Archive for ‘Campaign Management’

The 2 Basic Steps for SEM Traffic Forecasting

By November 6th, 2014

In search marketing, the bidding and optimization are fairly standardized across different marketers and agencies. Most search engines and bidding platforms enable users to conduct sophisticated optimizations. But for traffic forecasting, there isn’t an industry standard process. During my 7 years in search, this is the one subject no two marketers can consistently agree on.

Traffic forecasting is important, because accurately assessing the investment and performance potential could help set the appropriate expectation between different stakeholders. Secondly, it almost always needs to be determined weeks if not months ahead of the activity, in order for the clients or other budget providers to procure. Lastly, in a large agency environment with multi-channel campaigns, having an accurate SEM budget forecast allows different media teams to allocate the right relative investment and create the most optimal media mix.

In addition, most marketers have the resources to do it. But sometimes, important factors are left out of the process. In a large multi-million dollar per quarter campaign, missing a key factor during forecasting could lead to a large absolute deviation.

For me, the forecasting process should include two steps. The first is to project what you could spend, by estimating the full market capacity. The second is to define what you should spend.

Step 1

To estimate market capacity, you need three factors: historical performance, historical Share of Impressions, and the projected change in search volume.

  • Historical performance: it’s the foundation on which other factors could modify. On a basic level, you could start with spend and clicks. If needed you could also add in other metrics like conversions.
  • Historical share of impressions (also coverage or share of Voice): it is the percentage of one advertiser’s earned impressions among all possible impressions, for a defined set a queries. Past Share of Impressions is what calibrates between what we have achieved and what we could at full capacity. In our case example, I have highlighted historical performance and share of impressions. Based on these, I’m able to assess the full market capacity. But it’s not yet complete.

  • Projected change in search volume: this information could help you further calibrate you forecast, but in the temporal dimension. The projected change should comprise of Seasonality and Trend. Seasonality is defined as the repetitive and predictable fluctuation in the volume and pattern of behaviors, such as search impressions, in intervals of days, weeks, months or quarters. Trend on the other hand is exclusively non-repetitive changes. An example of seasonality is the demand for allergy medications, which peaks every springs and falls. An example of trend is the search demand for Blu-ray DVD, which has declined over the years. To project search demand, I usually use Google Trends and other industry information, to review historical patterns and to extrapolate future changes. In our case example, I project a 15% increase in search traffic Year-Over-Year. Now the first two data columns show a different set of spend and click data.

Step 2

Now we have estimated the 2014 traffic at full capacity, we move onto the question of how much we should spend. In this step, we need two new factors: Internal KPI/goal.

  • KPI/Goal: defining a KPI and setting a goal refines the forecast from what’s possible to what’s reasonable. The goal can be a number of metrics such as impressions, sales, CPC, CPA. In our case example, we have a CPC goal of $0.50.
  • Desired future Share of impressions: This is the lever that determines the equilibrium between maximum engagements and staying within the goal. In our case, we know campaign B has a CPC lower than goal, so we should prioritize budget allocation at 100%. Next, we try a few different SOVs for Campaign A. But at the end, a SOV of 8% help us reach a Total CPC of $0.50.

Using this methodology, you’ll be able to forecast accurately and set the appropriate expectations across all stakeholders!

About the Author

Cong Picture 2Cong is a Paid Search & Paid Social Director at GroupM, leading the efforts across multiple clients and publishers. She’s responsible for driving market and performance analysis, SEM strategy, digital best practices and processes. Her industry experience spans across consumer electronics, pharmaceutical, consumer logistics, B2B technology, auto, finance, travel, and education.

Cong graduated from Swarthmore College, where she studied economics, statistics, and philosophy, after a short stint in Engineering. Before SEM took over her life, she sang in an Acapella group and enjoyed flamenco dancing. In August 2013 she climbed Indonesia’s most active volcano, Mount Merapi, and fortunately, it did not erupt that day.

