The State of Search

Posted: May 2, 2011

Over the past few years, search has become a highly targeted, efficient and localized form of advertising.  No other tactic allows advertisers to track and measure results so directly. Google constantly changes their offering, creating additional opportunities for advertisers to convert their media budget into sales revenue. In our business, we frequently come across clients who are attracted to search marketing but are unfamiliar with how to approach a successful search campaign. For this purpose, I thought it beneficial to share some high-level advice on the fundamentals of paid search and how to make it work for your business.

Google’s advertising platform works by showing your ads to users who are searching for relevant keywords. The cost per click depends on the perceived value of the keyword you’ve bid on. Since you’re paying by the click, it’s important to make sure that the people clicking on your ad are likely to convert, effectively buying your product or service. So how do you do that?

Today’s search environment is noisy. You don’t have to be number one you just have to be on page, on target, and on budget. If you’re managing your ad-spend through a daily budget cap consider lowering your bids so you’re just under the cap at the end of the day. This will lower your ranking, but it will also lower your cost per click, allowing you to compete for more impressions, clicks, and hopefully lead to a higher conversion rate.

When writing ad copy, try to avoid speaking to the masses. Use dynamic keywords in your title and a call-to-action or promotion in the body. By being precise in your ad copy, you’ll attract clicks from people who know what they’re looking for. On the other hand, broad-spectrum ads will garner many impressions but very few conversions due to their non-specific nature. For example, a search for ‘lawn mowers’ reveals an ad that reads Lawn mowers online. Shop Alternatively, a search for ‘certified BMW’ reveals an ad from Lexus that reads Curious about the All-New CT200h? Create your own online. While the Target ad is general and can be used for virtually any product, the Lexus ad has a clear-cut target and persuasive call-to-action.

Sitelinks are a relatively new offering from Google which allow advertisers to include up to four hyperlinks below the ad copy which link to deeper pages within the website.  An emerging best practice is to use sitelinks to promote a particular product or current promotion, thereby extending the value of your ad.  For example, a search for refrigerators reveals an ad from Home Depot containing links to three featured appliances, their prices and the ability to click through directly to the product’s check-out page.

Always remember that Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Their advertising platform is designed to reward advertisers for creating good ads. The number of clicks you get (some might call them votes) enters the algorithm Google uses to rank your site organically.

So what’s the value of online marketing? It depends on your business, your budget and your conversion rate. Although paid search has become a major channel for many companies, it’s still a relatively untapped medium. Like any other medium, your results will depend on how much you spend and how precisely you target your ad dollars. Having a strategic partner to manage your campaigns wouldn’t hurt either.