I was recently invited to author a chapter for Stan Rapp’s new book, Reinventing Interactive and Direct Marketing: Leading Experts Show How to Maximize Digital ROI with iDirect and iBranding Imperatives. The book brings together contributors from a variety of agencies, advertisers, and business schools to examine the convergence of interactive and direct marketing and our evolution from mass media consumption to user-generated content and conversational marketing.
In my chapter, “SEM and SEO: Core Drivers of iDirect Success,” I address the importance of applying data-driven project management to every aspect of search marketing. For even the most basic of SEM or SEO campaigns, marketers can access up-to the minute statistics at the most granular of levels. For someone with a more traditional direct marketing background, having such an abundance of real-time data at their fingertips can be both a blessing and a curse. It’s easy to begin tweaking every aspect of a campaign, and tempting to react to every fluctuation in demand. By systematically integrating data into campaign analysis, however, advertisers can start managing their campaigns with a more disciplined approach.
Dividing the chapter into two sections, one on SEM and one on SEO, I put forth a set of core strategies which are designed to help you more precisely measure effectiveness and drive continued growth:
- Comprehensive, Integrated Data Create a single reporting framework for connecting data from search engines, your internal accounting system and your bid optimization platform. Comparing click traffic and conversion data can help allocate incremental spending to campaigns that yield the greatest ROI.
- Efficient Account Structure Keywords should be categorized according to theme, product, type of customer, or stage of the buying cycle. Constructing narrow groupings enables you to serve highly targeted ads and landing pages.
- Targeted Creative Creative should be clearly stated and should ideally include words from the search query, promote your value proposition and specify your competitive differentiators.
- ROI- based Bid Management Knowing the “right” bid for a keyword depends upon your goals. If you are looking to drive revenue, you may be willing to spend more on certain keywords. If your goal is to have a very narrow cost per acquisition, you may have to sacrifice a few auctions.
- Optimized Landing Pages Optimizing post-click experience can be a game changer in SEM. Landing pages should be relevant to the keyword query and should reiterate the promise made in your paid ad.
- Test, Measure, Test Measure, ad infinitum What makes SEM such a compelling, yet challenging medium, is that no campaign ever reaches a stage of perfection. Continuous testing should be the mantra of your SEM campaign.
- Campaign Planning Before beginning, you must have a comprehensive understanding of your site, customer behavior, objectives and competitive environment. From this analysis, you can develop an extensive keyword list, categorizing terms between high-performing keywords and long-tail terms.
- Opportunity Analysis Each keyword campaign is then connected to a new or existing webpage, prioritizing high performing campaigns ahead of low-volume search queries.
- Diagnosis A thorough SEO diagnosis should include an extensive analysis of site architecture, code-level components, linking and content.
- Reporting and Analytics Depending on your level of data integration, marketers should strive to measure campaign effectiveness based on organic conversions, revenue or net margin, rather than traffic to the site.
These tips are naturally a starting point, but they can be extremely helpful for optimizing both developing and tenured campaigns. Once SEM and SEO are well understood and optimized as individual channels, you should then begin to look at the two holistically and concentrate on optimizing them together to maximize margin and volume based on specifics of your corporate strategy. To read more about how we apply the principles of iDirect marketing to search, please review the entire chapter, which includes more detailed best practices along with some informative case studies.