Let’s imagine a dream scenario: you have approved budget for a new, high profile campaign.
Everyone is excited.
You relish the opportunity to show how paid search is the perfect channel. It’s efficient and targeted.
But wait a minute.
There are a few questions you should ask yourself to make sure you’re positioned for success.
Whether you are an in-house marketer or work agency-side, raise these six points with your planning teams.
Unless you’ve prepared for each one, even campaigns with best bid strategies and creative execution can fail.
1. Consider if Your Business is Well-Suited for Paid Search
Paid search has evolved into a key component for most marketing efforts. Search remains a leading driver of traffic, accounting for 35 percent of referring site visits.
With paid search increasingly dominating SERP results, it tends to be one of the first digital media investment opportunities to be considered.
However, there are instances when paid search doesn’t lend itself that well to driving leads.
For many local businesses, it is more critical to optimize their site for organic visibility to feed into the map at the top of the SERP and to focus on managing presence on review sites.
Restaurants, dry cleaners, hair salons, convenience stores, and other similar location-centric businesses are often searched within map apps on phones or review sites.
On desktop results, engines already favor Knowledge panels and prominently display a local map within pinned relevant businesses.
In other instances, user intent or certain desired targeting criteria may not translate into search activity.
Social or display are still better channels to target users based on psychographic or demographic criteria.
2. Budget for Complementary Pay-Per-Click Advertising
Go beyond the typical Google, Bing, and Yahoo mix.
In many verticals, search-like vehicles are important to consider.
Consumers engage with them similarly to how they do with a search engine by starting their research journey there.
For an effective search marketing effort, you will need to include them in your strategy.
- Amazon: In retail, Amazon has emerged as the fourth pillar of pay-for-performance media. For a competitive presence, it is no longer enough to run just on the traditional engines. For a growing number of users, Amazon is the first go-to place for research, not a search engine.
- Metasearch: For travel companies, metasearch is an important consideration alongside traditional search engine advertising. While the ROI is typically lower than paid search ads on the search engine marketing ads, metasearch captures valuable users who are savvy travelers and could easily book with another party, such as an online travel agency, such as Expedia (i.e., OTA).
- Paid social: This is often overlooked as a complementary tactic to a traditional paid search investment. While targeting methods may seem less precise than a paid search campaign, social media channels offer important ways to target users who are considering your products. At the minimum, consider a paid social retargeting effort if a prospecting campaign seems costly.
3. Set Goals & Stick to Them
First, determine a KPI that will be used to measure success.
Ideally, you’ll want to use a single metric because it’s simpler to optimize a campaign toward one metric.
However, secondary metrics are worth considering if having a single KPI may be too narrow-minded or inadvertently cause undesirable incentives.
For example, having revenue as the only goal may result in focusing on higher revenue transactions, but unintentionally resulting in fewer total transactions.
Revenue would grow due to value per transaction rising, but fewer transactions would be captured.
With KPIs set, calculate goals for each one. Aside from defining the numeric threshold for success, be sure to also set a realistic yet somewhat challenging time frame within which to achieve this.
This will serve as a guideline for when to draw the line if any doubts emerge on if the campaign has run too long or if success is debatable.
For new initiatives, it may seem that any growth from your investment is already better than what you had before. This is a flawed frame of mind as investing a substantial budget or running a campaign for a very long time is a high opportunity cost to pay.
The longer one runs or the more budget one invests without clear results, the quicker one should ask oneself if the efforts are best directed elsewhere or of the effort should done differently.
If setting a specific number is tough, strive for a range of what will be acceptable benchmarks for success.
4. Strive for a Simple Landing Page Experience
For best success, stress test the landing page you plan to use.
If you have any doubts about its usability, or it doesn’t seem practical to modify the proposed page or site, consider creating a custom landing page.
Paid search campaign perform best if landing pages have a simple layout.
Keep your call to action and the bulk of the content above the fold on desktop and within two scrolling actions on a mobile device.
Ideally, the user would complete the entire desired action on the landing page (e.g. filling out a form, viewing a video).
For more complex transactions (e.g., making a purchase), the user should be able to start that process on the landing page.
5. Develop an Insightful Tracking Framework
All paid search conversions must be tracked.
Besides getting familiar with how the engine’s paid search account set up works, you will also need to decide how to track the campaign’s conversions.
While each engine has its own tagging approach, it is more strategic to use the same provider as the rest of your company or client’s business units. This will allow tracking results with the added benefits of seamlessly integrating with all other existing processes.
Furthermore, consider how your tracking framework aligns with the rest of the sales cycle beyond its digital phase. Research ways to integrate your activity with the wider CRM systems in place.
For example, I have seen Google Analytics UTM parameters set up to feed into Salesforce so that it is possible to attribute leads to specific ads, geotargeting, and other paid search attributes.
6. To Measure Results, Track Synergies with Other Marketing Channels
When evaluating impact, never look at paid search in isolation.
Consider synergies between paid search and channels that target your target audience earlier in the user journey throughout the marketing funnel.
Of the many users who will see your new paid search ads, only a small percentage will click on them. Then, of those who reach the site, only a small percentage still will transact in the desired way.
All those users who have not transacted but still engaged with you – from seeing your SEM ad and/or navigating to the site even if without transacting – will often still consider your products and services. These remaining users will just likely need more time to decide if you are the right fit for them.
Users who did not click on your paid search ads but were exposed to your other media will often convert through other channels. However, paid search played an important role in the process.
Similarly, other channels also educate users prior to them searching on and transacting through paid search.
It is important to capture these multi-touch synergies when measuring impact, as with any marketing effort, ideally using a multi-channel attribution model. This multi-touch behavior is highest in the B2B space. There, considerations involve high value, enterprise level decisions.
In the Google/Millward Brown Digital, B2B Path to Purchase Study, it was found that that B2B paid search users search a dozen times, before transacting.
It may be a bummer to have these hoops still to jump before launching. They are well worth to ensure success and gather broader business learnings even if they delay your launch.
More Paid Search Resources:
- PPC 101: A Complete Guide to Pay-Per-Click Marketing Basics
- Holistic Search Strategy: 5 Ways to Prioritize Organic & Paid Search
- Top 8 Ideas to Optimize Your PPC Performance