Search engine marketing comes in two basic sizes: small and large. More accurately, SEM can be characterized as “shotgun” or “surgical.” Generally, when you outsource your SEM, you get the shotgun approach; and when you take it in-house, you move toward the surgical.
The shotgun approach says that you go for mass. You choose the highest volume keywords, which are often the most competitive and have the highest cost per click. The shotgun approach brings a wide variety of people to the top of your funnel, and you have to figure out who’s qualified and who’s not. You’ll convert a low percentage of them, but that’s okay, as long as the ones you convert are the qualified ones.
The surgical strategy says that you go for the most specific keywords you can find. This generally results in lower click volume, less competition and lower CPC. The surgical strategy brings a more qualified group to the top of your funnel and, because the volume is low, you must convert a high percentage of them.
SEM strategy must be driven by what happens post-click. What you do — or don’t do — after the click must drive your shotgun vs. surgical SEM strategy choice. There are organizations with post-click marketing capabilities and those who aren’t up to speed yet. Be realistic about your own department’s post-click ability and match your SEM strategy accordingly.
The shotgun SEM strategy requires very strong post-click segmentation and qualification in order to move the right people into your funnel. That means using sophisticated multi-page landing experiences instead of basic landing pages. And with the volume that comes with the shotgun approach comes the opportunity to test combinations of conversion paths and SEM ads to find the magic pairs that yield the highest quantity of the highest quality conversions.
The surgical strategy delivers fewer, higher quality people to your landing pages. This tilts segmentation from macro to micro and conversion becomes the highest priority. With less volume with which to experiment, you have a much smaller margin of error — you have to nail it. The surgical strategy demands a smaller number of higher quality landing experiences that micro-segment, build trust and convert.
Identify your post-click strengths and weaknesses. Post-click marketing is a powerful, multidisciplinary competence that most organizations now see as a competitive advantage. But just like everything else in the history of online marketing — some come late to the party. If your organization or SEM firm is among those, be realistic. Sophisticated multipage landing experiences with strategic segmentation might not be in the cards today. Until you have those capabilities at your fingertips, play within yourself.
Identify what you do today and what resources you have to amplify your post-click marketing. If you’re still driving your clicks to your home page or deep links, you’re way behind. If you’re driving to basic landing pages, you’re a bit better off, but you’re not yet post-clicking. If you experiment with conversion paths and microsites, you’re getting warmer. And, if you’re segmenting, qualifying, testing and tracking back all of it to specific sources of traffic, you’re post-clicking — big time. When you’re at that stage, you can choose the SEM approach that’s best for your overall strategy, and take your competitive advantage.