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.
Yesterday, I shared a story I commonly refer to whenever I talk about how SEM managers using keyword research and analysis can help their SEO counterparts. As I discussed, the knowledge share of mutually beneficial keywords is typically absent not because there’s a shortage of keywords, but rather because the value of sharing isn’t often realized. As part of my Roundtable Forum discussion at SES San Francisco last month, I’ll continue exploring the importance of communicating the findings between SEM and SEO managers during keyword research and analysis.
What Does SEO Offer SEM?
Natural search query reports provide an incredible amount of insight into the keywords that result in natural search clicks and conversions. Typically, since short tail keywords across a website are already leveraged within an SEM program, the keywords of interest within these reports are longer tailed. And in the spirit of storytelling, I’d like to share another one about my experiences working with a pet supply retailer.
Due to an expanded monthly budget, I was tasked with building out an extensive list of keywords that had to hit an aggressive return-on-investment (ROI) goal. Working with my SEO manager, and reviewing extensive natural search query reports, we discovered several keywords that drove an incredible amount of natural search traffic and conversions to a product page embedded deep within the website. Based on our findings, I decided to add these keywords into my SEM campaign. Because SEM competition already existed on these keywords and the cost-per-click was relatively low, the heavy influx of paid clicks and conversions was entirely incremental and highly profitable. In other words, after turning on these new keywords there was no decline in natural search performance, and I was able to hit my monthly ROI goal.
Keywords like the ones I’ve described above often fly under the radar of even the most disciplined SEM manager. Keep in mind SEO managers are constantly working within natural search query reports as well as analyzing high volume and top performing landing pages. To continue moving the needle, SEM managers need to integrate these SEO reports and insights into their keyword research and analysis.
As with any mutually beneficial relationship, positive feedback is critical in promoting continuous success. If a new SEO keyword is found to perform well for SEM, it’s important that the performance metrics and analyzes are shared with the SEO manager. Don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Keep in mind that keyword research and analysis is just one of the many mutualistic strategies that SEM and SEO managers can engage in. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback can lead to more aggressive but mutually beneficial strategies, like leveraging SEM keywords to drive traffic to SEO-challenge landing pages.
Last month at SES San Francisco, I was posed a question during my Roundtable Forum discussion about the sometimes non-existent relationship between search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) managers. In the case of keyword research and analysis, this is often the case. However, the knowledge share of mutually beneficial keywords is absent not because there’s a shortage of keywords, but rather because the value of sharing isn’t often realized. Today and tomorrow, as part of that roundtable discussion, I’ll be exploring the importance of communicating the findings between SEM and SEO managers during keyword research and analysis.
What Does SEM Offer SEO?
About three years ago I was managing the SEM program of a large motorcycle retailer and actively bidding on the keywords “dirt bikes” and “motocross bikes”. For SEO purposes, the landing page I was leveraging for SEM had been optimized for the keyword “motocross bikes”, since motocross was how this retailer described this particular type of motorcycle. After a couple months of keyword research and analysis, I discovered that the keyword “dirt bikes” received over twice as many paid clicks and conversions than the keyword “motocross bikes”. As a result of my findings, I submitted a keyword report to the SEO manager in an attempt to shift the SEO strategy on the “motocross bikes” landing page.
To generate more natural traffic and conversions on their “motocross” landing page, the SEO manager needed to leverage the more popular keyword, “dirt bikes”, throughout the page tags and content. Prior to implementation, this landing page had never appeared within the first five pages of natural search results for the query “dirt bikes”. A couple months after implementation, it was appearing within the top three positions on the first page of natural search results. As a consequence, natural search traffic and conversions drastically increased across this landing page.
I commonly refer to this story whenever I talk about how SEM managers can help their SEO counterparts. Sometimes SEO strategies can be limited by how businesses think about their own products (i.e. motocross bikes), rather than how customers think about their products (i.e. dirt bikes). The ability to continuously implement and test new keywords for volume and profitability enables SEM managers to discover SEO worthy keywords. When leveraged correctly, these insights allow SEO managers to increase natural traffic and acquire more revenue.
