Search engine marketing (SEM) is a rapidly changing field rife with opportunities, but it takes expertise and experience to run optimal interactive advertising campaigns. When engaging in digital advertising, such as paid search, display media, social media advertising and remarketing, it's extremely important that your efforts are backed by knowledge and strategy. Here, our SEM experts provide the tips and information you can use to improve your campaigns, and your ROI. To stay up to date on our search engine marketing blog, subscribe to our feed.
At a recent South Florida Interactive Marketing Association (SFIMA) meeting, there was a panel of representatives, one from each of the 4 main search engines. When they were asked a set of questions, geared toward unveiling the differences between them, I gained insight into how Google, Yahoo, MSN, and ASK want to be viewed.
Google knows if they provide value, the ad benefit will come. They are all about the end user and making marketing more efficient for all marketers. For example, dMark radio ads, print ads, etc. Google wants to be viewed as a new product. I think this is smart simply because it is what people want to hear (the optimistic people preoccupied with the Internet or the world of Internet Marketing).
ASK really pushes their search tools. They are replacing brand with value, using Smart Answers, the Binoculars Site Review tool, etc., also ASK City which replaced ASK local. They also offer Narrow Your Search and Expand Your Search on the right of the SERPs. I like that they always use this space to offer related search results for a more interesting user experience. Relevancy and ease of use are important to ASK.
MSN is also trying to build information that is relevant and quick to the end user. With the MSN search experience for entertainment and news and Live.com being the customizable search portal built for the user, it’s no secret that MSN sees themselves long term as more of a function integrated into everyday life from products to search.
Yahoo is focused on social search. From Flickr, del.ici.ous, My Web, etc. it seems Yahoo believes the concept of friends will grow their social search network. And with Flickr geo-targeting and Y labs geo-referenced photos, Yahoo from a consumer perspective is the largest local destination on the web. And now with smart phones in your pockets, there is no reason not to use Yahoo mobile search.
Saturday morning my eight-year-old daughter asked for help in finding her grandmother a birthday present. Since she did not have any ideas on what to buy, I suggested we begin doing some research on the computer. I asked her to go to a Google Search Bar (which she immediately knew how to do) and type in what she thought would be a good way to get started: “help me find the perfect birthday present for my grandmother” is what she typed in. When the Google results page appeared, she looked directly at the sponsored results. She was immediately drawn to an ad with the title “Birthday Gifts For Grandma”. The description in the ad said “We have the perfect birthday present for your grandma”. She immediately clicked on that listing (3rd on the page). Funny how that is an ad that I personally would not click. I did not notice much creativity, nor a call to action. However, my daughter doesn’t know a whole lot about internet marketing, and right in front of her very eyes was the exact result she was hoping to find. I asked her what she was looking for on that page and she said I’m looking for something that says, “We have the perfect birthday present for your grandma”. Perhaps this very company actually thought that it may be a child who is searching for a gift for their grandmother, and created relevant ad copy for a 3rd grader? Or perhaps not, since the webpage was much too cumbersome for my daughter to utilize on her own once she was directed to their landing page.
I decided we would just do an original arts and crafts project for a gift, however, at this point I was also interested in experimenting with how a child searches on the web. I asked her what else she would want to search for online. She typed in “webkinz toys for girls” (for those of you who don’t know, Webkinz.com is a social site for children and their stuffed animals). She skimmed the page quickly and saw in the title of the 4th sponsored ad was the word “store”. She immediately clicked on it and when I asked why she explained it was because it had the word store in the title and she figured it would be a good shopping site. When she arrived at the landing page, there were 12 dolls displayed and each said, “Click here to learn about this doll”. It was extremely user-friendly for an eight-year-old, and she was easily able to browse the site on her own. Seems as though this company really thought about who they were targeting in their online marketing initiative — from the PPC campaign to the usability of the site.
She was having so much fun with the experiment she wanted to try typing more things into Google to find information. She said she would be interested in finding friends online – what we call social sites — a way for children to meet other children online. I asked her to type in what she thought would make the most sense. At this point I wasn’t surprised when she typed “new website for kids to meet friends in a safe way”. Every one of the sponsored ads was for adult dating, some of them with ad copy that read “hot men and hot women meet”- completely irrelevant to the search request.
In this last example I asked her to type something into Google pertaining to homework help. She typed in “division tips for school” and not one relevant site appeared. She then typed in “help me with school division” and again, no relevant results. Third try, she typed in “division help” and the 1st sponsored ad’s title said “Division Worksheets” with the description “Easily printable math worksheets”. Finally!!!
I find the online search behavior of a 3rd grader very interesting. My daughter types in the search bar exactly what she is looking for, no matter how long a sentence may be. She also clicks on sponsored ads because to her, the ad copy is more enticing to click. I find that most relevant sites for her age range do not have ad campaigns targeted to what a child would actually type into the search engine. I would assume that many internet users looking online for help with schoolwork are elementary age (let’s be realistic — these days children learn very young how to use a computer!). I believe that if my child is typing in “please help me with my math homework for 3rd grade”, there should be many more results than just paid tutoring schools in the sponsored sections. Just food for thought, however, there is a whole generation of internet users who are not being targeted appropriately through sponsored advertising.
It’s free agent season in the NFL and teams are cleaning out their clubhouses of older, higher-priced talent and signing younger less expensive players to carry on in their place. If a team can no longer afford an old fan favorite and can project the same production from another player or two — at a lower price — then it’s time to let them go; regardless of fan sentiment. (Brett Favre excepted.)
In the NFL, teams keep statistics on every aspect of a player’s performance: hustle points are awarded, tackles and knockdowns are recorded and every player can be measured on paper. In Search Engine Marketing, analytical tools and reports can tell you which keywords are providing an acceptable return and which words are costing you money. If a term doesn’t convert or is too expensive based on your business model, it’s time to part ways and drop it from your campaign.
Do some scouting for new words by using the keyword tools that are provided by the engines, or re-allocate your marketing funds to the words that convert on your site.
In paid search, your keywords are your players and your campaign account is your clubhouse. Use analytical tools to adjust your campaigns as needed. Don’t let your ego get in the way and hold onto a keyword that does not work for your business.