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Plug-ins: search marketing

Steady traffic is the life’s blood of any online property, be it website or social platform. With the ever-changing landscape of search marketing, clawing one’s way to the top of a search results page is more important than ever, especially for e-commerce sites.

But it’s important to remember that search isn’t just about keywords. A successful search marketing strategy rests on many pillars, including smart targeting, content, relationships, an understanding of social influence and snappy online reactions to offline events.

This month, our expert columnists discuss strategies for staying relevant and searchable. Dana Todd, SVP of marketing at Performics, examines the concepts of hyper- and nano-flighting to help marketers capitalize on times of high interest and demand, and BoostCTR cofounder and CEO David Greenbaum shares practical tips for improving the quality score of paid search ads. However, consumers need a reason to click. As Michael Gullaksen, SVP and managing director of Covario, points out: “Content is king.”

Content marketing: The new SEO?
Michael Gullaksen, SVP and managing director, Covario

The continuing evolution of SEO makes it fun and frustrating at the same time. Recent shifts in best SEO practices have much to do with the evolution of user behavior through social media channels — an ongoing evolution so significant that it’s leading to new phrases, such as “earned media optimization” and “inbound marketing.” Ignore these changes and your SEO strategy is sure to fail.

A personalized experience is critical. Search engines need to understand what content is being consumed by users outside the search results page. Through integration and monitoring of social platforms, search engines closely monitor this activity.

For a brand to stay relevant in this changing environment, it must embrace the notion that content is king, yet understand that the content it’s creating will be consumed not just on traditional Web properties but on social networks and third-party sites.

1. Avoid internal bottlenecks. Create process and governance before embarking on a content creation strategy. Ensure you have internal checks and balances from key stakeholders prior to syndicating any content.

2. Understand what type of content to create. This sounds easy, but content is often created without knowing the needs and wants of the customer, so begin by doing the necessary consumer research. Then, with a clear understanding of customer needs, go ahead and match search keywords to the words most used by targeted consumers to find content.

3. Consider where your content should live — online and off. Study the content consumption patterns of your target customers. Most often this occurs on social networks, link-sharing sites and vertical-specific websites.

4. Build relationships with key influencers. For technology, consider influencers on Reddit; for retail, watch Pinterest. Check out vertical bloggers and writers for industry publications. Reach out to these folks. Tell them why you want to have a relationship and what you can offer that will be helpful to their networks. Usually, original content in a format that is popular with a particular social platform or website is a good place to start. Examples include articles, infographics, videos and top 10 lists, to name a few. Don’t forget to include your internal PR and social media colleagues, as they may already have connections.

5. Optimize content to gain long-term benefits in search results. If you are writing an article for an influential blog, make sure to include a relevant link back to your website that is pointing to the best page for engagement or conversion.

There are various SEO tactics to consider based on your particular competitive landscape, which may alter how you link back to your website. For example, with infographics, it is beneficial to host them on your website and make them portable so they can be syndicated through embed codes. Always place a link back to your website within the code.

If your content is unique and solves a specific customer need or want, it is more likely to be popular on social sites, thus sparking more sharing and, in turn, leading to personalized search results that incorporate your brand’s website or content.

Hyper-flighting: micro and nano strategies:
Dana Todd, SVP of marketing, Performics

Micro-strategies, like “hyper-flighting,” help direct marketers use paid search to ensure the effectiveness of offline efforts, such as catalog mailings. Marketers can capture demand at a granular level with their media buys, and engage customers within a shortened time frame or specific geographical location.

However, in an increasingly social and mobile world, this strategy may no longer be enough. Enter “nano-flighting,” a process that applies the principles of hyper-flighting on an accelerated scale.

While direct marketers often face the online/offline integration dilemma, they now face an online/online dilemma, as well.

How can brands efficiently engage and drive leads, actions and sales when users are interacting with them across multiple channels, devices and screens?

A smart marketer will use a paid search and YouTube search hyper-flight to capture demand for the days or weeks after an event. A revolutionary marketer knows it’s those critical few minutes after an event when it’s time for a social nano-flight to capture demand from the short-lived chatter.

Hyper- and nano-flighting not only optimize traffic to a brand site, but may help anticipate overall traffic levels and rates, significantly improving user experience and the ability to participate effectively with customers at a moment’s notice.

1. Coordinate paid search campaigns. Align search campaigns with catalogs, events, social campaigns and promotions, as well as other online and offline programs.

2. Relax ROI/ROAS restrictions. By temporarily relaxing these metrics and typical budget constraints, direct marketers can capture increased interest and sales from their offline promotions.

3. Create groups. Classify keywords into groups based on past performance, keyword types, bid prices and search volume. Pay attention to their use when entering or exiting flights.

4. Prioritize changes by group. Search teams can quickly change the bids of high-spend terms for scheduled flight periods and bring the groups back to re-flight level after the designated flight period.

Finding the right formula for a high CTR:
David Greenbaum,
Cofounder and CEO, BoostCTR

In the world of pay-per-click search ads, quality score is the Holy Grail — and for advertisers, the quest for the Holy Grail starts by maximizing click-through rate.

Earning a high CTR requires a combination of human artistry and technology. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but utilizing best practices can simplify the process.

1. Take your prospects seriously. As with any good advertising campaign, you must start with the personas of your prospects and remember that they have varying levels of intent. If you know your prospects well enough, they are much more likely to click on your ad.

2. Features tell, benefits sell. Always mix benefits and features in your ad copy, but know that some ads perform better when they are heavier on one or the other. Test different benefit/feature combinations and optimize until you hit the right blend.

3. Pick the low-hanging fruit. Make sure to include punctuation in your advertisements; use a full URL that includes “www” and a product name suffix; write strong headlines tied into the psychology of your prospects; include a call-to-action; and employ dynamic keyword insertion to automatically plug in the keywords a user enters, as needed.

4. Test, test and test some more. Assign the same ad group to multiple writers to significantly speed up the testing process. Each writer will define the appeal of your product or service in a different way, enabling you to test multiple versions at once and cherry-pick the ones with the most potential to increase CTR.

5. Make your landing page fulfill the ad’s promise. This step should be fairly obvious, but many advertisers still ignore this simple fact. A good splash page also benefits relevance: Google recently tweaked its AdWords algorithm to more heavily weight landing page quality.

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