What is the Google Product Reviews System, and What Does it Mean for Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

Reviews are incredibly impactful – and essential – for business marketing and profitability. According to a recent study, over 99% of online shoppers refer to reviews when making purchase decisions, making them the top factor impacting consumer choices. (Source: Power Reviews)

However, reviews don’t just influence buying behavior – they can also boost your business’ online visibility. Reviews have become a significant component of both paid and organic search marketing strategies, with Google rolling out a series of updates that reward review content in search results.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, it’s time to start prioritizing reviews in your marketing strategy. In this guide, we review Google’s product reviews system, its impact on digital marketing, and how you can make the most of this algorithm update.

What is the Product Reviews System?

The Google product reviews system is designed to reward review content that is most helpful and useful to searchers. Periodically, Google releases an update to the system, called a product reviews update. The latest February 2023 product review update is the sixth in a series of releases that date back to April 2021.

According to Google’s documentation, the product reviews system is aimed at providing searchers with reviews that include “in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” Rankings may improve after a product reviews update if Google deems the product review as having “content that provides insightful analysis and original research” written by “experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.”

Any site that publishes review content may be impacted, including:

  • Merchant sites with shopper guides
  • Independent blogs
  • News or other publishing sites

Currently, the product reviews system affects searches in the following languages globally: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. These updates do not consider user-generated content, like reviews on a product page.

How Does the Product Reviews System Work?

The product reviews system is based on Google’s machine learning algorithm, which uses hundreds of signals to identify “helpful” reviews. Many of these signals are focused on the quality of the review content. According to a blog post from Google software engineer Perry Liu, the system is designed to reward content that:

  • Includes helpful in-depth details, like the benefits or drawbacks of a certain item, specifics on how a product performs, or how the product differs from previous versions.
  • Comes from people who have actually used the products, and show what the product is like physically or how it’s used.
  • Includes unique information beyond what the manufacturer provides — like visuals, audio, or links to other content detailing the reviewer’s experience.
  • Covers comparable products, or explains what sets a product apart from its competitors.

The product reviews system machine learning algorithm may use structured data to understand if a site includes review content. However, structured data is optional and not the only indicator used to identify reviews online.

Content is evaluated by search engine crawlers primarily on a page-level basis. However, site-wide assessments may be made on domains that contain a high percentage of product review content. In other words, if your website does not have many reviews, you’ll only see pages that contain this type of content rewarded by these updates.

The product reviews system requires a periodic refresh from Google. In the past, updates have been anywhere from two to eight months apart. This means you might not see immediate improvements after improving or creating new content. Rather, sites need to make changes and wait for the next update to see rankings improve. Google’s John Muller also explained that the product reviews algorithm might be incorporated into the overall web search rankings at some point. In this case, we should expect to see quality reviews be rewarded on a more consistent basis.

How Can you Benefit from the Most Recent Product Reviews Update?

The most recent February 2023 update to product reviews system has shown a preference for review content across many high-volume, product-focused queries. Since its release, we’ve seen robust review content monopolizing the first-page search results. For one B2B software client, 70% of the SERP on their top sales-driving keyword is review content. This has created a higher level of competition on the SERP.

Even if your website does not focus on review content, you may still be able to take advantage of the next product review update to gain visibility on key terms for your business. There are two ways to benefit from review content as a business selling a product:

  1. Have your products featured on existing 3rd party review websites, such as Capterra or Software Advice
  2. Create your own review content to rank on Google organically

1. Using Capterra to Benefit from the Product Reviews Updates

Capterra is a comprehensive database and search engine that customers can use to browse software options and read user reviews. As one of the largest and most trusted websites dedicated to software reviews, it’s no surprise that Capterra has been affected by product reviews updates. You’ll find Capterra, or other Gartner websites like Software Advice or GetApp, ranking on page one of Google for pretty much any “best” software query.

product review update capterra

The chart below shows an increase in estimated traffic to the Capterra website right after the release of the September 2022 product reviews update.

product review update trafficSource: Semrush

Software companies can take advantage of Capterra’s rankings by running paid ads on their review pages. The Capterra Ads program allows you to bid on the top positions for their software category pages.

product review update resultsSource: Capterra

Advertisers set their bid to receive clicks to their website, with the highest bidders shown in the highest positions on Capterra’s page. Organic listings for products within the category are still present, but they appear further down on the category page. Capterra’s highly specific categories and large user base make it an excellent option for lead generation, especially as the product reviews system continues to reward their website with top rankings on Google.

2. Creating Review Content on Your Own Product

If you want to grow organic traffic to your website, and stay afloat in the current search landscape, you may consider producing your own review content to rank on Google. With the most recent product reviews updates, we’ve seen companies rank with their own high-quality review content that features their products.

For example, A/B testing software provider HubSpot has been able to rank in the #1 position for the following query as of March 2023.

product review system search result

In the ranking article, HubSpot recommends their tool at the top of the list of products, with reasons why a potential customer should choose their product over others. The article then mentions their competitors in a ranked list, with the benefits and drawbacks of each software.

Of course, there are risks to mentioning competitors’ products in an article like this. Just remember that, when creating your own content, you get to control the narrative.

For Google to recognize your content as high-quality and valuable to customers, you must thoroughly discuss each option with in-depth research. This means that you must examine each competitor’s benefits, and not just the drawbacks, which may give customers reasons to choose the competitor’s product over your own.

On the other hand, creating high-quality review content may bring increased visibility to your website with the next product reviews updates release. You can also control messaging on your product and your competitors, directly speaking to why a customer might choose your product over others.

If you choose to create your own product review content, we recommend that you:

  • Follow Google’s best practices for high-quality review content (more on this below).
  • Be thoughtful about which competitors you choose. Since Google recommends you include in-depth research for each option, consider choosing indirect competitors you would not mind discussing in detail. These competitors may fit only partially into your product’s category, have a product that does not include all the features your product does, or do not target your business’s key audiences.
  • Review other listings in the SERP to identify key sections to include and new areas to focus on (that others aren’t doing already).
  • Include informational sections (such as a “What is…” intro or an FAQ section) to establish your expertise and include additional content for SEO purposes.
  • Target a word count of at least 1,000 to 2,000 words.

Best Practices for Creating Product Review Content

When creating product review content to rank on Google, it’s important to ensure that it contains in-depth, helpful research. Low-quality content that simply summarizes the information you can find on the manufacturer’s website will not be rewarded by a product reviews updates. Google has provided the following list of guidelines for writing product reviews:

google product review system guidelinesSource: Google

To make adhering to these best practices easy, we recommend following this structure:

  1. Establish your expertise: Discuss the general features of the product category and identify the key features that users should be looking for.
  2. Recommend your product as the best option: Include supporting evidence and showcase the things that make your product stand out from the crowd.
  3. Rank your competitors: Briefly mention the pros and elaborate on why their cons make their product subpar or consider using indirect competitors to avoid mentioning competition directly.
  4. Recommend your product again: Discuss again why your product is the best overall, as evidenced from your ranking list. Use additional credibility boosters, such as customer quotes. Include links for users to convert.

If you have any questions about the product reviews system, or if you’d like assistance creating review content or managing a Capterra campaign, you can also contact Synapse SEM. Contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

How to Export Google Analytics Data to BigQuery

Google has announced that Universal Analytics will be sunsetting on July 1, 2023.  Per their website, “On July 1, 2023, standard Universal Analytics properties will no longer process data.” On top of the challenge of learning an entirely new analytics platform in GA4, digital marketers are also facing the daunting prospect of losing their historical Universal Analytics data.  Google states:

  • Until July 1, 2023, you can continue to use and collect new data in your Universal Analytics properties.
  • After July 1, 2023, you’ll be able to access your previously processed data in your Universal Analytics property for at least six months. We know your data is important to you, and we strongly encourage you to export your historical reports during this time.

While the exact data deletion date is not yet announced, Google is encouraging advertisers to take action and export their historical data in anticipation of this date.

The “exporting” process is unfortunately easier said than done. Google recommends exporting data in Excel/CSV files, but when we tried to do that for our clients, we quickly realized that that process would not be feasible.  Specifically, we ran into the following issues:

  • To pull unsampled data for multiple years, we had to run hundreds of smaller reports and stitch them together.
  • Attempting to stitch together hundreds of reports took significant time (too much time to complete), and it ultimately crashed Excel and exceeded Google Sheets’ data limits.
  • Most exported data for long date ranges was sampled, making it highly inaccurate.

Ideally, we’d be able to export and download our historical Universal Analytics data directly to Google’s cloud-based data warehouse, BigQuery.  Unfortunately, only paid GA360 accounts have API access to BigQuery (this will become a standard GA feature in GA4), so in standard analytics, data needs to first be extracted into some other type of file format like CSV, TSV or Excel before it can be uploaded to Google BigQuery.  That leaves us right back where we started and facing the issues listed above.

Terrified at the prospect of losing all of our hard-earned data, we’ve spent the last six months working to develop a solution that can export accurate and complete data to Google BigQuery in automated fashion.

We’re excited to announce the launch of our new Analytics Data Extractor (ADE), which:

  • Accurately backs-up 5 years of data with no-sampling and 100% data accuracy.
  • Archives and store data in a cloud-based database (Google BigQuery).
  • Links archived historical GA3 data directly to Google’s Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio), where both pre-formatted and custom reports (with Excel exports) will be available.

For more information on how to back-up your Google Analytics data and store it in BigQuery, visit our Analytics Data Extractor website here!



How to Avoid Sampling When Exporting Universal Analytics Data

Synopsis: Options are limited if you’re looking to avoid sampling when exporting your historical universal analytics data in preparation of the migration to GA4.  Our new tool, the Analytics Data Extractor (ADE), reliably and accurately extracts, stores and visualizes your historical Universal Analytics data and prevents your data from being lost.  Learn how you can back-up 5 years (or more) of accurate, completely unsampled data today!

