Quality vs. quantity. Nowhere are the tradeoffs more important than in the world of search engine marketing.
We use data to measure performance, set goals, and drive the decision-making for our paid search programs.
As a fellow SEM professional, you know that data is everything. It:
- Measures our value.
- Allows us to define strategies and boost our performance.
- Is the driving force behind our work.
But data on its own isn’t an automatic key to higher value and better performance. The operative piece is actually quality data.
An athlete depends on quality food to help create energy and build strength. If that athlete indulges too long or too much in foods that are high in sugar or contain simple carbohydrates and other additives, their performance will suffer. Chances are they’re going to be slower and weaker. Even micro-seconds of lost time will inevitably benefit their competition.
The same applies to how you make key decisions when running a large scale SEM program.
No decision is more important than defining and executing on a bidding strategy. Quality data is the key.
Advanced optimization strategies; fueling accurate forecasts; activating key insights; these all need data. It all helps to provide a more relevant and valuable customer experience and drives the optimization techniques that increase revenue and ROI.
What causes missed performance goals? Typically, it boils down to incomplete data that drives incorrect decisions.
Simply put: without good data, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the algorithms or optimization techniques you apply to your program. Your performance will fall short of its peak potential.
The big picture? The lack of a complete and unified data set is a significant challenge for most SEM programs.
However, solutions that can capture and leverage the right data can have a meaningful impact on the success of an SEM program.
Here are a few of the ways.
1. Higher Revenue & ROI
Now, more than ever, data has the ability to drive increased business performance.
By measuring, tracking, and analyzing data on past performance, you can make smarter decisions. These deliver improved results.
In fact, certain core categories of data that most businesses already have can be directly applied to increase SEM ROI.
Search teams can empower smarter and more profitable bidding decisions by tying:
- Analytics data from web and mobile tracking solutions.
- Offline data from call centers or CRM platforms.
- Inventory and/or capacity systems that track real-time supply constraints.
- Contextual data back to SEM data.
Large SEM programs can’t achieve peak performance without leveraging this type of data.
A unified data set will also offer insights into how deep your prospects are in the funnel. Plus, it can illustrate the valuable milestones of the customer journey.
Many clicks don’t see conversions for at least 30 days. But a unified data set can provide insight into other buyer stages that predict value.
Conversely, SEM programs missing peak performance should check SEM data mechanics for opportunities.
First ask if your current solution is capturing and leveraging all the data that measures and influences your funnel.
A typical problem: you can’t integrate data from third-party, offline, or deeper funnel locations.
The outcome: You’re forced to use a suboptimal strategy of optimizing bids. You’ll bid to metrics that don’t actually measure your business performance.
Here are some other questions you should ask to evaluate your data mechanics:
- Newly purchased bid management platform. Does it immediately integrate and apply enough historical data to make smart decisions?
- Long click to conversion funnels. Does your bidding solution address the lag? Does it make informed and proactive decisions based on predicted performance?
- Is every reported metric eligible to be a performance goal? Often tools present a relevant business metric in a report. Few make that same critical metric available as an optimization goal.
Achieving peak performance is hard. But the foundation to get there requires investing in a platform that does two things:
- It collects the right quality data.
- It then allows you to apply that data to sophisticated algorithms to automate bidding optimization at scale.
2. Historical Context for Better Decision-Making
What if you’ve just deployed a new bidding platform?
Minimize the all-too-common and expensive “bidding learning period”. The quality of data you feed into the new platform is of paramount importance.
If you don’t integrate historical data, your team may struggle to see patterns that drive profitable strategic decisions. So when it comes time to set budgets and give forecasts for next Q2, they will be more difficult to prepare and less informed.
Why else might historical data matter?
In the world of SEM, almost every business experiences some sort of seasonality. Promotional events, holiday periods, or monthly trends.
Ideally, your future promotions and seasonal strategy learned from past successes and failures. Likewise, your bidding strategy should leverage data from past seasonal periods to guide future bids.
Strong historical data can provide the context required for the best results. But you’ll need the right platform.
It’s not only important to capture your historical data, but also to be confident that the data set is feeding decisions. If your platform only uses 30-60 days of historical data for bidding, for example, how can it account for a once-a-year event like Black Friday?
Paid search professionals are often forced to override their bidding platform to control the bids themselves. Real trust comes from good data put to use.
While a lofty goal to achieve “full automation,” today’s paid search marketers need a solution that provides robust data integrations and the capacity to use that data in a proactive way to win in a competitive ecosystem and achieve peak performance.
3. Differentiate Yourself From Competition
We established quality food drives performance athletes. Quality data operates the same way. It powers advanced techniques and capabilities in your bidding solution. These features enable advertisers to achieve peak performance and beat competition.
Take forecasting and scenario modeling. While predicting the future isn’t new to the industry, it’s far more accurate when fueled by reliable and comprehensive data.
Algorithmic output is empowered (or limited) directly by the depth of data. Capturing all available data points will provide a richer understanding of a click at any given point in the process.
This enables modeling about that click’s future. (Even when accounting for a delay of days or weeks to mature into a deeper funnel sale.)
Similarly, automating audience bid adjustments is another example of an advanced bidding technique. Status quo means relying on humans to define segments, collate, and analyze the data. Then they have to try to apply the right audience bid adjustments.
On the other hand, automatically tracking all the audience attributes of each click and understanding how those attributes impact conversion rate and monetization, a bidding platform consumes with the raw fuel to be able to drive an automated approach.
Proper data science methodologies should be used to model this data. Thus, it is possible to unlock higher performance and drive the greatest value from customer audience data. That’s a key requirement to achieving peak performance.
Humans versus machines. It’s an age-old question.
Historically, SEM teams have been responsible for both performance and tactics.
Today, technology now offers the ability to go well beyond what humans can accomplish on their own.
This means the best of all worlds: humans plus machines.
What’s the alternative?
At scale, there aren’t enough humans to review all the relevant data and execute all of the necessary decisions to manage a large SEM program. You simply can’t scale your team to accommodate hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of keywords or products. If you try, you certainly won’t achieve peak performance.
Enter technology, which can do so much today. It can execute the “blocking and tackling” of keyword-level bidding. It can deploy more advanced strategies like device, location, ad schedule, or audience bid adjustments.
But that automation can only begin with strong, reliable quality data.
High-powered SEM platforms have the ability to provide a critical link. They create understanding about where your business derives its value, then use that to directly increase ROI.
The right platform also provide historical context that helps you and your team identify patterns. This can inform strategic decisions quarterly, weekly, hourly, and even minute to minute.
But, like the fuel that drives a sports car or the food that fuels a professional athlete, performance doesn’t come without the right inputs.
In SEM, you can’t achieve peak performance without reliable, quality data.
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