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5 steps to paid search marketing success

Posted by Chad O'Connor  February 11, 2013 11:00 AM

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Struggling with your website’s organic rankings on Google keyword searches?

And seriously, who isn’t?

Last year, Google rolled out approximately 500 search algorithm updates, designed to improve the quality of their search engine result pages, and in doing so, turned search engine optimization on its head. Countless businesses have gone bankrupt or now find themselves in a panic, starved of traffic – the lifeblood of Web commerce.

The upshot is that over the last year, while organic search has dwindled, paid search advertising costs have fallen on average by 15%, and ads on Google have become more prominent and effective than ever. It is estimated that every day, the paid search advertising options offered by Google AdWords drive over 13 million completed actions – including completed sales, or valuable leads generated.

In my article today I’ll go over 5 quick tips to help ensure that your business gets a piece of that paid search pie!

1. Start with Keyword Research
Successful paid search starts with keyword research – intuitively this makes a lot of sense because in pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, you’re essentially paying for clicks on search queries that people actually searched on.

Therefore it’s critical to think carefully about the types of keywords that you’d like to trigger your ads. For keyword inspiration, look to keyword tools from Google, as well as free third party keyword research tools.

Another way to find valuable keywords is to analyze out how people have found your website in the past. Using a free analytics package such as Google Analytics, you should be able to partially identify exactly how people are already finding your website – it’s like outsourcing your keyword research to your customers!

Don’t forget to look at your competitors’ sites. Pay attention to how your customers describe your products and services when they talk about you on blogs, review sites and social networks like Twitter.

The bottom line is that with over 3 billion searches on Google every day, it’s a buyer’s market. So it’s OK to be picky in the keywords that you end up selecting, in order to make the most of your advertising budget.

2. Practice Extreme Ad Optimization
The average click-through rate (CTR) on a Google ad depends on your industry, but generally hovers around 3%. But over the last 10 years, I’ve worked with thousands of advertisers, and I can tell you that many advertisers are able to consistently generate significantly higher ad CTR – often between 10 and 30%!

Achieving high click-through rates on your Google ads is the key to success in AdWords because Google greatly rewards ads with high CTR with more prominent ad positions, and will even give you up to a 90% discount on your cost per click.

Why does it work that way? Google provides a huge incentive to advertisers to take the extra time in crafting great campaigns. Google only gets paid if people click on ads, so it makes sense that they want to show ads that tend to be clicked on!

So how to do this?

The key is to marry the keywords you’ve picked with truly great ads – ads that make a powerful emotional connection with the searcher and entice them to click and buy. The best way to figure out the messaging that resonates with your customers is to always be testing new ad copy. For example, consider the following 2 ads for a search on “divorce lawyer”:

Divorce Lawyer
High Quality Legal Representation
In All Divorce Matters. Contact Us!

vs.

The Other Woman
Get Sweet Revenge Quick
and a Smile on Your Face!

In this example, the second ad performed more than twice as well as the first. Are your ads truly resonating with the intent of the keywords you’re targeting or are they falling flat? Test out creative ad copies and find out!

3. Trim the Fat with Negative Keywords
For the average small and medium-sized business, 10-40% of the clicks amount to wasted spend. These are clicks that you paid for that aren’t driving business – probably because the intent of the searcher doesn’t match up well with your actual offer.

For example, do a Google search for “buy ram.” You’ll see ads for computer RAM as well as Dodge Ram trucks. If you’re in the computer business, you don’t want your ads showing when people are looking for trucks, and you certainly don’t want them clicking your ads (you have to pay for that!) You’d probably want to put “Dodge” and “truck” on your negative keyword list to prevent those impressions from happening in the first place.

For long-term success in search marketing, it’s critical to not only identify the keywords that perform best, but also to find those that hamper performance and exclude them from your keyword targeting list. This process is known as negative keyword research. Nearly 25% of small businesses don’t even use this valuable waste prevention technique that can save you thousands of marketing dollars over the course of a year. You’d be amazed how often people click on ads that are irrelevant to what they really want!

If you’re struggling to come up with negative keyword suggestions, free negative keyword research tools can help!

4. Try Remarketing
Every day, people walk into brick-and-mortar stores, try out the products then leave without completing the purchase. Pretty annoying for the business owner! (Many of those customers may then go online to find a better price.)

It’s the same with your website. On average, 96% of the people who visit your website won’t convert into a sale. Even more frustrating, 70% of people who place items in their shopping cart end up not completing the check-out process!

Remarketing is incredibly powerful – it’s like being able to follow people home after they leave your store, regularly reminding them that they were interested in your products. When you set up a remarketing campaign, you track past visitors to your website with a cookie and show them targeted display advertising for as long as you want to. They might see your ads while they’re surfing CNN or YouTube or checking their Gmail account. You can even show them ads for the exact products they put in their shopping carts!

It’s a highly effective – and underutilized – way to stay top of mind and convince people who are on the fence to pull the trigger on your offerings. Unlike a generic search engine user, you know these people have shown interest in your business in the past, so they’re much more likely to eventually convert.

5. Optimize Indefinitely
Search marketing isn’t a one-time project, it’s an ongoing process. The more you put in, the more you get back. To see continuous improvement, you need to commit to continuous effort. Be sure to log into your Google AdWords account, re-evaluate your keywords and keep making changes on a weekly basis.

I’ve analyzed thousands of AdWords accounts, adding up to well over a billion dollars in collective spend, and one trend is very clear: the single stat that is most predictive of success or failure is time spent in the account. Marketers that log in less frequently almost always get poor results.

However, PPC doesn’t have to be a full-time job. In 20 to 30 minutes per week (yes, per week, not per day), you can make a difference and improve results gradually, by making small optimizations like:

  • Eliminating keywords that don’t deliver ROI
  • Re-organizing campaigns for more relevance
  • Adjusting bids (spend more on your best keywords, less on the others)
  • And so on

The key advantage of PPC over many other forms of advertising is that online activities are so measurable. You get a lot of performance metrics to see how you’re doing, and it would be crazy not to leverage those insights to improve performance.

Summary
As with any other aspect of business, diversification is key. Depending too much on any one marketing channel, like organic search traffic, could paint you into a corner. If you haven’t already started doing paid search, diversify your Web Marketing efforts with PPC marketing!

Larry Kim is the Founder & CTO of Boston-based WordStream, provider of the AdWords Grader.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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