Although innovation is important, new search engine bells and whistles can spread teams too thin, limit focus and ultimately stymie SEM success. Most brands and agencies with large scale SEM programs wisely continue to resist new offerings like Google Goggles or image search ads, choosing to set aside what many consider to be distractions that offer only minimal incremental gains in favor of doing all they can to optimize the high volume components of their SEM campaigns. Even among the big brands that do employ the latest search engine innovations, the vast majority run limited tests at most, and this commitment to effectively managing the basics ought to be applauded.
Search volume and consumer usage levels continue to increase opportunities for AdWords advertisers, and the stakes are simply too high for an advertiser to take their eyes off the core of their SEM program. So much opportunity exists, in fact, that advertisers must prioritize their efforts, and they have the most to gain by focusing on proven areas, like AdWords. So these inevitably take on the highest priority while experimenting with new and unproven offerings takes a back seat.
Perfecting the Basics
Today’s SEM optimization involves much more than just bid adjustments and keyword development. Deep linking, inventory management and integration, automation, and advanced analytics provide search marketers a host of proven options for boosting their SEM campaigns’ effectiveness. With deep linking, for example, marketers work to ensure that every search ad points to a relevant landing page. General queries trigger general ads, which point to appropriately general landing pages. Specific queries point to specific pages and general brand queries may simply point to a brand’s home page. After all, Search is a game of questions and answers. The more specific the question, the more specific and relevant the marketer should be when answering (i.e., message [ad] & landing page should be for the desired optimal response).
Inventory management and integration, a major focus for online and multichannel retailers, help to eliminate wasted spending on ads promoting out of stock or non-existent products. Some more advanced search marketers have taken inventory integration a step further by incorporating local store inventory management to serve local ads that reflect the availability of a specific product or service to the appropriate relevant geography.
Automation and analytics round out the areas where we see most advanced paid search marketers focusing their efforts. Leveraging automation enables search marketers to quickly execute best practice adjustments across entire keyword portfolios and groups. Automation continues to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a wide range of otherwise mundane and resource intensive tasks, including bid management, inventory integration, and the elimination of costly ads with invalid destination URLs or problematic redirects.
Analytics, of course, help search marketers learn, and this never stops for even the most advanced. Lessons learned in search can be reapplied to the channel or applied to other channels to boost effectiveness. Tearing down channel and departmental silos is a big job in some organizations but well worth the effort to ensure two-way sharing of analytics knowledge between channels that can help to expand and adapt the keyword portfolio for enhanced success.
New Channels Take Precedence
Even when search fundamentals have been mastered, new channels beckon and offer more potential than the latest search bell or whistle. The expertise of search marketers in managing and optimizing biddable performance and auction–based media buys translates extremely well into other channels. Search marketers are increasingly being tasked with building out social and display campaigns, for example, to deliver scope, scale and ROI similar to that of their search campaigns.
Most marketers will serve their brands well by making sure to ask themselves and their teams if they’ve done all they can to maximize the core components of all performance-based campaigns before getting started with the latest new offering in search. Those who haven’t should tune out the distractions of the latest SEM bells and whistles, regain focus, and get back to basics.