Getting the Good Click-Throughs (and Avoiding the Bad Ones)

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In the world of search, one of the easiest ways to hurt your campaign (and there are many) is to treat every click-through with equal importance. If they're coming to your site, the logic goes, they must like you. A slightly more sophisticated and only slightly less incorrect attitude is, if they're converting on your site, your campaign must be going very well. They're both variations on the same theme: all click-through traffic is equally good traffic. They're both wrong.


The truth is that some traffic is amazing traffic, some traffic is less good traffic and some traffic is horrendous.


Consider the following analogy. Let's say three people walk into your store. One person walks in, browses a bit and leaves. That's so-so traffic. A second person walks in, buys tremendous amounts of merchandise and suggests the store to friends. That's amazing traffic. A third person walks in, takes a salesperson away from other potential sales and then walks out without buying anything, wasting your business' time and money. Or, he walks into your store, takes the free giveaway you're handing out and never comes back. Or he robs your cash register. You get where we're going. Not all traffic is the same.


And even among the people who buy from your store, there are some you'll like more than others. Customers are always great, but regular customers are wonderful.


The same visitor spectrum holds true with search-driven traffic. On the one extreme are site visitors who won't buy anything from your site, but still cost you money by coming in on a pay-per-click ad. At the other extreme are site visitors who will bring high conversions and perhaps even more conversions after that by spreading word of your site to their friends.


The goal of any pay-per-click campaign is minimizing the bad kind of site visit and maximizing the good kind. But how can you do this? How do you make sure the click-throughs you're getting to your site are the kind you want?


We're not about to give away all of our secrets, but one thing to think about is this: to get the most valuable click-through traffic, you've got to find out where the best click-throughs are coming from.


Where do click-throughs come from?


When you're getting traffic through search, your visitors are visiting you from three distinct sources that happen to converge:


· The search engine they're visiting.


· The keyword they're visiting through.


· The actual when and where: their location, the time of year or even of day and other real-life, offline specifics.


Those are all critical pieces of information for your campaign, as each of them will attract different kinds of visitors. A general rule: the key on all sources of click-throughs isn't to get the highest numbers. It's to get your money's worth. That might mean getting the greatest amount of traffic. But it could also mean finding the particular keyword, search engines or locations that might not attract a lot of interest but are highly relevant for what you have to sell.


The search engine


There are a few major search engines out there and a whole bunch of less-used ones. They all collect their own market share of search and different clients go to different ones for their own reasons. Before you advertise, ask yourself: Which search engine attracts the kinds of clients or customers I want to attract? That's the engine where you want to spend the most energy.


In the niche-search engines, the issues become more obvious. If you're advertising legal services, you probably won't want to advertise on a product-based shopping engine. You might, though, want to advertise on an online yellow pages site. If you're selling online music, the lesser-known Mp3search might be an interesting place to look into. It might not be popular for all searches, but it might be popular for the kinds of searchers you're interested in advertising to.


But even among the major engines, there are still important distinctions that could be relevant for what you want to sell. AOL traditionally has been seen as the search space of choice for the less Web-savvy Internet user. That might make it a better place to sell a beginner-level product that helps people understand the Web better. As it's also thought to be an engine of choice for baby boomers, it also might be a good place to advertise if you're the AARP. With Yahoo's more advanced video search possibilities, it's possible that you'll find more movie buffs than you would at Google, and so maybe it would be a better place to advertise movie rentals or video products.


All of these statements are gross generalizations about the engines that we're describing. We're not giving you practical suggestions about where to advertise and for what. We're just trying to introduce you to a way of thinking. Do your own extensive research and use these comments as a starting point about how to think about one thing: different search engines will often give you different kinds of search traffic.


The keywords


You should be asking very similar questions about the keywords you bid on to the ones you ask about the search engines you advertise through. When you bid on a phrase, it's very helpful to know the answer to the question: Who would search using a phrase like this? Conversely, and more importantly: When my target audience searches, what kinds of words do they use? Answering those two questions could be the beginning of targeting the people who will buy what you sell or use your services and possibly avoiding the people who don't.


It's probably the easiest to answer these questions on the most specific search queries. If one searcher types in "where to purchase iPod shuffle" and another types "iPod shuffle instructions," there's a good chance that the first searcher is looking to buy a new iPod and the second one is looking for iPod instructions.


That one was a no-brainer, but there are more nuanced examples. Subtle search phrase differences might represent entirely different relationships to the thing a searcher is looking for. A visitor looking for "search engine marketing" might have a different understanding of SEM than someone looking for "SEM automated bidding platform." The second searcher clearly knows about search. The first one might not know any more than that the field exists.


So the keywords you bid on are reflections of the audience you're advertising to. Advertise accordingly.


When and where


Where are your searchers visiting from? What time of year is it there? What holidays are coming up? In the Northern Hemisphere, it's warm from July to September when it's cold in the Southern Hemisphere. In the U.S., Mother's Day is May 8. In the UK, it's March 6. People are eating lunch in New York when they're first getting to work in LA. A trip to Disneyland might not sound exotic to someone from Florida.


Just like in any other kind of advertising, the time and place are key. If you have geoparting and dayparting capabilities, you'll want to look into them.


The conclusion


The basic point is that one of the first things you should be thinking about when you're trying to get traffic to your site through search is where that traffic is coming from. Every source of traffic represents a different kind of person and every kind of person needs to be marketed to differently. It's a basic truth that's as true for search as it is for any other kind of direct marketing.


The only difference with search is there are so many ways to find out who's who and where they're going to come from. Finding the people you want, and avoiding the people you don't want, gets that much easier. It's one of the many things that make search marketing so effective and, when done right, is such a great investment.


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Founded in September 2009, Stirista is an integrated marketing agency that specializes in ...