I was a little surprised to read the findings of a recent report conducted by the WFA citing that businesses lack strategies for paid search, especially when you acknowledge how advanced we now are in paid search; from the part it has to play in the click path to pure return on investment. Whilst paid search is an established channel, it’s by no means a static channel and if advertisers do not have a firm plan in place then they should consider the impact this could have on their business performance.
Paid search is not simply about featuring on a bunch of keywords around a clients’ brand and product offering, it requires a complex strategic approach, highly tailored to the goals of a campaign. It can involve anything from featuring strongly around branded terms due to competition and lack of SEO rankings; an ROI focus on long-tail keywords where the user is closer to purchase; pure branding visibility on generic terms, and much more.
Assessing Success on a Paid Search Campaign
The report identifies the most common factors used to gauge the success of a PPC campaign were click-through rates and average cost per click, which were assessed by 71% and 65% of respondents respectively. These factors, whilst important, are almost meaningless when used in isolation. This is where this report does perhaps hit home; not so much the lack of strategy but the lack of understanding of paid search in order to implement a clear and concise strategy. We, for example, often find that merchants aren’t quite sure what their core triggers for success are; traffic? ROI? Net profitability? Branding? And, importantly, how each of these triggers impact one another. Paid search strategies require different approaches and it’s important to focus activity on the end goal that’s right for the merchant’s business.
Mobile Grows Aggressively in the Paid Search Space
Mobile is also growing aggressively in the paid search space. We’re already seeing mobile searches account for up to 20% of paid search clicks and conversion in many sectors. For those who have not considered a mobile search strategy, it’s a huge opportunity missed as the space is only going to keep growing. This, in turn, requires mobile websites or, at least, mobile landing pages to be created in order to aid conversion. A huge positive about mobile is that it can truly represent quick wins at a lower click rate.
Paid Search Integration with other Channels
Synching paid search with all other marketing channels is a must. From TV and press schedules to the performance of paid search against SEO, it’s imperative to get a handle on when to push and when to pull back. We’ve experienced great uplifts for our clients, thanks to pre-planning and campaign creation ahead of promotional opportunities, resulting in our clients featuring in premium positions, at the right times.
With the recent launch of Google’s Search Plus Your World, the search space is taking another step forward, truly personalising search results and including individuals social connections’ content related to search queries. Within the search space, merchants are not just competing for a position; they’re now fighting to feature ahead of maps, localised results, photographs, videos, recommended links and much more.
Specialist Search Agency Usage Doubles
On the flipside, it was welcoming to read that the respondents said they were increasingly turning to specialist search agencies to help them boost their online presence, rather than their retained agencies, with specialist search agency usage doubling in 2011 to 23%, compared to 2009. Whilst all-encompassing agencies may substitute under-performing search with over-performing sales from other channels, hitting overall targets and retaining clients; specialised search agencies do not have this option and must illustrate clear success every time with each campaign they manage. With the ever-evolving landscape of paid search, managing campaigns requires clear, concise strategies, innovative thinking and confident execution. As Search, Mobile and Social converge, it’s never been more imperative for merchants to get their paid search strategy right.