Last week, we went through a series of frequently asked questions that often come up before launching a PPC campaign. But there are some things you still need to know at this stage in the game that will dramatically increase your understanding of paid search and will certainly give you more direction and confidence to begin the Build Phase of PPC.
Two foundational concepts of PPC account creation are the buying cycle and the long tail. Master these concepts and you will be on the road to mastering search engine marketing.
Concept #1: The buying cycle
The buying cycle is not a new concept to marketing. It’s something that marketers have certainly thought a lot about in the modern era but was probably even known to shopkeepers hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago. Basically, the premise is that all of your prospective customers are at one of four stages in the road to buying from you. And depending on which stage they are in, they need different types of marketing.
There are some variations on the buying cycle (some refer to it as the buying funnel) but the most common describes these four stages:
- Awareness. Your potential customers don’t know you exist. You need to reach them with your brand to get their consideration.
- Interest. Your prospects are aware of you and might be receptive to your offers and ads.
- Research. Potential customers not only know you exist but have shown an interest in learning more about you.
- Buying. These people have a good idea about you and have browsed around to figure out exactly what they want. They are ready to buy buy buy!
So how do we tap into the buying cycle concept with paid search?
Marketing to users at different stages in the buying cycle with PPC is the heart of successful search engine marketing. For example, let’s say you own a used BMW car dealership. Consumers still in your awareness stage will need to be convinced that they’re even interested in used a BMW. To convince them, your ads should use more broad, generic terms, such as used car or car sales. As the searcher gets more engaged in their potential purchase, they will start using more specific terms such as inexpensive BMW or BMW deal. In the buying stage, they may even know the model number they’re looking for and use a term such as used BMW 530d.
So, it’s important to know which of your keywords are being used by consumers at different stages in the buying cycle. That way, you can present the most relevant ads and the most relevant landing pages on your site. For example, someone in the research phase may be more apt to respond to an ad that calls out check out our site for more information vs. a searcher in the awareness stage that may need to be sold on the benefits of a used BMW at a higher level such as get a great quality used BMW for the same price as a new car.
And because PPC is an auction-based model, you will need to know the value of each keyword to your advertiser’s business to know how much you’re willing to pay for a keyword. If you’re in a lull period, you may need to spend more on awareness terms to reach new consumers, meaning can up your bids for a few weeks. However, if there are enough people currently researching the product/service, you may want to spend more on the buying terms so you can get in front of as many people who are “ready to buy now” and not waste the opportunity to reach those high-converting searchers.
Not presenting a searcher with the most relevant ad/landing page based on their query is like someone asking a grocery store clerk for oranges and they take you to the meat section.
Concept #2: The long tail
The long tail was originally coined a few years ago by Wired magazine editor in chief, Chris Anderson. He demonstrated that for the first time in human history, niche businesses could thrive and survive where they may normally not have had a chance to make it in a local market. In a very basic example, think of a store that just wanted to sell snakeskin boots. In a town of a million people, there may only be a few hundred potential customers! However, once the internet allowed this store to sell to a billion people worldwide, the market grew exponentially and thus became a viable business.
The reason it’s called the long tail is that when you graph out products by popularity (i.e. sales), for example in a marketplace with hundreds of thousands of SKUs, there are only a handful of very popular ones and then many, many fewer popular ones. For example, take a grocery store. There may be a couple of dozen really popular products such as eggs, milk, cheese, toilet paper, etc. The rest of the store’s thousands products are less popular such as low-fat thousand island dressing, night time aspirin or banana nut granola with raisins.
The store may only sell a few units of these each day. When you graph these products by popularity, the few popular products become the head, and the many less popular products become the tail (see below).
The wonderful thing is, however, that if you add up all of the sales from those less popular products, they can be worth even more in total than the popular products! One of Anderson’s more memorable examples of the long tail in action is his detailing of Amazon.com and Netflix where the sales of their thousands of least purchased titles, when added all up, were equal to their best sellers. What this teaches us is that the tail end of a store’s products, even if they only sell a few a day, could ultimately amount to half of your business profit, or more.
So how do we use the long tail concept with PPC?
In the SEM world, when you graph out your keywords by search volume, the long tail shape occurs. And just like in Anderson’s examples, search engine marketers could easily see that thousands (or even millions) of terms that get relatively few searches per month can easily cumulatively generate more volume than even your top terms. And the great thing is that in search, because it’s auction-based, tail terms generally are less expensive because fewer advertisers are bidding on them. Not only that, but because they are more niche’ driven, tail terms tend to be more relevant to the searcher and end up getting higher click and conversion rates. Just think how much more relevant you can be to a searcher (in terms of ad copy and landing page creation) who searches on Michael Jordan Bulls jersey than you would with someone who simply is searching on sports memorabilia.
Use the buying cycle and the long tail together
Both of these concepts are important to successful paid search marketing. The buying cycle teaches us that we need to understand the consumer’s intent when they trigger our ads to market to them in the most relevant way. Also, by segmenting our keywords into the four stages (awareness, interest, research, buying), we better understand their value to the entire account and be able to set appropriate bids for those terms. The long tail concept teaches us that we should go beyond the handful of high-search volume keywords and build out our accounts with many niche terms because they can all add up to significant traffic.
When we combine these two ideas together we have the blueprint of the modern paid search account—a mix of some head terms and many tail terms divided into groups and segmented by marketing strategy. Keep that in mind when you start building your account.
Next week we start a three part series on keyword creation. Get ready to build!
This week’s question: “What are some other things to think about before you build your PPC account?”
PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.
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