Strategy for SEM and Lemonade

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Let's say you're selling lemonade (after all, it is midsummer) and you want to use paid search to tell the world about yourself. How do you think about where to go next? How do you map out your search engine marketing campaign? We're not asking a keyword question, or even a search engine question. We're asking a bigger strategy question: What's the overall framework you want to use to plan your campaign?


Once you get that answer down, all the other issues fall into place. The best framework, as we see it, addresses two questions:


1. What does your business really do?


2. Who is your target market?


What's your business? If you're selling lemonade, here are two examples of what your business might look like:


1. You have a lemonade stand and you're selling lemonade there (a bricks-and-mortar enterprise).


2. You have a lemonade Web site and you're selling lemonade through it (an e-tail business).


Here are two examples of whom your target market might be:


1. Seven- to 10-year-olds leaving the pool in the summer in San Diego.


2. People of any age in any place who happen to like lemonade.


All different options of what your business is about and who you're selling to, all of which have big SEM ramifications.


Keywords. Every SEM campaign starts with choosing which keywords to advertise through, and the "negative keywords" you want to actively avoid. A good keyword choice is the beginning of a good conversion, which is the beginning of ROI. A poor keyword choice is the beginning of a click through that doesn't convert, but still costs you money. So keyword choice is where a large chunk of the drama of search marketing happens.


In our system, the trick is to find the keywords that reach out to the audience you're most interested in, and that drives the conversions that most boost your business.


Example 1. The Overture Keyword Suggestion Tool lists 100 terms that are similar enough to "lemonade" that you might want to think of them when bidding on "lemonade" in paid search. How you choose which one works best for you will depend, of course, on what your business does and whom you're marketing to.


One good example is the keyword "lemonade recipes." If you're trying to draw traffic to your e-tail site, you might have put recipes on your site as a way to create content to draw people in. They come for the recipes; they stay to buy the lemonade. But if you don't have a Web site and you're just trying to drive people to your lemonade stand (and you're just advertising on local search, on an online yellow pages and/or through pay per call), lemonade recipes don't have so much to do with what you're selling. People tend to choose their keywords intentionally: If they say they're looking for lemonade recipes, they're not interested in your stand. Or at least, they're not interested enough in your stand to make them a safe bet to bid on.


Example 2. Another great example is the Overture suggestion "mike hard lemonade" -- which, we're assuming, is a misspelled keyword entry of "Mike's Hard Lemonade" (an alcoholic drink). If you're running a lemonade stand with a target market of 7- to 10-year-olds on the way back from the pool, it's probably a safe bet that "Mike's Hard Lemonade" (or "mike hard lemonade," for that matter), is a keyword you'll want to avoid. If you have a Web site that actually sells Mike's Hard Lemonade (EverythingLemonade.com or something like that) -- or if you're running a lemonade stand with a liquor license -- then you might want to think about advertising on the term.


Geoparting and dayparting. Another similar issue is where you're selling to and when. Geoparting is targeting different locations differently (or targeting some locations and not others). Dayparting is targeting advertising differently based on time of day (seasonality, a similar concept, is targeting advertising based on season).


If you're running a campaign for a lemonade stand that's open in the summer, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June through September, in San Diego, then paying for search advertising that's meant to be viewed at midnight, in February, in New York, might not be so relevant. If you're running a lemonade Web site out of your San Diego office, though, advertising in New York might be more relevant (depending on what you stand to gain from the people of New York), and even advertising in February might be worthwhile.


Smart people, smart technology, complicated campaigns. Of course, we've given the most basic examples. But there are cases that are a whole lot more complex. Here are two:


· The Web site that's there to drive traffic to the roadside lemonade stand.


· The Web site that's there to drive traffic to the roadside lemonade stand, but also can function equally well as its own e-tail lemonade business.


And figuring out where to advertise, when and how only gets more complicated as the situations become increasingly complex.


Meanwhile, as figuring out the solutions becomes more complex, implementing them gets harder, too. As campaigns get larger, you need technology to run them: Try managing ads for 100,000 keywords without specialized software. At the same time, as campaigns get larger, they get more complex. This means that midsize to large campaigns need two things: strategy that's customized enough to maximize on your business; and technology that's both powerful enough to manage all of your keywords (and every other aspect of your campaign) and customizable enough to make your unique strategy work.


But here's the rub. Technology that's powerful enough to manage your large campaign, but adaptable enough to readjust to every client's specifications, is hard to create. So it's even harder to come by. Not to mention that it takes a team of very smart people to figure out what your strategy ought to be in the first place and how to manage it.


It's a lot to ask for. Conveniently, not everyone's campaign really is that complicated. If you're operating a very small campaign -- or even the rare large campaign with a very small number of variables and very low volatility -- you can probably get away with something basic. It's only when things get more complicated that you'll need to work with a complicated solution. So if you are marketing a lemonade stand through paid search, take heart.


If you're managing a complicated campaign, though, but you're treating your campaign as a simple one, it could mean that you're losing huge opportunities in search marketing, which means that you're effectively handing leads to the competition. So an honest assessment of the type of campaign you're really running is worthwhile.


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