For nearly all of the 273.8 million North American Internet users looking for anything online, the first stop is a search engine. Because search engines are visited so frequently by online users, paid search now accounts for nearly 25 percent of the average online marketing budget. With such a large share of the budget, it is more crucial than ever to make sure your business isn't wasting hundreds or thousands of dollars each month on missed opportunities or inefficiencies. Focusing on the "seven pillars" of paid search marketing will help ensure the highest return on your investment. These seven pillars listed below offer direct marketers a transparent view of each paid search campaign's effectiveness.
It's critical to first understand exactly what's being tracked and what you're missing. Are all revenue events being tracked, including phone calls, chats and in-store sales? What's your attribution model: first click, last click or weighted? Are all expenses being assessed, including sales operations and cost of goods sold? Answering and defining critical questions like these are paramount to the success of your campaign.
2. Media Weight
The next step is to determine how well the budget is used across the different campaigns. Did the top-performing campaigns and keywords receive maximum exposure, or were they limited by low bids and capped budgets? Ensuring your top-performing campaigns are running at maximum visibility is a great way to ensure results are being maximized. A good place to begin this analysis is a "Lost Impression Share (IS) to Budget Report." This report uncovers campaigns that were turned off during the month due to budget. If any of your top campaigns are in this report, this is an easy place to start improving your results.
3. Quality Score
Direct marketers know there can be tremendous variance in what an advertiser is charged per click based on their quality score, which is essentially an algorithm that determines how relevant your ad/landing page is for a given keyword. The less relevant, the more you have to pay per click; the more relevant, the lower the cost per click. Advertisers create more relevant listings for their best keywords and are rewarded with a better cost per click. In order to isolate quality scores that are low or trending down, you can download a quality score report from the search engine. Improving quality scores is all about relevancy, creating hyper-targeted ads that resonate with the targeted user and providing users with rich and targeted landing pages.
Mobile users and desktop users can engage with a brand very differently, even using the same keyword. Check your conversion rates and ROI at the device level for your top ad groups. Most of the time, you will find some pretty large variances that can be improved by adjusting bids, creative and/or the landing page.
5. Match Type
"Broad," "exact," "phrase" and "broad modified" all have their places in a paid search campaign, but they need to be appreciated as completely different media buys. Even though the keyword may be the same, history has taught us that the value of each of these match types vary quite dramatically, and even vary from keyword to keyword. A good rule of thumb is to continually see your exact match percentage as a whole rise month after month. When this occurs, it means your team is effectively mining the search query reports, building specific ad copy and bids to continually improve performance.
6. Bid Management
Bid management can be tricky, but is mission-critical for auditing the health of your paid search campaign. How well did your team or technology set the bids throughout the month? Did they maximize the budget or the sales volume based on goals? To determine this, you need to download all of the keywords' performance information and determine if the average bid aligned with the actual revenue and conversion rate. It is critical that the audit results ensure no keywords are coming in well over the targeted budget, especially if they are in very high positions. Auditing bid management is a great way to ensure your paid search engine marketing dollars are being maximized.
Direct marketers have realized that segmenting a keyword is sometimes the best way to improve performance. For example, the keyword "computer" may have an ROI of 2:1 for a given e-commerce website, but a deeper dive uncovers that the ROI varies by time of day, match type, device and geography.
The beauty of segmentation analysis and optimization is the ability to uncover hidden gems; keywords that were once unprofitable can become stars, while others that were having trouble scaling are now being shown in top positions, driving the right traffic to the website.
It's critical to the success of your business to stay on top of your paid search campaigns consistently, auditing them either monthly or quarterly for best results. When done correctly, paid search can produce lucrative opportunities that would otherwise go undiscovered.