Case study: Bauer Media - how we increased subscriptions via Paid Media by 42%

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Case study: Bauer Media - how we increased subscriptions via Paid Media by 42%

Afternoon everyone. I’m going to tell you how we revolutionised Bauer Media’s PPC campaign and got a 42% uplift in subscriptions.

Firstly, we were given a brief and that was to improve and beat the previous year’s subscription performance without compromising the CPA. Now, that seems pretty reasonable and relatively straightforward, but let me give you a bit of context and set the scene a little bit behind this.

Industry trends show a decline in magazine subscriptions each year. We’re talking at 20-50% drop – depending on the title – each year, so we haven’t even started yet and we’re already running up hill.

Secondly, customers don’t intend to buy on a first time click, so shopping around, researching, comparing, all of these things mean our users are much less likely to convert the first time they visit the site.

Apart from these two key considerations, we have the following to contend with. So, we have offers and messaging change frequently. We often have a new magazine launch or magazines being pulled. Bauer Media are publishers, content’s what they do. This is a really, really dynamic market and all that means is that we need to be dynamic too, and alongside all this we have our budget and CPA targets to stick to too.

Our approach. We needed to keep things really, really simple and really, really easy and we needed to understand exactly what the account needed and not make the mistake of building out different campaign types for the sake of building them out. For example, call only ads would be really useless here. We don’t want people to call, we want people to purchase online, so we needed a really structurally sound and simple search campaign approach, and this is what we came up with.

We have our magazine campaigns right at the beginning, these are for people who know exactly what they want. They’re going to search something “Grazia Magazine subscription”, and bear in mind most of our last click sales come from here, because these people know exactly what they want so they’re physically searching for the product.

Secondly, we have our category campaigns. These are a little bit more generic, so these are for people who don’t know exactly the title but they’re going to search something like “women’s magazine subscription”.

We then have our really, really generic campaigns and these are for people who have no idea what they want, but they’re going to search something like “magazine subscription”.

Alongside this we have our dynamic campaigns, and these are a secret weapon for low search volume keywords that we would never normally be able to bid on, and they also help us sweep up those really obscure terms and really, really generic terms also helping us identify new keyword opportunities.

What’s really great about this structure is that we can easily move budget up and down depending on how well we’re performing. If we’re having a really, really great week, we can push all of our budget right down to the generic end and try to get some sales from there. If we’re having a bad week, vice versa, we can pull all the way back up and what this means is our magazine campaigns are never, ever limited by budget, where our most important sales come from.

I mentioned some of these things that we needed to consider earlier, and what this campaign structure allows us to do is change our campaigns quickly, upload new magazines and, just like I mentioned, control our budget and CPA. What this doesn’t account for is people that are still in the researching phase, or just don’t know exactly what they want to buy, which leads me quite nicely onto audiences, which are key in any marketing activity we do. They’re particularly relevant when products require commitment, like Bauer Media, and, of course, similarly with products of a high value.

We were able to utilise the following audiences, as we had them built in GA. So people who had added to their basket and obviously started the checkout process, however we’d only been working on the account for about seven months, so we actually didn’t have the following to use. And these are people who had purchased on Black Friday weekend last year, and obviously purchased gifts. We knew that these people would play a vital part in this peak season, and we know they’re really valuable customers. How do we target these users when we don’t physically have the audience? We use Google Customer Match. So we were able to work with Bauer closely to segment and build the audience list that we were actually missing, and we also found another opportunity to target users whose subscriptions were actually coming to an end, which was pretty cool.

Alongside this we were able to overlay demographics for search ads. They’re not as granular in search as they are in programmatic, but it allowed us to get some really useful information about our customers. For example, the majority of Empire subscribers are males, between the ages of 35 to 54, and actually the majority of female subscribers are usually subscribing as a gift.

So, we made our RLSA campaigns, and for those of you who don’t know what RLSA stands for, it’s remarketing lists for search ads, and put simply, we take an audience that we’ve built, we apply it to a standard search campaign and we can change our messaging and our bids to suit their intent to purchase.

