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Plug-ins: search marketing

Despite the still-shaky economy, marketers continue to increase their investments in search engine marketing, according to several reports. For paid search, strong third-quarter spending increases of more than 20% were tallied in reports from Covario, Rimm-Kaufman Group and Efficient Frontier/Context Optional, and Facebook Ads‘ cost-per-click rose due to increased competition there.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) said in October it expects digital channels to continue to increase their share of the marketing budget from 19% in 2011 to 21% in 2012. The two largest components of Internet advertising — search and display — will both grow by more than 18%, the DMA said.

There is much hype around search retargeting today. Two of our Plug-ins experts this month provide their best advice on how to look at navigating the retargeting landscape. Our third expert provides best practices for maximizing search in holiday marketing campaigns in the e-commerce arena.

Data management drives holiday volume:
Tim Waddell,
director of product marketing, Adobe Systems

The most significant hurdles for search marketers during the holiday season are resource management and effective bid strategies. Businesses must ensure they don’t miss out on key dates or the substantial increases in holiday volume. There are a few key areas that allow teams to plan and manage holiday marketing campaigns efficiently and deliver the greatest results. These include data integration, data-driven automation and ease of use.?

1. Integrate the data. Complete and accurate data is the most significant element to digital marketing, which starts with the tagging of the entire site and the ability to map engine and site data seamlessly. Capturing conversions is not enough, as 97% of all visits don’t convert. In addition to conversions, be sure to capture visit data along the entire funnel, so that you can determine bounce rate or understand how keywords are working together to drive conversions.

A keyword may not have a strong conversion rate on its own, but it might have a solid assist capability. When you integrate the data, your ?management and bid strategies become much more meaningful.

2. ?Automate the data. Search marketers focus on the high volume terms that drive the majority of conversions. These keyword sets are handled with special care and optimized to ensure goals are met. However, we all know there are far more words and phrases in the tail that have a significant impact on the overall campaign, but require far too much time to manage manually. This is why automated bid algorithms are another critical aspect of search marketing.

And to tie in the data integration piece, a business must capture metrics throughout the purchase funnel to align keywords with its relative metric to define appropriate bid amounts and set automated bid strategies to adjust based on current data. The ability to create these bid strategies by simply pulling in the key metrics is imperative to run a full scale and efficient campaign.?

3. Make it easy. Two specific areas here are campaign expansion and inventory management. Every impression and potential click is a battle during the holiday season. Companies must put forth compelling offers and creative tied to landing pages to attract potential buyers, but this takes significant effort. Therefore, automation is critical in creating ads based on product or content feeds. This can save 50% or more of your time.

Then you need to ensure the keyword has the greatest opportunity to succeed. You can’t send users to pages with “out of stock” inventory — the last thing you want is an unhappy customer.

On the other hand, you want to maintain volume whenever possible. Therefore, you need an integrated system that can read inventory updates and either pause keywords or temporarily adjust landing pages based on inventory status. These two areas of focus can save valuable time during a period when you need it most.?

Overall, if you have access to the right data and the right tools to manage your campaigns efficiently, you will generate better results during the holiday season because you had time to ensure the basics were being covered and you had time to think about new strategies to expand and refine your marketing programs.

Remember privacy in retargeting strategy:
Michael Benedek, president and CEO,

Search marketing turns the traditional average viewer media model on its head by facilitating advertisers’ exclusive engagement with consumers who have declared an interest in their products and services within the contextual environment of a search engine page. ?

Retargeting, the next evolution of search marketing, enables advertisers to remain engaged with consumers who recently searched for their product or service-related keywords when those consumers are outside the search engine environment and browsing ad-supported content. ?

While retargeting can produce significant return on investment when it is done well, it remains a relatively new concept for marketers and must be executed in a thoughtful and appropriate way. A disciplined development approach to retargeting strategy is critical and there are three steps to navigating these waters. ?

1. Put the consumer first. With savvy consumers more aware of online advertising practices, make sure that you’re thoughtful about messaging and frequency, with the goal of giving the consumer a nudge in the direction of your brand, rather than the feeling that they’re being followed. It’s also important to be time-sensitive. ?

2. Privacy is paramount. When embarking on any campaign, it’s vital to ensure that you’re keeping your customers’ privacy top of mind. This means staying away from targeting based on any personally identifiable or sensitive information. You also want to make sure that your post-search retargeting partner collects data in a privacy-sensitive way that allows consumers to opt out. ?

?3. Work with baby steps, slowly and deliberately. While doing a search takes less than a second, putting together the campaign should take much more thought and effort. Since targeting is done based on keywords, it’s important to ensure that all the right keywords have been programmed. Once this foundation is in place, be sure to keep updating the campaign as new keywords and trends become relevant.

Optimize campaigns with broad keywords:
Elizabeth Brockey,
client services director, Simpli.fi

Show me the return on investment (ROI). That’s the search marketer’s mantra. Many are struggling to improve ROI because campaigns are at the point of maximum optimization. What to do? Search retargeting can help.?

Paid search typically yields a 3% to 5% click-through. Search retargeting gives you a second chance to reach the rest. Because it is essentially search-enabled display, it allows marketers to capitalize on keywords people have searched, and then use them to target those folks with display advertising as they visit various sites. Search retargeting is well-suited because it’s keyword centric. Here are four ways marketers can leverage their skills with search retargeting.?

1. Use broad and different keywords. In search retargeting, it’s important to include broad, “high-funnel” terms and competitive terms. While competitor terms are not commonly used in paid search marketing, using them in search retargeting will open your funnel to consumers who may not have clicked on your ad or who are unaware of your offering. ?

2. Test display creative as you do paid search ads. We all know that with paid search, you can test multiple phrasings, landing pages, and calls-to-action. You can do the exact same thing with search retargeting. Be sure to test multiple display creative with different calls-to-actions, images and landing pages. ?

3. Set clear goals. Communicate your most important performance metrics to search retargeting partners. Given that your search retargeting efforts should be thought of as a new campaign and traffic source, remember that your cost-per-clicks will likely vary from your paid campaign. Use search skills to optimize your campaign just as you would paid search buys. ??

4. Report and optimize often. A campaign will need your attention in the beginning to make it grow. Be sure to optimize a few times a week. Insist on a granular view into campaign performance by keyword. Use search skills to adjust bidding by keyword performance.

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