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Paid Search Strategy

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

Value of a paid search strategy

So, we’ve looked at SEO and we’ve looked at content marketing. A real core area of any search marketing strategy is paid search. The value of a paid search strategy is quite clear, and it has a lot of benefits.

  • Clear ROI: It provides a clear ROI which everyone loves to see within a business. Your spend is clear, and your returns are very clear.
  • Direct response channel: So, you can optimize towards whichever action you want. It could be an app install, it could be a click, whatever it happens to be you can optimize to that. And this makes it generally distinct from brand-focused marketing which would look at some of the softer metrics.
  • Drives scalable conversions: If your strategy is going well and you fund the ROAS or ROI that you’re looking for, you can experiment quite a lot and see how far you can actually take that. In a lot of businesses, as long as you’re hitting that ROAS or ROI target, you can scale. Because they know that there’s profit to be made from it. So, there’s always budget available for that sort of thing.
  • Retains customers: The fourth benefit is something that’s not quite so recent to us, but it’s still developing is re-marketing. And the beauty of re-marketing is that it allows us to retain customers. It can also allow us to convert. And the cost-per-click tends to be a lot lower for re-marketing because it is taken as read that these are people who’ve interacted. They may have visited the site and added something to a basket but not converted. As a result, when we re-market to them, the cost-per-click is lower because their intent is quite clear.

Match types

Something that you’ll have to get right if a paid search strategy is going to be effective is using the right match types for the right audiences, the right locations, the right devices. Budgets can spiral out of control if this isn’t done correctly. For example, you’d use a broad match when exact would have done and reverse can be true as well. You can miss a lot of opportunities. These match types can clearly improve the efficiency of your campaign. So, knowing the limitations and the benefits of each will allow you to use your budget much more effectively and hit your goals.

  • Broad match: These are ads that show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. So, you might want to do this if you have a catch-all term and you know anything related to that is going to be relevant enough to your brand.
  • Phrase match: These are ads that will show on a specific phrase and close variations of that phrase. We have exact match which will show on the exact term or very close variations of that term. It’s one to use if you know exactly what you’re going after.
  • Negative match: Something else that is crucial to get right is negative matching. This is, quite simply, as it sounds, is using negative matching means that your ads will not show on the terms that you have specified. You can also include a match type to a negative. So, you can phrase match a negative keyword to make sure you’re just not involved or related to anything around that. It can be very important for branding, but from a purely pragmatic point of view, you can waste a lot of budget if you have a negative match to the correct terms.

Advantages and disadvantages of match types

As I mentioned, there are the three main types of, a lot of variations within, each of these. And each comes with advantages and limitations.

Exact match

The advantage is clear. It’s highly targeted, the ad copy and the landing pages can be really personalized because you know exactly what someone has searched for. You can infer what their intent is, and you can tailor the copy. The limitations of course, are you’ll miss a lot of opportunity. This is one to use in combination with others. You can bucket some keywords that are exact match but make sure you’re overlaying that with some phrase match and broad match to capture all the interest that’s out there.

Phrase match

Phrase match is incredibly useful because it can help you to capture traffic for keywords that you’re not bidding on. So, you may know, broadly speaking, what you’re looking for, but search queries change all the time. There are new searches every single day that’ll be related to all of your products and services. So, if you’re using phrase match, you’re making sure that you capitalize on that. And as long as you’ve done your negative matching correctly, you’ll also miss out on the ones that you really don’t want.

However, a limitation of phrase match is that it doesn’t take into consideration different work orders. So, it’s really something you want to be thinking about when you look at this in relation to exact match and broad match.

