I started in the search industry approximately seven years ago. Since then, much has changed in the space and how search marketers manage their day-to-day activities. In the beginning, it was all about manually calculated bids, generating keywords out of thin air and reacting to wasted ad spend after the fact. I’m confident most search marketers have their experiences and stories to share. This Thursday is Thanksgiving. A time of the year to give thanks for everything we’re grateful for in our lives. In the spirit of this holiday, I’d like to share a list of paid search innovations that I’m not only thankful for, but that have helped shape the search industry over the last seven years.
No More Awkward Conversations
We’ve all had that awkward conversation during Thanksgiving with that friend of a friend or distant relative we don’t see very often. What’s there to talk about? Rather than conversing about the weather, we’d be a lot more engaged had we’d known their interests or hobbies. Fortunately for search marketers, we no longer need to have generic conversations with our target audience. Over the years, it’s become easier and easier to find who they are and where they’re located. Device targeting lets us reach desktop users in the morning and afternoon, and mobile users in the evening. Geo-targeting gives us the precision to reach customers within a single zip code. Day-parting allows us to spend efficiently, delivering ads during the hours of highest ad engagement. And finally, interest and category targeting provides the flexibility to only reach customers that might be interested in my products or services. Whether you use one or all of the targeting features above, it’s safe to say that search marketers have the necessary tools to avoid awkward conversations with our customers.
Appreciate the Underrated Side Dish
One of the great features I’ve taken for granted recently, is the visibility I get into the elements that affect my keyword Quality Scores. Once upon a time, search marketers had no clue as to which keywords Google considered poor quality and high quality. Using some common sense, you could make an educated guess, but that’s all changed in recent years. Now that we get to see how our expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance and landing page experience stacks up against the average, all of the guesswork is taken out of the equation. Though it’s now taken for granted, this level of visibility is invaluable to search marketers, allowing us to focus and prioritize our time and understand which changes will have the biggest impact.
If Only Making a Turkey Was This Easy
Gone are the days where you have to export your entire keyword list and metrics into an excel spreadsheet and calculate break-even points and profit margins. This was more common than I originally thought after talking to several industry colleagues. As the concept and importance of search was growing and gaining momentum within most companies, very few were investing in technology, tools and agencies. Today, most mature paid search programs rely very little, if at all, on manual bid calculation. Enterprise software solutions, like Marin Software, offer the automation of a bidding algorithm with the flexibility of bid rules to help search marketers achieve their business goals. Some agencies, not leveraging 3rd party software, have built homegrown tools as well. These types of solutions have taken most of the error prone mathematics out of bidding, and in turn have allowed search marketers to focus on new opportunities, like creative testing and keyword expansion, to grow their paid search program.
Hope You Saved Room for Dessert
After the turkey and mashed potatoes, there will always be dessert. Just like after all the campaign managing and optimization, there will always be reporting. Even as the search industry has evolved over the years, the need for reporting has remained a constant. One of the most significant improvements in the life of a search marketer has been the introduction of time saving reporting tools. We can now pull reports by any metric on any account level and customize reports to satisfy any requirement. Scheduling and delivering reports has never been easier and the ability to set alerts has provided unprecedented visibility into daily account performance. Of course it’s a stretch to compare anything, let alone reporting, to Thanksgiving dessert. But with all of these innovations in reporting, marketers can now test more creative and expand more keywords, and still have enough time left over to grab a slice of pumpkin pie.
It’s a great time to be a search marketer. The space is continuously evolving and so have the tools and solutions we use. We should all take time to appreciate and give thanks to being part of one of the fastest growing industries. But most importantly, we should take time to give thanks to those innovations and people that continue to make a difference.
Last month I highlighted the importance for SEM and SEO managers to communicate their findings to one another during keyword research and analysis. By keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback, both teams can benefit from more aggressive, but mutually beneficial, strategies. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies that I mentioned—leveraging SEM keywords to drive traffic to SEO-challenged landing pages and using SEO to absorb the cost of expensive SEM keywords—can pay big dividends.
Addressing SEO-Challenged Landing Pages
For certain pages on a website, like product pages or conversion pages, even the most die-hard attempts at SEO fail to drive traffic. For example, deeply buried product pages, which often lack linking and original content, are notoriously difficult to deliver organic traffic. However, with the proper paid keywords and ads, SEM managers can help their SEO mangers drive their target audience to these pages. Not only does this increase traffic, but allows both managers to capitalize on the increased relevancy and higher conversion rates associated with landing customers on product pages. Furthermore, the ability to report on and analyze performance provides SEM and SEO managers with the transparency needed to fine-tune keyword lists, polish ad creative, and optimize campaigns to achieve business goals and objectives.
