New Research on Recent Changes in Programmatic Advertising

June 5, 2020

New research by SharpSpring Ads and Ascend2 reveals what 213 marketing professionals are doing to optimize their programmatic advertising program. 

These topics and more are discussed by our expert panel in the video below:

  • Top challenges when executing a programmatic advertising strategy and what you can do to overcome those challenges.
  • Plan your budget for the next 6 months based on data from leading programmatic marketing professionals.
  • What are the primary objectives of a programmatic advertising program?
  • What are the most effective tactics for a programmatic advertising program?
  • What are the most meaningful metrics used in programmatic advertising?

Get the slides here….



Eric Stockton, SharpSpring Ads
Todd Lebo, Ascend 2
Roy Steves, Statbid

Your Questions Answered – Q&A Follow-up



Alrighty. Well we’re gunna go ahead and get started. So hey everybody, welcome. If you are just now joining us thanks for hopping on for the state of programmatic advertising. I’m Kathleen Davis and we are super happy that you guys are here today. We’re gunna go ahead and introduce some of our speakers. So first up we have Roy Steves from StatBid. Hey Roy, hello. SatBid is a paid search agency and Roy co-funded StatBid in 2015 where he now manages over 15 million dollars in ad budgets. But prior to that, Roy’s worked with hundreds of brands and before founding his agency, he doubled the revenue of an already eight-figure company through online advertising after which he became their VP of digital marketing. So welcome Steve. We’re super thrilled you could join us. Oh my gosh I’m so sorry, Roy Steves everybody. Sorry, thanks. So next up we have Eric, our very own general manager. Eric’s directed some pretty large ad budgets himself as well as being known for his knack for growing businesses, having led 70 million plus dollar sales organizations in the past. He’s also spoken at Marketing Sherpa events, email summit, B2B, Demand Gen Summit, just to name a few of those. And just in general proven himself an innovator in the world of internet marketing and e-commerce.


Aw shucks. We’re lucky to have also joining us today, is our original research expert Todd Lebo from Ascend2, which is a research-based marketing company that works with marketing technology and data companies and conducts original researches among other things. So Todd’s worked with companies like Oracle, Dun and Bradstreet and Adobe as well as partnering with us at SharpSpring Ads to bring you research findings like the ones that we’re about to present to you today. So with that I’m going to hand us this over to Todd and let him show you what he’s got.


Alright well thank you Kathleen, and I am really excited to be here today. We just, literally just this past couple weeks we fielded and completed some research with SharpSpring Ads and we’re going to share some of that research with you today. And also you really try to help me from the standpoint of, look at the research but then also do a little analysis of what we think that means to providing some really practical information on how you can take that and now that research and apply it to what you’re doing. Because research is really only as good as how you use it to influence your decisions. So we hope that it’ll help you influence some decisions today. The first thing it really just jumped out at me, and it was kind of like the aha for me. We fielded this research second week of may previously at essentials, we’ve been looking at budgeting and what people were doing from March on, we’ve seen pretty dramatic decreases in budget where companies are freeing budget, cutting back and this was the first research that I’ve seen that has actually shown that. Now companies are projecting over the next six months increases their budget, which was a pleasant surprise, a little bit of encouragement. And I think well I’d love to get Roy and Eric’s perspective on it, but I believe one component is companies did the wise and prudent thing of, let’s see what’s going on. The CFO kind of told them to hold back on spending too much money until we get our grip on what to expect. But now that same CFO is coming back and saying, how are you going to hit your numbers right? How are you going to get us to where we need to be?


And so now budget is at least for programmatic advertising, we see that some budget increases taking place. So I don’t know what Roy and Eric you’re seeing, but that’s a little bit of my takeaway. Yeah it’s well, because we focus entirely on e-commerce, the measurement of an evaluation of that budget is pretty direct. And it’s true for any direct performance channel that as long as you’re hitting your efficiency targets, there’s not really a reason to curtail that spend. And so what we saw and what we experienced even firsthand, not only just through our clients, was it the March beginning of April period was uncertainty, people were, they had to adapt to different shopping patterns because people are behaving differently, that results in different shopping patterns and so there were spikes where things went up. You couldn’t find a webcam for love nor money, let alone toilet paper, etc. So there were all these secondary markets that were suddenly spiked while other things cratered by 50%. But in the past couple of months the general e-commerce volume has either come back where it had retreated to relatively normal levels, but the shift from offline to online seems to be the sort of overwhelming current that we’re all swimming in. And so seeing this slide in particular surprised me less than some of the other ones. Just because it reflects that even if you’ve done nothing but just sort of weed the garden so to speak, you should have seen some volume improvements on a year over year basis in the past couple of months. And if the revenue follows the budgets are easy to justify it, and that’s how I see this.


Yeah I’ll take it from the other angle where we’re talking more B2B. So as Todd was saying earlier, a lot of budgets had been curtailed when all of this was happening. And of course, the CFO still has goals to hit, but I think at a larger, more corporate level, there are some, we’ll take SAS business models for example, that are just still forging ahead and doing really well, and they’re turning out good numbers. I guess I’m thinking about it from a publicly traded standpoint, they’re turning out good numbers at the end of the quarter and there is a sense of, I think confidence that comes along with other companies for seeing their marketing budgets pay off. And so that gives the CFO more confidence to be able to push forward and open up the purse strings a little bit more, which is really sort of what we’ve been seeing at a global level behind the scenes at SharpSpring Ads. So we’re seeing the advertisers, we’re seeing which ones are doing well and which ones aren’t, and the ones that are doing well have been being consistent about their spend on a month over month basis right?


