Searching for Search

train_tracksEvery business should have some level of a search strategy, whether the company sells hotdogs or completed credit default swaps. Search allows for a basic concept, but an important one: for your text ads to work, people have to see them. Voilà — that’s where SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) come into play. Whether you’re looking at this from the agency or the client side, people tend to focus on one tactic when you really need both. Going forward, I’ll outline what goes into a paid search campaign — and stay tuned for a follow-up blog soon about organic search.

Paid search can really be broken down into four questions: What does your company want? What is your competition doing? How can we build the best ads? How can we get those ads to perform better in search?

The first step is looking at your company and figuring out what you want your ad to do. What are the businesses objectives, and how to do they compare to your specific client goals? What are your online objectives versus the broader company goals? Look at how your website performs, and ask yourself what actions are valuable — look at what’s being tracked already on your website, and decide if you should add more. Outline your competitive advantage in the space to get a handle on what you’ll be highlighting. And one more thing: Think about the seasonality of your client or industry, and whether or not that’s a factor in creating your ad.

Once we have a good understanding of what your company/client wants to achieve in the digital landscape, research the industry as a whole, in particular focusing on the competition, and outline the sales opportunity that exists. Here are a few questions to use to help you define that:

  • What’s your competition in the search marketing space?
  • What messaging does your competition use to drive traffic in search marketing?
  • What monetary volumes is the competition using to capture audience?
  • What keywords is your competition using?
  • What is your company’s or client’s competitive advantage, and how can you leverage it?

After this stage, we really start getting our hands dirty with wordsmithing the text ads. Begin by reviewing the interest, objectives and opportunities with the client, and then start building keywords and ad copy. Keywords come from all the competitive research, combined with client goals, marketing material and keyword research. The ad copy should have a number of different versions allowing for performance testing to improve conversion rates.

One of great direct response marketer Ron Popeil’s most memorable quotes when pitching his rotisserie oven is, “Set it and forget it.” With paid search, you want to do the exact opposite. Once the campaign is launched, it’s just the beginning. Within weeks (sometimes days), there will be enough information to begin optimizations. Paid search requires a daily shepherding of the budget.

Like I’ve said, paid search is only one half of an effective search strategy. Organic search requires a much different approach and a different set of skills, and I’ll write about that on the blog soon.