To begin building out a list of potential SEM keywords, generate an on-site search report. This analytics report is a quick and easy way to begin discovering SEO-challenged landing pages. In many cases, an on-site search report can reveal the pages your customers are searching for that they couldn’t find either through a search engine or your website’s navigation. Keep in mind that any new keywords added to your SEM campaigns should have an appropriate and specific landing page—the goal here isn’t necessarily to find new keywords, but to drive additional traffic to the deeper and less visible pages of your website.
Subsidizing Expensive SEM Keywords
Expensive SEM keywords are typically characterized by high competition and heavy search volume. These are the popular keywords that everyone wants to rank organically on and are more than likely already a part of your SEO strategy. However, there are plenty of SEM keywords out there that consistently generate clicks and conversions, but at an unprofitable cost per click (CPC). These keywords should be presented to SEO managers as secondary, or “nice to have”, keywords within the overall SEO strategy. It’s important to back up each keyword suggestion with performance metrics, such as impressions, clicks, average position, average CPC, conversion rate, and revenue per click. Keywords with higher values should be prioritized for SEO.
But let’s be honest, ranking on the first page for these “nice to have” keywords is easier said than done and is fairly difficult without the SEO machine supporting them at 100% capacity. However, if optimizing only a handful of keywords results in an increase in organic traffic, both SEM and SEO managers benefit. As increases in organic clicks occur, more SEM budget is freed up to purchase less expensive keywords or test new ones. When leveraged appropriately, these previously unprofitable SEM keywords will allow SEO managers to increase organic traffic and acquire more revenue.
As I mentioned last month, SEM and SEO managers must continuously provide results and feedback on recommendations to remain successful. Don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will help limit losses and open the door to capitalize on opportunities. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies I presented here can pay big dividends and enable SEM and SEO managers to acquire more revenue.
I began my love of data-driven marketing nearly a decade ago when I started at The Nielsen Company. While my time there was limited to the Consumer Packaged Goods and Telecommunications industries, I was hard pressed to get away from the heart of the Nielsen business—or at least what they were best known for—their television ratings. That’s where I started to become familiar with terms like Gross Rating Point (GRP), which is:
“A unit of measurement of audience size. It is used to measure the exposure to one or more programs or commercials, without regard to multiple exposures of the same advertising to individuals. One GRP = 1% of TV households.” (Source: Nielsen Media Research)
GRP is the foundation by which media buyers compare the advertising strength of various media vehicles. So why should digital marketers care? Nielsen, in addition to other companies like Comscore, wants to give marketers new GRP-like metrics by which to measure the effectiveness of their advertising efforts across channels (TV and online).
Aside from providing a single lens for viewing performance across platforms, a GRP-type metric would also lend itself to informing advertisers on how much they would be willing to pay for certain digital media impressions. This could change the way advertisers currently manage their online bidding—only paying for those impressions that they feel will be most valuable to their business. The end goal would be to obtain the highest possible GRPs at the lowest possible cost, while remaining focused on the target market—all of this now being done across both TV and online channels.
As with any foray into new metrics and crossing the chasm of advertising channels, there are pros and cons to the idea of using GRPs. Critics have argued that GRPs are not a guarantee, but rather an estimation of the audience that could be reached and, therefore, aren’t the best gauge for what media channels are the most effective. On the other hand, this is one of the first efforts to bring TV and online channels together and I applaud the effort. I believe this is an inevitable step in the evolution of advertising and will continue to be a focus for marketers as they continue to maximize budgets, refine their advertising and hone in on high-value customers.
While these digital GRP metrics are relegated to mostly display advertising channels at this time, who’s to say search isn’t far behind? With search retargeting now becoming a reality, a search GRP system could be on the horizon as well.
Marin is proud to announce the release of our 2012 Q1 online advertising report. This report, which identifies significant year-over-year paid search trends, was compiled using data from over 1,500 advertisers and agencies who invest over $3.5 billion annually in online advertising through Marin.