Right. Well thank you for that and let’s go to the next slide and this is just a little bit of the methodology when we look at the research and how we formulated it. We were trying to kind of provide a circular process, the research can help you initially. It’s like what are your objectives? That planning process, what are the challenges? A lot of times understanding the challenges you may face in advance helps you to plan and prepare for those. What are the tactics? What should you be doing? And then measurement. So it’s really, when you think about like a rinse and repeat kind of process, you’re continually going through this cycle trying to optimize the process and as we look at some of the key findings. And again, I want to thank SharpSpring Ads for partnering with us to create this research and it’ll be available to you for free. Just think about where you’re at in each stop, and we’ll look at the first one, which is objectives. So you know, starting with the end in mind that you see that the top three that came out here were the purposes driving sales, lead generation, brand awareness, a whole lot. But when I initially looked at this I thought about it’s really good for marketers to see those different objectives as separate because each one has a different strategy behind it. And by separating those out I think you can get much more laser focused on how you’re gunna go each one. So again, I’ll open it up and let Roy and Eric.


Yeah IU’m glad to see as the direct to consumer contingent driving sales at the top of the stack if only by a small margin, but it also makes sense to see lead gen for the B to B side. I bet if you were to combine that question with the previous one, brand awareness would probably have contracted relative to the first two. And that plays in with the fact that it’s easier to justify budget lower int he funnel. And brand awareness is way way high in that process. And obviously you don’t want to cut off the source of the stream. But where the rubber hits the road is where the budget is safest. And so it’s unsurprising to see those two on top. And I was actually interested to see that community building and social engagement made it into the top ten. And one and five, or eight were identifying that as a primary objective, that’s something that’s way out of my sphere of optimization, but it does indicate that the people haven’t been clutching their purse strings too tight. They’re still investing things that are a little bit speculative that are chumming the waters or fertilizing the fields, so to speak, even though it’s obvious that paying the bills is still at the top of the stack.


Yeah I’m actually, it’s interesting, I was thinking about that, I was looking at the 14% for community building too, it’s surprising to me that it’s actually not a larger number, and there’s been a number of successful campaigns we’ve seen from retail shops that have closed down due to Covid and then have been putting themselves out there without being overly sales-driven, they’re looking at saying, it’s more of a brand awareness, almost a PSA kind of ad that is particularly effective with video. And they have, we’ve seen some really neat campaigns that have done really well with that, and that is going to start paying off in the coming days and weeks as retail stores continue to open the doors, I would expect anyway, that we would be able to see some of the fruit from that, but yeah I definitely agree. Driving sales legion, that’s where from an ad spend perspective, that’s where your safest bets are gunna be. You’re gunna start with those and then you’ll start seeing things slowly loosen up and go higher up in the funnel.


yeah and I think with community ability, like we recently did some research a couple months ago on content and thought leadership and just like how, what are the types of content that you can create to help with that thought leadership and how to build that and that is it’s a long-term play, but it pays dividends for a long time too. So yeah, it’s definitely like one of those things I think just to keep in the back of your mind as you’re creating this. It’s probably good too at the last before we go to the next one, I would say with some of those items when you start creating your plans and messaging that out to your leadership and to your team. I think it’s good to identify what the purpose of specific campaigns and programs are, so that the right expectations at a time, right? A campaign can never serve two masters that came up in a client call just this week. It’s easy to say that many things are a priority, but when you’re asking your team to make decisions on a day-to-day basis, they can follow one directive and keep an eye on the others as guard rails. But yeah, the worst thing I’ve seen as far as from a leadership directive is ambiguity as far as the actual mission, and so yeah, I agree entirely. But doubling down on what top number one goal is going to make it easier for somebody to be successful with that mission.


Yeah I think to key off of that, there’s a great comic strip that Tom Fishburne does for the marketoonist, the one that I’m thinking of specifically is the agency is sitting there at the table and the CEO’s up in the front they’re saying I want to develop this new campaign and I wanted to drive new sales and I wanted to be brand awareness and I wanted to drive community and I wanted to do this, I wanted to do that. There’s like fifteen different things. And yeah, that’s a way you can tell how watered down certain campaigns really do end up getting and what that shows up in the results at the end of the day, the objective really is one thing right? And it’s to get them, yeah so I agree. Clarity and then that also allows you to figure out how you’re going to measure success right? So the next slide we’re looking at is challenges. And the reason we kind of included this was just the fact that what your challenges are many times or like this hopefully gives you a good idea on what other marketers are seeing as challenges. And by understanding that and clarify and clarifying it, you can start making sure that you’re doing things to help overcome that so your challenges before you start or identify them and clarify them as you go. But you see the top two here was audience targeting and budget allocation followed close real closely by number three, achieving ROI and not being at the top gives me heartburn.