What is Sampling in Google Analytics?

In Google Analytics, sampling is the process of selecting a subset of data from a larger set of data for analysis. This is done to speed up processing time and to reduce the amount of data that needs to be analyzed.

For example, if you have a website with millions of pageviews per month and you want to analyze user behavior on a specific page, Google Analytics may only sample a percentage of the total pageviews for that page. This allows the data to be processed more quickly, but it also means that the analysis is based on a smaller sample size and may not be as accurate as analyzing the entire dataset. In our agency’s experience, even a nominal amount of sampling can lead to significant discrepancies between the reported and actual data sets.

By default, Google Analytics will use sampling when analyzing large datasets, but you can adjust the sampling rate to get more accurate results. This is particularly important if you’re analyzing smaller subsets of data, such as specific user segments or conversion paths, where sampling can have a bigger impact on the accuracy of your analysis. To adjust the sampling rate, you can use the Sampling Level option in the report settings, but keep in mind, this option is only available in the Google Analytics interface.  It’s not an option that is available when exporting data to Excel, and that brings us to a much bigger issue facing digital marketers in 2023.

Sampling and the GA4 Migration

Google’s Universal Analytics will stop collecting data on July 1, 2023, and data will be permanently removed following the close of 2023 (the exact deletion date is TBD). Google is currently urging customers to export historical reports to prevent permanently losing their data.  

Unless you’re a GA360 customer, Google suggests manually downloading your GA data via Excel/CSV.  This is problematic because:

  • To pull unsampled data for multiple years, you would need to run hundreds of smaller reports and stitch them together.
  • Attempting to stitch together hundreds of reports would take significant time, and it will ultimately crash Excel and exceed Google Sheets’ data limits.
  • Most exported data for long date ranges will be sampled, making it highly inaccurate.

How to Avoid Data Sampling?

To combat this issue, we’ve spent the last six months trying to develop a solution to back-up historical Universal Analytics data while automatically avoiding sampling.  We’re excited to announce the launch of our new Analytics Data Extractor (ADE), which:

  • Accurately backs-up 5 years of data with no-sampling and 100% data accuracy.
  • Archives and store data in a cloud-based database (Google BigQuery).
  • Links archived historical GA3 data directly to Google’s Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio), where both pre-formatted and custom reports (with Excel exports) will be available.

Historical Universal Analytics data will be safely preserved and fully accessible through GDS for a large number of custom queries and entirely customizable date ranges.  The extraction process can be initiated as soon as you’ve made the switch to use GA4 as your primary reporting platform.  We estimate that most advertisers will be doing that in the April – June time period, and we are currently offering reservations to secure a date for the backup process. We have 5 critical data sets we’ve identified that will be backed up for 5 years, and additional custom data sets (up to 6 dimensions and 10 metrics per data set) can be extracted for an additional fee.

Learn more about how to avoid data sampling while exporting your historical universal analytics data at extractor.synapsesem.com.




How to Use Impression Share to Project PPC Budget

PPC advertising budgets can be one of the most difficult tasks for marketers to figure out as there are many factors affecting this decision. But don’t worry, Synapse is here to help. While it may seem daunting, there are a number of valuable (yet often overlooked) metrics that can be instrumental in figuring out the optimal advertising budget based on your business and your goals. These include impression share and impression share lost due to budget:

  • Impression share: The impressions you’ve received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.
  • Lost IS (Budget): The percentage of time that your ads were not shown on the Search Network due to insufficient budget.

Using these key metrics, we can project out PPC budgets based on your goals, to ensure your advertising efforts are effective and efficient. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help get you started:

Determine Your Advertising Goals

Are you looking to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, or generate leads? Your advertising goals will help you determine how much you should be spending on advertising each month. Answering these questions can help determine how aggressive you want to be with your budgets.

Gather All Relevant Data

Pull the following data from the “Campaigns” tab (make sure to add any columns that are not already showing) for the last complete month of data to ensure you are using the most up-to-date statistics for your projection.

  • Search Lost IS (Budget)
  • Search Lost IS (Rank)
  • Search Impression Share
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • Avg CPC
  • Cost

Adjust Data to Create Average Monthly Numbers

Each month has a different number of days, and seeing that we are projecting an average month of budget, we need to proportionally adjust the data to create a true monthly projection. This applies to impressions, clicks, and cost:

       Ex. (Impressions divided by number of days in the month) multiplied by 30.4 (average number of days in a month)

Calculate Actual Impression Numbers

In order to figure out the amount of spend needed to capture impressions lost due to low budgets, we need to figure out the actual number of eligible impressions:

       Total Eligible Impressions = Impressions divided by Search Impression Share

       Search Lost IS budget number = Search Lost IS Budget Percentage multiplied by Total Impressions Eligible For

       Search Lost IS Rank number = Search Lost IS Rank Percentage multiplied by Total Impressions Eligible For 

Calculate Uncapped Spend

Now we are ready to create projections based on the total number of eligible impressions:

       Total Impressions Uncapped Budget = Impressions divided by Total Impressions Eligible For

Now that we have calculated these metrics, we can get a much clearer picture of how increasing the budget will impact performance. Your final inputs should look something like this:

From here, we can create monthly projections to see how increasing impression share through budget increases will impact clicks, conversions, and revenue:

In this example, we can see impressions, clicks, cost, conversions, customers, and revenue all increase by 50%. While the actual numbers increase, the metrics (CTR, CPC, CVR, etc.) stay the same. In reality, the actual numbers would likely not all increase at the exact same rate, but the purpose of this exercise is to provide an estimate of how increasing budget and impression share will affect overall performance.


One method of calculation to beware of is adding the percentage of impression share lost due to budget back to your current impressions. For example, if your campaign received 1000 impressions last month at a 50% impression share and you lost 25% due to budget, it may seem logical to take 25% of 1000 (250) and add that to your total impressions (1000+250=1250). This method is incorrect as it bases the Lost IS (Budget) number on impressions you received, not total eligible impressions. If you received 1000 impressions at a 50% impression share, that means you were eligible for 2000 total impressions. Therefore, the Lost IS (Budget) of 25% actually comes out to 500 lost impressions. So, if you add back the 500 lost impressions to the 1000 impressions you received, you can project to receive 1500 impressions by increasing your budget.


Understanding the metrics of impression share and impression share lost due to budget can be crucial in projecting PPC budgets and optimizing advertising efforts. By following the steps outlined in this guide, marketers can gather all relevant data, calculate actual impression share numbers, and ultimately create projections based on the total number of eligible impressions. Marketers can use these metrics to estimate how increasing budget and impression share will affect overall performance. By doing so, they can make informed decisions about advertising spend and achieve their advertising goals.

Contact us at paul@synapsesem.com if you’d like to subscribe to the Synapse SEM newsletter, or to learn more about our evolving search engine marketing services.

The Benefits of Investing in B2B Paid Review Sites Like Gartner’s Digital Market

It’s no secret that reviews are pivotal to the success of your business, regardless of the industry. Whether you are shopping for a birthday gift on Amazon or looking for a design team to revamp your company’s website, reviews are paramount in influencing a purchase.

In 2022, Google released a series of Product Review Updates, designed to prioritize valuable review content and research right within the organic search results. As more review articles enter the SERP, a site’s organic visibility has the potential to drop. And that’s where paid marketing can come into play.

According to Gartner, 71% of B2B buyers start their research with a generic search for products or services, and then explore directories and ranking sites to find the best fit for their needs. It is important for B2B companies to opt into these review site partners like Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice not only to bolster their SEO presence but also as an alternative lead gen strategy to paid search. Websites like Capterra are exclusive to B2B software solutions and attract visitors who are further down the conversion funnel, since they are comparing software and looking for rankings.

Pay-Per-Click vs. Pay-Per-Lead on Review Sites:

Gartner Digital Market’s Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice offer both pay-per-click (PPC) and pay-per-lead (PPL) solutions for advertisers through their vendor portals. By upgrading your free basic listing to a paid account, you can opt into “bidding” through the PPC program. Like Google search, PPC programs use max CPC bids to show your Capterra listing across 1,200 different software categories. The higher your bid, the higher your listing will rank across dedicated software category pages. You can then view click, cost, position, and conversion data. You will only be charged when a user clicks off the Capterra domain and onto your landing page. Therefore, you can also improve overall brand awareness and credibility of your site.

The pay-per-lead (PPL) program offers marketers an alternative way to reach the right software customers and generate sales qualified leads. When a user opts into the PPL program through Software Advice, they participate in an overview with a Gartner rep who will work with the team to determine targeted buyer profiles. They can then set max CPC bids, like the PPC program, on the leads they want to purchase. These leads have already been pre-screened by free dedicated sales representatives who are experts in the targeted industry to ensure that the lead best fits the organization’s target customer profile. Once approved, the hot lead is sent to the appropriate sales team for further nurturing.

The Benefits of Investing in Gartner Digital Markets:

Efficient Cost/Lead and CPCs:

In most cases, conversion rates across Gartner Digital Market sites are stronger than Google search, leading to a more efficient cost/lead. This is likely due to the user being more targeted and further down the funnel, looking for a B2B software solution. Consider the data below, from an organization that completely shifted away from Google due to high CPCs within their industry and devoted their full marketing budget to the Capterra PPC program.

Global Reach:

Every month, 9 million highly invested B2B customers visit review sites looking for software solutions. Additionally, listings are available in 60 different countries.

Strong Customer Service:

Once you opt into a paid listing within Gartner Digital Markets, you are linked with a dedicated service representative. These reps are available for phone call meetings, budget projections, optimization recommendations and general consulting needs.