Marin Software Joins Forces with Retargeting Experts Perfect Audience

By June 2nd, 2014

It’s an exciting day at Marin and for advertisers around the globe. Today we finalized our acquisition of Perfect Audience; an innovative San Francisco based retargeting company. We’re thrilled to have them join us and enhance our remarketing expertise and bolster our industry-leading search, social and display performance advertising platform.

With the acquisition of Perfect Audience, advertisers not only get powerful programmatic display capabilities across the web, but also direct access to Facebook Exchange (FBX), Google’s Doubleclick Ad Exchange, and Twitter.  For marketers looking to move away from inefficient point solutions, Marin is the only platform that offers audience-based ad buying across devices and channels.

You know your first party data is your advantage to effectively measure, manage and optimize across channels to win more revenue.  Your search data reveals purchase intent. Your social data shows valuable demographic info.  Your retargeting offers a trove of behavioral data.  Marin’s advertisers will be able to easily combine and analyze all three data streams in a single place to better inform and execute smarter audience buying across the vast search, display and social landscapes.

For example, Marin’s support of Google RLSA in conjunction with Perfect Audience enables advertisers to use their highly valuable first-party data to not only influence display retargeting but also improve search retargeting. Such a 360-degree approach to audience based retargeting in a single platform is a first for advertisers.

Marketers invest big $ to drive prospects to their websites, but generally less than five percent of this traffic becomes customers.  Adding Perfect Audience’s retargeting capabilities enables Marin’s advertisers to target the 95% of their traffic that doesn’t convert, generating more revenue from their online advertising programs.

If you’re not familiar with Perfect Audience, we encourage you to check out their powerfully simple platform. In addition to integrating the Perfect Audience platform with Marin, Perfect Audience will also continue to be available as a standalone tool. So, it’s business as usual for current Perfect Audience customers.

Curious about more acquisition details, then check out the FAQ.

Extending Relevance & Reach with Local Search

By May 16th, 2014

Recently, Google worked with Ipsos MediaCT and Purchased® to better understand local search behavior. Unsurprisingly, they found that four out of five consumers prefer and expect that their searches be contextualized to their location. However, it’s important to look at just how much local search affects consumer behavior.

The majority of mobile searches have local intent. According to Google’s study, 56% of all smartphone searches outside the home are done with some form of local intent, along with a little over half of those done in-store. The information consumers are usually looking for are general information for storefronts, such as location and hours.

Consumers respond well to local advertising.  When local searches are performed on a mobile phone, half of them resulted in an in-store visit, compared to a third of local searches done on a desktop. In addition, local searches are over two times more likely to result in a sale within the day than a non-local search. While local searches may inherently have more intent to convert than a non-local search, it is still important to note that there is such a significant uptick in conversion rates.

Consumers can influence impulse visits to stores. Google’s study reported that 32% of consumers who viewed localized ads were triggered to make a store visit and perhaps a purchase. Another 19% of consumers said that localized ads caused them to make an unplanned visit or purchase.

What does this all mean for advertisers? It means that if you’re not utilizing location-based advertising, you should be.

Whether it is a click-to-call button, address information, or radius bidding, localized ads drive more in-store visits, calls and conversions than non-localized advertising. While this is particularly true for brick-and-mortar stores, it can also be a factor for online-only companies – it just comes down to understanding the audience demographic which may be localized to certain zip codes or regions. Optimizing advertising budgets for contextually relevant ads will improve overall consumer experience and ultimately drive more sales.

This weekend, Marin is releasing support for Google’s location bid boost capability feature, making it easy for advertisers to take advantage of the benefits. Advertisers can use the feature to easily create and adjust location targets and exclusions, and add location bid adjustments across their Google accounts with one simple bulk form. We’re happy to help our clients extend their relevance and reach consumers on every device and at every point in the purchase process with this new support.

