Pocket more profit with better paid search

Want to get the most value from your paid search spend? Four industry experts weigh in on how you can assess your campaign strategies and tactics to make pay-per-click really worth your while during the recession

Heather Pidgeon
Client services director, iProspect

Dismal economic conditions are forcing marketers to be more efficient with their pay-per-click (PPC) budgets. To get the most value out of this spend, it’s vital to take a closer look at your current campaign strategy and tactics. Even if you are already generating strong results, there’s opportunity for additional gains — you just need to look beyond the obvious results, such as cost per action or ROI. These are four tips to help make your campaigns more efficient:

First, assess your keyword set. To start, ask yourself the following questions: Are my keywords too broad? What’s their match type? Do I have enough negative keywords? To help you make sound deci­sions, look through query reports to see if there’s unqualified traffic that’s costing you money.

Next, identify “opportunity” keywords — these words have a high conversion rate, but low click-through rate or low positioning. Once you’ve identified them, adjust your ad copy or increase bids in order to net a larger share of the clicks on these terms. Doing so will not only help you garner more conversions, but also help you obtain incremental gains.

You also need to trim the fat: Identify the keywords that are most ineffective at driving results, and eliminate those that have been generating negative returns. To help you get through the process, keep in mind that spending $5 on one keyword over the course of a month doesn’t seem like a hefty sum, but it changes dramati­cally when you multiply that figure by 10 or 20 keywords.

Finally, mind your competition. First and foremost, get familiar with the keywords your competitors focus on. Put them on the watch list in your campaign and assess how your ad copy compares to theirs. Look at how they are enticing your potential cus­tomers. You may have to change your ad copy to include an offer or even change the call to action.

Without question, to remain competitive in this economy you’ve got to make every dollar count. Following these tips will help you identify areas of opportunity and inef­ficiency in your PPC campaigns, and in the end, boost their overall efficacy.

Make dollars count by identifying “opportu­nity” keywords as well as ineffective ones

Price Glomski
Acct. director and integration strategist, Range Online Media

An annual or semi-annual reorganization and streamlining of your campaigns can make a significant difference in the perfor­mance of your campaigns. A few guidelines to consider this spring when embarking on a clean-up of your own:

Organization is the goal. Campaign organization tends to be sidestepped more than other tasks because of the granularity and required project time. However, a well-organized account increases quality score, improves spend management, enhances creative relevance and provides a more actionable reporting layer.

Initiating a restructure is daunting, so focus on your product hierarchy (or site map) to assist in mapping out your site organization. Because engines no longer require unique campaign set-up, use a man­agement technology to easily clone your program or proprietary techniques to set up and track each engine.

Next, go out with the old and in with the new. As first and fourth quarter promotion fatigue wears off, consumers again become more approachable. In order to create pro­ductive copy, you should always be testing where testing is warranted — use mid- to high-traffic groups to eliminate variance. Ensure that each ad group includes three or more active ad units. Organize your creative testing by building a simple report template that includes test name, start and end date, engine, campaign, ad group, type of test (even split, percent discount, etc.), creative, all associated metrics, winner/loser and con­fidence level. A cleanup idea: Instead of pausing out underperforming or legacy creative, go ahead and delete them from the campaign. Engines maintain creative info under historical reports.

Also, be sure to clear some shelf space. Don’t be one-track minded when approach­ing your search program. Save room for testing with similar or influential channels, such as feeds (i.e. comparison shopping engines, Yahoo SSP, travel submit, etc.). Optimize page share, qualified clicks and conversion by sharing product specific results cross-channel. Test idea: Shadow your top Google product search listings with a promotion-based search ad, either parallel to the listing or in top position.

Finally, less is more. An organized cam­paign and testing strategy means fewer hours spent on management, thereby allowing for growth opportunity and thoughtful strategy in other areas of your campaigns.

A period of reorganization of your paid search campaigns can boost results

Cameron Friedlander
VP of technology solutions, Designkitchen

The landscape for sponsored listings is reminiscent of the wild west. The mental­ity is often who has the most guns vs. who has the best aim. For business-to-consumer clients, this is costly. If you spread yourself too thin, your cost for conversion grows exponentially — and you pay for users who had no interest in your product. The basic fundamental for a product site, then, is to aim correctly and not waste money.

So, is paid search worth it? Relying on organic listings alone may be less relevant for users. Not only do marketers find them­selves battling for first-page placement, but users encounter results riddled with search engine optimization (SEO)-spoofing “com­parison” sites and strange ad-revenue gen­erating sites, which don’t sell the product. With so much clutter, sponsored listings have become a relief to users looking to buy a product and thus a very viable option for b-to-c marketers.

One simple tip to get in the game is to be as specific as possible with sponsored list­ings for a product. The more information about the product, the more likely you’re focusing on users who are interested in buy­ing. Let’s look at Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system as an example. Users who type in “Xbox 360” could be searching for any­thing: cheat codes, warranty information — the list goes on.

Now, users who type in “Xbox 360 Elite” have a clearer sense of what they are looking for, yet are still sticking to just the general product name. Those users who type in specific product naming such as “Xbox 360 Elite 120GB bundle” have already done the research, know exactly what they want and are ready to purchase. There is no question of their intent: they want to buy.

Then, it’s time to get the paid links out to draw them to your site. Ultimately, when it comes to paid search, using very specific keywords around your products will decrease your pay-per-click cost to con­version cost while increasing your overall conversion rate — in other words, getting users who are ready to buy to your site and increasing the chances that they will follow through with a purchase — and that’s good news.

Sponsored listings can help marketers rise above the clutter, but be product-specific

Michael Behrens
VP of e-marketing, WebMetro

What is the “one thing” you need to improve your search engine marketing (SEM) performance in 2009? It’s something many abandoned when radical wins began to diminish and excitement faded quickly: a recommitment to testing.

While 2008 did not yield most search marketers’ three-digit increases in conver­sion rates or 50% savings in media cost through day parts or bid management; it was a year of incremental wins that cer­tainly added significant value. Here are a few notable examples from our agency:

In a landing page test for a financial services company, adding video to the search landing pages increased conversion rates 18%. Because consumers perceived the landscape as cluttered and seemingly commoditized, video provided clarity to the market about our client’s differentia­tion. Although the conversion rate didn’t double, the 18% increase provided a needed competitive advantage.

Also, A/B testing for creative in a soft­ware provider’s content campaign proved successful. For many advertisers, a Google campaign is primarily a search campaign with a few dollars allocated to the contextual network. For many of our clients, contextual advertising is a significant portion of their media allocation due to the strong returns and increasing amount of available sales volume ripe for picking when using the net­works. We tested two banners with similar positioning strategies but unique position­ing methods for a free software download. The winning call-to-action produced a 14% increase in conversions.

We also measured creative impact on average order value (AOV). An often-overlooked element of creatives used in Google, Yahoo and MSN is the impact a creative has on the AOV of a client. Should the title tag use “free shipping” to get the popular “free” word in the prominent part of the ad creative? How about using thresholds in the D1, i.e. “Free Shipping Over $50”? In a test for an e-commerce client the AOV increased by $12.09, or 21% by adding “Sale Ends Soon” to the ad copy.

Testing isn’t new but it gives us serious ROI. Are you still committed to testing? Have you become complacent? Hopefully, the examples that gave us incremental wins will inspire you to dust off the stats soft­ware, login into your multivariate testing platforms and get down to work.

Don’t get complacent — recommit to test­ing of paid search campaigns

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