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A viral strategy for using paid search

Seth Sarelson
A viral strategy for using paid search Seth Sarelson

Paid search has, and continues to be, one of the most effective ways of driving online sales.  What you may not know is that paid search may actually be much more effective at driving in-store sales than it ever has been for ecommerce.

Co-author Jonathan Treiber is CEO and co-founder of RevTrax.

Data from a comScore and Yahoo study (PDF) actually suggest that consumers exposed to only search spent $16 in store for every $1 they spent online. Analysis of cross-channel conversion data by RevTrax has yielded the same conclusion -- that each paid search click for a multi-channel merchant is far more valuable for in-store revenue than it is for online revenue.

Given this data, it's no surprise that marketers are looking more and more to paid search as an incredibly cost-effective tool to drive in-store sales via use of a printable coupon. By combining paid search with consumer-initiated social media and email to facilitate virality, marketers can set the stage to make a big impact at a low cost in a way that is impossible with other marketing strategies -- especially print.

Here are five tips to help you use paid search to make your coupons go viral:

  1. Dig deep. Give a high value offer. A coupon that's no better than your competitors' coupons or your standard everyday coupon isn't going to go viral. If you want to go viral, you're going to need to push your limits and create an extraordinary offer.  

  2. Search + social media + email = viral. Each time a consumer prints your coupon, you'll want to prompt him or her to either A) share the coupon via social media, B) email friends, or C) both. A social media interaction that's generated by a consumer recommending your coupon to friends is far more valuable than anything marketers can do on their own. You can easily accomplish this by adding a social media widget on the page where consumers print your coupon.

  3. Offers should expire quickly. Add a sense of urgency to your campaign by having a short-term expiration date on your coupon. If consumers know that your coupon expires in several days, they'll engage more quickly than if it was outstanding for a month before expiring.   

  4. Measure thoroughly, optimize frequently, and repeat. You should know which keywords are generating the greatest numbers of clicks, prints and, ultimately, sales. The same keywords that generate the heaviest click volume aren't necessarily the ones that generate the most coupons printed and in-store sales. There are technologies available to help you measure the full conversion funnel from paid search ads to in-store sales for each individual keyword to optimize your bidding. Also, the more frequently you measure the data (i.e., daily versus weekly), the quicker you can optimize bid-management and drive better results.

  5. Geo-target. Run campaigns with a tight radius around each store. You probably have a good sense for how far consumers will travel. Optimize your campaigns by setting a geographic radius around each store if possible. If you have too many stores or this is not possible, at least make sure that you exclude regions where you do not have a physical presence.

In addition to the things you can do right, there's one big thing to avoid:

Don't make the consumer jump through hoops. It's one thing to ask a consumer to give a name or email address to build your database. Do not ask the consumer for endless amounts of registration data that you won't use. Also, do not force the consumer to download software to print the coupon. These roadblocks are the killers of conversion rates and viral marketing. The rule of thumb is that keeping it simple will keep your customers happy.

As marketers make the transition from traditional media to search and other types of digital media to drive in-store sales, it's critical that marketers utilize best practices to increase ROI and make it easy for consumers to engage and share coupons with friends. When executed correctly, a search campaign driving traffic to a printable coupon can be one of the most effective and targeted ways to generate in-store sales with incredibly high ROI.

Seth Sarelson is COO and co-founder of RevTrax, where co-founder Jonathan Treiber is CEO.

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