No More Mad Men: Today’s Agencies Consider New Channels and Vertical Publishers

By May 7th, 2014

Agencies have come a long way since the “Mad Men” days. The rapid proliferation and fragmentation of digital, social and mobile platforms has fundamentally altered their role in the advertising landscape. Now they need to be mindful of integrating online and offline data, dealing with cross-channel attribution, implementing digital ad tracking technology, and more.

To help agencies get an overview of these considerations, we just released “An Agency Primer for Digital Advertising Optimization.” It includes lots of integration and optimization strategies, and you can download a copy here.

As a quick preview into the Agency Primer best practices, let’s take a quick look at how agencies can integrate new channels and vertical publishers. While the major search engines have held strong as the most utilized research channel, other channels and websites are stealing market share by offering a compelling research experience.

Here are 5 tactics to consider:

1. Leverage Niche Search Engines as an Acquisition Channel. Niche search engines often present attractive advertising solutions for marketers looking to enhance their visibility in the search results. In the travel vertical, consider Expedia and TripAdvisor. In retail, look into Amazon, eBay, PriceRunner, Twenga, and Kelkoo. Or think about comparison websites such as MoneySuperMarket, Compare the Market,, or Go Compare.
2. Expand and Optimize Affiliate and Referral Networks. Affiliate marketing, which consists of a revenue sharing relationship between websites and advertisers, has grown considerably over the past several years. Agency marketers often appreciate the pay-for-performance model and recognize the channel as an important part of the customer journey. If you choose to go this route, make sure to review and optimize to reward sites with the highest quality traffic.
3. Advertise on Review Sites to Build Awareness and Consideration. Review sites offer opportunities for highly targeted advertising due to the amount of customer information available. Agency  marketers should not be afraid to suggest using review site advertising as a way for clients to drive incremental traffic and revenue.
4. Leverage Retargeting to Re-Engage Potential Customers. In order to retarget a campaign, marketers can leverage a variety of Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) or ad exchanges. No matter how you decide to set this up, make sure to adhere to retargeting best practices. These include capping the number of impressions each unique user can be served to avoid over-serving any one user, and carefully crafting your retargeting criteria based on the content they previously engaged with.
5. Test Second-Tier Search Engines and Search Networks. Many agency marketers have started to experiment with second-tier engines as a means of sustaining traffic at target profit margins. While traffic is generally lower on these networks, acquisition costs can be quite attractive. Consider Sendori, AdKnowledge,, AdMarketPlace, and others.

For more strategies and tactics, download “An Agency Primer for Digital Advertising Optimization” today.

4 Secrets to Achieving Search & Social Synergy

By April 28th, 2014

Last week, we revealed data showing the benefits of an integrated cross-channel strategy. But implementing that kind of strategy is easier said than done. Here are some practical tips from our latest white paper, The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising.

 1) Assess Your Organization’s Cross-Channel Capabilities - Only 44% and 35% of marketers respectively feel that their paid search and social marketing channels are tightly integrated with their overall marketing activities. That’s way too low! To get more aligned, first ask these questions to assess your organization’s cross-channel capabilities:

  • Are your search and social teams working toward the same business objectives?
  • Is your message and value proposition consistent across channels?
  • Are you properly attributing revenue from each channel?
  • Are you budgeting across channels based on campaign ROI?
  • Are your promotions aligned across channels?
  • Is your business intelligence strategy integrated?

2) Target High-Value Audiences Across Search and Social - To reach the right customer with the right buying intentions at the right time, take advantage of audience retargeting across search and social publishers:

  • Search to Social - Create Facebook Custom Audiences based on search query data from your digital marketing platform. Then target the same audiences on Facebook with tailored messages based on their search queries.
  • Social to Search – Create Google Remarketing Lists based on visitors from social marketing ads. Then use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) to retarget your social audiences when they search for your keywords on Google.

