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Clicks that count
Paid search is an established marketing channel, but making every click count remains an elusive
goal for most marketers. Our panel of search experts suggests ditching generic and usually pricey
keywords and thinking conversion, not just clicks, to better optimise dollars going on search
Words Jo Bowman

Paid search marketing, or pay-per-click                                                               which show the volume of people actually
(PPC), is becoming increasingly appealing         Masterclass panel                                   searching for different words. “Use them as
for many advertisers, accounting for                                                                  a guide only, as they are not perfect by any
roughly half of all online adspend at the                             David Temple is regional        means,” Dawson warns.
moment. Part of the appeal is that it can                             head of search at                  It’s worth noting that the search terms
start with the smallest of budgets, which                             Neo@Ogilvy Asia Pacific,        most commonly used aren’t necessarily the
draws in clients who’ve never advertised                              Ogilvy Group’s digital and      obvious ones, so think laterally. Ford in the
before, as well as those looking to comple-                           direct media planning arm.      US, for instance, failed to anticipate a sud-
ment broader, cross-media campaigns.               He is responsible for leading the integration of   den surge in searches for ‘Apprentice car’
   In a nutshell, it involves bidding for key-     search engine optimisation services and paid       after one of its cars was given away as a
words that consumers might type into a             search offers in Asia Pacific. Temple is a         prize during the TV show The Apprentice.
search engine; you bid what you’re willing         frequent speaker at industry events such as           In some ways, choosing words that are
to pay for each time someone who searches          Search Engine Strategies, Search Expo and          likely to get traffic clicking through to your
that word clicks on your ad and through to         eComXpo in China and the US.                       website is the easy bit of PPC. Where you
your site. Whoever bids the highest gets to                                                           send that traffic and what you do with it
the top of the listings a user sees on search                         Kathryn Dawson is               when it gets there is where things get really
results, and advertisers pay only per click.                          marketing director of           interesting, and where, Temple says, the
   However, getting the best value from                               Strategy Internet Marketing,    most mistakes are made. Getting a handle
PPC isn’t all that easy, and if it’s not done                         a UK-based search engine        on what’s called “intent mapping” is key
carefully, there’s a big risk that you’ll get                         optimisation company. Prior     here; think about the reason why someone
lots of clicks, your budget will get chewed        to joining Strategy five years ago, Dawson was     might click your link, and give them the
up, but you won’t have much to show for it.        head of international administration for an        most relevant page on your site when they
                                                   American software company and worked in            arrive. That means that directing all users
Right words at the right price                     Florida as a senior analyst.                       to the company homepage is a big no-no.
Getting the right words at the right price is                                                            “Most companies view their homepage
what PPC is all about, so, how to choose?                            Dr Rachel Cornish is director    as the door to their company website,
“Buying expensive generic keywords such                              of Cornish WebServices,          directing all the users there. Big mistake. If
as ‘digital camera’ may lead to a lot of clicks                      providing pay-per-click          someone is looking up ‘digital camera’ and
but is that the overall goal?” asks David                            management services, and         is directed to a homepage profiling every
Temple of Neo@Ogilvy. “Longer generic                                an associate fellow of           type of gadget you could imagine, you’ve
keywords like “8 mega pixel digital                Warwick Business School in the UK. She is a        lost them and the sale,” says Temple.
camera” and branded keywords are priced            qualified AdWords professional and has                He also cautions against combining too
lower and usually convert at a higher rate.”       extensive experience of PPC management on          many products or services on a single land-
   Kathryn Dawson of Strategy Internet             AdWords, Yahoo and some minor PPC                  ing page. If someone’s looking up a particu-
Marketing says start with a brainstorm of          providers. Cornish also provides SEO services      lar model, don’t take them to a place with
what your target audience is likely to be          for B2B and B2C clients, and while based in the    your entire range of whatever you offer.
searching for. Make a list of root words and       UK, can work internationally and in languages         No matter how much homework you’ve
divide the words you come up with into             other than English.                                done, there’s only one way to find out how
groups that are likely to be used by people                                                           consumers will respond to your PPC
looking for a specific product, service or                                                            campaign. “PPC can be an extremely
piece of information. Each group should                                                               profitable route to more sales, but it can
lead to a page that is relevant to what’s                                                             also be a bottomless pit with little return,”
being searched. Then start researching,                                                               says Dawson. Her advice is to test, test and
using free tools such as Google’s Traffic                                                             test again, using a budget of, say, 10 per
Estimator and Yahoo’s keyword inventory,                                                              cent of your total, and try it out with just
62 digital media december/january 2008                                                                          
one product area or service, and see what
works and what doesn’t. Once you get your         Case study
campaign properly underway, don’t take            Alert Electrical
your eyes off it. Your conversion tracking
should be in place and tested before you go
live with your campaign, so you can see
where the results are coming from.
