Search advertisers who are exercising their budgetary ad muscles on keyword bid management are fighting a challenging battle. While quality scoring implemented by the search engines has helped to level the playing field for search marketers large and small, the dependency on keywords to attract business is siphoning valuable dollars from overall ad budgets. It's time to move beyond bid-centric strategies and look at ways to improve all elements of your performance-based programs, from sales lead generation through sales conversion.
Let's do the math. In scenario 1, advertisers "A" and "B" spend equal amounts on media and each have a 4 percent conversion rate. Their yield equals identical sales results. In scenario 2, advertiser "A" doubles the media budget while advertiser "B" increases the conversion rate to 10 percent. The end result is advertiser B yields more sales with less media expense. How is that accomplished?
It's cost-effective, yields predictive profits and produces more sales return that can be reinvested in keywords to help stay in the top rankings. If that sounds too good to be true, think of it this way: If you want to increase revenue to your site, would you just buy more leads to mask a poor conversion rate? At some point your cost per sale will become unreasonable. No, you'd tune up every possible performance mechanism: website, entry forms, et cetera. Think of keywords as fuel and your website as a race car. While a fast engine can get you down the straight very quickly, races are won in the curves, by having a fully balanced racing machine.
Conversion optimization is a disciplined approach of testing and deployment of results. It means aligning PRE and POST click activity in order to raise the conversion rate, yielding increased sales through better conversion of sales leads. It's not easy, but it's essential in today's increasingly competitive environment. Responsible SEM firms know there are no shortcuts to maximize results: To become a better buyer of keywords, you must be a good converter. If your sales conversion rate is doubling, then your ROI and profitability are also increasing. To achieve that, look for cost-effective solutions end-to-end that streamline and optimize the search marketing process.
Plan of attack: Use every tool in the toolbox
1. Website: It's your brand and your storefront to the world. For customers, however, your website may inflict excruciating pain points: too many steps to sale; confusing navigation; too many trial and errors; no BACK key or BACK or Enter key sends you out; confusing, faulty offers. We all know the list. This is bad technology and it must be fixed. In short, customers deserve a "frictionless buy" without tedium, frustration and obstacles:
- Use logos, trademarks as branding opportunities.
- Streamline your website to achieve easy navigation and usability that will not only increase sales, but also increase goodwill in your brand.
- Make sure you provide easy access to all purchase means (e.g., toll-free numbers to call centers, brick-and-mortar locations, shopping carts, et cetera.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Do a tune-up. Make sure your metatags/titletags are visible to the search engines. Develop a link strategy that ensures you have the most possible web exposure.
3. Get local: Make sure you list local purchase outlets on all available local websites (e.g., Google Maps, Internet Yellow Pages, Yahoo Local, City Guides et cetera). While consumers use the internet to hone purchase decision making, most still shop within 15 miles of their home/office and need "where to buy" information.
4. Landing page/form optimization: Oh the frustrations of wading through the home page, through lists of irrelevant product pages, to get to the right form/inquiry page. Instead of "landing" consumers who have already input their local geography to the home page, smart advertisers drive them to the localized pages near them. This cuts down on home page abandons and increases the sell- through.
5. Tracking and analytics: In a world where keywords number in the hundreds of thousands per company, search marketing is increasingly a data-driven business, much like direct response. For consistent improvements in performance in this complex marketplace, it is essential to track and analyze events and conversions at a keyword level. Most important, integrate media property data (clicks by keyword) with your own sales data in a daily, easy-to-digest format that enables intelligent and timely decision making.
6. Keyword optimization revisit: Make smart buys when prices dip; look at search engine performance beyond the two biggest engines; stretch your budget dollars for greater return.
These are some of the emerging basic building blocks of an effective search campaign. Smart advertisers will optimize using all available tools: eyetracking, multivariate and other testing, natural search, closed loop tracking, data integration platforms. Integrate that search knowledge with the basic building blocks of traditional advertising: good creative ideas, smart offers, aspirational messages, clarity, ask and ease of purchase.
In the end, with the proper tune-up your online marketing efforts can help you win the race against your competition.
Here's a case study in some detail that gives specific ideas on how to implement landing page optimization.
Situation analysis: A B2B company was looking to generate additional lead volume at a more efficient cost per lead (CPL) for its core product line within a rather mature SEM campaign. A desirable CPL target was set at $350.
Challenge: The company was looking to achieve these goals without having additional dollars to allocate toward online marketing efforts. The market was getting more and more competitive, and average costs per click were increasing from month to month. Most important, the client was looking to achieve this goal while maintaining dominant positioning within the major search engines on the target keywords.
Solution: TMP DM continually optimized the campaign bids and creative, based on performance data. To help achieve the new goals for the core product line, TMP DM focused on optimization of the campaign landing page.
The client and the agency developed a product-specific landing page to help increase the conversion rate. Ideally, an increased conversion rate would help to offset the increasing bid prices that were driving up campaign costs. The corresponding product page in the existing client site used as a landing page contained a heavy amount of text, and the lead form for users to fill out resided on a page accessible via a link from the main landing page. Though tracking, TMP DM had been able to determine that a larger percentage of users who entered the product page dropped off before click through to the lead form. The new landing page streamlined the information, contained a special offer, and integrated the lead form into the top left hand side of the page, allowing users to see easily where to take quick action.
- Average click to lead conversion rate increased by 156.25 percent as a result of the new landing page.
- Volume of leads increased 138.3 percent as a result of the enhanced conversion rate.
- Despite a decrease in the volume of clicks delivered via the campaign, and an increase in the average cost per click needed to maintain dominant position, the increase in conversion rate was able to produce a CPL of $250, $100 under the client goal.
More help is available for landing page/form improvement. Multivariate testing that tries out different offers and options on the website far more quickly and cost-effectively than alpha-beta testing can add invaluable knowledge to your arsenal of improvements. Firms like Offermatica and Optimost have software to assist you or your agency tune your form/landing pages for optimum performance.