3) Measure Performance Across Channels - Marketers who analyze their search and social campaign ROI holistically are able to make better decisions faster. Here are some considerations:

  • Make sure your search and social campaigns are tracking revenue from the same data source – this way you’ll avoid over or under counting conversions.
  • Integrate your search and social budgeting workflow in a single platform so that you can compare performance side-by-side and make channel-agnostic budgeting decisions.
  • Measure the path to conversion across channels so you don’t skip over important touch points, and so you have the best data to inform your messaging and creative strategy.

4) Optimize Across Channels Toward Audience Lifetime Value - If you focus on channel-specific metrics, chances are good that you’re missing out on the bigger picture. Instead, opt for an integrated search and social optimization strategy that focuses on customer lifetime value:

  • Automate your cross-channel bidding toward target audiences based on customer lifetime value.
  • Forecast lifetime value and level of investment required to better hit your ROI targets.
  • Use click-weighted attribution to assign revenue across clicks to accurately value each channel’s impact in the path to conversion.
  • Create look-alike audiences based on the lifetime value of converting audiences – this will help you expand into other profitable audiences while staying within ROI targets.

Looking for more search and social best practices? You don’t want to miss out on our white paper. Download it here and benefit from lots of data, 5 strategies, and 15 tactics to integrate your search and social campaigns.

[STUDY] Data Shows Search & Social Go Better Together

By April 23rd, 2014

You already know the data on search and social channels is compelling –  more than 92% of the global internet population uses search engines, and more than 73% use social platforms. But when it comes to managing spend across these two channels, marketers are still figuring out what works best.

We recently conducted a study into search and social marketing programs drawing on the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, an advertising data set from leading global brands that manage more than $6 Billion in annualized ad spend through Marin’s platform.

The results show that customers are more valuable when they engage with both search and social ads, but also that integrated search and social campaigns perform better than campaigns run in isolation.

Here are some key takeaways from our new white paper, The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising:

1) Customers Who Click on Your Search and Social Ads are More Likely to Buy: Users who clicked on both an advertiser’s search and social ads had an approximately 2x greater conversion rate than users who clicked on the search ad only. The impact of a cross-channel touch was even greater when examining social clicks. Users who clicked on both the search and social ads had a click-through rate approximately 4.5x times higher than users who only clicked on social ads.

2) Customers Who Click on Your Search and Social Ads Spend More: Users who clicked on both a search and social ad contributed approximately 2x more revenue per click than users who clicked on search ads only. Multi-channel touch points are even more valuable for social advertising. Users who clicked on both a search and social ad contributed 4x more revenue per click than users who clicked on a social ad only.

impact of search and social on buying journey

3) Search Campaigns Perform Better When They Are Managed Alongside Social Campaigns: According to the study, search campaigns that are managed alongside social advertising campaigns have 26% higher revenue per click than search campaigns managed in isolation. An integrated search and social management strategy also benefits an advertiser’s revenue per conversion. Advertisers have 68% higher revenue per conversion from their search campaigns when they are managed together with social advertising campaigns.

isolated vs integrated search and social management

For more data and actionable best practices, make sure to download The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising. How are you running your search and social campaigns? Drop us a line in the comments.

Best Practices Take Flight: easyJet Case Study

By April 21st, 2014

Lots of Marin customers operate in challenging markets, and easyJet is a prime example. The largest airline in the United Kingdom, easyJet operates in the notoriously competitive travel vertical, where a multitude of airlines vie for the same keywords alongside travel comparison sites and tour operators. Keyword lists are continually growing, and bids must be carefully monitored.

easyJet faced the challenge by teaming up with Resolution Media and making great use of Marin Software. Our interface is designed to deliver ever-improving financial results even in the toughest markets. Take a look at how easyJet achieved their goals, and pick up some tips for your own campaigns:

Folder-based Bidding

  • Using the automated Folder-based bidding solution, Resolution Media is able to optimize at the keyword level. They segregate brand and generic terms, and set different performance targets to make the most of each keyword and achieve easyJet’s goals. Keyword bids are calculated across all routes and updated daily.
  • Pro Tip: Use the time-savings you’ll gain to fully test your campaigns, refine your strategy, or even leave the office a little earlier!