Landing Page Creation:

Gartner’s team of experts offers services to create conversion-optimized landing pages for PPC clients. Depending on the package type, these landing pages can be translated into different languages and will connect with your CRM system to funnel lead volume.

Easy to Manage:

The vendor portal platform within Capterra is easy to use and manage. Bid management for all three sites (Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice) are located under one view. The bid simulator will give estimated positions which can better help determine bids.

Strong Competitor Insights:

With the help of your rep, you can perform deep-dive competitive analyses to see which competitors have opted into paid listings and which categories they are actively bidding on.

As a lead gen focused agency, we are constantly looking for methods to better improve our lead volume to drive qualified, targeted opportunities for our clients. For more information about review site paid efforts, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or phone at 781-591-0752.

How the Top Social Platforms are Bending to Gen Z

Move over Millennials, Gen Z is calling the shots now. They may be young, and their purchasing power has yet to be truly defined, but they are changing the online landscape, quickly.

Who is Gen Z? What recent changes to LinkedIn, Meta, and even Google have they influenced at their young age? We’ll cover all of that, so when you are asked, “What is TikTok all about?” or “How can we expand our followers to the younger generation?”, you’ll know the answers.

How Gen Z is Defined

The youngest defined generation to date is currently between the ages of 7-25, per the  Research Center. This generation is uniquely different from prior ones, as the internet, connectivity, and social media have been a part of their lives from the start. Nicknamed the “digital natives,” the digital world is as common to them, as the TV was for the Millennial Generation.

They may be young, but they are large. Gen Z makes up 30% of the total global population and is the largest generation in American history, with the older members of the group now entering the workforce. Clearly a force for all businesses to become familiar with.

The World Economic Forum indicates that Gen Z will make up 27% of the global workforce by 2025.


Gen Z’s Influence on the Social Media Landscape

Overall, social media usage is on the rise and steadily growing, with an estimated 60% of the world population active on social media. However, when Gen Z entered the landscape, the social media behemoths (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) were quickly rejected. Acutely aware of how their social presence impacts their lives, and tired of the toxicity that “likes” create, Gen Z has opted for a different type of online experience.

But why are the established platforms changing their product now? With apps like TikTok, WhatsApp, and YouTube surging amongst this audience, competition is fierce to gain the attention of this audience. Here are the key ways in which Generation Z is changing the media landscape:

  • Short videos are king.

TikTok exploded with the help of Gen Z due to its algorithm, which keeps users coming back for the content it knows they like. Gen Z spends 24-48 hours per month on TikTok (Pew Research) watching videos, as 61% of Gen Z prefer short videos (under 1 minute). Remember when Twitter tried short-form? Neither can we, because it was quickly pulled, but you might remember the term “fleet.” The larger platforms have not given up, however. Instagram and YouTube are still trying to compete with Reels and Shorts, respectively—in efforts to attract the Gen Z audience.

  • No filters please.

In September 2022, BeReal, an app that asks users to post an unfiltered photo of themselves once a day, was the most downloaded social media app (Statista). Authenticity has always been key to success on social media. Gen Z has found that the older platforms, specifically Twitter and Facebook, no longer offer that authentic experience with their algorithm focusing more on engagement. Just launched in 2020, BeReal is capturing the no filter, be yourself philosophy of Gen Z. To combat this preference, Instagram is testing IG Candid Challenges, which offer the same prompts to share a candid photo each day.

  • Make shopping easy.

97% of Gen Z Consumers (Forbes) use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration. The hashtag #Tiktokmademebuy has over 4.7 billion views, #amazonfinds has more than 6.7 billion views, and #booktok, with over 78 billion views, helped make 2021 one of the publishing industry’s best sales years ever. With Gen Z leaning toward seamless checkout experiences, Instagram updated its shopping experience with swipe-ups that take a user directly to the product. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are also expanding their 3rd party partnerships with companies like Shopify to ensure fast and secure transactions.

How Gen Z Is Changing Google Search

Google is also feeling the pressure, with 40% of Gen Z using TikTok for search instead of Google. This is an amazing stat, which Google confirmed during a recent event on how their products and services are changing. The queries that brands have historically seen are not the queries of Gen Z. Here are the recent changes Google will be rolling out to their products, to meet the demands of more visually rich experiences, intended to lure Gen Z back (Google Search On 2022).

  • Google Maps is now incorporating augmented reality, to meet the younger generation’s visually rich requests.
  • Search has been updated to make the experience even more natural with multi-search, allowing users to now search using images and text. Lens, which Google launched in 2017, answers 8 billion questions every month.
  • With 83% of Gen Z shopping on social media, Google added 9 features and tools to make it easier to shop on Google, including more visual ways to shop.
  • YouTube Shorts, which was launched to directly compete with TikTok in 2021 is gaining ground, watched by over 1.5 billion logged-in users every month.

Knowing a major US company is altering their offerings to lure this generation, it’s important to review your own business strategies and online experiences to ensure you are also meeting the expectations of Gen Z.

How Brands Should Approach Their 2023 Social Media Strategies

With their ever-increasing purchasing power and propensity to impact social issues, Generation Z is one we’ll all want to watch closely. Sprout Social recently conducted a survey to determine what they are expecting from their social media platforms, finding that:

  • 64% of Gen Z consumers expect a more personalized experience on social media based on previous interactions.
  • 61% of Gen Z consumers want companies to know them better based on their social media activity.
  • 52% of Gen Z consumers expect companies to read and analyze their social media posts.

What should brands do now? Though Gen Z is making the biggest splash we’ve seen in a while, they are not the only group to use social media. Every platform offers a unique purpose to each user, regardless of the generation. The key to a brand’s success is to use the platforms appropriately, authentically, and customized to your target audience.

If you are looking to court this new audience, keep these top social media goals in mind for 2023, as they apply to all generations on the platforms:

  1. Make shopping experiences easy. Utilize the online catalogs and shopping features offered by social media apps today.
  2. Begin content creator collaborations. A robust library of content, as well as the credibility UGC offers will be a critical component of social media strategies this year.
  3. Increase video content development. Gen Z has proven that they prefer to watch content.
  4. Utilizing UGC as well as in-house development should be built into all brands media strategies moving forward. Embrace the smaller and emerging social media platforms. They may be small, but they grow quickly. Brands who are early adapters can hone their message establish themselves as thought leaders on new platforms.

Remember, TikTok did not exist a few years ago, yet it is changing the online landscape we know today. Keep an eye on the smaller and emerging platforms, continue to test, and always keep yourself up to date on all platform changes and new offerings to be able to compete effectively.

Contact us at paul@synapsesem.com if you’d like to subscribe to the Synapse SEM newsletter, or to learn more about our evolving search engine marketing services.


How to Prepare Your SEO Strategy for 2023

With roughly 9 billion Google searches happening on a daily basis around the world, it would be an understatement to say that competition in the search engine optimization (SEO) world is fierce. Everyone is vying to rank in that number one position for their respective search queries. Strategists are constantly adjusting and refining the on-page elements, meta tags, links, and core web vitals, in an effort to appeal to the Google algorithm.

Search engine optimization (SEO), like other aspects of your digital marketing strategy, is constantly evolving. As Google continuously updates its algorithm—which controls the way it processes and ranks keywords—we as marketers need to be continuously aware of these changes and proactively make adjustments as needed. As we progress in to the New Year with a core Google algorithm update behind us, we’re pointing out four trending areas of SEO that will help you prepare your SEO strategy for 2023.

1. All Eyes on Featured Snippets

By now, you’ve noticed that the results for many of your Google searches look a lot like the below image: a featured snippet.

The idea of the featured snippet is to provide searchers with an organic result that directly answers their search, without requiring them to click into a website. This snippet can come in the form of FAQs, how-to’s, bulleted lists, or a simple sentence (similar to the above example). Google features the “snippet” of information at the top of the SERP when their crawl indicates that the page offers valuable, useful, relevant information which directly answers the searched query. As a result of this, featured snippets have been able to drive incredible amounts of organic traffic, making them extremely beneficial for SEO. Consumers want direct, quick answers, and that is exactly what featured snippets are able to provide.

Based on what we’ve gathered from Google’s recent helpful content update in August 2022, and the “people-first” approach they’re favoring, we can expect to see a lot more of these featured snippets in 2023. To optimize for this trend in the upcoming year, we recommend thinking carefully about the searcher and their intent, and focusing your content around question-based keywords. Ask yourself how your audience might be searching, what questions they might have about your service or product, and how you can provide them the most valuable information possible.

The best way to win a featured snippet is to provide content that answers what users are searching for immediately. Google’s autocomplete feature when searching, as well as the “People also ask” section within the search results, are both great tools when trying to determine the target keywords and questions users are searching for. When structuring your content for featured snippets, be sure to use subheadlines, clear and concise information, and bulleted or numbered lists. These elements can make it easier for search engines (and users!) to digest your content. Check out more best practices here.

2. Speak Up! Voice Search Optimization

As virtual assistant technologies, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, become more and more prevalent, the number of voice searches do as well. With over 40% of internet users currently utilizing voice search in the U.S., this number is only expected to increase through 2023 and beyond. Thus, ensuring your content is optimized for voice search is essential for your SEO strategy.

How do you optimize for voice search? Good question – it’s all about the specific, long-tail keywords. Similar to the featured snippet strategy, it’s crucial to figure out exactly what we think our target users will be asking. Voice search optimization is exposing a whole new SEO trend. Marketers are opting to target full questions or phrases rather than a few selected keywords. Rightfully so, as users typically speak in full sentences when voice searching, such as asking “is biology the right major for me?” These searches are also typically made through their mobile devices. Therefore, don’t be afraid to put some time into ensuring your website is mobile-friendly when optimizing for voice search!

