Paid Search Planning: Do You Really Know Your Customers & Your Market?

The season is upon us when marketers near and far are thinking about paid search planning, strategy, and implementation for the upcoming year. It’s important to take some time out to plan your strategy for 2008 so you’re not just reactive in your marketing efforts. So, in this article, I’ll review useful tools advertisers can use to put together kick-butt campaigns. As the PPC game gets more competitive, it makes sense to not only have good campaign fundamentals but also thorough understanding your online advertising landscape. In my experience, it’s particularly helpful to understand several areas:

  1. Consumer trends
  2. Customers (or potential customers) needs and motivations
  3. The competitive landscape

As this is a lot of material to cover, I’ll cover #1 and #2 in this article and topic #3 in next month’s column.

Microsoft adCenter labs tools

Here, some of my favorite tools slice and dice query information so advertisers can understand what your customers (or potential customers) are thinking about and gain a better understanding of their “internal dialog” and motivations. As you know, selling becomes a no-brainer if you can match consumer needs to a specific product or service (hopefully yours!). Obviously, companies that spend time trying to understand consumer motivations end up winning at this game. I’ll review a few of my favorite adCenter Labs tools:

Detecting online commercial intention. With this tool, advertisers can gauge a customer’s intention to purchase a product or acquire information. For example, if someone types in “Sony Cyber shot camera,” the tool indicates the probability of a commercial query as 0.80966. Online commercial intention is considered strong above 0.5. With this tool, advertisers can also request commercial intent scores from a specific URL (the tool measures recently visited URLs). With URLs, the tool displays commercial intent at both the informational and transactional levels. For my book, Mastering Panama, the URL scored the following:


Search funnels. This tool allows users to see terms that were searched before or after a particular query. For the term “sofa,” the tool indicated that some of the queries that came after were: furniture, living room furniture, lazyboy, couch, and eBay.


Forecasting search volume seasonality. This tool forecasts seasonality patterns of search queries. It’s useful to get a gauge on when consumers are most tuned in to marketing messages. In the example below, consumer interest in tax forms is mostly for the first few months at the beginning of every year. If you sell tax form software, it may make sense to concentrate advertising at the beginning of the year. Or at least, you know you have to pay much more attention to bid levels and day-to-day fluctuations during these times; not so much at other times. Volume won’t tell you about conversion rates, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for this data (like in your own past records).


Google Trends

Google Trends is a tool that shows the most popularly searched terms from the beginning of 2004 to date. Based on trends, it may make sense to ratchet up bids at particular times of the year. I also like to use this as a “brain warmup” exercise to get a feel for cultural norms and trends. For example, do people tend to look for “auto insurance” or “car insurance”? Do they search for “HDTV” or “high definition television”? Are they searching for BMW 328i? Is the new-to-North-America 128i getting any traction or not much? These volume differences don’t always reveal a great deal, but sometimes they speak volumes. A spike in searches for smaller cars, if it were to be documented, is information that should probably percolate all the way up to the boardrooms of major auto makers… but will it?

For fun, here’s Google Trends for “BMW 328i:”


Happy planning, and may your holidays be filled with health, happiness, and killer marketing plans! Stay tuned for information next month on competitive research.

Mona Elesseily is director of marketing strategy at Page Zero Media, focusing on paid search campaigns and conversion improvement. She’s also the author of Page Zero’s Mastering Panama: A special report on Yahoo!’s new search marketing platform (August 2007). The Paid Search column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column | Search Ads: General | Search Marketing: Search Term Research | SEM Tools


About The Author: was recently voted the 2013 Most influential SEM. She is the Vice President of Online Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media where she focuses on search engine marketing strategy, landing page optimization (LPO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO).

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