Marin DimensionsMarin Software Dimensions

  • Resolution Media created a virtual reporting structure native to Marin Software that does not impact campaign structure, leaving the team free to adhere to campaign structure best practices and preserve Quality Score.
  • Pro Tip: Use Marin Dimensions to “tag” campaign elements for segmentation and analysis. Categorize and compare the data sets that matter most to your business.

User Journey Reportactionable recommendations Marin Software

  • Marin Software’s User Journey Report allows the team to understand which type of booking the keyword is actually driving. This facilitates ad copy and budget optimization, and also informs bid strategy in terms of knowing which routes need additional support.
  • Pro Tip: Turn to the User Journey Report for valuable insight on the best performing times of day and days of the week. Then put the insights into action with our day-parting functionality.

Since adopting Marin Software, Resolution Media and easyJet have seen significant improvements including 111% improvement in ROI, 51% decrease in cost per booking, and 29% increase in bookings. Learn more about their goals and success in the full case study.

Finally, thanks to Resolution Media and easyJet for allowing us to share their story!

3 Basic Tweaks to Improve Your Paid Search Ad Copy & Increase CTR

By March 27th, 2014

Paid search involves a million moving parts, but today we want to call out ad copy as a particularly important aspect. Good ad copy is convincing, drives click-through rates, and makes your ad stand out relative to your competitors. All this can lead to better quality scores and lower costs.

However, if you’ve ever stared at the blinking cursor with a case of writer’s block or wished you had more time to test and optimize, you’re not alone. Many search marketers are guilty of neglecting their ad copy from time to time. Even search marketers who take the time to fully test different ad copy and decide on a winner may not be refreshing it as often as needed to continually combat ad fatigue.

In this post, I’ll walk through some basic methods to increase your ad copy CTR and make it stand out:

1. Use Your Value Proposition - What’s the reason why searchers should visit your website? What benefits do you offer and why should people choose you against your competitors?  In the example ad below, the value proposition is clear and straightforward, offering people a way to create a custom website quickly and easily. Someone looking for this service might be enticed by the 100+ design selections offered and simplicity of the “3 Easy Steps” messaging.

paid search value proposition

2. Capitalize the First Letter of Every Word - There’s evidence all over the web that capitalizing the first letter of every word in your ad will help increase CTR. Consider the two ads below, and it’s clear to see which one stands out more.

capitalize paid search ad copy

capitalize ad copy in paid search

3. Use a Strong Call to Action – What should people do after reading your ad? A strong call to action will instruct searchers on the next step they should take, and create a sense of urgency for them to click on the ad. For example, if you were selling life insurance, “Get a Free Quote Today” is a call to action telling searchers to visit the site right away for a quote.

paid search call to action

Keep in mind that optimizing for a boost in CTR doesn’t mean that the conversions will magically appear. Just because you create outstanding ad copy to make a searcher click doesn’t mean they will convert. Search marketers need to look at all these different elements in a holistic way and use data to evaluate how effective their ad copy is in terms of both click-through rate and conversion rate. For example, if you are driving a CTR of 10% and generating new traffic, but bounce rates are high and conversions are low, then chances are your ad copy isn’t relevant to the landing page you’re driving them to and needs to be re-evaluated.

Good luck, and happy ad copy writing!

3 Essential Ways to Optimize for Online and Offline Conversions

By January 28th, 2014

Brands that seamlessly tie offline conversions to online events are positioned for success, but it’s easier said than done!

Most businesses have a wide variety of customer touch points: website visits, social media interactions, phone calls, email, proposals, quotes, surveys, tech support, ordering, delivery, you name it. While it’s terrific to have so many diverse touch points, they can be a source of great complexity for digital advertisers.

A gap between the online and offline can result in an incomplete picture of paid search performance, as downstream revenue from offline conversions remains unattributed to the keywords and creative that drove those conversions. On top of that, not all interactions result in revenue conversions. The inability to define unique revenue values for each event and tie them to a single customer and keyword results in a bidding strategy that ignores lifetime customer value and fails to calculate optimal keyword bids.