3. Video Consumption: To Infinity and Beyond

It’s no secret that video content consumption is growing at a rapid rate. HubSpot research reports that 66% of consumers have watched video content (i.e., product demos, reviews, FAQs, unboxings, etc.) to learn about a brand or product in 2022. As we stated previously, users want fast, direct answers from their searches, and video content provides just that. Google has been rolling out features to make it easier for users to find information faster through videos. Additionally, a captivating video can prolong the time users spend on your site, which can result in Google awarding you higher organic rankings. That being said, it is critical to account and optimize for this SEO trend in 2023.

We recommend incorporating video into more of your pages when possible. Embedding overview videos into blog articles, how-to videos into pillar pages, explanation videos within solutions pages: integrate video content as much as you can (but don’t overdo it). SEO best practices recommend ensuring the video is relevant to the content of the page and incorporating one video per page. If third party or self-hosting, embed the content with HTML5 and JavaScript or Flash, but not an iframe. The addition of video content can be instrumental in helping you boost engagement, rankings, and traffic. Just be sure to use detailed, keyword-rich markups for the clip markups and schema markups to help search engines understand and categorize the information in the video.

4. Content is Still King: Write for Your Audience

Google redefined its ranking algorithm in 2022, however content remains king. Businesses and marketers should prioritize the creation of valuable, informational, long-form articles that appeal to their users’ search queries. With blogging and other forms of SEO-optimized site content, it is crucial to anticipate what your audience is looking for, to ensure you are providing them with helpful content. Focusing on this strategy is not only beneficial from a featured snippet perspective, but because it allows websites to rank for long-tail queries that users are searching for. Google loves informational content that provides value to users! This supports why Google has also been favoring review-type articles in recent months. Ultimately, Google aims to provide users with high-quality purchasing advice. As the number of review articles ranking organically on page 1 continues to increase, the influence these have over buyer decisions increases in tandem. GlobeNewswire research reported “95% of consumers read online reviews before they shop and 58% say they would pay more for the products of a brand with good reviews.” By having review content available for users, companies are able to get their information in front of more consumers and control their narrative.

2022 Algorithm Updates Behind Us

Before we officially say hello to 2023 trends, let’s take a minute to look back on the 2022 Google algorithm updates behind us.

  • February 22, 2022: Google released the Page Experience Update for desktop. With this, page experience became a part of desktop ranking systems. Core Web Vital metrics such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) were largely at play here.
  • March 23, 2022: Google released the (first) March 2022 Product Reviews Update. Through user feedback, Google found that searchers benefit from seeing detailed reviews of products in the SERP. This update was released to build on Google’s ability to identify quality products reviews and put them on the forefront of search results.
  • May 25, 2022: Google released the May 2022 core update. Core updates are significant adjustments made to the current search algorithms and systems in an effort to improve ranking methods.
  • July 27, 2022: Google released the July 2022 Product Reviews Update for English-language product reviews. Again, with searchers favoring legitimate product reviews, this update was released in an effort to reward quality product reviews. This specific update was solely involving English searches globally.
  • August 25, 2022: Google released the August 2022 Helpful Content Update. The helpful content update rewards pages where users seem to have a satisfying experience and appear to find the content helpful, and penalizes pages that do not seem to provide value to users.
  • September 12, 2022: Google released the September 2022 core update. Core updates are significant adjustments made to the current search algorithms and systems in an effort to improve ranking methods.
  • September 20, 2022: Google released the September 2022 Product Reviews Update. This update was also specific to product reviews written in English.
  • October 19, 2022: Google released the October 2022 Spam Update. From time to time, Google makes improvements to how their automated systems are able to detect search spam. These are referred to as spam updates.
  • December 5, 2022: Google released the December 2022 Helpful Content Update. This update builds upon the initial one in August, rewarding pages that offer a quality user experience and valuable information for users. The update also penalizes pages that appear to leave users dissatisfied.
  • December 14, 2022: Google released the December 2022 Link Spam Update. With this update, they are utilizing SpamBrain, an AI-based spam-prevention software, to neutralize the effects unnatural links may have on search results.

Bring on 2023 SEO Trends

While the possibilities are endless for where the SEO trends of 2023 will take us, these are a few definite opportunities that we can count on as we progress into the age of the consumer.

If you have questions about how to navigate these 2023 SEO trends or if you are interested in other ways to enhance your SEO strategy, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

Synapse Launches New Social Impact Program

Boston, MA – February 24, 2022 – Synapse SEM, a leading performance marketing firm, announced today the launch of their new social impact program, the Synapse Giveback Program.  This program is designed to raise funds for high-impact not-for-profits as well as assist local businesses with free digital marketing services.  Starting March 1st, for each new client the agency onboards, Synapse will donate $1,000 to a not-for-profit of the client’s choice.

In addition, for each new client Synapse will be dedicating an additional $1,000 to help local businesses set up and run digital marketing programs, including Google Ads campaigns and social media programs on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.  The goal is to assist local businesses most heavily impacted by the pandemic and/or who don’t have the budgets or expertise to run these programs internally.

“There are several non-profit organizations that we’re involved with personally and we wanted to do something to continue to support them through the agency.  We also know personally many local business owners who have experienced tough times over the last couple years due to the pandemic and who don’t run their marketing programs due to costs.  Our goal was to create one unified program to support both causes, and we feel the Synapse Giveback Program will do this exceptionally well.  The Synapse team will participate by determining which non-profits are eligible and will also be personally managing the local business programs.  We felt this was a great cause to bring everyone together and to find a direct way to give back.”  says company co-founder Paul Benson.

New Synapse clients will choose from the list of not-for-profits curated by the Synapse team.  They can choose one organization to receive the $1,000 or split the donation between two organizations.  Co-founder Mark Casali commented, “we already have several non-profits nominated by the team and we’re excited to be launching a program that involves both the Synapse team and our clients.  We’ll be officially launching the program March 1st so it will be interesting to see who the first eligible client will be.”

About Synapse SEM

Synapse SEM is a leading performance marketing firm that leverages advanced data analysis and statistics to provide its clients with deeper, more actionable insights.  The agency utilizes its core competencies in paid search advertising, search engine optimization, and social media to launch, manage and optimize integrated direct response marketing programs for its clients.  Using its proprietary data analysis techniques and highly experienced subject matter experts, the agency has achieved best-in-class results and has provided the highest quality of service to its clients since its inception in 2011.  For more information, please visit their website at https://www.synapsesem.com/.

Broad Match Modifier is Changing, What Now?

In February 2021 Google announced that they will be changing the matching behavior of broad match modifier in favor of an updated version of phrase match, which began to take place in mid-February. In July 2021, you will no longer be able to create broad match modified keywords but your existing BMM keywords will continue to match to queries in a similar way to the updated phrase match behavior. This announcement stands to be one of the most significant changes to Google Ads since Google ended support of “pure” exact match back in 2014. Read on to learn more about what is happening and what your Google Ads account manager should be doing to prepare for this upcoming change.

Why is Google changing the way these match types work?

Google claims that this change will “make it easier for you to reach your customers, no matter how they’re searching.” This will be possible because their match type system will allow keywords to match to queries with close meaning, rather than a close variation to the keyword like it has in the past. Additionally, the elimination of broad match modifier will mean there will be one less set of keywords to build out for and optimize, reducing management time.

As you may remember, this isn’t the first change Google has made to keyword match types. Here is a full list of changes below:

  • 2014 – Google requires all campaigns to opt into using close variants, killing off “pure” exact match.
  • 2017 – Google updates close variants to include adjusting for word order and adding function words to matched queries.
  • 2018 – Google updates close variants once more to allow exact match keywords to match to intent of query.
  • 2019 – Google extends updates to same-meaning variants to phrase and broad match modifier.
  • 2021 – Google to retire broad match modifier and lump matching behavior into phrase match.

What will change for phrase match?

Phrase match will continue to exist but will be more important, as it will expand to include the matching behavior of broad match modifier. Google claims that word order will continue to be prioritized, which historically has been phrase match’s main function, but only when it is important to the intent of the search query.

In the diagram from Google below, you will find how phrase and modified broad will look once the change goes into effect.

As you can see, the sample keyword is “moving services NYC to Boston.” With traditional phrase match, it’s necessary that order of the words remain as-is and this keyword would not be a great fit for modified broad as the order could change from “NYC to Boston” to “Boston to NYC” and change the intent of the keyword. Google shows us in the final scenario that with the updated phrase match, this won’t be an issue as Google’s matching behavior will respect word order.

Google provided some additional examples to display how matching behavior will be changing. See below:

What will change for broad match modifier?

Changes to both match types began in February 2021, so it’s important that phrase match keywords are added to all accounts in order not to lose out on queries you’ve been historically matching out to. We are led to believe that BMM terms will have the same matching behavior as the updated phrase match, so there is still time before the July deadline to get your account in order.

The change will be official in July 2021, so advertisers must begin preparation as soon as possible. At that point, we will no longer be able to create broad match modifier keywords and both phrase and modified broad will be officially running with the new matching behavior.

What should you do to prepare for these upcoming changes?

Whether it’s you or your account manager, we recommend that preparation for this change take place as soon as possible. Below we’ve included a list of recommended next steps that should be taken to ensure no hiccups in performance occurs while this change rolls out.

  • Monitor search query reports closely over the next several months, specifically look to see if your account continues to match to historically impactful queries.
  • If you haven’t already, add phrase match keywords for all your broad match modifier terms in your account (conversion drivers at the very least) as soon as possible. The change to matching behavior will start as soon as this month.
    • Consider pausing BMM keywords after enough time has passed and traffic/queries are mostly matching to the phrase match counterpart.
    • If you are seeing that your BMM terms are continuing to outperform phrase match terms past July 2021, we suggest leaving BMM terms active as they will leverage the same matching behavior as the updated version of phrase.
  • Do not waste your time building out broad match modifier keywords, as they will become redundant come July 2021.


