Tools of the Trade Part I

I spend an inordinate amount of time at industry functions for obvious reasons. At this point, I am fairly certain digital marketers have the uniform for online events down -- black three-button suit, funky colored shirt and tie, bed-head hair styling, and horned rim glasses.

Effectively managing a paid-placement search program, however, requires a bit more than the preverbal trip to experience Nieman’s couture. In this two-part series, we’ll explore all the paraphernalia and tricks associated with pay-for-placement search marketing.

Impetus

While delivering the keynote at a recent search-engine marketing event populated by a healthy mix of marketers and technical gurus representing the art (paid search) and science (search engine optimization) of search, I was surprised to learn much of the advertisers’ knowledge base did not extend beyond that of assembling a fragmented keyword list (if that) and signing up for an Overture account. During the panel discussion that immediately followed, I took note that even fewer of the small business to big Web brand audience had no knowledge of the latest gear in paid search.

Engaging the success or ROI (Return On Investment), ROAS, (Return On Advertising Spending) of pay-for-placement search programs requires among other things the right keywords, succinct messaging and effectively managed costs. Common mistakes like forgetting to link specific keywords to related content pages (not the home page) are more common than you might think. A more significant problem is present in search marketers attempting to integrate paid-placement programs with site vendors and agencies ego blocking each other out of providing the client with the “best of breed” vendor list they were seeking in the first place. Even worse, dare I say: clients who refuse to adopt new technology.

While you may not be able to unlock Google algorithmic DNA, or make everyone stand together singing Kum-Ba-Yah, arming yourself with an array of paid-search marketing weapons can help turn this mine-ridden battleground into strawberry fields.

Sound Declarations

The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work advises one to “Blame your search engine” if caught slacking on the Web at work. This presupposes, of course, that said supervisory personnel standing over you will buy into the “I was sent to the wrong Website” defense. Given the surprising dedication paid-search providers have to relevancy, I can safely deliver an unabashed Bronx Cheer to the Handbook’s creator. Immediately following the budget question, selecting keywords and messages is the starting point for most advertisers in paid-search marketing, and keyword selection begins with relevance.

Google provides more than adequate assistance in the AdWords program, which arguably contains the most idiosyncrasies of any pay-for-placement program. This distinctive innovation has led to standard-setting relevance guidelines including one that dictates your position is not predicated solely upon the dollars invested in the keyword or phrase, but clicks as well.

Other providers of paid-placement search are demanding relevancy in this way as well, including Overture. One thing I found fantastically helpful when updating my favorite travel industry brand’s program was an immediate list of geographically relevant keywords making the local aspect of this program a bit easier. Google also offers some neat suggestions for refining keyword matching such as the Exact Match option that allows one to reduce phrasing to, well, exact matches -- leaving aside variations and additions to your search. Check it out.

If I had to choose one source for helping out with all aspects of pay-for-placement search marketing, it would have to be The Overture Advertiser Center. The Advertiser center contains everything from selecting keywords and appropriate messaging, to projecting costs of the words you have selected. Lately, I’ve noticed the Overture editors are stepping up with suggesting enhancements to help increase click-throughs. For the most part, I would call this helpful; just make sure your goals are still being met in the new messaging.

Not to be left out of the site-centric help categories, Sprinks, FindWhat, and Search123 all provide insights into their pay-for-placement programs as well. The How Sprinks Works content area provides what I refer to as the Idiot’s Guide to Paid Placement. There are lots of graphics and easy to understand informationals on this portion of the site. While you won’t find the depth and breadth of the information “big two” on these sites, what I have often found are eager-to-help professionals and a “we try harder” attitude. There are dozens of pay-for-placement search providers and my skeptical nature precludes my ability to use one source for anything.

Curriculum Supervision

Measurement, research and planning devices seem to be coming together into one big multi-tool. In the early days of paid-search marketing (might as well be last week with the rate at which things are changing in search) we only had way cool tools like Wordtracker that track Web-wide searches of specific phrasing. Today, we have third-party bid management interfaces (more on this next week) and comScore Media Metrix recently introduced a means of monitoring keyword searches. qSearch is a Zen search tool that allows you to go beyond simple keyword measurement and jump inside the psyche of searchers using their vast user panels.

Advertisers now have the ability to profile users based on their activity before and after the search. “One distinguishing characteristic from search-term monitors is that qSearch allows you to get to know the people behind the search”, reports James Lamberti, vice president of comScore Entertainment and Media Solutions. This analysis can provide access to some very useful information that would have previously required quite a bit more time and a bigger research budget. Example: Your site sells the latest in wild colored shirt and tie combinations. Keyword traffic behavioral analysis reveals that 76% of the sales conversions immediately head to Amazon, purchasing literature on enhancing self-esteem, followed by a Google search for trendy home décor items. The enhanced user experience, ergo revenue-increasing solution, is to start selling Tony Robbins DVDs and cheesy art on your site too, adding those keywords to your campaign.

While we are at it, we can gather more information on competitive spending for advertisers as well. Since comScore is analyzing data paths, we can start seeing comparisons of purchases from one travel brand keyword set to another, analyzing disparities in purchase behavior. Can we answer the question why Brand A keywords generate higher conversions than Brand B? In conversations with comScore’s. Lamberti, he agreed it is possible through customized qSearch analysis.

There is still much debate as to which provider reports the most accurate numbers of searches for specific key phrases across the Web. AdRelevance 4.0 was released last week and, included with this is AdLink that allows clients to track sponsored links within the AdRelevance network. comScore promised some pretty exciting new tools in the very near future and I have confirmation from the AdRelevance folks that more enhancements are in store for AdLinks. I am betting this deliberation will end very soon.

Hopeless Romantic

Sure, I dream of a world where site designers, ad agencies, and search providers work together in perfect harmony leaving egos and idea-centric attitudes at the door. While I continue to be forced to function in a world that is somewhat less than the utopian marketing society, there are places that I have found can provide a comparative cathartic feeling. Online marketing industry events would definitely be considered essential tools for search marketing success. Of course, iMedia provides unparalleled industry events that include search related information. Next week, Ad:Tech arrives in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel June 16 – 18, and has devoted an entire track to search. Over the years, Ad:Tech has provided great know-how in online marketing, social gatherings, and, at least one life changing experience for yours truly. While I can’t promise the same level of joy, I can assure you I’ll be there -- and easy to spot. I’ll be the one in the navy blue chalk stripe suite with white shirt and red tie combo.

Next week: Measurement and Management

About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. He is currently Director Market Development of IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s prestigious list of clients and sister agency brands.

 

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