Double Sales Without Busting Your Ad Budget

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Search advertisers who exercise their budgetary ad muscles on keyword bid management are fighting a losing battle. Keyword prices rose an average of 19 percent in the past year, according to the Fathom Online Keyword Price Index. Advertisers focused solely on bid price in competitive categories are forced to cut back on keyword buys to stay within budget, thus choking off sales volume.


Prices will continue to increase in competitive markets, and the early adopter advantages that helped advertisers get top placement on search engines will erode.


Let's do the math. Advertisers A and B spend equal amounts on media, and each has a 4 percent conversion rate. Their yield equals identical sales results. Advertiser A doubles the media budget while advertiser B increases the conversion rate to 10 percent. Advertiser B yields more sales with less media expense. How is that accomplished?


Answer: conversion optimization. It's cost-effective, yields predictive profits and produces more sales return that can be reinvested in keywords to stay in the top rankings. If that sounds too good to be true, then think of it this way: If you want to win an auto race, would you buy the most expensive engine and put it in a dump truck? No, you'd tune up every possible performance mechanism - chassis, tires, etc. Think of keywords as fuel and your Web site as a racecar. A fast engine can get you down the straight quickly, but races are won in the curves.


Here's an example. A national telco company faced stagnant sales and diminishing market share for its broadband and T1 services. Triage was applied in the form of fixes for every step of the search campaign. Qualified lead volume climbed 199 percent; the company closed 60 percent of its inbound calls; and the cost per qualified lead dropped 58 percent. Return on ad dollar invested rose 100 percent in six months. Sales leads quadrupled with no increase in ad search spending, all from conversion optimization.


Conversion optimization is a disciplined approach. It means aligning pre- and post-click activity in order to raise the conversion rate, yielding increased sales and sales leads. It's not easy, but it's essential. Responsible SEM firms know there are no shortcuts to maximize results; to become a better buyer of keywords, you must be a good converter. If your sales conversion rate doubles, then your ROI and profitability also increase. To achieve that, seek cost-effective solutions end to end that streamline and optimize the search marketing process. Use every tool in the toolbox:


Web site. It's your brand and your storefront to the world. For customers, however, your site may inflict excruciating pain points - too many steps to sale; confusing navigation; too many trials and errors; no back key, or back or enter key sends you out; confusing, faulty offers. This bad technology must be fixed. Customers deserve a "frictionless buy" without tedium, frustration and obstacles:


· Use logos and trademarks as branding opportunities.


· Streamline your site to achieve easy navigation and usability that not only increase sales, but also increase good will in your brand.


Search engine optimization. Do a tune-up. Ensure your metatags/title tags are visible to the search engines. Develop a link strategy that ensures you have the most possible Web exposure.


Landing page optimization. Oh, the frustrations of wading through the home page, through lists of irrelevant product pages, to reach the right landing page.


A big financial software advertiser discovered potential customers were dropping out post-click as they landed on the Web site. A quick "champion" page test that offered three new versions revealed that one new format was a crowd pleaser. Acceptance rates for its offers of a free trial increased by 167 percent in four weeks just by optimizing its landing page. The increase in sales, the company reported, directly benefited the bottom line.


More help is on the way for landing page improvement. Multivariate testing that tries out different offers and options on the site far more quickly and cost-effectively than alpha-beta testing can add invaluable knowledge.


Tracking and analytics. As keywords number in the hundreds of thousands per company, search marketing is increasingly a data-driven business, much like direct response. For consistent improvements in performance in this complex marketplace, it is essential to track and analyze events at a keyword level. Most important, integrate media property data (clicks by keyword) with your own sales data in a daily, easy-to-digest format that enables intelligent and timely decision making.


Keyword optimization revisit. Make smart buys when prices dip. Look at search engine performance beyond the two biggest engines. Stretch your budget dollars for greater return.


These are emerging building blocks of an effective search campaign.


Smart advertisers will optimize using all tools: eye tracking, multivariate and other testing, natural search, closed-loop tracking, data integration platforms. Integrate that search knowledge with the building blocks of traditional advertising: good creative ideas, smart offers, aspirational messages, clarity, ask and ease of purchase.


Voila! Good advertising is advertising that sells. Thank you, David Ogilvy.


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