Welcome to Part 2 of our series on Internet Marketing 101, where we talk about paid search marketing for marine businesses. After we recently offered a free Online Learning Summit class about Internet Marketing, we had great interest from our customer base, so we thought we would outline the information for those of you that couldn’t attend with a blog post. The class was two hours long and contained quite a bit of information, so this post is going to be broken out into 3 parts over the next couple of weeks. Part 1 covered organic search engine marketing.
What are paid search results and how are they different from organic results?
Google made approximately $37.9 billion in revenue in 2011. 96% of that revenue was from advertising dollars. Paid search advertising is a very profitable business and, if managed well, can return great results for advertisers.
First let’s cover some of the basics of paid search and how it is different from the organic results we talked about in our first post on Internet Marketing 101. When you do a search for something on a search engine (google.com, bing.com or yahoo.com), it is their job to go out and find you the most relevant websites on the internet that correlate to the search term you typed in. This is a monstrous task. They must comb through EVERY website on the internet and determine the ones that best match the keywords you type in. This is also true for your customers. When they do a search for a product or service you provide, you would like your website to be returned in the search results for their keyword search. While it can take quite some time to optimize your site in order to rank high in the search engine result pages (SERPS) for the organic listings, the shaded listings at the top and to the right of the organic listings are paid ads. Ads with links to your website will start showing up immediately when you start your ad campaign.
In order to get to the top of the paid spots, an advertiser bids on keywords they expect their potential customers to use while doing searches. Based on a list of factors, including the maximum amount of your bid and the “quality score” of the keyword assigned by the search engines, determines where your ad will show up in the list of up to 10 available ad spots per page. The majority of searchers click on the top 2 or 3 spots, so those are usually the prime real estate advertisers are hoping for. Despite what many companies claim, you can not pay the search engines to get to the top of the organic listings, this is controlled by the computer algorithms.
The good, the bad and the ugly of paid search
All three of the major search engines offer paid search platforms. Google offers their ads on Google Adwords, while Bing and Yahoo have combined their platforms under the MSN Adcenter. You can create your ads, choose your keywords, set your budget and place your bids on these platforms. While the platforms are somewhat easy to understand and use, the intricacies of running these campaigns are quite involved. Both Google and Bing offer certification courses and we advise you leave your campaign to a certified professional to manage.
When reviewing today’s options for advertising mediums, paid search has a lot of benefits to all sizes of businesses. For one, it is the most measurable form of advertising. As an advertiser, you can know exactly how many prospective customers interacted with your ad (clicked), and can even measure that visitor down to a purchase or contact to your business, also known as a conversion. This allows you to measure the true return on investment of your advertising budget, which is something very difficult to do with traditional media channels. You also have complete control over when, where, and to whom your ads are shown, which is a great benefit when investing in advertising. Paid search allows you to target your ads to a very specific audience. If you know your potential customers well, you can be very strategic in making sure your ad reaches them while they are shopping for your products or services. Another benefit of paid search is the immediacy of the results, which are measured and reported almost immediately. You can monitor the results of the campaigns and adjust them as needed for the best results. No other form of advertising gives you this flexibility and level of control, which makes it a great investment for most businesses.
Of course, as with anything a business spends money on, paid search campaigns have some dangers to be aware of. It is easy to spend a lot of money very fast if the campaigns are not set strategically. If you don’t understand how to monitor the overall effectiveness of a paid search campaign, you can easily be impressed by the number of clicks and visits you are getting without knowing if those clicks are actually returning any leads or sales. Before you know it Google has deposited another few thousand of your dollars into their bank account, and you have no measurable results other than visitors to your website, which is only the first step in any sales process.
Any paid search campaign should be measured on pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs). The performance of the campaign according to the budget, how many conversions is the campaign making, and what is the cost of acquisition for each click? A paid search campaign also requires ongoing, in some cases daily management to ensure top performance. It is not a “set it and forget it” type of advertising. Bids, quality scores and conversion rates must be monitored and adjusted often to get the most return on your advertising dollars.
Google did not make billions of dollars from paid search advertising with just a few customers. This is usually a very competitive advertising medium, where a lot of different businesses, often times local competitors are all bidding on the same keywords. This means more money for the search engines and if the advertisers are not experienced and educated, can mean disappointing returns on investment for businesses.
The ins and outs of keywords
The paid search campaign auctions are based on keywords, so the importance of a well researched keyword list is imperative. Not all keywords are created equal! Some are low volume, some are high. Some are expensive, others have incredible value. The need for a thorough, ongoing keyword research process is even more important than with organic search.
There are four types of keywords you can choose when setting up a campaign:
Broad match: any combination of like keywords
Modified broad: closer combination of like keywords
Phrase: matching phrase search
Exact: exact phrase match
It is important to understand these different types and use them appropriately when you set up your keywords list. An experienced manager of your paid search campaign should also be well versed in negative keywords and how each of these types can affect the overall cost of your campaign.
Quality Score, the ultimate measurement
Raters at the search engines assign each keyword what is called a Quality Score. This rating is related to how well your keyword performs and how closely related it is to both your ad copy and the landing page of your ad. A paid search best practice is to have ads linked to relevant landing pages. DO NOT have all of your ads link to your homepage. The more targeted and specific you are, the higher your quality score will be because the better satisfied your potential customer will be when they click. If they search for “boats for sale” and they land on a page that lists all of your boats for sale, both the search engines and the visitor are happy.
Quality score is also based on the click through rate of each keyword and a number of other factors. It is automatically recalculated with each and every click on one of your ads, allowing you to make real time adjustments to your campaign.
As with organic search, there is a lot to know about paid search campaigns for them to be worth the investment of your advertising dollars. If you would like us to perform a free analysis of your paid search campaign, or could use some free consultation on how to set up your first campaign, feel free to comment on this post.