At a high level, a successful paid search campaign comes down to seven basic techniques, as I’ll describe below. Mastering one of these areas is very doable, mastering all seven, extremely difficult. Over the next few weeks, I’ll expand on each of these areas with best practices for each in separate columns.
1. The Right Search Engines. Beyond Google – which is basically required for any search campaign – your selection of additional search engines can make or break your campaign. Vertical search engines like Industry Brains or Business.com can be a great way to find highly qualified clicks; Second tiers like Miva or 7Search can offer arbitrage opportunities. By the same token, too many search engines can lead to too much complexity, and the further away from the big boys you go, the greater the chance that you run into click fraud issues.
2. The Right Keywords. Should you buy a few core keywords or try to attack the tail with a few million? Only keywords that represent exact purchasing intent, or broad ‘thematic’ keywords that try to target customers by demographics? The old world strategy was definitely “more is more”, but these days the advances in search engine matching algorithms may call this strategy into question, depending on the type of campaign you are running.
3. The Right Targeting. The search engines have vastly improved their targeting and filtering tools. You can now use negative keywords, site exclusion, match types, IP filtering, placement targeting, day-parting, geo-targeting, and even demographic targeting (on MSN AdCenter). Your ability to effectively use these targeting tools is often the difference between profit and loss.
4. The Right Bids. An obvious one, right? Well, yes and no. You’d be surprised how many people either a) don’t figure out the ROI of their bids or b) don’t understand how bidding impacts profit. As I’ll explain in a future column, bid management is far more complex than most people realize, even those of you who are already tracking your ROI and margin!
5. The Right Messaging. Your ad text should help you attract potential customers and simultaneously detract browsers with no purchase intent. Using all the tools available to you (DKI, geo-targeting, Google Checkout, etc) can increase CTR and conversion rate enormously, reducing your cost per acquisition and CPC.
6. The Right Landing Pages. You can do an awesome job building a phenomenal keyword list, developing attractive ad text, and smartly planning bids, but if you send your visitors to a terrible and/ or non-targeted landing page, all your work is for naught. The conversion funnel doesn’t stop after someone clicks on your ad!
7. The Right Tracking and Reporting. I once worked for a company where the reporting was delayed by two days and only about 60% accurate. By comparison, at another job I had, reporting was delayed by 20 minutes and 90% accurate. Can you guess which one saw more paid search success? You can be the smartest search marketer in the world, but if you can’t get quick and accurate visibility into your data, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Paid search is easy to do, but hard to do well. The seven elements presented above seem obvious, and yet perfecting each of them can take years.