While my last blog elaborated on how SEO is all about the hard work that goes into back-end optimization efforts to improve your website ranking, now is the time to understand how one can complement it with more focused, flexible and sharper work with “Paid” media in the Digital Space. As the name suggests, any online advertising you pay for is called “Paid”. It is easiest and the fastest way of getting visibility to your business/brand. It is the classic case of more money you invest (and invest correctly), the better visibility you get.
Like traditional mediums such as TV, Print, etc. even the Digital space is cluttered as more and more businesses/brands are using the it to reach out to their consumers. To get visibility and reach on any of the Digital platforms, it is important to support your efforts with paid advertising. Paid advertising is more focused towards a select set of audiences as it helps you reach them exactly when they are searching for the category you play in or specifically your brand. One such method of paid advertising is Search Engine Marketing, fondly called SEM.
SEM is a quick and easy way to increase the visibility of your business/brand and drive traffic to your website by featuring it in the search results. SEM, unlike other digital advertising methods, reaches consumers at exactly the right time – the moment when they are open to absorbing information. It is extremely helpful and non-interfering for consumers.
SEM, unlike SEO, is very simple to implement. Once you buy the keyword(s), your designed search ads appear at the top or on the side of the search engine result page – gaining prominent visibility as a result. The best practice is to do both SEO and SEM simultaneously and for a substantially long duration. SEM sounds easy but needs a lot of planning and analysis. Here are my key learnings:
- It’s all about the position – While we are teaching kids nowadays, that rank(s) do not matter, unfortunately, in SEM it is all about being The position of the search ad is called AdRank/ AdPosition. It is the result of factors like keywords, ad relevance, quality score and money spent behind each keyword.
- Keywords matter – Like SEO, keywords are the stepping stone in SEM. Keyword research is the most important step in running a successful SEM campaign. You do not want to miss your consumers by not running campaigns using the exact terms used by your them in their web searches. You need to carefully choose keywords and define results on each keyword search.
For example – Picture yourself in the business of women’s clothing. While clothing is what you actually sell, women are not searching for ‘Clothes’. They have run more specific searches like workwear, salwar kameez, dresses, party dresses, ethnic wear etc. So if you do not optimize your ads on such keywords relevant to your brand you
will lose out on a lot of potential customers.
The right selection of keywords are important for your campaign’s success. You can make well informed choices in your key word selection with the help of the data available from each of the search engines. The mantra of selection should be a high volume of searches with low competition. Google and all the other search platforms have their own AdWords tool for analyzing the data and help you with the relevant information for you to decide.
- SEM can be a gamble – All search platforms work on a bidding system. You bid on keywords related to your category or The keywords are the ones which you want your brand to be featured or associated with. After selecting the keywords, you need to decide on the bid you want to make on each word. To help you make that decision, the AdWords tool gives details on the CPC (Cost per click) of each word helping you to analyze the average bids per keyword. The amount (bid) you pay Google or any search engine for every click on your ad, that results in your website view, is called Cost per Click. SEM is also called “Pay per Click” or “PPC”. So, the funda is – a higher bid leads to a higher AdRank i.e. top placement of your ad in the search results. The only addition to the bidding is the quality score of your ad which also affects your Ad Rank.
- Quality does matter – Imagine you are searching for a flight ticket and you see an ad for a car rental service. Will you be happy with it? Will you be happy with a search engine that throws up such irrelevant results? I am pretty sure your answer to both the questions is a NO! Hence, to enhance the experience of the consumers with the search engines, the quality score came into existence.
Quality score is determined by a couple of factors. Firstly, the click-through rate (no. of times a consumer clicks on your ad). Secondly, the ad relevance (to the search). Lastly, the landing page experience (bounce rate). The summation of these three gives your ads a quality score. The best part about a good quality score is that it is directly proportional to your average position and inversely proportional to your average cost per click. Simply put, higher the quality score, higher the ad position and lower the CPC.
- Well-crafted Search Ad – After setting up the bid system, it all boils down to the ad you show your consumers. If the ad is not interesting enough with an intriguing headline, your consumers are less likely to be interested in clicking on it. Grab your consumer’s attention with convincing headlines featuring relevant keywords. The most important thing is to entice your consumers to act on your ad with the help of strong call to actions like Learn more, Buy now, Call now, Sign up, The description below the headline also plays an important role and should be crafted very carefully. It should ideally convey your USPs and other important details, it works exactly like your one-minute elevator speech. A well-crafted ad with appropriate keywords, details, and URLs will also ensure relevant clicks on your website, eventually resulting in conversions.
- Complement SEM with A/B Testing – As you invest in Search Engine Marketing to bring traffic to your website, it is advisable to optimize your efforts for traffic conversions and increase efficiency. You should ideally have two to four different ads, each with varying headlines and description text. If you have more than one ad in an ad group, Google Ads will, by default, show the better performing one. It is also advisable to A/B test your landing pages to optimize results of spends. Optimizing your landing page and ads can increase your Quality Score with search engine marketing networks, reducing your average CPC.
So these were some of my learnings on SEM. I love Search Marketing, I know a lot of people feel it is not important and hence do not believe in it. But, as a matter of fact, your Website and Search efforts help you to be available for your consumers when they seek you. I feel Search efforts are like moms, whatever your needs, you can rely on them and get the right answers. We are now also entering the era of voice-based search with the advent of Alexa and Google Assist. So imagine the opportunities you could lose if you do not understand the importance and implement search initiatives now. The good news is, Google offers a certification course on Search Marketing which makes you proficient in AdWords. Here is the link to that AdWords certification and you can set-up an AdWord account there. With this, I come to an end of my blog. I would urge you to practice, and learn because there is no better way of learning than practice.
We are entering the festive season. Are you geared up to make the most of it?
Stay tuned to read my next blog on Festive Marketing – in the Digital Space.