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Understanding search advertising for result driven digital marketing

The search ad platforms provide absolute control over the amount of money you spend. It could be Rs 500 a day or Rs 50 lakh a month - you decide the budget.

Updated: Sep 08, 2015, 01.42 PM IST
With rapid rise in internet penetration in urban India, which has grown from nine per cent last year to to over 12 per cent, the number of netizens in the country has inched upto a sizeable 300-million. While this figure has made marketers look at internet as a viable advertising platform.
With rapid rise in internet penetration in urban India, which has grown from nine per cent last year to to over 12 per cent, the number of netizens in the country has inched upto a sizeable 300-million. While this figure has made marketers look at internet as a viable advertising platform.
By Sreeraman Thiagarajan

Last week, we discussed the fundamentals of organic search (SEO), which briefly laid out why brands and businesses must not try to chase the rapidly changing search algorithms, but focus on high quality content that will entice people to visit their website frequently.

No brand or business can solely depend on organic search. No matter what is the quality and quantity of content generated, the process of getting ROI from organic search is slow and unpredictable. That is where SEM comes to rescue.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the paid advertising program on search engines like Google and Bing that lets you get started within a day, with any budget and results are in real time, thus making SEM an imperative in a digital marketing agenda. Over 95% of Google’s revenue is from its ad business called as AdWords. That’s enough said to prove the importance, but I have come across a lot of businesses, specially the small and medium enterprises, who are a bit skeptical about search ads. A few others have tried it, did not get what they wanted and now suffer from what’s called - once bitten, twice shy phenomenon.

Also Read: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/security-tech/technology/understanding-online-search-to-make-better-digital-investments/articleshow/48768942.cms

Let’s understand how SEM is unique before discussing its nuances.

SEM is a unique ad platform vis-à-vis print ads. Choosing a newspaper to display your ad are based on the available estimation of readership, demography, etc. But, one major shortcoming of print ad is that no one knows how many readers have the intent or interest about your brand or business at the time of reading the paper. In search ads, the biggest reason for its success is that, the ads are shown / triggered based on what a person ‘searches’ for at that very moment.

Whether you search online for Prada or guinea pig food, the ads displaced are based on your intent- to rightly put it, your customers’ intent to buy guinea pig food. This is the moment a brand can use to its advantage and convert a prospect into a customer.

SEM is deep and hiring a professional to setup and run your campaign is a good idea. However, knowing the fundamentals at the three stages – start, optimize and measure, lets you get the best out of it.

Getting started

You pay only when someone clicks: Search ads are also popularly called as PPC, which stands for Pay- per- Click. These are purely ‘text only’ ads you see alongside organic search results and on other partner websites of search engines like Bing-Yahoo and Google. Your money is spent if and only if someone clicks on your advertisement. You are not charged if someone views your ad.

One does not need a website to get started - Google offers an ad solution called AdWords Express, through which a small / local businesses can get started with search ads under an hour. All you need are pre-requisites like listing of your business on Google Maps and a payment mechanism like credit card.

You are the boss - of bids, budgets, and when the ads run. If your business is closed on Sundays, the ads can be paused on Sundays. The search ad platforms provide absolute control over the amount of money you spend. It could be Rs. 500 a day or Rs. 50 lakh a month - you decide the budget along with frequency and duration of the campaign.

Manage and optimize performance:

Get more done with ‘extensions’: Though search ads are text only, it lets you add extensions such as click to call, maps, reviews, etc., If you are a local store, or cafe, then the call extension makes it easy for your prospective customers to call you with a single click and perhaps make an enquiry or book a table respectively. (For call-only campaigns, ads will only appear on devices capable of making calls.)

Choose where your ads appear: Search ads let you control the regions down to a pin code level of accuracy. This is great for small businesses that operate only at certain locations and advertising on any other mainline media means a huge spill over.

Alternatively, let’s say you are an Agra based travel agent wanting to promote a tour package for the Taj Mahal and the prospective tourists are likely to be from USA, you can then set your ads visibility only to USA.

Cherry pick the keywords: To do this effectively, one must understand at which part of customer’s buying process the business fits well. Bidding for keywords is your choice and they range from vastly generic to highly specific.

‘Dog food recipe’ a set of keywords is way too different from ‘buy dog food online’. In the former search, people are trying to seek information about preparing dog food, whereas in the later they are clearly seeking to buy it online. It’s up to your discretion to choose which keyword to bid for, based on which service best describes your business.

Quality score and landing page: Google and Bing care about advertisers (their paying customers) as much as they care about the people using their platform to search (consumers). To hit the right balance of providing a great experience for both the parties, they have a mechanism called as Quality Score, which is on a scale of 1 to 10 for telling advertisers how good your ad and landing page is.

Higher Quality Score means better performing campaigns, higher ad ranks at lower bids for keywords. The simplest way to get a higher score is to mean what you say. That is, the landing page should match what your ad says; it is trustworthy and easy to navigate.

Measurement and ROI

Search ads are driven by objectives and measured by results: Different business have different objectives.

It comes in all forms including driving sales, generating leads, getting people to view / download something or signup for an event, etc, which at the end of the days is based on what you think is worth spending money on advertising for. Based on the objective, search ads lets you create separate and multiple set of ads and further optimize it to get maximum bang for the buck.

Measurability is what adds elegance to digital marketing and search ads are the epitome of it. A conversion happens when your customers meets your set objective. You can measure campaign performance through multiple reports including – which keywords performed, which search term led a customer to click on your ad, which type of conversion was most profitable, parity or disparity in demographic of your audience, performance across different geographies, A/B testing with different URLs of your website, time segmentation and so on.

Understanding customer journey: Tools like Google Analytics gives you deeper insights through what is called attribution modeling (you set rules to give credit to what actually resulted in sales or meeting the set objectives).

Let’s say a customer saw your ad for a microwave, but dint click it. On day two, she clicked the ad, signed up for your newsletter, and liked your business page on Facebook but still did not buy the microwave. On a later date, she clicked on a newsletter email sent by you, and finally purchased it. Now, with Attribution Modeling, you can give weights or credits for what resulted in converting the sale.

Note: This article is not an exhaustive resource on search ads, my goal is to give you a heads-up on the possibilities SEM brings to table.

Sreeraman Thiagarajan is the Vice President at Publicis Beehive. Views expressed are personal. He tweets at @sree_raman.

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