As with any mutually beneficial relationship, positive feedback is critical in promoting continuous success. If a new SEM keyword is found to perform well for SEO, it’s important that the performance metrics and analyzes are shared with the SEM manager. And don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Keep in mind that keyword research and analysis is just one of the many mutualistic strategies that SEM and SEO managers can engage in. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback can lead to more aggressive, but mutually beneficial strategies like using SEO to absorb the cost of expensive SEM keywords. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how SEM managers can benefit from the keyword research and analysis conducted by their SEO counterparts.
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).
Yesterday, Google released its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2011. On the whole, it was a strong quarter for the digital advertising giant. But Wall Street reacted in a way that seems counterintuitive. Since the earnings’ call, $18 billion has evaporated from Google’s market cap as share prices fell ~8%. So, what’s happening here? Is there really cause for concern? Or are Wall Street’s concerns overblown?
To get a more complete picture, let’s look at the relevant pieces of Google’s business and performance.
Google’s revenue for the fourth quarter was $10.6 billion, representing a year-over-year (y/y) top line growth of 25%, and marking their first $10 billion plus quarter. Though I usually don’t wax poetic over corporate financials, there is something strongly significant and symbolic about having hit the rarefied $10 billion quarter club. Way to go, Googlers!
Click Volume – Paid clicks were up 34% annually (y/y), implying more users are more engaged with Google.
CPC – Cost per Click declined 8% on a y/y basis, implying customers are getting more volume (clicks) for their advertising spend. This dynamic is important to keep in mind as cheaper clicks are better for advertisers, and assuming click quality doesn’t decline, will lead to increased investment in Google.
There’s probably more to dissect in these earnings, but this is probably a good place to pause and examine Wall Street’s reaction.
To put it plainly, Wall Street didn’t like any of the above. Shares plummeted ~8%. The big issue for Wall Street (based on the nature and frequency of analyst questions) was around the decline in Google’s average cost per click.
But this shouldn’t really be a factor because the marginal cost of a click (for Google) is zero. And assuming that click volumes are rising faster than changes in the cost per click, which they are in this case, Google’s top line revenue shouldn’t really see an impact.Net net, if cheaper clicks brings more advertisers on-board, than Google will more than make up on volume.
To be fair, I’m not looking at the slowdown in Europe or issues around currency (F/X) hedging in this blog post. (I’m also not looking at the positive impacts of mobile, social and display) But, those issues are a) extrinsic and b) volatile, and in retrospect, Wall Street may have over-reacted to Google’s numbers.
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.)
As a very tech-savvy customer acquisition agency, we learned a long time ago the extraordinary value of having extremely close relationships with technology providers. Being a user of Marin Enterprise Edition for years, the resources and time we’ve put into this relationship has paid off in spades, giving us the capability to get the greatest value from Marin and therefore be the most effective for our clients.
For very basic tools that have limited functionality, mastering them is easy, but there’s very little you can do with them and you get minimal benefits. For extremely sophisticated and function-laden tools like Marin, taking advantage of their breadth and depth of training, onboarding options, contextual help and other services was something we eagerly embraced in a big way. Doing so has paid off: we’ve seen a quantum leap in terms of results.
That’s the tip of the iceberg, as there are many other reasons that we chose to have a very close working relationship with Marin. Because acquirgy has a wide variety of direct response clients, with different business models, different metrics and different ROI goals, Marin’s desire to listen to our recommendations has led to numerous enhancements that we can confidently say has improved our ability to serve our clients. For example, using Marin’s Ad Testing feature, we were able to see dramatic differences between creative in a manner that was prudent and statistically significant.
It’s a win-win for Marin and acquirgy: Marin gets valuable feedback, leading to new features that benefits all their users; acquirgy gets new features that were developed based on our knowledge of our clients’ businesses.
Another example of the benefits of working closely with Marin is their close ties with Google. As clients we are among the first to learn about upcoming releases. This helps us plan for them so that we can take full advantage of them upon release. Marin’s ability to customize reporting and be a sounding board are two more reasons why our agency is proud to have developed such a close relationship with Marin.
Want to learn how we chose Marin from among all their competitors? Drop me a line (email@example.com).