I like it like if, and maybe this is just because I’m such an efficiency-centric direct marketer, it’s probably a bias in my perspective but, if you’re stressing about audience targeting, why are you doing that, and if the answer is not ROI then you need to back up and think about it because I mean basically when people are thinking about targeting their campaigns right, they start with no data and so you need to collect data and so you should use your instincts in your business context and your intuition to set up something that you think has the best chances of success. But as soon as it’s running you should be using that data to make optimization decisions. And that could show that your original targeting hypotheses were incorrect. A great example of that kind of thing would be, I used to sell pool supplies and one of the most entertaining audience targeting discoveries we found was that targeting people who identify as owning pools or are enthusiastic about swimming or various things that we could identify within this was Facebook at the time but you could use those kind of audience targeting things we did, the things that made sense. And then we tried a wider shot and found that the most effective audience that we could create at the time wasn’t pool owners, it was fans of carnival cruise lines. And the reason for that is sort of surprising at first, but when you think about it, the demographic makes perfect sense. It’s people with disposable income and the right age demographic and they’re not currently being targeted by all of your competitors. And so the audience targeting can be tricky, but it’s always got to be driven by the ROI motive, from the types of campaigns I’m used to interacting with.


Yeah I think if I was going to title this slide, I would probably say start with the end in mind right, and that’s exactly what you’re talking about with targeting you know, the 46%. I mean you kind of wonder why is that? You expect it to be the biggest in terms of the top of mind most important thing to you, but not necessarily the top challenge. Right yeah. It’s a big level for sure. Yeah yeah and I totally agree with that. I think too, so you know one of the things that we sort of preach on the SharpSpring Ads side of things is, this is the most important thing right? You want to make sure that you get that right and so obviously when you’re doing retargeting, you can’t get much more effective than that right? Everybody knows that retargeting is going to be sort of the best opportunity for you to be able to get out there and get back in front of the people that have already been engaged with your messaging and already had a sort of looked at your value proposition and that sort of thing. So when you’re going back out and you’re having a second or third or fourth shot at those individuals, that’s going to convert. Well yeah, and so that does make sense and then working your way back up the funnel to getting into perspective and other areas, that’s gunna be where you have to make sure that whatever the types of things that are working lower funnel can be replicated right? So when you think about lookalike audiences and you think about data modeling, that’s where that really comes in handy, the carnival cruise line anecdote is really cool, I didn’t know that was, that’s pretty neat.


Yeah you can still find those kinds of correlations out there in other platforms as well, but if you think you know, what are all my competitors doing and how do I get the same people without bidding against these same people in every auction. The same trick won’t work every year, but you’re always looking for something where you can get that kind of leverage. Yeah. So Roy you were talking about how you’re a direct marketer sort of at heart right, and I think about catalogers back in the day, and I shouldn’t say it in that context because there’s tons of really good catalogers still today, but in terms of when you looked at going through the old, flipping through the audiences, flipping through the lists and looking at the hot lists and just kind of running your finger down what the audiences were, the six most successful campaigns that were run with catalogs were done by people that spent most of their time cutting out the wheat from the chaff right? And making sure that the people that put their dollars behind these catalogs. Because remember, you talk about like, we always sort of complain about how our ad budgets don’t go far enough. Think about it from a cataloger’s perspective, they had to get it right, those campaigns were so expensive up front because you were doing the printing and you’re doing the mailing and you had the postage and by the time you were basically up front, your response rate had to be pretty darn high. Otherwise you have to start cutting down on the cost of the mailing batch, and that hinders the quality of the communication.


For sure. The high stakes from the catalog industry definitely paved the way for e-commerce to some degree obviously, but the email channel ends up imitating catalog and when catalog is done correctly, it looks a lot like a modern email program. When catalog is done badly, it looks a lot like a badly run email program batch and blast hit the whole list every time. So it’s funny to see that the same strengths and weaknesses translated to what is effectively a modern equivalent, you can still track that conversion to that mailing address, just like you can track that conversion to that email address. And so attribution continues to be a massive challenge for that. But the same is true for the programmatic space, because if you’re not settling on an attribution system that drives your business goals, you’re going to be rewarding the wrong kind of behavior within your platform. Yeah I think that’s totally right. And I think it also has to start with the DNA of your team too right, you have to come at solving these problems from a data and performance perspective. This is not a creative problem that you’re trying to solve right? Right. And so I see so many campaigns that, and I don’t know Roy if you could speak to this, but you know I see so many campaigns that are the most beautiful campaigns in the world, right, but maybe they’re watered down, maybe there’s not a clear call to action, maybe there’s some of these really beautiful campaigns that will get beaten every single time by just one or two key things being done well. Picking the right audience for example or having a clear call to action. And then you’re messaging and making sure that you’re very clearly communicating a value proposition on the landing page, that sort of thing.