Following the exact same structure, we have our magazine campaigns, with our audience overlayed, we then have our category campaigns with our audiences overlayed, and again our really, really generic campaigns, with our audiences overlayed. The overarching strategy, if I just zoom out and give you a top level view of what we’ve just looked at, and you can see how it all comes together. We have our standard search campaigns at the top. I mentioned these right at the beginning, so these are magazine, category, generic and dynamic campaigns, and what these do is help obviously drive last click sales, but they’re also helping in assisted conversions and also driving traffic to that all-important landing page, where in turn we are generating audiences.

What we can then do is segment these audiences and choose our bid adjustments based on how likely they are to purchase, and this is when our RLSA campaigns come in. We can apply our audiences to these search campaigns and get these people when they search again. All helping to contribute to sales.

Search campaigns, really, really nicely done. Working in sync. The next stage was to create shopping campaigns. Now, for any e-commerce client, these are a really vital part of the paid search strategy. We see a lot of our conversions come from the shopping campaigns and more often than not, we see this at a much lower CPA. We created our shopping campaigns based on a feed that we’d built using XPath, which meant that our feed automatically updated whenever Bauer’s site updated, which of course is really useful for things like the magazine covers and the price points. Built out in the exact same way, we split down by category, we then split down further by item ID, so we were able to bid on the project individually. What this means is, we can push budget when something’s performing really well, and obviously pull back on the products that aren’t performing so well. Again, we have a shopping campaign with our audience overlayed.

Where do these fit in? Same structure, completely the same way they work, so we’ve got our standard shopping campaign right at the top and obviously our shopping campaign with the audience overlayed at the bottom. With a much lower CPA down at the bottom, we can afford to run at a slightly higher CPA at the top, and all of this helps generate sales at a really efficient way.

We’ve nailed ad words, so it seems like the most appropriate time to expand further – we then migrated onto Bing and Yahoo, and accumulated, these guys have 27% of the UK market share. So, I told you about that drop before – 20-50% per title every single year – and this is a no brainer really to help bridge that gap. It obviously seemed logical to move onto these platforms as well, because it’s a really simple replication process. We can do exactly the same things in these platforms as we do in ad words, so bid and budget management, our targeting can be the same; audiences, copy and creative. You can now use expended text ads in Bing, and obviously conversion tracking via analytics.

Let me take you one step back and you can see how these fit in now. We’ve got our standard campaigns right at the top, and obviously our campaigns with the audiences overlayed at the bottom, and all of this helping, of course, to generate sales. Search is pretty much covered from all angles, but is search really enough to claw back some of that deficit that we saw earlier? We can’t be certain, so we weren’t risking it, so we moved straight on to Facebook and Instagram.

What I love most about Facebook is people are actually doing nothing while they’re on it! So they’re literally waiting for me to serve them a bit of content or an ad so that they can do something, and that’s exactly what we did. We utilised the customer match email lists and we then put these into Facebook and generated look-a-like audiences based on these lists. We then teamed them with an offer campaign, so users who saw the ad were able to claim an offer which they were able to use against the price of their subscription.

In terms of prospecting, it was a massive success. We had over 3,000 offers claimed on the Black Friday weekend alone, so just to kind of put it into perspective as well, these are people that had never even heard of Bauer before. We’ve got in front of a look-a-like audience, this is a completely new field, which is really, really excellent.

How did we do? Well I already told you that we got a 42% increase in subscriptions year on year, but what I didn’t tell you was that we beat Bauer’s previous record day by 40% – so we’re talking when Empire and Grazia are in their hay day, we beat that day by 40%! And we didn’t just do it once, we did it an additional ten times in the days to follow, and in this declining market, when we’re pushing this account so hard, you would expect our CPA to increase. However, due to the campaign structure that we put in place, and the diverse range of platforms that we used, we managed to decrease CPA by 36%. In turn, we had one really, really happy client.