BTB Marketer Doubles Leads Using Automated SEM

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Business-to-business search campaigns across multiple engines can involve up to 10,000 keywords, with separate bids for each search engine. Depending on what the competition is doing, those bids may need to be changed daily.

So it's easy to see why systems management software company Symphoniq suffered from search engine marketing fatigue after managing its own SEM campaigns for more than a year. Despite the company's best efforts, the volume of leads never reached a satisfactory level.

"The market is very competitive," said Chris Yeh, director of marketing at Symphoniq, Palo Alto, CA.

The company set a strict return on investment schedule for its SEM campaign, he said. It placed a cap of 50 cents on the cost per click for each keyword.

"This had a tendency to push down our volume," Mr. Yeh said.

Symphoniq offers software that monitors the performance of Web-based applications to automatically detect, diagnose and pinpoint problems inside or outside the data center. Its SEM lead generation efforts typically target IT managers of midsize to large enterprise companies.

Three months ago, Symphoniq let SearchForce, San Mateo, CA, take over its efforts, giving the SEM firm the goal of increasing volume without decreasing ROI.

SearchForce is a software firm that specializes in automating SEM. Services include automated keyword generation, optimized algorithmic keyword bidding and optimized landing pages.

"Initially there is a creative part to [SEM], but later there is a lot of automation to it," said Samir Patel, founder/CEO of SearchForce. "We're not an agency -- we're strictly a software company."

SearchForce's solutions use algorithms based on program trading principles developed on Wall Street to derive the highest return on investment.

"In most of the business-to-business world, you can't expect to pick 10 keywords and get most of your traffic through that," Mr. Patel said. "It's more like 10,000 words," which is why automated keyword generation is vital to BTB campaigns.

The reason for so many keywords is that BTB marketing typically has a long buying cycle and marketers want to be able to catch potential leads at each stage, whether they are looking for a white paper relevant to the marketer's area of expertise, comparing products in this category or are in the market to buy.

Also affecting the number of keywords are all the possible misspellings and permutations of a marketer's products and accessories.

Symphoniq bids on 1,500 to 2,000 words regularly.

SearchForce also automates the process of bidding on those keywords. In Symphoniq's case, it suggested that the company bid less than 50 cents in some cases and go over its cap in others.

The software is flexible as well. When Symphoniq participated in a conference, SearchForce ran a temporary campaign focused on the conference.

"You can integrate search marketing with marketing that is going on in other channels [using SearchForce]," said Onil Gunawardana, SearchForce's chief operating officer and vice president of products.

Since adopting the SearchForce solution, Symphoniq's SEM-generated leads have doubled yet the company has maintained its stated ROI.

"We are spending more overall, but it is worth it from an ROI standpoint," Mr. Yeh said.

SearchForce also has centralized Symphoniq's multiple search campaigns. Now the company can make keyword changes to any of its campaigns in one location and receive centralized performance reports.

In addition, the software requires fairly little input from Mr. Yeh. Occasionally, he goes into the system to approve keywords. Once an ROI target is set, "the algorithms take it from there," he said.

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