Apply Samurai Honor Code to Search Strategy Update

Gavin Dickinson.

Hagakure was an old code to guide samurai, but it’s also being applied to a research shift that means greater simplicity and better results, says Gavin Dickinson, associate director of Neo.

Paid search commentators have long speculated when changes will be made to the management of commercial links. The shift from optimizing granular keyword lists and a gargantuan account structure to a simple account structure underpinned by the right signals and automation is the new normal. In terms of the product update roadmap, this has been gradual since rebuilding the Dynamic Search Network (DSA) ad six years ago.

Hagakure (葉 隠 れ) is the term used in the industry to describe the new approach to account structures and associated management. Hagakure has its origin in the Japanese tradition which roughly translates to “hidden by the leaves”. This is the title of a play that samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote in the 18th century. There he explained to his apprentices the bushido or “warrior’s path”, the code of honor by which the samurai were to be guided.

By transferring this to paid search management, it indicates a mindset that results are maximized and growth achieved through machine learning algorithms, for example, smart bidding strategies and DSA. This is important for marketers because there is no longer a reason to miss an opportunity due to the lag created by human intervention, rather these changes are made in real time.


“If by straightening his heart morning and evening, we are able to live as if his body were already dead, he acquires freedom in the Way.

This is a quote from the book, Hagakure. By applying that to paid search, having put in the correct data signals over the years, teaching algorithms what a result is, they have now gained freedom.

The role of the keyword in paid search has changed – keywords are no longer aimed at qualifying relevance to a user, but rather a sequence to reach a large-scale audience. Google has extended the definition of close variants to include semantic variations, and with other changes such as Broad Match Modify being deprecated in favor of Phrase Match, we are gearing up for the next dawn of research and discovery, in us. pushing environments beyond the results page and on smart speakers.

Paid search accounts that are super granular, using match types to ensure traffic is funneled to campaigns, ad groups, and creatives with the largest budgets and conversions, now limit opportunities for growth .

Rather than trying to ‘optimize’ accounts for a slight increase in click-through rate (CTR) or incremental share of impressions (usually achieved by getting fewer impressions, hence in terms of relevance), the emphasis should be placed on reaching audiences beyond the existing keyword in the account. This makes sense, considering that every day around 15% of search queries are completely new and have never been searched before. This is ideal for marketing teams, who achieve more conversions for your budget (lower CPA) and serve an audience you wouldn’t get with a traditional approach (tap into that ~ 15% unknown searches).

Smart bidding and related goals should now be a staple of all paid search activity. This should be a welcome change from previous best practice frameworks, where accounts could become complex and cumbersome in an effort to extract the last ounce of efficiency. The point here being that the traditional method is now inefficient and gives the correct data signals to trading results and a simplified account structure leads to better trading results.

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Instead of setting up different ad groups for different keywords, for example “sneakers” and “trainers”, set up an ad group for both terms and give the ad Responsive Search (RSA) in that group. announces both text strings. Testing will be done in the background and over time the optimal ad copy will show that it drives business results.

With business results in mind, focus your efforts on the intent and actual result that the Google Ads account is supposed to deliver, rather than a specific keyword. This helps optimize the performance of smart bidding strategies, having the ability to generate a high volume of impressions and clicks. This allows auction strategies to be “trained” faster on signal data to start making better decisions at speed and scale.

Simplified account structures are a great solution for increasing reach, as opposed to generating impressions and clicks through hundreds or even thousands of individual keywords.

Contrary to popular belief, a simplified account structure using smart bidding solves many problems with day-to-day account management – it doesn’t mean that all decisions are made by machines.

Rather, it’s about giving the algorithms improved signals through audience segmentation, changes in business goals, changes in user behavior and demographics. Remember, research is not the end, this data is invaluable in informing marketing intelligence on other channels for a strong media-marketing mix.

The hardest part? Changed the way you now report on Sponsored Links. And that’s another story.

Brandon D. James