Yeah my background started in direct response and I remember early on in my career going out and I’d put together a campaign and you go out to the mail house and see multiple, like five million pieces of mailing sitting in the warehouse, just as far as the eye can see. And it just set in stone kind of like, this is real right? And so we would all, I mean our DNA was always like, never did anything without testing. You were always running multiple tests and all kinds of different segmentation and really the only difference was it took months to get your results as compared to minutes. But really everything was similar and we always started with the data first that always drove it, and then the creative and things were in some respects for a second because if you were going to the wrong people it didn’t matter. I think we’re showing them the wrong thing. Yeah right. I think the instant gratification is both a blessing and a curse right. So the instant gratification being, you get the instant data that you can use and iterate very very quickly for your next series of tests. The flip side of that is it’s just so easy to fire and forget, and you don’t put in the work up front on the strategy side of things to be able to make sure you get the most campaign effectiveness you can.


That’s right, that’s right. Alright well let’s go on to the next, I think we could talk about that for like another twenty minutes. I think we could maybe get some good questions on it too. But now we look at the next section and this talked about the tactics that people are using so it’s kind of like what this one’s all about the audience, but audience targeting, keyword targeting, geo-targeting, we’re all ranked pretty high and again, I’ll throw it out to you guys to see what jumped out at you and what you were surprised or maybe not surprised at. I’m actually surprised that geo-targeting isn’t a little bit, well a little bit more, but at the same time, given that you ran the survey when you did, maybe it doesn’t right? So event marketing is having a hard time, and that’s where a lot of geo-targeting was being done, ABM campaigns that were targeting certain areas, certain companies, it would be probably backed off of because everybody’s working from home. Yeah the geo-targeting is interesting to me, yeah, I’m always surprised that retargeting isn’t second on this list or even first. All display advertising, programmatic or otherwise, is kind of like mining most of the material extracted and available is rock, worthless rocks. And the trick to making display work ever is coming up with some sort of system that helps you separate the gold from the rocks. And for me, the first and easiest pass at that is well, people who have already been to my site and then you start branching out to other types of extraction methods for getting the value out of those worthless rocks.


And so retargeting, it might not make up a huge portion because it’s dependent on an already small selected list or audience, but it is the surest bet out of the list in my, from my experience, but I agree with you on geo-targeting. Although with it for the direct-to-consumer and B2C space, the reason that geo-targeting was so fascinating in the past few months was because of the very heterogenous response to the outbreak at a state-by-state level. So when we saw spikes in interest or huge dives and interest from different states based on how those states were responding how heavily those states were hit. And so out of the gates, New York and New Jersey practically imploded two weeks later, they’re up to 100% year-over-year as those behavior shifts slosh back and forth within the audience. And so we, I mean if we weren’t watching the geo-targeting, we would have been 30% less efficient on our ad spend management, and this is including search as well as display. But the fact is that anytime you have a bunch of people’s behavior changing and that behavior change is dependent on where they are. Geo-targeting is a no-brainer there.


I’m actually surprised keyword targeting is still as big a thing as it is, that’s probably my search bias coming back in just because search marketers have spent a decade longer obsessing over keywords than they should have been. And so display still has a little bit of that, but I think it’s in lieu of more sort of machine learning driven semantic analysis kind of stuff. I think in the future we’re going to see less and less of that keyword targeting focus as people are able to trust a little bit more, you know I want to hit these, even sentiments you could say that this segment of real estate slants toward a more positive message, this one slants toward a more analytical message. This one’s more sort of pop, but I think until that becomes more mature and I think we’re just, maybe in the past few years starting to see that, not just be awful, I think that’ll help. But for now we have a certain number of segments that we can look at and anytime we see a significant deviation between two segments in terms of their relative return on investment, that’s where we’re interested. Yeah. Because the whole job, both of the automation that’s built into whatever platform you’re using and your job as the person running the platform, is to allocate your investment proportional to your anticipated return full stop. And so that’s why all the different types of segmentation where you can use that segmentation to control your strategy or spend are interesting to me, but they don’t always matter in the same sense. Like if, hour of day might not be a dimension that matters for your type of shoppers, but they’re the next site over on the other hand that’s their biggest indicator. And so I see a little bit of that in the fact that the, after audience targeting these are fairly even, it’s because every business is different, every audience is different. And so that’s why I don’t, even though I’m a very sort of tech centered person being an engineer before I was ever a marketer, I am skeptical that the kind of audience modeling and behavior modeling that we see a lot in pitch decks and things like that are going to do as well as just following your segmentation and your performance data as least for the foreseeable future obviously that changes with every new generation of tech.


But I am, I encourage geo-targeting in here, but I agree that I’m surprised that it’s third and not a little bit higher or bigger in the percentage. Eric do you have anything before we move onto the next slide? No I think that’s it. Cool. Let’s look here now at metrics. In some respects if you can’t measure it, did it really happen? Probably not. And you I think..or the wrong thing happened and you didn’t even know it. Right exactly. And I actually, marketers and I think, Roy you had said this earlier as far as following the data. And you know, I think marketers are getting much more and more in tune with the data and the metrics and using that to help make better decisions. But obviously return on investment, return on ad spend, number one, number two, so that must make you feel a little bit better right? I know that well, you’d say that, but the metric that I use the most just for evaluating any display effort isn’t even in the list. So depending on what, so in my context what’s that.. the COS… oh cost of sale, is that’s just the reciprocal of ROAS. So I treat those as identical.. no no for display I use revenue 3,000 impressions, and that’s because click-through rate is important and conversion rate which I think our vernaculars are a little bit different, that might be what CTC means in your world, but the combination of click-through rate and conversion rate is what leads from your impression to your conversion, and those are the two coefficients on the way.