Need help managing your Google Ads and other performance marketing campaigns? Please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

Your Guide to the Recent Google Ads Targeting Updates

Google Ads has recently announced they will follow suit with Facebook to change the allowed targeting options for housing, employment, and credit companies. Will your organization be affected? We have put together a guide outlining not only who will be affected, but exactly what this targeting change entails:

What Targeting Changes Has Google Made?

If you fall into what Google defines as a “housing, employment or credit” company, you will no longer be able to explicitly target or exclude users based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or zip code. Zip code targeting is the only geographic targeting option impacted. You can still target via country, state, county, etc.  This adds onto the existing disallowed targets of religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and personal hardships.  This policy change was implemented to mitigate any discriminatory targeting by Google advertisers. This policy will go into effect on October 19, 2020 so you should review your targeting settings now and adjust accordingly if needed, as there will be no grace period.

Will I be Impacted?

All housing, employment and credit companies in the US and Canada are subject to this policy update.

Housing businesses are defined as those who promote housing sales, rentals, real estate agents or brokers. Some companies that do not qualify as housing and will not be affected by the policy are vacation rentals/hotels, property inspection or management companies, office spaces and home design services.

Employment businesses are defined as those who promote jobs or employment opportunities such as job search databases, freelance work, recruitment services and services for job seekers.  Some businesses that are exempt from this are employment training, applicant management, networking services and career advice companies.

Credit businesses are defined as those who offer credit/products/services related to credit lending such as credit card application promotions, home/business loans, car/phone rentals and other offers of credit.  Similar businesses that will not be affected by the targeting update are financial guidance, gift cards and checking accounts.

I’ll Be Impacted, Now What?

If your organization is among one of the impacted business types, you will need to update your targeting as soon as possible or you may risk your entire Google Ads account going on hold.

Step 1: You must acknowledge the alert and accept that you will abide by the updated restrictions, even if you are currently not in violation. If you do not accept within 60 days your ads will stop serving and you will not be allowed to create any new campaigns until you do.targeting update for housing industry google ads

Step 2: Verify which areas of targeting you currently utilize (age, gender, parental status, marital status, or zip code).  There is a possibility that you meet the affected company criteria but are not utilizing any of these targeting criteria and therefore will not be impacted.

Step 3: Remove any exclusions as well as bid multipliers, positive or negative, for any of the specified targeting criteria.  You must set all of these to “enable.”  The only segments you may still exclude are the “unknown” segments for age, gender, and parental status.


If you have questions about how to navigate this policy change or if you are interested in other paid search assistance, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

Google Commits $340m in Google Ads Credits to SMBs – Are you Eligible?

In late March, Google published an article stating that they are committing $800m to support SMBs and crisis response, $340m of which will be provided to SMBs in the form of Google Ads credits.  Google provided further details regarding these funds on April 20th, and we wanted to pass along these updates and answer some commonly asked questions (see below):

  • Am I eligible to receive Google Ads credits?
    • Response: If you are a small or medium-sized business (Google has their own internal way of defining this, but it likely relates to non-enterprise businesses) and you advertised on Google Ads in at least ten months in 2019 and in January and/or February of this year, you are eligible to receive Google Ads ad credits.
  • Do I need to apply to receive the credits?
    • Response: No, Google will be applying credits to your account automatically as long as you meet the eligibility requirements above and adhere to their ad policies.
  • When will I receive the Google Ads credits?
    • Response: Google will begin applying Google Ads credits directly to advertisers’ accounts starting in late May. The credits will be rolled out in phases over several months.
  • How can I use the Google Ads credits?
    • Response: The credits can be used towards future Google Ads advertising costs and must be used by December 31, 2020. These credits apply to all Google campaign types, including Search, Display and YouTube campaigns.
  • How much will I receive in ad credits?
    • Response: The ad credits will be proportional to the average monthly ad spend in your Google Ads account, with a maximum credit of $1,000.00.
  • How will I know if I received ad credits?
    • Response: Google will be notifying you (and us) via email and you will also see the ad credit applied directly in your Google Ads account (see Tools & Settings – Billing – Promotions). We will be closely monitoring your account for ad credits starting in late May (when the credits are first expected to be available).

For additional information regarding Google’s COVID-19 response, please see their original article or their related FAQ page.  If/when an ad credit is applied to your Google Ads account, your Synapse account team will be reaching out to discuss the best way to apply the credit.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please let us know!

Average Position is Gone, Now What?

As I’m sure you know by now, Google Ads retired one of their original metrics (average position) back in September of 2019. This was a significant change, as many advertisers found average position to be a critical metric during optimization efforts. For some, average position was a simple way to determine where your ads appeared amongst your competitors. While it was valuable in that regard, it was also a flawed metric as it didn’t tell you exactly where you were appearing on the SERP. You could have an average position of 1.3, but you may have been showing for only 20% of available impressions and missing out on plenty of opportunity.

In this article, we will discuss why we won’t miss average position (and why you shouldn’t either) and what critical metrics we should focus on moving forward.

Out with the Old, in with the New

Average position is gone, so no need to bore you with its definition and how it was calculated. Time to move on! The focus now should be on these four metrics:

  • Search top impression rate – Search top impression rate “Impr. (Top) %” is the percent of your ad impressions that are shown anywhere above the organic search results.
  • Search absolute top impression rate – Search absolute top impression rate “Impr. (Abs.Top) %” is the percent of your ad impressions that are shown as the very first ad above the organic search results.
  • Search top impression share – Search top impression share “Search top IS” is the impressions you’ve received in the top location (anywhere above the organic search results) compared to the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.
  • Search absolute top impression share – Search absolute top impression share “Search abs. top IS” is the impressions you’ve received in the absolute top location (the very first ad above the organic search results) divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive in the top location.

So what does all that mean? When Google originally made this announcement, they included the following graphic to help illustrate how we should be evaluating these metrics moving forward. See here (image from Google):

References to Top speak to ads that appear above organic results and Absolute Top speaks to ads that appear as the very first ad above the organic results. Knowing the percentage of time you are showing above the organic results or as the number one ad is extremely valuable. These metrics should be used every time you or your account manager is evaluating bid optimizations or campaign performance.

Now What? Show Me the Numbers!

Let’s evaluate keyword performance alongside the four visibility metrics we discussed. To apply this to a real-life example, assume your Google Ads campaign needs to be optimized towards a $45 CPA. How aggressive should you be with bids? By leveraging the visibility metrics for impression rate and impression share, you’ll have a much clearer picture of how aggressive your bid optimizations should be. Please find some sample keyword data below:

In this example keyword 2 and keyword 3 seem like great opportunities for bid increases considering their current CPA are under goal (28% headroom and 47% headroom respectively). Upon a closer look, you’ll see why the opportunity for one is greater than the other.

While keyword 2 is well under goal (by about 28%), top impression share (94%) and top impression share (89%) indicate we are already plenty aggressive on this term. Any additional increases will likely cause self-inflicted harm by inflating our CPCs. Keyword 3, on the other hand, is a whopping 47% under goal and is sitting at just a 59% top impression share, indicating plenty of opportunity for traffic and lead volume growth.

Final Thoughts

While no one likes change, especially within Google Ads, this one appears to be harmless. With the additional top and absolute top metrics, we get a much deeper understanding of where our ads are appearing, and how often. Leverage these moving forward to make sure your best performing ads are maximizing their visibility on the SERP.

If you’re looking for assistance managing your Google Ads and/or other performance marketing campaigns, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

How to Determine Your Optimal PPC Budget

Many PPC budgets are determined by a company’s overall marketing dollars, but what should you actually spend each month?  It can be difficult to determine exactly how much you should budget for with a PPC program, as there are various factors to consider. At Synapse, we have determined a method to determine optimal budgets and spend levels for our client’s PPC accounts.  Read further to determine if this method will work for you!

1.      Determine Your Overall Goals

The first step in projecting your PPC budget is evaluating where you are today and where you want your account to be.  This means looking at metrics such as spend, conversions, CPA, ROI, impression share, etc. After understanding these key performance indicators, you can then determine how much you potentially could spend to achieve your performance goals.

2.      Evaluating Impression Share Lost Due To Budget

When determining budgets, it is an imperative first step to look at the account’s current impression share lost due to budget.  This will tell you the percentage of time your ads did not show in the search results due to inadequate budget.  To determine how much more you could potentially spend, simply add in the additional percentage that you have lost into the amount you have spent.  In the example below, you can see that this account could potentially spend an additional $7,766 to mitigate any impression share lost due to budget restrictions.

3.      Evaluating Impression Share Lost Due To Rank

The more difficult metric to analyze is impression share lost due to rank.  Impression share lost due to rank is the percentage of the time your ads did not show due to low ad rank.  Ad rank is determined by the keyword bid as well as your Quality Score.

When determining how much you could potentially spend, it is important to understand the nuances of ad rank.  As you bid higher, you will have a higher ad rank but KPIs like CTR, CPC and conversion rate will likely be negatively impacted.  You may not want to target 100% of lost impression share due to rank depending on how much efficiency will decrease with more aggressive bidding.  In our budget projection document, we have outlined multipliers to determine various degrees of aggression when trying to gain back impression share lost due to rank.