At a glance, our study revealed an increase in click-through-rate (CTR), with cost-per-click (CPC) remained relatively steady. More specifically, we found a significant increase in CTR and a drop in CPC on Google. Some of our key findings include:
So what does all this mean? The increase in CTR coupled with a 12% lower CPC points to Marin users increasing their efficiency on Google. This finding is further validated by the increased usage of exact and phrase match type keywords, as users continue to identify and fill gaps using Marin’s keyword expansion tools.
Device targeting, specifically smart phones and tablets, continues to soar in popularity. Increases in click volume give evidence of the growth in consumer adoption. With smart phones and tablets showing higher CTRs and lower CPCs compared to desktops, mobile search should continue to be top of mind for advertisers.
Want to see other Q1 industry trends from 2012 with our recommendations? Download the full report here.
We love our mobile devices, and according to our recent study of mobile paid search, we love searching on them. In looking across our client base the trend was unanimous, mobile search is up, way up.
In the U.S., we saw ad clicks from mobile devices increase 132% during 2011, and by the end of this year mobile will comprise 25% of all paid search clicks. Similarly, in the UK mobile ended the year with 15% of all clicks in the UK. And, even though it’s not as significant a percentage, mobile clicks in the Eurozone more than doubled in 2011.
Things get even more interesting for marketers when looking at the differences between smartphones, tablets, and desktops. Generally (UK was the sole exception), smartphones carry higher CTRs and lower CPCs, but the lowest conversion rates. Tablets beat desktops in CTR and CPC, come close to trumping desktops in conversion rate, and edge all devices out in cost per conversion.
So, what’s this all mean?
Mobile devices are not only changing the way consumers search and shop, but how marketers advertise. The immediate response by advertisers is to devote more budget to mobile search (we project ad budgets will fall just a bit short of click volume in 2012). However, down the road as savvy marketers adapt to mobile search scenarios, click to call, location-based promos, and integration with social will all become common place. Furthermore, attribution becomes a much larger issue, particularly in a scenario where a mobile search directly leads to an in-store sale. Who gets the credit?
How do you foresee search marketing changing with the increased adoption and use of smartphones and tablets?
The Giants may have won this year’s Vince Lombardi Trophy, but auto advertisers won the online advertising wars on Super Bowl Sunday.
The list of car companies vying for consumer attention was a who’s who of the industry, and included such household names as Acura, Cadillac, Toyota, GM and Volkswagen. Ads were priced at $3.5 Million for 30 seconds and averaged around a minute.
So was the $7 Million worth it?
To try and answer this question, we looked at click volumes and paid-search spend for the auto sector on Super Bowl Sunday and compared it to the rest of our US clients. Here’s what we saw:
Compared to Sunday the previous week, automotive advertisers saw a 28% jump in clicks, a 34% increase in impressions, and a staggering 122% increase in spend on Super Bowl Sunday. As advertisers competed for the same users, the auto segment’s cost-per-click (CPC) increased 73% on Super Bowl Sunday. In comparison, we saw a modest 6% increase in paid-search spend across our overall US clients, coupled with a 9% increase in CPC.
By getting the largest increase in click volume this Super Bowl, car companies clearly won the battle for the digital consumer’s mindshare. And in the process, they showed us how TV advertising and Search advertising can be used in concert to drive brand lift and deliver performance.
Implementing a mobile marketing strategy for paid search may pay large dividends to your web business. This article outlines the basic steps from evaluating the opportunity to building and optimizing a mobile-targeted search campaign.
The number of smartphone subscribers using the mobile Internet has grown 45% since 2010, and the majority of 25-34 and 18-24 year olds now own smartphones (64% and 53% respectively). 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices, to finding more information on a product or service, to locating a retailer. Also, mobile and tablet usage has proven to be complimentary to desktop computer usage. The time for Mobile paid search marketing is now, and the following ideas will help your business capitalize on the opportunity.
The first step in defining a mobile marketing strategy is to estimate the number of monthly search queries your current keywords generate from mobile devices. This can be accomplished by using the Google Keyword Tool’s “Advanced Options and Filters” feature. If demand is significant, it is critical to develop a comprehensive mobile strategy.
Next, investigate what percent of your current traffic comes from mobile devices. This can be tested by opting select campaigns into both mobile and desktop targeting for a limited period of time. After the test period, use the “Segment” button in Adwords to view campaign data segmented by device type. Mobile is estimated to represent 15-17% of all SEM traffic for the Finance, Automotive, Tech, Travel and Entertainment industries. What percent of your brand’s search volume comes from mobile?
