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Pay Less for SEM

Kevin M. Ryan
Pay Less for SEM Kevin M. Ryan
Keyword prices in the search engine advertising arena have long been the subject of debate and speculation in the industry. The overall increase in advertisers and seasonal keyword peaks and valleys have caused many an advertiser eye bleed.

Complicating the problem of finding the right combination of bid price and keyword is the self competition phenomena. That's right sports fans; keyword search advertising has become such a critical aspect of a marketing plan that many companies include it more than once, and often duplicate keywords.

How can you avoid making a big mistake with keyword redundancy? Competing in an auction-based environment can be a daunting task, but driving up your own keyword costs shouldn't add unnecessary difficulties. There is an argument for owning keywords, particularly in large organizations, but this practice should be part of an overall strategy.

Keys of conflict
Affiliates can create a problem with keyword selection. Most marketers fall into one of two categories when defining best practices for their affiliates and search engine advertising.

The first category of clients defines specific keywords that affiliates can buy, and devotes some level of resources in policing affiliate efforts. The second category leaves keyword advertising almost entirely up to affiliates, which forces the affiliate to absorb advertising costs.  

Trademark issues often arise when resellers attempt to purchase brand-specific terms that compete with a brand advertiser's keyword lexicon, but most of the top search sites, like Google and Yahoo!, have defined best practices and will assist with conflict resolution in this arena.

In short, one of the few remaining barriers to search engine advertising utopia is the process of finding keywords harmony when advertisers have enormous keyword lists, often with competing interests.

Keyword resolution
One firm, SEMDirector, is a software solutions provider in the search marketing space that helps manage large scale enterprise search solutions for big companies in separate divisions.

"Large scale business-to-business companies often compete with themselves on the keyword level inadvertently," says Russ Mann, CEO of SEMDirector. "Different business units compete without realizing it, a process we call 'internal keyword inflation.'"

Separate business units manage keywords independently and don't communicate with one another. They often use multiple outside resources such as interactive agencies and specialized search engine marketing firms, along with traditional advertising agencies.

Larger companies can often unwittingly compound the problem by bidding on the same terms in independent business units. Agencies and search sites are often left holding the bag when problems arise, but it doesn't have to be that way. 

Managing the solution
Getting back to categorization, most companies administer search in one of three ways. The first is where advertisers use a centralized structure in which every search initiative is controlled by one person or group. The second and most common approach is the decentralized structure, in which multiple entities manage search. The third is a hybrid model, which can be a combination of anything.

In each example, the most common mistake advertisers make is relying too heavily on technology to self-correct mistakes. Modern bid management tools make positioning and bid decisions while analyzing response rates, but they don't report on internal independent business units competing with one another. 

"Technology alone is not a silver bullet," Mann says. "You must understand the big three -- strategy, structure and then systems -- in that order."

Mann suggests that determining whether keyword conflict is part of your strategy is the first step toward finding balance in search engine advertising keyword conflict.

"Make sure you have the right structure and the right systems in place so that all the right people are talking to one another," advises Mann.
Commonly known as common sense
What possible strategy might include one entity buying the same keywords? A travel company with multiple domains and an independently operating but closely related business might want the same words. Packaged goods marketers often have competing products and require some level of redundancy in keyword selection.

Advertisers develop complex scoring systems to help evaluate keyword real estate, but they don't spend enough time communicating internally to avoid driving up their own costs. While third parties like search engines and agencies work on avoiding search term self competition, when it comes right down to it, one simple solution can provide the best path to correcting the search redundancy problem.

Above all, establishing lines of communication internally and clearly defining strategy and tactics are the most important steps in making search advertising on large scale as internally competitively painless as possible.

Kevin Ryan is the CEO of Kinetic Results. .

Meet Kevin Ryan at ad:tech New York and Shanghai.


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