   You also need to be clear about the
results needed to make the campaign
worthwhile. Dawson says that if you sell
something for, say, $300 and your margin is
50 per cent, then consider how much of the
profit you’re willing to spend to get the sale.
   “Some clicks in your campaign will cost
you 20 cents and others may cost you $3,
but the important measure is not the cost
you pay for the click but the cost you pay           Alert strategy... achieved a sharp spike in organic traffic after it optimised content on its website
for the conversion,” she says. If you’re get-
ting big clicks but few conversions, then            Alert Electrical, a UK-based wholesaler and online       within a few months. Strategy says conversion
those keywords aren’t profitable and you             retail supplier of electrical products, had been         analysis data allowed Alert to stop spending on
should turn them off. If others are convert-         running a PPC campaign for some time. Strategy,          unprofitable areas.“It sounds obvious but a lot of
ing particularly well, consider raising your         which was already handling SEO for Alert, recently       people get caught up in advert click-through rates
bid for them to get higher up the rankings.          took charge of its PPC campaign                          and bid prices, losing sight of the fact that the aim
   Rachel Cornish of Cornish Web Services               The PPC campaign was run exclusively with             of advertising is to turn a profit,” says consultant
says the speed with which PPC can be                 AdWords, focusing on different ad groups that            Rich Heaney. The PPC drive built on optimisation of
launched and adjusted —within 10 minutes             each dealt with a specific product or type of            Alert’s website, which began several months
in the case of Google AdWords, longer with           product, such as electric storage heaters, burglar       earlier, with 4,000 of its pages indexed compared
Yahoo Search —means that if you get inun-            alarms, and power showers. In total there were           to 1,000 at the start of the exercise. The content
dated with business, you can step off the            about 40 ad groups, and roughly 2,000 keywords.          was optimised and a strategic link-building
gas. “PPC can be turned off or reduced                  Results were monitored not only for specific          campaign added in, leading to a sharp rise in
quickly if the numbers of orders and inqui-          words but for specific ad groups. The ad budget          organic traffic — traffic referred from search
ries received is too high. We have frequen-          was then reinvested where the bulk of the                engines rose 92 per cent over six months.
tly done this for some of our clients.”              conversions were being made, leading to a 67 per            Encouraged by the results, Alert is now
                                                     cent increase in total monthly revenue from PPC          expanding it to Yahoo and MSN PPC ad networks.
Conversion not clicks
If there’s help online and you know your
market, should you pay an agency to handle
your PPC campaign? Fair question. If              used up, but it’s not the most important                    measure some sort of conversion. It could
you’re just dipping a toe, it’s probably worth    number to watch.                                            be a white paper download, newsletter
having a go yourself. But if you have more           “Think ‘conversion’ not clicks,” says                    sign-up or an actual sale. Measure,
words and a bigger budget, it’s likely you’ll     Temple. “There’s a big danger in only                       measure, measure.”
need someone testing, monitoring and              measuring click-through rates. If the click                    Cornish says cost per click is of almost
managing your campaign. Cornish says              rate is high your ad must be working, right?                no relevance to final ROI. “A high number
that if you’re going to use AdWords, look for     Wrong. Users may be clicking on and then                    of low-cost clicks which have a low percen-
people who have passed Google’s training          clicking back if they don’t like what they                  tage of visitors making a purchase will be
and exam system and have managed PPC              see. Besides your click-through rate,                       worth the same as a small number of highly
accounts for long enough to have qualified                                                                    targeted visitors, many of whom make a
as AdWords Professionals. Consider Ad-                                                                        purchase,” she notes.
Words Companies —meaning two or more                 “Besides click-                                             What might be called “useful clicks”
people have passed the exams.                                                                                 aren’t always an immediate sale, and can be
    As the technology becomes more diverse,          throughs, measure                                        weighted accordingly when measuring
it’s more likely you will need expert help.                                                                   effectiveness. Repeat purchases that come
These days, search isn’t just from a PC.             some sort of conver-                                     from a click-through could count for more;
Increasingly, advertisers will have to cater
to phone-based search, with mobile-friend-
                                                     sion... measure,                                         signing up for more information a little less.
                                                                                                                 “Different values can be placed on each
ly landing pages and auto-dialling links
where a conversation might be required.
                                                     measure, measure”                                        of these actions, and one campaign may
                                                                                                              measure different types of conversion or
    Cost-per-click is how your budget gets           David Temple                                             useful visitor,” Cornish says. I                                                                                            december/january 2008 digital media 63

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