INside Performance Marketing
10 Ways to Improve your Search Marketing Campaign
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10 Ways to Improve your Search Marketing Campaign

1. Pay attention to what your customers are telling you they want

Search is a remarkable marketing channel because through it people are telling you exactly what it is they want and giving you the opportunity to meet that need. Someone might be searching for information about car insurance, but someone else is looking for car insurance for women drivers, or for car insurance for women drivers with points on their license. All this information gives us as marketers the chance to have an intelligent conversation with people based on what they have told us they need, but only if we listen and interrogate the data.

2. Keep expanding your keyword lists (and refining your account structure)

Regularly running your search query reports will reveal the actual search terms that your customers have entered into the search box to trigger your phrase and broad matched keywords. These reports will show you the types of keywords you don't want your ads to show for (and certainly those you don't want to pay for) but more importantly they will reveal terms that should be added as exact match terms to your campaign, perhaps in new ad groups that will enable you to put a highly targeted message in front of people searching for those terms.

3. Your site content must reflect what people are searching for

If you are a car manufacturer and you notice that there is a high volume of people searching for information about the safety records of specific car marques that you offer, then the search ad that you show in response to these queries should reflect that theme. However, if you don't have relevant content to connect those searchers to then you will deliver an ultimately disappointing experience to your potential customers. In addition to this, the clicks you deliver will cost you more than they should as Google will penalise you for not delivering relevant content to Google's users. Your best strategy is to continually interrogate your search data to see what your customers are searching for, and then extract themes around which to develop content.

4. Use the full range of placements available to extend your share of the search real estate

Gone are the days when PPC was simply a title, two lines of description and a URL, there are now a number of additional features (called ad extensions) that you can use, from call extensions that enable potential customers to call your call centre directly from your ad, to consumer ratings to location extensions that show exactly where people can visit your business in person. Using sitelinks you can extend the size of your ad and better connect searchers to pages deep within your site that might better resonate with their search query. As well as this wide variety of extensions, Google's Product Listing Ads (PLAs) is a hugely useful tool for retailers, enabling you to directly feed products from your online database into Google's shopping results. This gives you an additional space in the search results.

5. Don't be afraid of some heavy lifting

It used to be that a few thousand keywords were sufficient to run an effective search campaign, but now search accounts routinely run into millions of keywords. There are sizeable rewards to be had in targeting the exact search term that a consumer enters into the search box in terms of the bid price you have to pay to win that auction. Exactly matching that search term will cost you significantly less than phrase matching to get the same degree of coverage. However, to stand the best chance of capturing that exact search term you will need to add every possible permutation and computation of search term combinations. That means radically expanding your account in many cases.

6. Make sense of millions of keywords with clever structuring

The danger, of course, in massively expanding the number of keywords that you have in your account, is that your account can rapidly become unwieldy to the point of being unmanageable. The key is to have a rigorous account structure in place that enables you to cluster your keywords intelligently and make macro decisions around which keywords are working well for you. For example, a fashion retailer might have every single item in their online catalogue built out into adgroups around colour, style, fabric, length, size and in so doing will be able to see which type of category performs best. If the colour groupings generate more sales, this insight can be rolled out across different products.

7. Use hyper targeting to manage campaign efficiency

There is an awful lot of information that we have on searchers before they enter a single character into the search box. We know what device they are using, we know where they are and we know what time of day it is. These are all levers that can be used to manage the efficiency of paid search spend. For example, expensive generic terms might be cheaper and convert better in Northamptonshire than they do in Sussex, therefore it would make sense to buy more clicks there. Similarly, people that click during the day might convert better than people that click in the evening, so if you have a limited budget, those are the clicks you should buy.   Also, with the advent of Retargeting Lists for Search Advertisers (RLSA) it is possible to retarget people in search meaning that you can just put search ads in front of people who have already been to your site. This can enable you to extract more value from your search budgets, and generate good results for relatively limited investment.

8. Remember that search is the response mechanism for all media

Multi-screening means that a significant proportion of people watching TV will have their mobile, a tablet or even a laptop computer very close to hand so if there is an ad they see on TV that piques their interest they can very quickly perform a search that will connect them to the additional information that they would like to see. In most cases it will be a paid search ad that they will click on, as it is most likely that the search they will perform will be a brand search. This means that you need to ensure that there is sufficient budget in your account to cope with any increase in demand for your brand terms, but also that your PPC ad creative reflects the themes or wording of your TV ad. Your PPC ad should stand alone but also be part of the conversation that your audience is having with your brand through your comms.

9. And remember that some people will always want to talk to someone in real life

It is important that in order to be able to fully understand the value of your paid search investment that you correctly attribute all responses to PPC, regardless of the medium through which they come. If you are running a campaign that is driving sales of a service, some people will be prepared to transact online but a proportion of people may want to call your call centre and discuss their purchase with a person. If this is the case, using trackable phone numbers and bespoke phone numbers that appear only when someone has clicked on a paid search link to get to your site will help you to review your PPC fully armed with information on the volume of responses it received both online and on the phone.

10. Make sure you're using the right technology

Bid management technology will enable you to automate some of your PPC activity, taking the strain of changing bid prices away from people and delegating it to technology. The right bid management technology for you will bid according to the rules you give it, either bidding to maintain position, coverage or to generate a pre-determined level of ROI. However, while bid management will help with your PPC, the numbers it reports for you will not be deduped against your other digital marketing activity. For example, if you are running display activity alongside your PPC, you will need to use the same adserver for both to ensure that the numbers you report are absolute rather than subsets of each other. In this case, your bid management pixel should live within your adserver's container tag.

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Got a question or comment – tweet Jenny @Mindshare or comment on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIN.

Jenny Kirby

Jenny Kirby

 Jenny Kirby is Managing Partner at Mindshare. She is passionate about all things digital and about understanding the relationship between different media channels and different consumer behaviours, and has worked in digital since 2000 when her first digital role was updating the WAP site for Fox Kids. She progressed to being brand manager for Fox Kids Online running the digital marketing and site experience for the site before moving to digital specialist agency, i-level, where she ran the search proposition. After more than 5 years at i-level Jenny moved to Mindshare as Head of Search, then Head of Digital Performance before her current role where she is responsible for Mindshare’s performance proposition and for driving effective performance across online and offline channels to meet client business objectives. She has worked on American Express, Anglian Windows, River Island, HSBC, Three Mobile and Ford. 

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