But if you try and optimize for one of them, you could be messing with the other one and they don’t correlate and they don’t anti-correlate consistently either. For example, imagine an ad that said, click here for a free iPad and if that didn’t sound spammy, which obviously it does but bear with me, then it would have a high click-through rate. But if the landing page didn’t, then follow that banner produced would have a low conversion rate. So if you’re optimizing for click-through rate, that flowery attract slick attractive ad is going to look like it’s doing well. Meanwhile if you’re optimizing for conversion rate you might go after the one that scares away most of the audience except for the ones that are really dedicated to purchasing that thing. And so optimizing for either conversion rate or click-through rate alone, can potentially lead you to the wrong conclusions. And so what I do is I link those two together and I say okay, I need to get revenue at this end and I have impressions at this end, and so sort of stealing that idea, that CPM is what you’re paying for it. Well what are you getting back for that CPM and our RTLA for that is RPM – revenue per thousand impressions. And that way you can optimize for the best of both worlds between the click-through rate, and the conversion rate, I’m not sure I understand the difference between ROI and ROAS in this context either so, if the survey respondents had a similar sort of ambiguous interpretation of those that might have stacked that bar even farther. If of these options the proportionality of investment to return is definitely where I would hope to see the most attention. And in some flavor or another that definitely seems to be the case.


Yeah yeah I would agree with that. Yeah interesting. So your definition is revenue per thousand impressions. Yeah because, so from my perspective I’m always thinking in terms of the cost per click. Yeah yeah but that itself is post CTR. And so I can’t use, I can’t just say I want as many impressions as I can get for this cost per click because it leads you down the wrong path, but it, at that point that’s obviously for the click-through based attribution if you’re looking at view through things you can still do the same kind of thing because the impressions are still the input. And so even if you’re using a hold back analysis or geosplit or something like that to do some sort of incremental uplift analysis on your view-throughs. You can still feed that back into the same calculation for determining your return on ad spend and that can help then influence your bidding decisions or the settings that you’re putting into your platforms in terms of your level of aggression on your bids. And so it’s always useful to remember all of these marketing platforms are, you insert money here and you expect to get more money out here and that is the black box system and for this, if you have to break it down to a single metric like that. That’s how I end up with that revenue per thousand impressions number but it’s not the only way to view it, but it is the most complete way that I’ve found that is still easy to work with. I think it’s interesting from that viewpoint.


So I’ve always looked at the combo of a CTR and a conversion. But I like the metric which the reason I was sort of like underscoring that is because I think we probably should take some notes away from this and maybe build that into PA right? I mean it could be another, I have some notes for next research. Yeah yeah yeah so we take that and we build that in as a metric for SharpSpring Ads and show that on the dashboard. So yeah that’s fascinating. Yeah I think that’s probably right. i mean we, especially if you’re performance driven right? That’s going to where you’re going to spend all of your time focusing and honing on it, those two values. And it’s true for the B2B side as well. The only difference is that you’re passing through a value is as opposed to a directly measured revenue. So if you’re doing B2B lead gen for example, you’re collecting leads and you say each of these leads is worth $100 and you pass that back into your conversion tracking as if it were literally a hundred dollars then you can still run against that same kind of metric even though it has another coefficient baked into the assumptions.


Yeah now I love it that’s great. Right. Some questions that kind of have to do with what we’ve been talking about on this slide, if you guys are ready to take questions. Okay so Syed has a couple questions, what are the top suggestions you have to use your budget most effectively to reduce CPA while keeping the trust factor in mind? He’s said that trust is a huge factor in his business for driving leads from awareness to conversion. You guys take first crack at that Eric. Since he mentioned leads specifically, so he’s obviously on the B2B side. So how do you, let me see if I understand it correctly, so yeah yeah I’ll just read it again. So what are the top suggestions you have to use your budget most effectively to reduce CPA while keeping the trust factor in mind? What are the ways, that’s a good question. I think if you and this is I’m assuming just standard display, and not video or something else but if we’re just talking about display, the messaging in the ad, in the objective of the ad. Yeah I’m going to sort of take this from a different perspective a lot of times what I see are brand centric sort of ads that’ll drive a click. But then they get to a disconnected landing page alright. And so that landing page is really sort of telling a different story, and in that disconnect you see people fall out and don’t end up converting. And where you’re not reinforcing the value proposition or the value proposition is somehow not in line with why they arrived at your site to begin with. So I think people have a subconscious sort of bias to not seeing congruency between the ad that they see and that they respond to and the brand that they just landed on. And so I’m thinking I’m sort of thinking about it from that perspective. I don’t know, Roy do you have thoughts?


