The Seven Pillars of Paid Search

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When customers look for information about products or services, their first stop invariably is the use of a search engine. Because search engines are used so often by customers, paid search now accounts for nearly 25 percent of the average online marketing budget, according to Econsultancy.

With paid search representing the largest portion of online marketing budgets, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your organization is optimizing its paid search capabilities. Focusing on the seven pillars of paid search marketing will help drive the company’s highest return on investment while ensuring the maximum operational efficiency.

1. Tracking. An essential starting point is understanding what’s being tracked in order to identify opportunities to address any gaps that might exist. For instance, are all revenue events being monitored, including phone calls, web chats, and in-store sales? What types of attribution models do you use—first click, last click, or a weighted approach? Are conversion rates measured by sales or lead generation? Establishing a baseline for tracking is critical to the success of an organization’s paid search efforts.

2. Media Weight. Once effective tracking standards have been set, the next step is to determine how well (or poorly) the budget is applied across different campaigns. Did the top-performing campaigns and keywords receive maximum exposure? Or were they limited by low bids and capped budgets? Making certain that top-performing campaigns are running at maximum visibility will help drive optimal results. A great place to start is to conduct a lost impression share to budget report. This report uncovers campaigns that were turned off during a cycle due to budget constraints. If any of your top campaigns are in this report, this is a good way to take corrective action.

3. Quality Score. Marketing leaders know that there can be tremendous variance between what advertisers are charged on a per-click basis based on their quality score, which is essentially an algorithm used to determine how relevant an ad/landing page is for a particular keyword. The less relevant an ad/landing page is for a keyword, the more a company has to pay per click and vice-versa. Advertisers create more relevant listings for their best keywords and are rewarded with a higher cost per click. In order to isolate and act on quality scores that are low or trending down, marketers can download a quality score report from a search engine. Improving quality scores is all about relevancy—creating hyper-targeted ads that resonate with the target customer.

4. Device Type. Smartphone and desktop users often engage with brands very differently—even when they use the same keyword. Evaluate conversion rates and ROI at the device level for top ad groups. Where there are discrepancies, performance improvements can be obtained by adjusting bids, the creative, and/or the landing page.

5. Match Type. There are four match types in Google AdWords that enable marketers to better target customers based on the keywords they enter: broad, phrase, exact, and negative matches. Although the keyword may be the same, the value of these match types can vary dramatically. A good rule of thumb is to strive for exact match to grow as a percentage of overall results month after month. When this occurs, it means that the marketing team is effectively mining the search query reports and building relevant ad copy and bids to continually improve performance.

6. Bid Management. Managing bids in search engine marketing can be tricky but it’s nonetheless imperative for monitoring the health of a paid search campaign. Points to consider should include examining how well your team set bids throughout the month, either with or without the aid of technology, and how well the team was able to maximize its budget or sales volume based on their goals. To make this determination, download the performance results for all keywords and calculate whether the average bid aligned with the actual revenue and conversion rate. Auditing bid management is a great way to ensure that paid search engine marketing investments are being maximized.

7. Keyword segmentation. Segmenting a keyword is sometimes the best way to improve paid search performance. For example, the keyword ‘computer’ may have an ROI of 2-to-1 for a given e-commerce website, but a deeper dive may uncover that the ROI can vary by time of day, match type, device, and geography. The beauty of segmentation analysis is that it can uncover hidden gems, revealing ways in which keywords that were at one time unprofitable or having trouble scaling to reach the top search positions can drive lucrative traffic to the company’s website.