So how can search marketers bridge the gap? Here are three tips for optimizing for online and offline conversions:

  1. Track customers with order IDs. Assigning order IDs allows advertisers to bridge the gap between their data warehouses or CRM systems and online customer activities. Search marketers are not only able to attribute offline conversion and revenue back to the paid click and subsequent online event, but they can also modify attributed revenue based on refunds, cancellations, and other downstream revenue adjustments.
  2. Optimize for multiple conversion events. Different consumers will represent different value to your business. For example, a visitor who requests a quote may be worth more than a visitor who signs up for a newsletter. The flexibility to assign a unique value to non-revenue conversion events in this scenario enables advertisers to measure the true value of each visitor and keyword to their business. Tying these events to publisher data allows search marketers to react quickly to top-of-the-funnel activity, and measure the impact of website engagement on downstream revenue and lifetime customer value.
  3. Calculate optimal bids with portfolio optimization. Maximizing conversions or revenue across a set budget requires making spend tradeoffs between keywords within a portfolio. Calculating optimal bids for all keywords simultaneously enables search marketers to maximize online and offline conversions and revenue across their account while taking into consideration business goals that vary across campaigns, products, services, and other business requirements. This approach to bidding requires an automated solution that can capitalize on new keyword opportunities without an expensive “learning” period.

These tips are adapted from our white paper, Navigating the New Paid Search Landscape. It’s a must-read for any advertiser in the financial services sector, and we also recommend it for marketers operating in a particularly competitive market.

To Every Bid There is a Season: 4 Quick Tips for Seasonal Optimization in Paid Search

By January 23rd, 2014

The holidays are over, but seasonality should be a consideration for search marketers all year round.

Seasonal shifts in consumer behavior influence paid search performance, and create a constantly changing bidding landscape. Fortunately, this opens up some great opportunities to grow both conversions and revenue. With a little effort to manage seasonal data and constant promotional changes, optimizing for seasonality can be an excellent way to edge out the competition.

Let’s take a look at 4 quick tips for seasonal optimization in paid search:

  1. 1) Schedule bid adjustments based on forecasted performance. We recommend deploying boost schedules, where bids are increased or decreased for specific time periods, in order to optimize for fluctuations in conversion rate. Assigning individual boost schedules across products and services provides the flexibility to bid aggressively or dampen bids for in-season and off-season products and services. Also utilize a time-of-day or day-of-week strategy based on significant conversion rate trends in order to optimize campaigns for cyclical effects on consumer behavior.
  2. 2) Factor conversion latency into bid calculations. Depending on your business, the time between an initial click and the eventual conversion and revenue can range from the same session to several months. In order to optimize bids using a complete picture of ROI, it’s best to find an automated way to exclude the most recent days from bid calculations. Account for latent conversions and revenue by dynamically extending or shortening a rolling date exclusion window based on your business needs.
  3. 3) Identify and exclude outlying data. Advertisers occasionally experience atypical increases and decreases in conversion rate due to promotions and competitor activity. Use a platform with multi-layer filters and alerts to quickly identify these changes and manage by exception. A platform will make it easy to exclude specific dates and date ranges from bid calculations across campaigns, products, and services – saving you a lot of time and hassle.
  4. 4) Schedule campaigns to align with products and promotions. Make sure to update your ad creative to reflect seasonal promotions and expand campaigns to align with seasonal interest. A platform can be helpful in providing a streamlined workflow and automation for these tasks. By effectively executing on your promotional calendar, you’ll be better able to engage with your audience about in-season products and services.

These best practices were adapted from a recent Marin Software white paper, Navigating the New Paid Search Landscape. With a focus on the financial services industry, the paper is a good read for anyone running paid search in a highly competitive vertical. It includes tips on efficient budget allocation, online/offline conversions, building brand equity, and adapting to changing business requirements.


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