If there is significant mobile search volume and brand penetration, evaluate your current assets. Does your brand have mobile-optimized web content or SEM-specific landing pages? If not, plan to invest budget here. Also, be sure your current tracking solution is compatible with mobile in order to attribute conversions and revenue back to the keyword that generated the sale.
One paid search best practice is to create separate campaigns targeting only mobile devices (not desktop). The benefits of doing so are budget control, bid control (see “Bidding” section below), ad copy optimization and mobile-specific landing page targeting. If you already have campaigns targeting desktop, either copy the entire campaign or simply migrate your head terms and other high-traffic keywords.
The mobile customer is unique. When building a mobile keyword set, remember, mobile screens are small. Therefore, mobile search queries tend to be shorter than desktop queries, typically one to three words. Mobile search queries also contain more local information, such as zip codes and city names. In your ad copy, be sure to include a relevant call-to-action, such as “Receive a Quote on Your Phone”. Also, consider using advanced ad features such as click-to-call and click-to-download if you have the means to track conversions from these sources.
There is limited real estate on mobile search engine results pages, five on Google, only two of which are positioned above organic search results. Consider bidding important keywords to position two or better, and leverage your SEM management tool to build an alert to notify you if mobile keywords drop below your target average position. For keywords targeted to ROI or CPL goals, consider targeting separate performance goals based on historical conversion rate and value per conversion, as mobile traffic converts differently than desktop.
If your keywords generate a significant amount of searches from mobile phones, implementing a mobile marketing strategy for paid search should be a priority. After growing by 45% since 2010, mobile internet usage is not expected to slow, so act now.
We just released our Q4 online advertising report, identifying important trends year over year in online advertising. We sampled the Marin Global Online Advertising Index, which includes over 1,000 advertisers and agencies that invest over $2.7 billion annually in online advertising.
Overall, our advertisers saw an increase in click-through-rate (CTR) and a decrease in cost-per-click (CPC). But more importantly, we found significant changes in clicks and impressions compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. Key findings include:
So, what does all this mean? The big jump in clicks and click through rates in the last year suggests that advertisers are continuing to increase investment in paid-search and consumers are even more engaged with paid search results.
Device targeting is also showing promise as smart phone and tablets become increasingly popular around the world. Based on the growing click share of smart phones and tablets, it seems evident that more and more people are conducting searches on these newer devices. And, these new devices are actually delivering solid performance for search marketers! The chart below compares CTR across devices in Q4 of 2011.
As this trend is growing rapidly, keep device targeting top of mind when planning your 2012 campaigns.
Want to see other Q4 industry trends from 2011 with our recommendations? Download the full report here.
(Note: You will be asked to fill out a short registration form to gain access to the full report.)
In the wake of another historical early holiday shopping weekend, we thought it interesting to take a look at how search marketers faired from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Here’s what we found compared to 2010:
So what’s it all mean? The dramatic increase in clicks and click-through rate compared to the more moderate increases in impressions suggest a significant change in consumer behavior. Either advertisers have managed to make their ads more relevant and appealing, or the search engines have come a long way in improving their matching algorithms. Most likely, it’s a little bit of both.
In our Q3 benchmarking report, we detailed a trend of rising click-through rates for large-scale advertisers over the past couple of quarters. This shift has occurred in large part as advertisers expand their use of phrase and exact match keywords – improving relevance and click-through. This shift in match types would also explain why click volumes rose faster than spend, resulting in lower costs-per-click for search marketers. If that trend continues throughout the remainder of the season, it will be a happy holiday indeed for advertisers and shoppers alike!
Pumpkin and pecan pie certainly reign as the Thanksgiving desserts of choice, but with the holiday around the corner we thought we’d take a look at what other holiday treats you might expect at the dessert table. Looking across our database, we identified the most popular dessert recipes searched for in the last two weeks. Sadly, pumpkin pie doesn’t crack the top 9, but we assume that’s because Mom already has that recipe down pat; so, no need to panic.
However, based on our findings there’s a good chance next to the pumpkin and pecan pies there will be an Apple Crisp (32%), and there is a decent possibility of a Pineapple Upside Down Cake (13%) making an appearance. For cookies, looks like Peanut Butter (10%), Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (9%), Chocolate Chip (8%), and Snickerdoodles (5%) will garnish the dessert platter.
Let us know after Thanksgiving if we came close to predicting your dessert table. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!