To determine how much you could spend to reduce the amount of impression share lost due to rank, follow these steps that we have put together:

  • Download a keyword-level report from Google Ads.
    • Include columns like cost, clicks, impressions, impression share lost due to rank and conversions (or other relevant KPIs).
  • Bucket your keywords into themes.
    • Depending on the goals of your program, you may not want to increase impression share on all of your keywords. You may only want to target converting keywords, high priority themes, or a specific match type. Whatever the grouping may be, label the keywords accordingly.
  • Determine Efficiency Multipliers
    • As mentioned above, as you bid higher, metrics like CTR, CPC and Conv. Rate will decrease. We have tried many methods to get consistent multipliers and have come up with the following:

Efficiency Multipliers

  • You can also determine these multipliers on your own by looking at the keyword projection tool in Google Ads to determine incremental performance based on bidding aggression.
  • Determine the following metrics for each keyword in the theme (mentioned above) you are trying to gain back impression share lost due to rank. Do this for each target threshold (100%, 75%, etc.):
    • Eligible Impressions = Impressions * Impression share
    • Incremental Impressions = Impression Share * Eligible Impressions
    • Incremental Clicks = Incremental Impressions * (Current CTR * CTR Multiplier)
    • Incremental Cost = Incremental Clicks * (Current CPC * CPC Multiplier)
    • Incremental Conversions = Incremental Clicks * (Current Conv. * Conv. Rate Multiplier)
  • Pivot this data to clearly see the implications of targeting 100% IS lost due to rank, 75%, etc. Based on these scenarios, you can then determine what you should be spending in your paid search account to achieve your PPC goals. Please see an example below:

PPC Budgeting Scenarios

If you are interested in having our team evaluate your account and determine your optimal PPC budget, or if you are interested in gaining access to our budgeting template, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or by phone at 781-591-0752.

What to Keep in Mind When Launching a Branded PPC Campaign

One of the most commonly asked questions when presenting a PPC proposal to a new a client is “why should we waste money bidding on our own branded keywords?” What is the purpose of bidding on brand when you are already showing at the top of organic listings? Brand can be a core component to any paid search strategy whether you are a massive well-known retailer of a small business start-up B2B company. To some, brand may seem like a “no-brainer” and easy strategy at that. Pop a few exact match keywords into the account, advertise a demo request and let it ride. However, there are actually numerous SEM strategies that can greatly improve your brand performance. First, let’s start off with answering the question on every client’s mind.

Why Bid on Brand When You Have Strong Organic Listings?

There are several reasons why devoting account budget to a brand campaign can be a worthwhile strategy for paid search.

  1. Brand ads will help beat out Competition:
    1. It may seem obvious, but many fail to realize the impact that competitors can have on your own brand name. Consider the image below of a branded search (domains have been masked). There are four PPC ads listed (none being the brand searched). The organic listing is shown at the bottom of the page with no meta description above fold. Not only will running a branded ad help win back traffic from competitors, but the keywords will naturally have strong quality scores, due to relevance, and will likely be inexpensive.brand bidding strategies
  1. Brand ads can help improve overall conversion rate
    1. As mentioned above, objectors to brand bidding claim the organic listing will suffice. Brand organic listings will commonly send users to the site homepage. However, in using paid search ads, you will have the opportunity to send that user to a conversion optimized landing page.
  2. Brand often makes up a small percentage of budget
    1. Across numerous clients, as an agency, we find that brand campaigns tend to make up only 10% – 20% of account spend usually due to strong quality score and low average CPCs. Because spend can be low, testing out brand can be a cost-effective strategy that will not significantly impact cost KPIs.

Now that we have emphasized why brand bidding can be critical to any PPC program, we have a few strategies to help ensure that your brand campaigns will be a worthwhile initiative if you decide to implement.

  1. Register Your Trademark:
    1. It may seem like an obvious next step, but many new organizations put off registering for a trademark. Using the registered trademark symbol in a branded ad is a great credibility booster but more importantly, not having a trademark allows other competitors to use your company name in their ads. “An XX Alternative” or “We’re Better Than XX” are just a few examples of competitor ad copy strategies we have seen. The ability for a competitor to use your brand name in their ad immensely helps with their Quality Score and lowering CPCs, allowing them to run competitive ads cost-effectively.
      1. To remedy this immediately, one you have a trademark, you can fill out a trademark complaint form within Google. All you need is the trademark owner’s name, the registration number, and examples of competitors using your name, and Google will quickly disapprove ads inappropriately using a registered trademark. This is something that you should always be monitoring. In many cases, competitors can simply upload a new ad that will be approved. It is important to be persistent in submitting complaint forms to Google.
  1. Robust Ad Copy:
    1. Since brand is often the most successful and consistently strong element of a paid search campaign, it can be easy to ignore the optimization tactics that you practice within non-brand campaigns. It is equally important that your ad copy is robust and utilizes all relevant ad extensions. Ad extensions result in robust ads that take up more real estate in the SERP. Testing is also important in brand campaigns. For example, our agency found through testing across numerous clients, that the use of “Official Site” within headline 1 i(.e. “Client Name – Official Site”) yields higher CTR.
  1. Dealing with Aggressive Competitors:
    1. In some cases, like the image above, competitors can be aggressively bidding on your branded terms, driving up CPCs. Organizations can sometimes be forced to bid to position 2 because they cannot afford to pay the inflated CPCs it takes to maintain position 1. One strategy you can take, in order to knock out the competition, is to temporarily artificially inflate your max CPCs. This will force the competitors to have to bid more aggressively and significantly worsen their efficiency. Our agency has implemented this strategy with great success after just one week of inflated bids.
  1. Negating Brand in Non-Brand Campaigns:
    1. To best optimize your account, we always recommend breaking out brand and non-brand campaigns. Many times, brand names can still match out to your non-brand broad or phrase match keywords. For example, the query “buy [client name] clothes online” may match out to the broad match keyword “buy clothes online.” For the best reporting, you need to make sure you add in all brand keywords as phrase match negatives to non-brand campaigns.

As paid search marketers it is critical to emphasize and importance of bidding on brand. Not only do we need to be aware of its importance, but we also need to understand the key strategies for brand campaigns. For more information about brand bidding please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com or phone at 781-591-0752.

How to Perform a Proper PPC Competitor Analysis

You’ll often hear that a little healthy competition is a good thing for your business. It certainly doesn’t feel that way when you look at your Google Ads campaign and see your CPCs have almost tripled in the past week and you have no idea why. You might be scratching your head to see that nothing in your account has changed but your CPCs are higher than you’ve ever seen them.

It’s likely that you’ve seen an increase in competitive bidding behavior on your keywords but you might not know to what degree. Well, fortunately, Google provides great insight into how aggressive your competitors are on your campaigns. In this article, we’ll go into detail of how to access this data and how to interpret this information in a valuable way.

What is an Auction Insights Report?

The easiest way to evaluate competitive trends on your keywords is by using the Auction Insights report within Google Ads. This tool allows you to select campaigns, ad groups, or keywords and see exactly how your competitors are bidding on your keywords. Remember, this can only be done to keywords that you are currently bidding on. We also recommend when evaluating Auction Insights, that you do so on a very specific keyword with strong volume so the data isn’t muddied by match types and other keywords.

In the below screenshot, you’ll find a sample Auction Insights report from one of our client accounts (masked for anonymity). Please find brief definitions (per Google Ads) of each metric below:

  • Impression Share is the number of impressions you received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.
  • Average Position is the average rank of the ad in the auctions, which determines the order of the ads on the search results page.
  • Overlap Rate is how often another advertiser’s ad received an impression in the same auction that your ad also received an impression.
  • Position Above Rate is how often the other participant’s ad was shown in a higher position than yours was when both of your ads were shown at the same time.
  • Top of Page Rate tells you how often your ad (or the ad of another participant, depending on which row you’re viewing) was shown at the top of the page, above the unpaid search results.
  • Top of Page Rate tells you how often your ad (or the ad of another participant, depending on which row you’re viewing) was shown at the absolute top of the page as the very first ad above the organic search results.

How to Evaluate an Auction Insights Report

If you’ve ever tried to review the Auction Insights report in Google Ads, you might find the dashboard format a little difficult to digest. Below you will find a screenshot from Google Ads that shows auction data segmented by device. While this view isn’t too bad to look at, if you wanted to segment by 10+ weeks, it would become quite challenging to pick out any trends efficiently in this cluttered format.

Auction Insights from Google Ads:

Therefore, we suggest reviewing Auction Insights in a different format, one that requires the data to be exported from Google Ads and manipulated via a Pivot Tablet (see below):

Auction Insights, Pivot Table format:

With the above format, you can glean insights quickly and apply conditional formatting to help you identify trends more efficiently. You’ll notice too that we’ve isolated each metric into their own pivot tables. We prefer this approach, as it appears less cluttered and makes the data easier to interpret.

There are a number of metrics you can look at when reviewing an Auction Insights report but we recommend limiting it to 3 metrics in the screenshot above. Impression Share indicates roughly how aggressive your competitors are on your terms. In this case, the week of July 8th shows that our competitors became more aggressive on our terms. Position Above Rate will tell you how often another advertiser in the auction is appearing above you. Judging from what we are seeing during the week of July 8th, it is safe to assume that our competitors started to bid much more aggressively on our terms. Lastly, overlap rate will show you how often an advertiser appears in the same search that one of your ads appeared it. This is valuable in determining if the increased presence of competitors appearing alongside us is having an impact on performance.

Other Competitor Analysis Tools

The Auction Insights report is the only first-party competitor analysis tool through Google Ads but there are third-party tools that also provide valuable insights. SpyFu and SEMRush are just two examples of competitor analysis tools we use to gather insights for our clients. Both tools provide similar features related to ad copy monitoring and keyword bidding insights. We often leverage these tools to gather keyword opportunities that we use for expansion in our accounts. That challenge we find with them is that they often have very broad lists of keywords, thousands of rows long, and it is a bit challenging to mine through them efficiently.

If you are interested in having our team dive into your competitor data, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

What is Structured Data (and Schema Markup) and What Can it Mean for SEO?

