Since 2006, Columbus, a Merkle company, has prided itself as being a data-driven digital marketing agency that delivers end-to-end brand experiences for its clients. Columbus helps brands bridge the gap between their business and the people they want to connect with.
One of Columbus’ clients is a leading entertainment and telco provider in Australia that consistently deals with significant budgets, a variety of audiences, and a range of complex accounts. Because of consumers’ growing mobile usage, Columbus knew that optimizing its client’s search campaigns to serve ads in the right moments — and on the right devices — would be highly complex and time-consuming.
In the past, Columbus focused on maximizing the brand’s qualified traffic within a target spend and conversions were a secondary goal. Up against Australia’s increasingly competitive telco industry, Columbus switched its strategy to efficiently maximize conversions driven by search with a focus on the telco brand’s top product category: postpaid phone plan campaigns.
To streamline management of its client’s search campaigns, Columbus teamed up with Google and turned to a solution powered by machine learning: Search Ads 360 Smart Bidding.
Tapping the power of machine learning to optimize in real time
Smart Bidding helped Columbus make the most out of its client’s search budget by automatically managing and adjusting bids across all its accounts. Smart Bidding uses machine learning to analyze a campaign’s performance in real time and then determines optimal search bids based on each user’s context. For example, if a user searched for telco-related queries on their smartphone, Search Ads 360 would automatically increase mobile bids on relevant keywords as they’re more likely to lead to a conversion.
To get a better understanding of consumers’ paths to conversion, Columbus analyzed its client’s customer information and discovered three things:
- There was a significant time lag in the majority of online conversions, with many being generated between 12 and 30 days from the first interaction.
- The majority of paths to conversion included multiple touchpoints and interactions on search.
- Mobile activity was key — 50% of clicks and 48% of conversions were on a mobile device.
Based on those insights, Columbus determined that a time-decay and cross-device attribution model could make the most of its client’s digital information over time. That would allow the agency to automatically optimize bids toward its KPI and CPA targets based on each campaign’s real-time performance.
Smart Bidding leads to boosted conversions and lower costs
Between Columbus’ close collaboration with Google and a new strategy fuelled by machine learning, the agency was able to reach new levels of efficiency for its telco client. Columbus drove an impressive 40% decrease in CPA within the first month of adopting Smart Bidding, and a 36% increase in conversion rate (CVR) within the first two months.
Quarter on quarter, Smart Bidding helped Columbus deliver a 28% CPA decrease and drive additional conversions, even with a reduced budget. When that spend was increased, the agency still saw a significant YoY increase in conversions with a 36% decrease in CPA. “Partnering with Search Ads 360 for Smart Bidding allowed us to take our paid search activity to the next level,” said Maud Durieu, business director at Columbus. “Implementing Smart Bidding has been a game-changer for us and we’re excited to see further development in the feature.”
With the understanding that mobile performance would be crucial to its client’s success, Columbus was thrilled to see its CTR and CVR rates improve substantially across all devices.
Smart Bidding also helped Columbus see that its client’s mobile performance improved when the brand appeared higher in users’ search results, and as a result, the agency optimized bids to improve its average position by 25% QoQ — leading to a 39% improvement in CTR and an 11% improvement in CPA. The new bidding strategy also cut the amount of time Columbus spent optimizing campaigns in half, which ultimately inspired the brand to roll out Smart Bidding across all of its search accounts.