SMX West: Where Search Marketers & Fire Alarms Meet

The sirens suddenly sounded, shattering my concentration and halting the flow of my presentation. “Please evacuate the building immediately”, the robotic recorded male voice advised. More blasting sirens. “This is the emergency response system. Please evacuate the…”

Was this really happening? I’d been preparing all morning and patiently waiting my turn to speak as the last of four presenters on a panel, only to be interrupted three minutes into my presentation by a freaking fire alarm. I laughed aloud, gave a double thumbs-up to the modest crowd, advanced my presentation to the final ‘thank you’ slide, and left the building defeated, certain that my presentation was finished.

This was the scene on the last day of SMX West 2012, all of us standing awkwardly outside the hotel conference hall, wondering what was going to happen next. How did we find ourselves in this bizarre reality? Let’s go back and have a look at the session that nearly wasn’t.

A “Hot” Panel: Enterprise SEM – Maximizing ROI

Right in my wheelhouse! Our moderator was Patricia Hursh, of SmartSearch Marketing, and fellow columnist here at Search Engine Land. I hadn’t seen Patricia since my time in Colorado nearly seven years ago. She’s a peach. There were three other presenters from the agency and tools sides of the business, and of course, myself.

First was Bill Staples from GroupM out of London. Bill is one of those guys I swear I’ve met before but can’t recall when, where or how. That’s what happens if you stay in the search industry long enough, I guess. Bill spoke from a client services perspective, looking deeply into what does and doesn’t work for large clients they service.

Perhaps the most useful tip Bill offered to the audience was to consider the fact that the executive to whom you send a search marketing report will likely be reading it on a blackberry or other handheld device, so it’s important to format the report for that purpose.

Keep the copy brief and get all the necessary data above the fold of the handheld screen, Bill says. Nice Tip!

PPC report formatted for a Blackberry

Format Your SEM Reports To Be Read On A Blackberry


Other useful tidbits from Bill included the amount of a budget to devote to testing (5%-10%) as well as the amount of resources you should spend (20%).

Finally, Bill’s simplest, but most important guideline: Make sure to have a single key performance indicator (KPI) or success metric to which you can drive all search efforts. That goal could be ROI or volume or both, and by focusing all efforts on this, an enterprise’s chance of success increases dramatically. Don’t believe Bill, try it yourself!

Dave Ragals, VP Client Services at IgnitionOne, took a different approach and started with a review of red flags to look for when working on an SEM campaign. Red flags are a sign that your SEM accounts might need to be restructured. They include things like an overreliance on broad match keywords, poor thematic account structure, and an abundance of duplicate keywords in your accounts. Then he talked about what to do if you see the red flags and how to go about restructuring big PPC programs.

Dave had some great tips on how to staff a team to execute a rebuild, combining quantitative talent (no need to be a search marketer!) with SEM creative and marketing staff to find the perfect balance to get the job done.

Once you have your staff, Dave says, benchmark all your KPIs with the existing program before you start restructuring. That way you’ll know how you’re doing through and after the transition. The restructure itself is an exercise in best practices. Dave didn’t get so much into a ‘how to’ discussion, but did highlight some tools and approaches that work.

First, identify all the stakeholders and get buy in on KPIs. Then, he mentioned a broad match modifier tool that’s available, and recommended expanding into the tail, and finally plotting before and after curves so you can evaluate your success.

SEM Efficiency Curves

Efficiency Curves Before And After A PPC Restructuring Project

The only tip I would provide, and we didn’t have a chance to get to it, is that account restructuring is sometimes best done in phases to minimize impact at any given time. Good Stuff, Dave!

Mike Grinberg works with Nina Hale, Inc., a boutique search shop in Minneapolis. He talked about client management strategies that were honestly very interesting, though a bit less relevant for this particular Enterprise SEM column. He did, however, provide interesting points about tools and user access, and recommended that administrators purge all user accounts (on an opt out basis) at least once a year.

This safeguards enterprises and agencies against risk that stems from agency staff turnover and potentially disgruntled employees. Mike also had some interesting points on enterprises legitimately getting two ads served for a single query.

An example would be where a company offers both a product and a service, related to a single keyword, and has two different Web experiences, for the product and service respectively. In this case, Mike thinks there’s a good reason to have two ads on the SERP for a given keyword. Also, Mike happens to be really into Muay Thai, so don’t mess with him.

Then came my turn. You already know how it started – three minutes into a twelve minute presentation, as I was doing my song and dance about how valuation is the cornerstone to any direct marketing program, a fire alarm went off and we all exited the room. Once we were all outside, milling around, another announcement came over the loudspeaker saying that it was indeed a false alarm.

The amazing thing, from my perspective, is that the crowd returned into the conference room and I got to pick up my presentation where I left off, with enough time to finish it! How exciting (and flattering) for me! Never a dull moment at SMX…

A few takeaway tips from my presentation: When you’re running event-based PPC campaigns such as big sporting events, awards ceremonies or exclusive content premiers, get your campaigns up and running well before the event so you can start building account history. This gives you time to optimize your campaigns so when the event happens you’re well positioned to take advantage of the spike in search inventory.

Also, as usual I encouraged search marketers to engage with executives in the eternal debate about paid vs. organic search, but to try to steer the conversation away from philosophy and toward mathematics.  I’ve written about it in the past and you can read more here. The accompanying graph happens to be my favorite chart in the world. Enjoy!

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Enterprise SEM


About The Author: is Vice President, Marketing at Move, Inc., parent company of and other significant real estate-focused web properties. In this capacity, Roth oversees Paid and Organic Search, Affiliate, Mobile and Social Marketing for the Company. Prior to his arrival at Move, Dave was Sr. Director of Search and Affiliate Marketing at Yahoo!, Inc.

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