Effective Search Engine Marketing campaigns
The importance of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) as a marketing channel cannot be overestimated. This is due to SEM’s uncanny ability to bring in interested customers at the right time. The advertising methodology used in SEM is Pay-per-Click (PPC). Both terms are used somewhat interchangeably because SEM makes up most of PPC advertising domain.
Within SEM, the big guerrilla is Google, with over 85% market share of search in the U.S. The only other significant player is Bing (Microsoft), which takes the rest of the market share (including outlets like Yahoo and MSN). Because of its dominance, we will discuss SEM methodologies from the perspective of Google AdWords, Google’s SEM product.
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Google has made setting up AdWords campaigns straightforward. One part of the set-up that should not be ignored is conversion tracking. This is crucial for optimizing the campaign for the best ROI. Configuring conversion tracking involves inserting specific code (provided by AdWords) in the pages that represents completed tasks. A good overview of configuring conversion tracking can be found here.
Another feature that enables you to make the most of AdWords is Auto-tagging. This enables you to track ad performance at a web page level using Google Analytics (GA) and similar tools. Essentially, it will attach an identifier (Google Click Identifier or gclid) to the url that your customers click, identifying the ads that lead to the click. Auto-tagging is not ON by default. It has to be set through AdWords. (To set auto-tagging, click the gear icon on the top right of AdWords interface, select “Account Settings”, go to “Tracking” section and check the auto-tagging feature.)
Once the AdWords campaign is configured and running, there are three important ways to optimize the campaign beyond choosing the right keywords:
Analyze the exact search phrases typed by users to find your ads. Seeing the exact search phrase is useful because (1) it gives greater insights on prospects who are interested in your ads and (2) it enables you to suppress specific words and phrases in which you don’t want to spend your ad dollars. To see the search terms report, select “Keywords” from the left menu, and click “Search Term” tab.
Identify the geography of ad clickers: Each click on your ad costs money. Therefore, you want to know if the people clicking on your ads are in your target geographic areas. To understand where the clicks are coming from, review “user location report” (to access, click “Locations” in the left side menu, click “more” on the top menu and select “user location report”). If you see clicks coming from geographies you are not interested in, exclude these geographies from the campaign.
Compare your ad performance to competition: SEM landscape is very dynamic, and what is working for you today may not work for you tomorrow because of changes in competition. For example, there could be a new competitor or an existing competitor may change their strategies. The best way to keep tab on this dynamic is monitoring “auction insights” report. To access it, go to “campaigns” section, click on “More” tab and select “auction insights”.
Discussions continued in the next blog…