10 Search Engine Marketing Practices to Refine for 2014
Hummingbird. Penguin. It’s been an emotionally, financially and overall frantic rollercoaster for many SEM marketers in 2013. Now that we’re roughly 49.5 days from kicking 2013 to the curb, it’s time to plan your strategy to avoid getting 5 minutes for high-sticking in Google’s penalty box.
Sure, you’re probably ready to wipe your hands clean. Perhaps dying for Google to (finally) update their Page Ranks so your clients know where they stand. Not gonna happen before the ball drops, unfortunately.
Whether you’re new to SEM, or a seasoned veteran, the following tips will be useful in helping you to get the best results from your PPC marketing campaigns in 2014. While there are probably well more than 10 best practices in the search engine marketing world, at least you can start with these key guidelines to optimize your campaign.
Your 10 (Pretty Much) Concrete Practices
Yes, these 10 practices seem oddly repetitive. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the professional search engine marketing realm follow them religiously, so we must reiterate.
- You must track everything!
The rest of these tips will mean nothing unless you are carefully tracking the results of your paid search campaign on a per-keyword basis. Specifically, track the actions that clicking customers take from a specific keyword ad, to your site. Are they buying anything? Are they leaving the site? Are they visiting multiple pages on your site? Understanding what customers are doing on your site relative to your goals will help you gauge the value of your search marketing efforts.
- Never stop watching the results.
PPC management is an ongoing effort, not a one-time ad insertion like an online banner ad. You need to constantly monitor the results of your campaign so that you can effectively test elements of it, and refine it as results compare to your end goals (such as efficiency, more sales, etc.) – speaking of results, did we mention that Best Edge SEO is the master of results-based search marketing?
- Constantly refine your keyword list.
You should always be considering new keywords to add to your campaign. Are you launching a new product? Add the new related keywords. Has the market changed – are people using new and different terms to find your Web site? Enter them in your campaign. Keep in mind that it is important to use a wide variety of relevant keywords so that you can reach potential customers at every stage of the purchase cycle – from initial research all the way through to “I’m ready to buy.”
- Bid your keywords using Keyword Planner.
How do you know where to place the initial bid for the new keywords? You can go with the suggested bid from the search engines, but they’re really out to get you to spend more money. It’s smarter to start conservatively and bid lower, but high enough to attain positioning. See how those keywords perform in terms of conversions, and raise bids if they perform, and lower or delete the keywords entirely if they don’t. It’s even better if you can get insight into the potential relevance and conversion rate of the new keywords, and bid based on that guidance.
- Target clicks to relevant and specific landing pages with clear calls-to-action.
Typically, your search engine marketing efforts’ end goal is to deliver customers. Therefore, you want to get clicks (your potential customers) as close to a purchase decision as possible. Don’t make them look for what you want them to do. Send clickthrus directly to a landing page specific to the action you’d like them to take. (Note: many campaigns are branding in nature; in this case it makes sense to send them to your home page.)
- Machines can’t do all the work, but they can help.
While powerful technology is useful for handling things like data analysis, bid optimization, and testing/tracking campaign elements, core “human” skills are still needed for things like copywriting. Having high-quality ads will result in better click-through rates, and more potential customers visiting your Web site.
- Test elements of your campaign to get the best overall performance.
With the above tip in mind, remember that Google allows for multiple Ad Creatives to be uploaded per Ad Group. Take advantage of live A/B testing for your best-performing (by clickthru rate) creatives on Google. The better click-through an ad gets, the more customers visit your landing page, so you have a greater volume of potential sales coming to your site. Taking it a step further, consider testing different landing pages with different ad text. How about testing landing pages on different keywords or ad groups? You might be surprised at the results. Bigger marketing companies are great with campaign goal tracking and performance monitoring.
- Allocate your budget wisely. Do you have a set budget and want to make sure you’re getting the most out of it? It might be smart to have “buckets” of keywords. For the high-performance words, group them together and save a larger proportion of your budget for those. For lower performers, allocate a smaller portion of your budget there
- Remember seasonality as it relates to your business.
Plan your budget accordingly if there are times when your product or business might see spikes on related search terms. For example, searches for “flower delivery” typically spike in the month preceding Mother’s Day. Carefully monitor your campaign’s performance during those heavy volume periods, and make sure you are still bidding for position for the fine balance of both exposure and ROI, as your competitors are very likely doing the same thing!
- Treat search marketing as an investment, not an afterthought.
As one of the most trackable mediums, paid search is also, by its nature, very controllable. Marketers have the power to manage campaigns to their best performance. Take advantage of this power to stay on top of your campaigns and make sure they are producing the results you need.
After you master the basics of pay-per-click search engine marketing, there’s always room for more learning about paid search. To ensure your PPC campaigns are at their peak performance, check your SEM campaign management skills against our best practice suggestions, and let’s all team up to defeat the 600 pound gorilla in 2014.