality seed audience on Facebook and feed it to the powers that be. Can I increase scale and get solid performance with Google search?

To test this theory I identified the the top converting keywords and search terms grouped by topic or category. Search terms (when available) are better than keywords since they are closer to the source of intent. I would restrict the number of keywords for each campaign to a maximum of 10. This ensures that your campaign delivers within the bounds of your desired category or topic.

I then placed them into a single ad group campaign as broad match with a maximize clicks bid objective to start.

1 campaign

1 Ad Group

10 Keywords

Maximize Clicks Bid Strategy

Set a target Max CPC

 

A quick note on the CPA Bid Strategy

 

Personally I have mixed feelings about using Target CPA. I have seen it work and flop. Typically it comes down to how much you can spend relative to your Target CPA.

If you have the budget, start with a Target CPA 2x higher than your desired CPA and set the daily budget to 4x times the defined Target (not desired) CPA. I am typically hesitant to start with this objective because delivery with this setting is not always consistent and can give you a mixed read on early performance.

Target CPA is also contingent upon the quality of conversion data that you have in the system. For e-commerce it’s pretty straightforward, you have purchases and purchase value. However, for lead gen campaigns this can be trickier since leads have to be qualified and the full feedback loop is not always visible in the platform. You’d be surprised how many avid but irrelevant form fillers there are on the web.

 

Back To The Premise Of This Post

 

What do Google Ads Search and Facebook Ads have anything in common?

Think about broad campaigns as topic based campaigns using high quality seed keywords and search terms and assume that Google will take more than search signals behind the user to identify their likelihood to convert.

Reminds me of LALs and the conversion objective on Facebook 🤔 .

Build the broad campaign as outlined above and let it run for 7 days.

Start with a lower bid cap then incrementally increase the cap until you start getting consistent delivery.

You only have three items to optimize

1. Ads – Use a mix of expanded and responsive search ads to find winning combinations. I like to run two expanded text ads (while we still have them), based off of what I know works and one responsive search ad with new copy variations. Then I extrapolate winning combinations and turn them into new expanded text ads.

2. Bids – You get more delivery the more you increase your bids however, there is a point of diminishing returns. If the bid is too high then your efficiencies are going to suffer. If your bid is too low you won’t get delivery. For broad match campaigns I like to start with a lower bid cap which I then incrementally increase as needed to get healthy delivery. This is based on using a maximize click bid strategy.

If you are running with a target CPA objective then once you get your target CPA in line and you see consistent delivery and conversions DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING!

Sound familiar? Does it make you think of Facebook Ad campaigns, ad sets and ads that have exited the learning phase? ✅

3. Search Terms – Review your search terms report daily. Initially you will see more search terms that are not relevant to your business. Keep adding these to your negatives as exact and if you start identifying a phrase that is consistent across negatives then add that phrase as a negative phrase match.

Initially you will have to do this more aggressively. The frequency depends on the quality of your seed keywords. However, by making sure to exclude irrelevant search terms you are setting boundaries that Google Ads can work with to hone in on your target audience.

Maybe a parallel to exclusion audiences on Facebook 🤷 .

I have seen this work really well. To be honest I was surprised but it seems that broad match campaigns and Google’s algorithm have come a long way in identifying prospects that convert.

Running broad match campaigns in this context has allowed me to expand and even scale campaigns with positive performance for categories that were somewhat limited due to maxing out the available search impression share for lower funnel high intent keywords.

Try it let me know what you think.

 

Conclusion

 

The iOS 14 Privacy update is forcing Facebook to move to an aggregated event measurement model. Google is killing support for the third-party cookie and Google Ads (with some resistance) is touting FLoC which targets audiences cohorts. All of these privacy changes are going to force advertisers to adapt.

The key is to identify high quality seed audiences and pass as much quality conversion data as you can back into the platform so you can better leverage each channels algorithm.

 


 

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