So I mean for me there’s sort of two components to the question. One is sort of optimizing your investment whether that’s at the budget level or the CPA level and the other is the trust factor. I think you made excellent points, especially on the latter. As far as budgeting though goes, you know I think that CPA is one for the direct consumer side, for the retail side. It should never be used and I can address that later if we want to, but for B2B obviously it makes sense here. You’re paying, you’re looking at the total cost divided by the number of outcomes that you wanted, in this case leads. And you’re assuming that those leads are worth the same amount based on how well qualified they are. So, fantastic, you’ve got a hundred dollar lead coming out, but that cost per acquisition should not be an output. It should be an input to your strategy, you should have already determined how much it’s worth for you and then you should be trying to capture as many leads as possible at or below that target. Not, I’m gunna capture, I’m gunna run these ads and then at the end of the month I’m going to see what my CPA is. It has to be part of the math for how you’re allocating your budget at the beginning. You’re using assumptions if you don’t have data, but if this is an ongoing campaign and you’re trying to continue to optimize it, then a lead is a lead is a lead, and a click is a click is a click. So therefore you should really be looking at within your spectrum of campaigns or ad groups or audiences or geographies. You should always be looking for differences in that value per click. And so if you’re passing that value from that VPL, value per lead, back up your funnel then you should come back out with a value per thousand impressions or equivalent.


Like I was saying before, or value per-click at the very least, and as long as you are allocating proportional to that anticipated return then your optimization of your budget is already sort of where it should be. But I encourage, and this isn’t practical for everybody based on how their business manages their P&L and their cash flow, but an ideal circumstance should always be that there’s an efficiency target whether that’s based on a CPA, if you’re doing B2B lead gen or whether it’s based on a ROAS for other contexts, and then the budget should be theoretically unlimited. If it’s not then you should come back and look at well, why if it’s worth $100 for this lead, and I can get another one for a hundred dollars tomorrow, why wouldn’t I want that one if I wanted the first one. And until you start to hit saturation, if you can’t take another phone call, that’s a great problem to have. But we’re assuming that you haven’t hit saturation, then it should be a matter of trimming costs where you’re not meeting your efficiency target and investing more heavily anywhere that you’re under that efficiency target because that’s the market share that you’re not necessarily capturing. And so some people, who if you’re focusing on CPA and you’re saying okay well I spent $50 to capture these leads each, and then the next month you return a $30 CPA, that sounds great because you cut your CPA costs, but if your volume didn’t stay where it was or go up, then you’re giving up that volume. And so twas that $30 the right number the whole time? In which case the previous month you over spent, or is it that you didn’t go after the full market share opportunity, that value per lead allocation could have granted you. And so I always think about budgeting kind of like walking on a water bed you know, it’s there definitely sloshing, going on, but if the goal is to try and hit the same CPA, then you need to lie down and spread your weight out.


And I once again use value per thousand impressions as my way of finding that balance. Yeah great. Alright so this next question might be something more for Eric, but Chad and Roy as always feel free to chime in at any point, so when driving sales, how can email marketing work along with search advertising?


Yeah that’s a good question, is this from the same person or is this a new person? This is from Syed as well.Oh okay yeah, so yeah that’s a great question. So email marketing, I’ve said this before on a few different occasions, and when I talk to people I very much look at email is as being a part of, and I’m actually talking through the lens of search and through the lens of retargeting with SharpSpring Ads. But the way I look very much at an ad as a way to be able to amplify an email marketing campaign right, and I’ve sort of said this before too, where I kind of look at email where they support each other. And so, and I’m thinking about like an abandoned cart campaign, and I’ll talk in Roy’s, from the e-commerce perspective for a second, but that’s if you’ve got somebody who’s coming in as a shopped, who has for whatever reason abandoned and moved on, you’re going to want, one of the best tactics you could possibly employ is capturing that email at that point and then sending them a recovery email. You can do the exact same things with retargeting right? So you could have at the shopping cart level, you can create a segment of the people that hit your shopping cart or hit your product that didn’t ever convert. And that coming in and serving them ads that are going to bring them back, which is a very tried and true email marketing tactic as well. But not one that I see a lot of people doing within retargeting or within display. I think there should be more of that being done to be honest. I see the data every day for the people that are doing it, and it’s pretty impressive. Yeah. So speaking more at a sort of into the weeds kind of answer, just with the actual implementation on since you called out search on Google ads, there are a couple of ways that you can directly use email lists, you can import them into your ads platform as audiences and Google will do their best to match those up. And we’ve seen between sixty and seventy per cent match rates. So if you’re importing a list of 100,000 people, that is a good sized chunk. In B2B it’s a little trickier because your lists are smaller. But the same ends up being true. So if you import your list, say you have one list that’s, here’s my entire audience of my entire email list of opted in or otherwise, then you could also say okay here’s everyone who’s actually converted that are, regardless of whether they remember that.


