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.
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?
Whether you’re just starting out in paid search or have fully built out search campaigns, in order to be successful, you’ll want to know how to implement negative-keywords within your campaigns. Why? Actively managing negatives is possibly the single most impactful tool marketers have to increase revenues and lower costs. The virtuous circle of lowering costs while simultaneously increasing quality and position results in a win-win for the advertiser: increased revenue and ROI. Given the benefits, negative keywords should always be a top consideration for advertisers looking to optimize paid search.
In a recent white paper, Marin Software reviews the benefits of successful negatives strategies and presents a variety of best practices for deploying and managing negatives. Some of these best practices include:
Gain a complete understanding of how to leverage negatives to maximize revenue and performance for online advertising programs. More importantly, become equipped with the techniques necessary to make a strategic implementation of negatives a reality.
Download the free white paper here.
And, join our free webcast on Thursday, March 15 at 10am PST (1pm EST).
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!