Broad match

You can use broad match to find new keywords and then if you find that something’s performing well within there because you will of course, see with complete clarity what’s performing and what’s not. You can remove those ones that are underperforming as negatives, and the ones that are performing you can then move into your exact match bucket. Remember the limitation of broad matches is self-explanatory; I guess the clue is in the title. If you’re trying to promote a website or an app or a video, you’ll capture a lot of traffic that isn’t relevant, so you have to be prepared for the fact that is going to happen. You can get a lot of important lessons from that, and they can shape negative and exact matching thereafter, but you should set this aside in ring fence, almost a test budget for some of your broad matching.

Benefits of remarketing lists

We’ve already mentioned re-marketing lists and how useful these can be. And this is a real reflection on the fact that there are so many different touch points for a consumer as they move through that typical funnel from consideration and awareness through to purchase and retention. Re-marketing lists allow us to use CRM data, for example, people that we know are quite qualified and then tailor our messages to them. And we can do that across search video and shopping.

So, as people use different touch points to make that conversion, we can be there and tailor different messages. Something else that’s worth considering as we look at a broad perspective of information all the way through to retention, is that the cost-per-click can actually be much lower for this. So if you have data that you really think you can trust as part of a re-marketing list, whether you’ve captured that on your website or via an email marketing campaign, can re-market not just with greater accuracy and clarity, but also in a very cost-efficient way and we’ll look at a case study that has done that well recently.

A significant proportion of the time that is spent on mobile devices is spent on apps. It isn’t spent on a huge number of apps and a lot of the apps that are downloaded aren’t actually used but apps can be a really useful source of information because Google for example via Android can tell how often they are being used and that helps to shape its ranking. So one to consider for the organic side of things.

Google Ads and app installs

On the paid side of things, app installs have been part of paid search strategy for a little while. We can set targets based on those in-app interactions. Google was finding of course if there’s a walled garden around apps, and a lot of people spend their time on apps and mobile traffic’s increasing, that’s a massive missed opportunity for them. So what they’ve been able to do is index that content and track how people are interacting with what’s going on. That of course means that we can optimize to those.

An app campaign used to be based around app downloads. We can now have in-app purchases and this can be really cost effective for people because once you have them inside your app, there aren’t that many different interactions that they’re having. It’s hard to get someone’s attention on a mobile device, but within an app you can do that. So really one to consider because we can look at this from a point of view of just awareness as a brand to get your app out there, but you can use it for acquisition and retention. If people keep using your app, they’re more likely to keep purchasing within there.

Bid adjustments

If you don’t keep a tight rein on the budgets that you’re spending within paid search, there can be an awful lot of wastage. So you want to look at bid adjustments to make sure that you’re really maximizing the reach that you have and reaching the right customers. These bid adjustments will provide a lot more control and flexibility and you can optimize with a lot more precision if you’re doing this correctly. We can now optimize to different devices and set bid adjustments for mobile, for computers, and for tablets. So, based on what we know about what customers want on each device, we can bid up or bid down in those different areas.

There are a lot of specific bid adjustments that we can look at, too. The cornerstone of paid search has always been bid adjustments on a keyword level and remains the same. But we can also adjust our bids based on the time of day or the day of the week, which can be a huge consideration for a lot of companies. The location of users, the device that they’re using, and demographics. Regarding demographics, we have gender, age, parental status, and household income.

We can also adjust our bids based on the ad placement that we have and on the audience that we are targeting. A lot of these bid adjustments can be done automatically and a lot of what we do in paid search is moving towards a more automotive way of working. But we should also look at the drawbacks of such an approach. If the rules that drive that automation aren’t 100% sound and logical, you will still lose a lot of your budget. So a paid search strategist’s skill and experience is still incredibly beneficial here so we shouldn’t depend too much on automated scripts.

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Clark Boyd

Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.

Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing. 

Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on Twitter (X)LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi,tech.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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    Strategy and Planning
    Clark Boyd
    Skills Expert

    This module covers the key steps for planning and implementing a search marketing strategy for your organization. It addresses the key components in an effective search marketing strategy and outlines best practices for planning and research. It also covers how to execute a strategy and evaluate the performance of a search marketing campaign.