Google, Bing, and other major search engines have been encouraging webmasters to use structured data for years now. Still, only 17 percent of marketers are using structured data markup on their websites today. With incentives like enriched organic search results, it’s a wonder why so many websites have yet to take this step.

Or maybe, it’s no wonder at all. Structured data, most commonly known in the form of Schema.org markup, can come with quite the learning curve. Even the most successful marketers and CMOs might not know what structured data is, let alone its benefits. Quite frankly, even some SEO and web development teams do not know what correct Schema or structured data looks like, or how it can impact a website’s organic visibility. That’s why we’re here to break down the basics.

What is Structured Data Markup?

Generally speaking, “structured data” refers to any data that is organized or well-defined. In terms of search engine optimization, structured data involves organizing your web content with specific code or “markup,” so that crawlers can find and process your information more accurately.

Simply put, structured data is HTML code that provides search engines with a better understanding of a webpage and its content, which ultimately can enhance how that page is displayed in the search results. It tells search engines exactly what specific content relates to, so that they can then serve the most accurate and relevant information to users.

Have you ever Google’d a recipe for dinner and come across very enhanced looking search results? Right in the organic listing, you might have seen star reviews, cook time, as well as the meal’s calorie count. Or maybe you’ve searched for real estate listings, and come across a SERP filled with rich, robust results including open house times and listing prices – without clicking through to a site. These results are called “rich snippets” (rightfully so) and are a potential outcome of structured data markup.

Below are some examples of rich snippet results (driven by Schema.org):

schema markup for recipes real estate schema markup

There are all types of structured data vocabulary – for recipes, reviews, movie times, online products, even how-to articles and company information. You can put markup around your logo and contact number or your specific business location (down to the geo-coordinates), as well as the prices and reviews of products you sell online. Google’s Search Gallery features many examples of rich results prompted by structured data.

Structured data can also be applied almost anywhere on your website, and on any type of website. Whether you are a multi-location business trying to reach more consumers, an eCommerce site looking to enhance product pages, or a B2B company looking to increase brand awareness, structured data can work for you.

Many search engines parse and process structured data, which is why webmasters must use standardized implementations (i.e. formats or syntaxes), such as JSON-LD (Google’s recommendation) and Microdata. Webmasters must also use consistent, standardized vocabulary to classify their data. The most commonly used taxonomies are those outlined by Schema.org.

What is Schema.org Markup?

Schema.org is the most commonly used type of structured data markup on websites today. It was developed in 2011 by the big search engines (including Google, Bing, and Yahoo) in efforts to help webmasters categorize important information on their sites, and to further serve users the most relevant information on the web. According to the Schema.org website:

“Schema.org focuses on defining the item types and properties that are most valuable to search engines. This means search engines will get the structured information they need most to improve search,” while “users will end up with better search results and a better experience on the web.”

Essentially, Schema markup is a taxonomy of code formats that major search engines will use to understand a site. While there are other forms of structured data out there – including Open Graph (used by Facebook) and Twitter Cards (used by Twitter) – Schema vocabulary is used by major search engines, and is a key component to any modern SEO strategy.

SEO Benefits of Schema Markup

As Google evolves their algorithm to provide users with quality and relevant content, they recommend webmasters leverage Schema markup to more accurately understand websites. This has clear SEO benefits, including a stronger relevancy signal for Google and enhanced search result listings. Enhanced search results via Schema markup may come in the form as:

  • Rich search results, which include styling, images, and other visual enhancements
  • Enriched search results, including interactive or immersive features
  • Rich cards (a variation of rich search results), designed to provide a better mobile UX
  • A Knowledge Panel, which includes information about a brand and takes up significant real estate in the organic search results
  • Breadcrumbs, which make your navigation or URL easy to digest in the SERP
  • Carousels, which are a collection of multiple rich search results in a carousel style

Now, there are two disclaimers in all of this. Number one, implementing Schema markup does not mean your data will show as rich snippet results. While structured data is needed to qualify for rich snippets like the above, there is no guarantee that Google will immediately show these for your site. This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong, however. This is just a choice made by Google. And as Google evolves and expands its rich snippet results (we’ll get to that in a minute), we believe it’s an effort worth making.

Secondly, it’s important to recognize that Schema markup does not directly benefit organic rankings. Even though it was created by Google, Schema.org is not a ranking signal. That said, using Schema correctly can contribute to a stronger relevancy signal, which Google will use to better rank your site for the right queries. In addition, rich snippets can improve the organic click-through-rate (CTR) of a webpage – which can also lead to better rankings indirectly – and lower bounce rates, as users see a preview of the content right in the search results. They can also help you establish more real estate in the search results.

Will Schema Markup Become an SEO-Must?

While Schema markup is not a ranking signal, recent releases from Google suggest it is becoming more important. (Just a few months back in May 2019, Google announced several updates involving structured data, including new “How-to” and “FAQ” Schema markup, as well as a new “Enhancements” report in Search Console that helps webmasters identify issues with their structured data.) Not to mention, as Google moves towards a mobile-first web, the search engine is increasing its usage of rich results in the SERP, to create a more visual and engaging UX.

Right now, 83 percent of marketers do not use (or plan to use) Schema markup in the near future, and 99 percent of all sites on the web today do not have Schema.org markup in place. If you fall in this majority, know it’s not too late to step out. While the learning curve seems steep, it really only takes a few basic steps to get Schema started on your site.

How to Use Schema.org Markup

When considering implementing Schema on your website, it is important to first consider the Schema markup that is most relevant to you. What type of content will you be highlighting on your website, and what is your goal in doing so? As Google explains, businesses can use Schema.org markup to:

  • Increase brand awareness, by highlighting content such as their business logo, store locations (if applicable), and contact information. This content may pull into Google’s Knowledge Panel, which outlines brand and business information for users.
  • Highlight specific content on your website, such as FAQ pages, Events, Job Postings, Reviews, and Articles, among many more.
  • Highlight product information, such as the price of an item, its name and description, as well as its availability and review ratings.

Once you decide what you are looking to mark up on your website, you can start exploring the potential Schema.org vocabulary and identifying which is most relevant to your business. Your dev team can do this via Schema.org, or can obtain more color through Google’s list of structured data examples here.

There are also free tools to help out with structured data implementation. These include:

  • Google’s Data Highlighter within Search Console, which allows you to tag data fields on your site using your mouse
  • A free Schema markup generator (such as this one), which makes it very easy to choose the Schema you want, and to transform it into the proper code
  • After implementation, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check your markup is accurate and can be interpreted by Google

If you would like help in implementing Schema markup on your website – or simply to learn more about the SEO benefits of structured data – you can also contact Synapse SEM. Complete our contact form online or call us at 781-591-0752 today.

Synapse Announces New Office Space in Newton, MA

Newton, MA – August 7, 2019 – Synapse SEM, a specialized performance marketing agency, announced today they have relocated their Massachusetts office to Washington Street in Newton.  This move is part of a 2019 initiative to build more collaboration and foster a greater sense of community with their local and remote employees.


“We’ve grown every year since our inception in 2011 and we felt it was important to invest in a new office space, where we can accommodate future expansion and develop a more collaborative environment for our team and clients.  It also doesn’t hurt that Buff’s Pub, a local staple, is so close” says company co-founder Paul Benson.


Prior to the move, Synapse held office space in a collaborative workspace with several other businesses.  The company co-founders Paul Benson and Mark Casali decided to invest in a larger, more dedicated workspace.  “We had been in the same space since 2013 and it was time to update and modernize our office space.  We want the office environment to enhance the work experience and company culture, and the new space certainly accomplishes that” added company co-founder Mark Casali.


The agency also plans to update its website to more accurately reflect its expanded services and current client portfolio.  The agency has over 30 active client accounts and 15 team members across its two offices.  “We’re well positioned to have our best year in company history this year and the new office will be our central hub for team growth moving forward.  We have an amazing new space and we really look forward to growing the team here” added Mr. Benson.


About Synapse SEM

Synapse SEM is a specialized performance marketing agency that leverages advanced data analysis and statistics to provide its clients with deeper, more actionable insights.  The agency utilizes its core competencies in paid search advertising, search engine optimization, and social media to launch, manage and optimize integrated direct response marketing programs for its clients.  Using its proprietary data analysis techniques and highly experienced subject matter experts, the agency has achieved best-in-class results and has provided the highest quality of service to its clients since its inception in 2011.  To learn more, visit them at www.synapsesem.com.

Synapse SEM Announces Partnership with Revenue Architects

Boston, MA – May 28, 2019 – Synapse SEM, a specialized performance marketing firm, announced today a new partnership with Revenue Architects a marketing and sales integration company.  This partnership will allow Synapse to provide its clients with best-in-class design and development services while ensuring the marketing programs can be integrated with clients’ marketing automation systems and CRMs.  This solution has been developed specifically for Synapse’s lead generation clients.


Synapse co-founder Paul Benson believes one of the biggest benefits of the new partnership is enabling rapid landing page design and development.  “When building landing pages, one of the critical needs is correctly setting up tracking.  For our lead gen clients, this includes integrating the new pages with a marketing automation system so we can track leads fully through the funnel.  This responsibility has historically fallen on the shoulders of our clients’ tech teams.  With Revenue Architects involved, we can completely own the landing page design and development process, including tracking integration.  This will improve work quality and completely remove bottlenecks, enabling us to reduce landing page deployment time from 1-3 months to 2-3 weeks,” says Mr. Benson.


As a specialized firm, Synapse aims to provide its clients fully integrated performance marketing services.  “Our primary goal for 2019 is to fill any gaps in our current service offering so we can deliver greater value to our clients.  The partnership with Revenue Architects will help us take a huge leap in that direction” says company co-founder Mark Casali.  Synapse also plans to launch a back-end lead integration solution, which will allow clients to pull additional lead metrics including MQLs, SQLs and sales directly into Google Analytics and other 3rd party systems by year-end.


