Search In Uncertain Times
Successful paid search marketing is an ever-moving target: bid prices and placements are constantly changing, auction rules shift from one day to the next, and your keyword mix is constantly in flux due to seasonality, new promotions, and changing campaign needs. It’s no wonder your search engine marketing ROI also fluctuates with all this confusion. Now, to top it off, today’s roller-coaster economic conditions are adding to the uncertainty: SEM spending may drop off, keyword prices may go up or down, and your paid search program will become even more difficult to manage effectively.
As a professional search marketer, how can you breeze through this instability and embrace it to drive maximum effectiveness from your campaigns, while keeping ROI steady? Believe it or not, it’s possible to craft an effective SEM program during volatile times, if you follow a few simple strategies. The following SEM tips and techniques will eliminate wild fluctuations in your campaign effectiveness and help you get the most out of your pre-determined SEM budget.
Be clear about your goals. Search is very measurable but you need to know what to measure first. Are you selling a product? Trying to generate leads or registrations? Does the conversion event take place on your website, on somebody else’s website, over the phone or in a store? Once you have made a list of your unique situation and specific goals, you can start to put some clear measurement practices in place.
Measure your Results. The goal for most search marketers is to maximize spend on the campaigns with the highest ROI, but first you need to identify those campaigns. To find them, measure campaign results using the metrics of success that define your business, from online conversions and purchases, to completed lead forms. Measuring these results on your own site is easy, since all three major publishers (Google, Yahoo, MSN) have free tools to help with this. Conversions that happen on other sites, or offline, are also trackable, but require that you put apply ID numbers at the ad and keyword level, and then track which IDs converted on the back end.
Change your concept of a “budget.” For many businesses, results from paid search advertising can be measured almost immediately in the form of site visits that result in a purchase or lead. So it makes sense to set goals by investment-per-conversion, rather than setting an overall paid search advertising budget. If you know already what your ideal lead value is (for example, $20 per lead, or maybe $3 of revenue for every $1 of spending), then fine tune your search marketing program to get as many leads as you can at that value. Of course, you can set hard spending caps as well; you just may want to set them high enough so you won’t consistently max out before the end of the day.
Tune your site and your ads. The relevance of your landing pages and ad creative to each keyword is as important as your bid. Plus, optimizing your site and ad copy can help boost organic search rankings as well. Take the time to break up your site into dedicated landing pages for each of your major offerings or product lines. This will result in higher quality scores and, in turn, more traffic for the same amount of spending. When creating new ad copy, be sure to test it head-to-head with the existing copy at a 50/50 split to prove which performs better in terms of overall conversions or profitability. Once the top performing copy is identified, eliminate the losing version from rotation.
As search marketers, we can’t change the environment in which we create, launch, and manage our campaigns. But we can embrace the fluctuations and ride out the wave of market conditions by positioning ourselves for success to obtain the best results possible for our campaigns.
Wister Walcott is co-founder and vice president of products for Marin Software, and is an experienced technology executive with proven sales and marketing expertise.
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