So you can take advantage of some of the segmentation that you’ve already done in your email platform, import those lists from your email platform into Google and then you have a couple of interesting toys that you can use to take advantage of that. First you can do retargeting, just directly retarget, you set up a campaign that is only shown to people that are in that list. And you could do something that’s fairly, literally kind of what Eric was describing but from the search side, but while that’s useful and while I certainly recommend doing that at least with the dynamic display remarketing for e-com. The other thing that is exciting is that you can use it for audience bid adjustments and what that means is that, say you’re running a campaign and you’re not doing any audience targeting, you’re still showing it to everybody, Google will still keep track of the performance of the members of that audience as a segment of the overall campaign behavior. And if your value per click out of that segment is twice as high as the average for the campaign, then it wouldn’t make sense to spend twice as much for that click. And so that’s what the audience bid adjustment does. It’s a little co-efficient that you can say plus 100% or plus 20% or whatever it is. And to that end, you’re able to shape your bids proportional to your anticipated value per click. And that’s once again, that’s the entire game in my world is finding those segments and making sure that the tapestry of segments overlaps in such a way that we’re always as proportional as we can be at the end of the month. if we’re going to be successful then we’re going to be pretty to our ROAS target. it’s the volume that fluctuates under that kind of paradigm. And so we definitely see those audiences playing into that, but there are fun patterns even in that. For example, Google as similar to audiences, lookalike audiences, built into their audience management. And so you’re selling dog food, you can find a segment for dog lovers. That sounds like oh fantastic, I should just boost that by 30% out of the gates right? Well no, people are already searching for dog food or otherwise they wouldn’t have seen your ad to begin with. So they’re already in the correct segment. And then the people who are in the dog lover segment might be higher performing. But a lot of the time we’re seeing Google’s lookalike audiences performing worse than the overall campaign average.


But whether or not we can figure out semantically and psychologically why that would be, which I don’t have fantastic hypotheses, but the data is clear in these cases. If you have 10,000 clicks you have large statistically significant samples and the VPC is lower, we will bid lower on that audience as a result. And so the combination of the email program lists, which are probably the highest value and these other audiences, and you can do, sort of mix and match combinations of them sort of like if you can imagine a Venn diagram of your different lists to create combo audiences, you can do these interesting things with the actual bids going into the auction for those impressions. And that’s where you can have the biggest impact on efficiency for the least work. When it comes to the overlap of email and PPC, I’d say that there’s something that we’re doing that’s pretty interesting with Sharpspring, which is a marketing automation platform, we have a dynamic list that’s being generated in marketing and in the platform, they push those emails to us within perfect audience we adjust them, we turn those into audiences that we can then go and retarget against, and then we do that dynamically, such that if you have a burn pixel that’s set, and they’ve already converted, you pull them back out of the list and you can keep those pretty much done in real time. So I think any type of, the way that I sort of look at, and I’m just specifically with retargeting anyway, or your email list, one will complement the other, and one makes the other one better, if you do it in the right way for sure. Yeah, when you’re thinking about that, just be sure to keep an eye on some kind of multi-touch attribution for those, because if you’re doing retargeting with display through Google ads or Criteo or any ad role etc. etc, those retargeting impressions are necessarily lower in the funnel, and so they will gobble up last click participation like crazy. And so you can quickly discover that by jumping into the multi-touch reports within Google analytics and just do a model comparison between last touch and like a time decay or something that’s a little bit more clever than last click, and for things like Criteo and Google display remarketing, you’ll see that the time decay would punish the perceived revenue of the remarketing channels by typically around 50%.


Because that traffic came from somewhere already, and I think while it’s always important to close the deal that last click is still very important, just be sure that you’re aware of the overlap because that’s where cannibalization comes from is unmanaged overlap. Once you have it managed you can then say okay, well if Criteo says it, a million dollar revenue, I know Google analytics is only going to credit with 50 cents, then I can take my roads goal for criteo and just double it to say okay well I want that to be twice as efficient than I thought based on the direct tracker in Criteo. So remember every, when you start having multiple channels participating in the same funnel, each of those channels only sees their success and they can’t see other channels, and so you do, it’s a good strategy but it is one that you just want to make sure that you’re watching that overlap.


Yeah yeah that’s right. I mean I think yeah any type of attribution model that’s been created, you’ve got to be able to take that and then see that over the life of the lead right, or the lift of the sales, that’s right correct. Yep, yeah yeah. And we have a lot of fun whenever we come back after doing an attribution analysis for a client or prospect we say we think you’re spending too much on paid search because nobody expects that from a paid search agency. But it’s that same proportionality, if you’re expecting the return to be higher over there, move the money over there. Yeah yeah. So we can do one more question before we move on. This is from Victor and he’s asking how prevalent is fraud or robo impressions these days in display advertising or in display placements? He’s specifically talking about the display advertising network. yeah I, so we keep pretty close data on this both internally within PA, but then also with other industry sources as well. So we’re, it’s the good news is, it’s less than it used to be in terms of the checks and balances that are in place today, but it’s still happening. We’re seeing lots of budgets that get affected by that over long periods of time. So you see that I think they were not too long ago, and Roy maybe you can remind me of who this is, but there was a study not too long ago that was just put out in the month of May, early May it came out that said, it was around 25% of the dollars that were put into the top of the funnel, actually made it to the publisher right? And so there’s this big question of what happened to the middle right?


