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Three recession-proof strategies you can use for search success

By now, most marketers know the drill for 2009: Trim budgets and focus on effectiveness. For search marketers, there are several ways to meet this challenge. In fact, you can often wring more ROI out of your paid search campaigns without sacrificing much traffic. Here are three clear steps you can take:

Set clear goals Search is the most measurable and immediate form of marketing, but measurability doesn’t mean much if you’re unsure of what metrics to analyze. The first step is to decide exactly what your goals are with SEM. Do you want to sell more product? Is your goal to collect e-mail addresses to generate subscriptions or leads? Do you want to drive conversions on your Web site, on somebody else’s Web site, over the phone or in a store? Make a clear list of your goals and then build your own measurement metrics for those goals.  If you can justify a newsletter sign-up or catalog request with additional marketing dollars, it can allow you to bid for the terms driving that traffic.

Measure with precision When every penny counts, maximize spend on the keywords and ads with the highest ROI. But first you need to identify them. If you are not using free publisher conversion tracking, each keyword will need to have a unique ID and include a creative ID as well (on Google, this is the {creative} substitution parameter). Some firms actually need to measure conversions that happen on other sites, or offline via a call center, which is trickier, but still possible.

Optimize, optimize, optimize If location is the rule for real estate, then optimization is the rule for SEM. Make sure your ad shows to as many of the right people as possible. Do this by expanding your keyword set and experimenting with broad match and content distribution. Then, improve your click-through rate by breaking your keywords into many small ad groups and writing specific ads for each group. Reference a category in the ad text and include the keyword in the ad using the keyword parameter. Test your new creatives at “even” traffic split — what’s best for Google may not be best for you. When adjusting creatives for different prices or seasons, don’t delete the old ones, just pause them. That way you preserve their history if you want to turn them back on. Finally, make sure your ad is not showing to the wrong people. Check the Search Term Query Report in AdWords to see what people are typing when they see your broad match search terms.

Wister Walcott is co-founder and VP of products for Marin Software.  Reach him at [email protected]

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