Switching Gears With Paid Search: 6 Steps To Redefining Success For A Branding Campaign
Sweat glistened down his chiseled, tan face. Clad in his trademark gold jersey and black sunglasses, the icon finally put the finish line where it belongs… behind him. Yet despite the obvious missing hardware—his bike—and his dismal 488th place finish, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France considered the race a success. He had his reasons.
Believe it or not, search marketers have a lot to learn from Lance Armstrong. For once, the above race wasn’t about the win. Instead, the fierce competitor laced-up to run the Boston Marathon for another reason entirely: Awareness for Livestrong, his non-profit foundation for cancer survivors. In the process, not only did he shift gears—from acquisition to branding—he also took the time to redefine success. Similarly, search marketers looking to leverage paid search for branding purposes would be wise to do the same.
Why it matters
The dynamics of an acquisition campaign are fairly simple. You bid on keywords, users click on your ads, and then do one of the following: complete a call to action, become a lead, make a purchase, or move on. Given that, it’s fairly easy to define success and justify the spend, whether it’s click through rates, cost per clicks, cost per leads, or return on ad spend.
However, when you use paid search for branding, things are not so straightforward. Sure, you give users more freedom to interact with your site. However, it comes with a price: inability to track pure conversions. This can be scary territory for most search marketers. That’s why it is so important to redefine your success metrics. Not only will it help you accomplish your objectives and justify the spend, but it can also help eliminate the risk of not getting the campaign off the ground, or getting your budget cut due to either tough economic times or a less-than-convinced boss skeptical about the investment.
Successful branding with paid search: 6 key steps
- The first step towards re-defining success is to segment your keywords into different buckets, depending on the intent of the user. To do this, you first need to put yourself in their shoes. Then, based upon the queries they conduct, think about how familiar they are with your brand. You can have several buckets, but in its basic form, you want to divide the keywords into groups of branded and non-branded terms. As you do this, try and assess what action or meaning the words denote. For example, with the non-branded terms, does the query indicate that they are a prime candidate to become a lead or make a purchase, or does it demonstrate that they are too new to the company to be ready to convert yet? You’ll need to take a close look at the branded keyword list as well, only here you’ll want to assess whether they are actively seeking what you have to offer, or if they are simply looking for information about the company or its products or services.
- Once you have your keywords bucketed, start thinking about what would be important to know about your users. Fortunately, there’s a veritable goldmine of data available at your finger tips. Not only can you tap into data from the engines, but your Web analytics program should provide interesting data as well, and then there’s still more data available — though you may need to do some digging for it.
- You should also examine what’s going on with your site. And while onsite metrics seem simple on the surface, most companies’ analytics packages are not set up to track these effectively. Given that, here are a few metrics to consider: the clicks your ads receive, page views, the bounce rate, and the percentage of returning visitors as compared with new visitors. In addition, you’ll want to track certain elements of your site that you deem more valuable than others, whether it’s a specific area, or a type of interaction such as downloading a whitepaper or starting a shopping cart. But realize that often the set up for such tracking will take some heavily lifting from your tech team and/or analytics vendor. Also, aim to track each of the above metrics by engine, keywords, and channel. However, don’t mix-up your total site or organic efforts in this new tracking.
- Next, you should consider looking offsite to track and monitor your competitors’ PPC activity to understand your share of voice for particular keywords or groups of keywords. Doing so will help you understand your brand impression share. Fortunately, there are some offsite metrics that are easy to track and use. For example, impressions and average ad position are two of the most basic, but Google now has a way for you to track loss of impressions.
- Then there are conversion metrics that you can use to help guide the branding success metrics. For example, if you have an acquisition, add that into the mix, cost per lead, return on ad spend, call tracking, increased sales, or interactions at physical locations. This gives you data about how many times someone may visit the site from the branding campaign before they convert, or the downstream value of a user that does click on certain keywords.
- Once you’ve decided on the data you want to track, start thinking about the best combination for the different buckets of keywords you have, and the weights you want to assign to each. Remember, no metric should carry equal importance in the overall definition of success. For example, visits to certain sections of the site or increased pages views might be more important to you than the percentage of returning visitors. Then test. Tracking a branded campaign takes a lot of effort and will require you to test the various combinations and weights in order to get the most out of your budget.
Putting it all together
To make the above work, you need to be creative; try different combinations and weightings of the vast amount of data available to you. And keep in mind that you get to define success metrics here, so it’s up to you to go and be successful.
Overall, search marketers looking to leverage paid search for branding purposes need to take the time to first redefine success. Not only will it help you accomplish your objectives and justify the spend, it can also help to eliminate risk, and instill the value of the medium in others. Remember, when Lance Armstrong rose to the challenge of running the Boston Marathon, he took the time to redefine success. When you switch gears from acquisition to branding, hopefully you’ll be smart enough to do the same.
Rachel Charlton is a Client Services Manager at iProspect’s San Francisco office, responsible for overseeing the activities of a client-facing search team. The Brand Aid column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.