Synapse and Revenue Architects have collaborated on projects for several years, but the new partnership means dedicated resources and more robust design and development capabilities moving forward.  Furthermore, Revenue Architects can assist with additional client needs related to full-funnel marketing and sales programs, marketing automation/CRM strategy, deployment and integration.  Revenue Architects Founder and CEO, John Stone, stated “Synapse has continually demonstrated their drive to bring fully integrated and best-in-class performance marketing services to its clients, and we’re excited to help them achieve that goal and bring their design, conversion optimization, marketing automation and CRM-related services to the highest level.”


About Synapse SEM

Synapse SEM is a specialized performance marketing firm that leverages advanced data analysis and statistics to provide its clients with deeper, more actionable insights.  With core competencies in paid search advertising, search engine optimization and social media, the company develops, implements, and executes integrated digital marketing strategies focused on lead generation and new customer acquisition.  Using its proprietary data analysis techniques and highly experienced subject matter experts, the agency has achieved best-in-class results and has provided the highest quality of service to its clients since its inception in 2011.

For more information on Synapse SEM, LLC, call 781-591-0752 or visit www.synapsesem.com.


About Revenue Architects

Revenue Architects helps growth companies integrate full-funnel marketing and sales and reach the next level of accelerated, predictable and sustainable revenue.  Revenue Architecture™ is the modern and integrated methodology for full-funnel buyer engagement. By continuously envisioning revenue strategies, enabling revenue systems and executing revenue programs aligned with their business model, companies can better acquire, retain and expand customer relationships, accelerate revenue growth and increase shareholder value.

For more information on Revenue Architects, call 877-REV-EARN or visit www.revenuearchitects.com.

How to Build a Better PPC Spend Tracker

Whether you are on the agency or client side, two of the most important aspects of PPC management are budget management and identifying significant performance fluctuations in real-time (e.g. spend doubled from the prior day unexpectedly). Unfortunately, there aren’t many out-of-the-box options that help monitor budgets and performance fluctuations. In this article we will be discussing how we’ve improved our budget management and trend monitoring efforts through automated reporting, which has been instrumental in delivering better service to our clients.

A Brief History

Prior to our more automated approach to daily tracking, we were doing things the old-fashioned way. Manually scraping data from sources like Google Analytics and Google AdWords (now Google Ads) and adding them to Excel-based tracking documents. This would create inefficiencies and more opportunity for manual error.

I was then tasked with finding a better way to do this and found a marketing reporting tool from Supermetrics. They have many products that can help you with a number of tasks, we’ve found their Google Sheets plug-in to be the most useful for this task. Their plug-in allows us to pull data in customizable formats from multiple sources (Analytics, Google Ads, Bing Ads, etc.). The best part is that it also allows us to refresh the data for different cadences (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). This eliminates the manual process we were stuck with in the past.

Our Approach

We’ve also included 60 days’ worth of daily performance (some rows hidden) with conditional formatting to help better identify trends. As you can see, we’ve come a long way since only focusing on daily spend. We now include KPIs such as CPC and CPA that are important metrics to monitor daily and weekly, to account for changes in account behavior and competition.
Below, we’ve shared an example of what one of our PPC budget tracking sheets looks like. This is an abbreviated view that has several rows and columns hidden to make the view more digestible. The main components include the ability to switch between campaigns types (in this case generic vs brand), summary rows that show pacing & trends, and a budget summary table (which should be broken out by geos if there are dedicated budgets) that displays spend and CPA trends against the month’s budget.

The biggest benefit from this new template is that it allows us to deliver insights more efficiently and effectively to our clients.

How to set up your own daily spend tracker

Setting up your own daily tracker is a relatively straight-forward process if you have the appropriate Excel skillset. We’ve included the necessary steps to getting your daily spend tracking sheet up and running here:

  1. Sign up for a Supermetrics account
  2. Link your Supermetrics to all appropriate accounts (e.g. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, etc.)
  3. Create a Google Sheet & start generating data pull queries from Supermetrics
  4. Structure your front-end dashboard tab to show all relevant KPIs (see image above)
  5. Use various Excel formulas (see below for examples) to pull appropriate data into your dashboard
  6. Ensure all data pulls are set to refresh daily (or whichever cadence you prefer)
  7. Be sure to QA your data routinely to ensure it is pulling correctly and that Supermetrics isn’t sampling your data

Some helpful formulas for PPC spend tracking

Below, we’ve included some helpful formulas to help you construct your own daily spend tracking sheet. These simple formulas will help you sum data for specific date ranges, in addition to other functions.

  • First day of month:
  • Run rate for the past 7 days:
  • Sum last X days of a data set:
    • =sumifs(SUM RANGE,DATE RANGE,”>=”&TODAY()-X)

Final thoughts

If you are looking for a better way to track daily performance and budgets, we recommend adopting a similar approach to ours. It’s a critical component to PPC management (as well as other channels like Social and Organic) that often gets overlooked.  Once a more streamlined reporting system is in place; the process becomes much more efficient.

You can do so yourself, but if you’d rather leave to the professionals, please contact us by email at sales@synapsesem.com  or by phone at 781-591-0752.

How to use Google In-Market Audiences for Search

While the concept of RLSA campaigns (Remarketing Lists for Search Audiences), Customer Match, and Similar Audiences have been key SEM strategies for some time now, Google has recently introduced the ability to use existing in-market audiences for search. These audiences were traditionally only available for GDN campaigns.  This gives paid search marketers the opportunity to further test and optimize search campaigns using audience strategies and boost keyword performance in a cost-effective manner.

What are In-Market Audiences?

An in-market audience is designed to connect your campaigns to individuals who are actively searching on terms heavily related to your industry. Google analyzes millions of users, looking at search history and site behavior. They even consider previous conversions, looking at what the users have (and haven’t) purchased. Ideally, these individuals are closer to making a purchase, and are past the research stage. These users are divided into audiences that can later be applied to your campaigns. For example, consider the scenario below.

  • Joe wants to plan a trip to Florida with his family
  • Joe looks at hotels
  • Joe purchases plane tickets
  • Joe looks at tickets for Disney World

Based on his search history, Joe would be a prime candidate for the travel audience. When you couple intent with the current keyword set, you can hone in on the right audience (see details below). The categories of in-market audiences range from things like software and financial services to dating sites and babies. Once you select a major theme, you have an option to narrow down your selection even more. Below depicts the multiple selections users can choose under the Travel theme.

In-Market Audiences in Display vs. Search

In-Market audiences are not new. Google announced this targeting option in 2014. Yet, the ability to use them within search was announced back in May 2018. Our agency has tested using in-market audiences for display campaigns in observation mode, and consistently saw poor results. Consider our findings below.

Using in-market audiences for search is a different story. Here, the keyword set can be used on individuals that are proven to be relevant. Instead of risking “opening the flood gates” to this audience, like in the GDN, we are still ensuring their relevance through the “searched” keyword. In the chart below, you can see that the in-market audience drove in a stronger click-through-rate as well as a stronger conversion rate when testing in a search campaign.While the in-market audience drove in significantly more traffic while in observation mode, it had a much lower conversion rate compared to the previous visitor audience. We found this audience to be high spending and hugely inefficient across the board. This makes sense. Google-generated audiences can be filled with irrelevant users. This is a common factor and risk with anything using “machine learning.”


in-market audience strategies

How to Apply an In-Market Audience to a Search Campaign:

  1. Sign into you Google Ads Account
  2. Navigate to the Audience tab in the left-hand panel
  3. Click the pencil icon to create an audience
  4. Select which campaign and ad group to edit
  5. Click the browse tab
  6. Select “what they are actively researching or planning”
  7. Choose your desired audience

When to Use In-Market Audiences:

The answer is always! For search campaigns, you should always be using in-market audiences, or any audience for that matter. Just because you apply an audience to a campaign, does not mean that you need to increase bids on these audiences. For search campaigns, you can overlay audiences, in observation mode, and then analyze performance of these audience segments. This is a great way to test out if in-market audiences, and which in-market audiences, work best for your campaign.

At first glance, it may seem that in-market audiences are only beneficial for eCommerce, consumer-based businesses, but that is not true.  In-Market audiences provide a great opportunity for B2B business to exclude irrelevant searchers. Applying an in-market audience as a negative to a campaign can help to create a more targeted audience, boost conversion rate, and most importantly save money. Software based companies may find that their conversion rate is weaker for specific audiences bucketed into the travel and lifestyle related audiences like beauty, apparel and hotels.  That being said, negative audiences are not limited to B2B companies. For example, it is pretty safe to assume that a wedding venue is not interested in targeting users whose search history has been focused on dating sites. Again, these assumptions can all be confirmed through testing.

Test, Test, Test…

Before you make any bid adjustments or create targeted campaigns using these audiences, it is crucial that you overlay all relevant audience types to your campaigns and analyze the results. The audiences will gather data over time, and then you can factor in conversion rate and click-through-rate numbers to help aid your decisions.

You may be surprised with the results, which is why we always recommend testing as many audiences as possible. There are obvious assumptions. For example, it is likely that a rental car service, would benefit from targeting users who have previously been interested in booking a hotel. However you may find that users who have a previous interest in beauty and travel convert better for your luxury watch website.

The Future of In-Market Audiences:

As Google announces more and more new features, we can see a common theme evolving. Google is moving toward “machine learning” which ultimately is causing marketers to steer away from the strong reliance on the keyword, and shift gears to focus on utilizing on this user intent data provided from Google. We can expect more and more announcements based on “automated learning” to come from Google. We are keeping up with the trends and determining what works and does not work with these new features.

 To learn how Synapse SEM can help improve your audience marketing strategy, you may complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752