Six benchmarks for the perfect search campaign

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Howard Sewell
Howard Sewell

Many marketers fail at search and don't know it. The basic performance reports available from providers like Google can lead an advertiser to believe that his or her campaign is generating plenty of qualified interest, when the truth might be precisely the opposite.

Clicks, click-through rate and cost-per-click are the measuring sticks of most search campaigns, because they're the statistics most easily gleaned from online reports. Judging a campaign's performance by these standards is not only misleading, it can cause an advertiser to waste significant investment.

Why? Because a click is only one action — it doesn't measure what that prospect did when he or she clicked on your ad (that is, did he or she become a lead or buy your product) or even how qualified he or she is. Our experience tells us there are many advertisers who are content to generate thousands of clicks at considerable cost, but discover on further analysis that the vast majority of those clicks are completely worthless.

The perfect search campaign is one that:

■ generates a cost per acquisition (CPA) — whether your acquisi­tion is a lead, download, registration or sale — competitive with other advertising vehicles

■ generates predictable CPA results at projected spend levels

■ is sufficiently expansive to cover every keyword or phase, and every variation that a qualified prospect could search on

■ delivers relevant ad copy for every keyword (to drive clicks) and maps to relevant landing pages (to drive conversions)

■ is designed in such a way that specific terms, groups of terms and campaigns are all optimized separately, with separate bud­gets, ad copy, geo-targeting and day-parting

■ is tracked through use of a back-end database or CRM system that measures ROI on a keyword-by-keyword basis.

Don't have all these metrics in place? No one does. The sce­nario above is the ideal program, and a hypothetical ideal at that. But you should use these standards as goals and benchmarks.

Know what you want to achieve. Are you trying to generate downloads, registra­tions, page views, sales leads, qualified leads or sales? How are you defining that goal — is someone filling out a registra­tion form, hitting a particular page or meeting certain qualifi­cation criteria?

Your search campaign should measure how many of those desired actions are taking place; how much each desired action is costing in the aggregate; and, which keywords generate those actions at the lowest cost.

Howard Sewell is president of Connect Direct. Reach him at


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