And then that’s a lot, that is going to be the breakage due to things like bots and that sort of thing, so obviously I mean some of that is what pays for the technology that drives the platforms too. That’s exactly right. Yeah that’s exactly right. So yeah the, it’s always going to be a part of it like minimizing fraud is definitely a worthwhile effort, but to some degree I wouldn’t wring your hands over it and really lose sleep over it too much, because effectively what we’re doing is we’re buying sausage, there’s gristle in that, we know it’s not all prime steak, and so as long as you’re bidding proportional to that anticipated return, then you can’t go too far wrong overall. Now, you can be more efficient if you can expel some of that gristle early on, but it’s a numbers game, it’s like weeding a garden. You’re never going to get rid of all the weeds, you just want it so that the plants that you actually want to grow have an advantage. And so the same is true here. You can even do things with geography. Maybe you want to have a global campaign, but you see that clicks coming out of certain regions are worthless. Well, whether that’s because those are being inundated with irrelevant or invalid clicks or whether those people are just not producing your intended outcome purchases, leads, etc. It doesn’t really matter when it comes to the actual bidding. And so take whatever precautions are available to you based on your platform. In Google ads for example, in their retargeting mobile apps are a hundred percent accidental clicks. I just don’t care about mobile apps and they click, and Google makes it harder and harder all the time to find and exclude those, they don’t want to stop selling you gristle at full price.


And so you’re always going to be dealing with this variable quality of those impressions and clicks, and so just if you find a strong vein, going back to my mining analogy stay there and sure the rest of it is varying degrees of quality, but if you’re putting most of your effort where you see the strength, then you don’t have to be quite as anxious about the relatively low value alternative segments, but yeah. Just watch out for mobile, it’s a huge audience. You can’t ignore it because of the size of the opportunity as well as desktop for most sites, most. There are a few amazing exceptions out there. But yeah I think that if you’ve, if you’re just starting out, and you’re really really nervous and you really need to control your budget, I would just stick with laptops out of the gates entirely, and then start to mix in that large mobile opportunity as your ability to sort of keep your hands on around all of that data increase.


So, but I mean that’s just an extremely cautious approach to what’s effectively still chasing that value per click that I’ve been beating on the whole time. Yeah I know, that was great. Since we’re almost out of time here, I’m just gunna go ahead and have us move on to the last couple slides that we have here. I’m going to turn it over to Eric to talk about this match, offer that, we’re offering, sure yeah, you have to, so yeah the premise behind this really started at the early onset of Covid, we sort of got ourselves together in a room and said, how can we help? Because there was this sort of dichotomy that was going on. We were getting ready to do a webinar, I don’t know there’s Third Door Media somebody that we were getting in front of a fairly decent sized audience of paid search experts and we were, and there was a slide in that deck that talked about how we want you to test and we want you to experiment, and we want you to do all of these things, and yet all the stuff that was going on in the macro scale of Covid and other things was happening. So what we did is we created a million dollar, set aside a million dollars specifically on ad spend to be able to match up to five thousand dollars for anybody that wanted to come in and join. And basically what that means is, let’s say we’re in the month of June today, we’ve got somebody, an advertiser that comes along and says I love what this idea of testing the strategies you guys laid out and there’s like all these great things that I really want to do, but I don’t have the budget or I haven’t quite been able to carve it out. So what we’re trying to do is make that a little bit more palatable, a little bit easier for you. And so we created this match program. So if you spend five thousand dollars in June, we’ll match it dollar for dollar in July. Basically your money goes twice as far or it costs you half as much. However you want to look at it, you want to sort of sell that to your CFO. But that’s the premise behind it. So if you could just, yeah if you’re interested, you feel free to check us out at and we’d be happy to talk you through what the program looks like.


Yeah just drop them in our chat box here so, if I’ll go ahead and send this to everybody on the webinar today so you can just go ahead and click right from here if you’re interested in that, and then we have one more slide that we want to share with you guys. So this is something that we are going to be doing in two weeks from now, next Thursday June 18th, we’ll be having another webinar. But this one will be a little different, it’s going to be a live op, so we’ll be taking real ads and real landing pages and optimizing them live with our expert panel. So if you have some ads or landing pages that you’d like to optimize live, if you’d kind of volunteer your creative for us then you can email those to and we’ll include that in our deck. And of course if you have questions along with it or stipulations about sharing your stuff, just send over your questions and we’ll, we can talk to you about those. We have such a great turnout when we do one of these things. The last one we did we had Jimmy Ellis on with us who was just, he’s sort of a force in and of himself, and he was going through the individual creatives, what was working, what wasn’t working, how to suggest improvements, and then backing that all up with some data and data points along the way. Super popular when we do these things, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue to do them. Well it’s super helpful, it’s a lot of under Jimmy and the others when that webinar provided a lot of great value, yeah absolutely.


I’m going to go ahead and drop our link for our webinar registration here as well. So if you don’t want to forget and you want to just go ahead and sign up for that right now, you can click on this and that’ll take you straight there. And I know we had some questions that we weren’t able to get to today, so we’ll be covering some more of those on Monday when we do a follow-up question and answer session. And that’ll be up on our blog with the recording from today as well as emailed out with this recording. Great. So thanks everybody for being here. Thank you Roy, thank you Todd. As always thanks Eric, and we’ll see you guys in two weeks. Thanks everybody, thank you.

Kathleen Davis

Kathleen Davis

Digital Marketing Coordinator - Perfect Audience: Kathleen is an enthusiastic marketer experienced in marketing automation, campaign management, and digital analytics. She's previously worked on direct mail campaigns, spear-headed lead generation efforts, and managed a team of interns at SharpSpring.
Post categories: Webinars
Post tagged with: A.I., Eric Stockton, Todd Lebo, Webinars

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