Here are the Things I Learned in 2021

About Google Ads

Algorithmic bidding, part 1 - the Before Times

Everyone who’s been doing Google Ads can tell you (even one of the reps I worked with told me this) that Google Ads’ algorithmic (smart) bidding was garbage when it first came out. It was orders of magnitude worse than manual bidding.
All the smart bidding did was spend money without generating any tangible results.
It was so bad that Google had to (still does) employ “Google Ads specialists” to sell people the idea of using Smart Bidding.

However, as time went by, there was a noticeable shift in performance.
I would even hazard to say that for the vast majority of new advertisers out there, using max clicks is a great way to start advertising on Google Ads.

You can think of it as getting early traction and collecting the requisite data in order to start using the other, more powerful, bidding strategies.

Algorithmic bidding, part 2 - Conversion Tracking

As alluded to above, there is a bit of a hierarchy of how effective each of the Smart Bidding strategy is (1 – being best):

  1. Target return on ad spend (tROAS)
  2. Max conversion value (tied with target cost per action; tCPA)
  3. Max conversions
  4. Max clicks
  5. Target impression share

The top three bidding strategies heavily relies on accurate conversion tracking.

There are some other nuances such as the requirement of hitting at least 5 conversions in the previous 30 days. Your campaigns should ideally be funded enough for the algorithm to work properly. That is to say, your daily budget should be 10x your CPA. (Also, max conversion, tCPA, or tROAS are very susceptible to changes in budget so try not to “starve” the algorithm.)

There are several hacks you can do to coax the algorithm to serve the ads more frequently. But in the end, it all comes down to setting up Google Analytics, conversion tracking, and Google Ads properly.

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Algorithmic bidding, part 3 - Diagnosing What's Broken

The above is a screenshot of a client’s campaign that I took over in July of 2021.

They had a very strong campaign in June. As I got ramped up by mid July, it was apparent that the performance wasn’t trending in the right direction. As per usual, the first thing I connected with the team on was conversions, but the development team confirmed that the conversions were the correct ones that we’re supposed to be tracking. And for about a week and a half, I couldn’t get the campaigns to spend the budget for the life of me.

Thankfully by the week of Jul 25th, I was able to get the campaigns to spend but surprisingly there were no conversions coming in.

It took another few weeks for me to diagnose what was broken: the variable that was being tracked was changed on the backend. So while the conversion was labeled correctly on the front end, the variable was changed and the platform wasn’t actually tracking the conversion.

As you can see, once we fixed the conversion tracking issue, it was almost an immediate hockey stick growth in conversions.

When trying to go fast, you can save a lot more time and effort by going slow and challenging all the existing assumptions.

Dropshipping is Dead

Well, some may argue that it died a long time ago but I’m not particularly talking about the business itself. I’m more specifically talking about the tactic of just focusing on the conversion.

Typically, dropshipping works because people take a product, create an online shop for it and drive traffic to the online shop using ads and grow the business by focusing on generating as many conversions as possible. They often forego the other parts of the customer decision journey such as brand awareness and consideration, and post purchase.

Lots of people have built a strong business using this tactic and many still can succeed. But the average consumer has gotten so much smarter than before. They understand how search engines work, they understand how ads; it’s more difficult now to get them to click and buy impulsively because of one ad.

As more people are becoming more sophisticated, the tactics and strategies should also evolve and become more sophisticated.
You need to target other parts of the customer decision journey and build an actual business by creating a brand, establishing trust and providing a great post purchase experience.

About Building a Community

Community as a Form of Product Validation

Building a community is a great way to kick start your entrepreneurial journey. I met so many people through Twitter and these interactions became friendships and some even trusts me to do the marketing and advertising for their businesses either through SwiftAds or through my consulting business.

I’m really lucky and fortunate in that my community and audience on Twitter happens to also be my target audience for my product and services.

While not everyone can be as lucky as me, but you should definitely start your business by building a tribe around you that is specifically your target audience. I’d even say you should do this before you code even one line of your product.

Going out to amass a following of your target audience for your business can fast-track your product development and help you avoid the pitfalls of many first-time founders. Chief among them is building something no one wants or no one is willing to pay for.

Consistency

It’s so cliche but consistency is probably the biggest predictor of success when building a community. Heck, you probably need to persist and do something repeatedly to be successful in anything (even building a business).

I found the greatest growth came from consistently interacting with people in my community.
Consistently providing value in the form of learnings, insights, and humour/entertainment.

There were times where I had to take a few days off and I hadn’t scheduled any tweets and it was almost immediate in terms of losing engagement and seeing a drop in impressions served.

Here’s a protip in a few things I noticed that gets you to increased engagement and higher follower count:

  • Tweeting consistently; so use a scheduling tool if you don’t already
    Asynchronous communication on Twitter really helps you manage your time well
  • Figure out when you get the most engagement and use those times to interact with people live (i.e. don’t just rely on scheduled tweets)
  • Direct messaging people helps you surface your tweets to them
  • Joining and actively participating (and providing value) in Twitter Spaces can really boost your followership
Photo by STIL on Unsplash