Step 1. Identify Your KPIs and Establish Benchmark

If you have run campaigns before with the same objective and KPI, you would have the benchmark. If you do not have any past reports, run the campaign for 3-4 weeks to establish a benchmark. In both cases, give a few weeks a new campaign to run itself and deliver steady performance, before analyzing the current results.

Before starting any optimization, it’s important to run some basic checks to understand what and why something is happening. It’s always worth your time to kick start with basic check before looking at the source of performance/under-performance.

Regardless of the channel and campaign type following two basic checks are recommended:

1. Technical Check 

  • Is there any code issue? Are you tracking properly?
  • If you are running DCO, did you set up the feed and rules correctly? This determines if you are showing the correct personalized ad to the users.

2. Sanity Check

  • Do you have enough budget? Is the daily cap specified on campaign and Ad Group level adequate?
  • Are the targeted KPIs and benchmarks realistic?
  • Does your competitor have bigger marketing budget? Are you experiencing low win ratio with high CPM due to heavy competition?
  • Have you selected the correct automatic optimization metric? Check out this article for automatic and manual bidding options.
  • Are there any external factors (seasonality, promotions, events, etc.) impacting performance?

TIP

Ensure that external factors, e.g. seasonality, are ruled out. This will allow you to determine available options to optimize.

Step 2. Begin Your Optimization

Category Data to Analyze Recommended Actions
Creative

1. Click through rate (CTR%) 

2. Engagement rate (ER%)

3. Conversion rate (CR%)

Creative Variants

  • Up to 4 versions recommended
  • A/B test performing variants

Funnel-tailored messaging

  • Different messaging for Prospecting and Retargeting
  • At least 2 message variants for each strategy

Visual

  • Eye-catchy and inspirational
  • Specify USPs
  • Accompanied with a reasonable CTA, e.g. “Book Now” for conversion driven instead of “Explore Now”

Creative Refresh

  • At least once a month to prevent ad fatigue
Targeting

1. Basic metrics, such as budget spend, impressions, clicks, CTR, CPC, etc.

2. For branding, reach and traffic campaigns, base your analysis on:

  • New user ratio
  • Time spent on site
  • Bounce rate

3. For conversion- and action-driven campaign, base your analysis on:

  • Cost per action
  • Cost per order
  • Conversion rate
  • ROI / ROAS

Channel

  • Budget reallocation among channels

Ad Group

  • Automatic Bidding vs Manual Bidding: It's recommend to start with automatic bidding if you do not have any supported benchmark, let the system set the bid and optimize
  • Budget reallocation among Ad Groups

Inventories/Resources

  • Remove limitations if campaign is underspending
  • Include inventories that are relevant to your targeted geos and verticals

Audiences:

  • Remove limitations if campaign is underspending
  • Include 3rd party audiences that are relevant to your targeted geos and verticals
  • Make sure you have retargeted 1st party audiences for a conversion and action-driven campaign. Audience segmentation is recommended if you have specific goals, e.g. boost xx% sales from loyalty members
  • Determine if demographic filters are needed
  • Determine if geography is correctly selected and if proximity targeting is necessary. Identify emerging markets and change targeting along the way based on conversion trends
  • Determine if you have selected the time zone correctly (advertiser vs user time zone). Is there any filter on time targeting?

Content:

  • Do not recommend whitelisting as it impedes personalised targeting. Remember campaigns should be user-centric
  • Have you set a cap on impressions? Change the number incrementally to identify the impact
  • Did you set the language correctly? If you are serving a Japanese ad to an English-speaking user, the likelihood of winning a click-through and conversion is low
  • Segmentation should be relevant

TIPS

  • More data = more accuracy in results. For instance, if your campaign is only spending USD 10 per day, the impact of any change may not be so obvious or even helpful as on a larger campaign.
  • Make changes incrementally. Drastic changes will make tracking and comparing data very difficult.

Step 3. Monitor Your Campaign

Monitor the campaign and identify if changes in KPIs are in line with your conclusive goal. It’s recommended to not make any further changes in the first 2-3 weeks, before the machine has enough data to adapt to the changes you have made, otherwise you will not be able to determine if the optimization has had the desired outcome.

TIP

If a change leads to something clearly wrong within the first week, e.g. not spending, it’s advisable to perform other necessary adjustments.

Step 4. Evaluate Performance

Compare the performance to your benchmark while analyzing test results to pin-point what’s working.

Has performance improved on weekly basis? Evaluate the data in detail and understand what has caused the changes.

Here is where you can create learnings and insights. Note that it is not uncommon for some metrics to look worse than others, hence it’s important to identify the key objectives/KPIs and assess whether the optimization has achieved the desired results.

Based on the results and analysis, you can decide whether to continue with new settings or tweak some variables incrementally – the circle of the test starts again. It’s important to understand that programmatic is not a magic bullet and optimization is an ongoing process.

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