Outranking the Competition

No matter the demographic, one of the most effective ways to reach consumers and drive business is through search engine strategies. Brands today are in a battle to keep their businesses growing and find ways to outshine and outrank their competition as hundreds of thousands of companies vie for top placement within search engines.Over the years, we’ve spoken to many marketers who aren’t sure how to navigate the complexities of search engine marketing campaigns. They want to reach new audiences and drive sales but don’t know how to work their programs to gain favorable results.

Below are solutions to five questions that can help you create efficiencies, improve spend and gain the upper hand with your SEM efforts.

1) How can I own the generic keywords most important to my brand, but which fall outside of acceptable ROI?

One solution is to separate these keywords into their own campaign, consider them advertising rather than direct marketing, and give them their own budget and ROI metric that is, in most cases, looser than that of the main campaign.

2) How can I reduce the cost of my trademark terms since this is money right to my bottom line?

First, eliminate competition on your brand terms, which will lower the cost. If you have retail partners, allow only the core group to bid on your terms. If you have affiliates, amend your contract to prevent them from bidding on your trademark term or hire a company to police them if you can’t do it yourself. If you have no competition, experiment with lowering the cost to the minimum CPC the search engines require for your ad to show. Monitor any change in sales if this action moves your ad from the top to the right.

3) How can I improve the efficiency of all my online sources?

On a regular basis, compare order ID’s across your various online sources to see where the same order is being paid for more than once. Adjust cookie windows for the sources most impacted by the duplication, amend the terms of your deals with your vendors, or reevaluate your attribution strategy in site analytics. Also, consider evaluating your sources based on which are yielding a higher amount of new buyers to your brand and loosen the ROI metric for those which are bringing in more.

4) How can I increase sales from natural search without embarking on an expensive SEO project?

Often, there are relatively few categories or products accounting for a large proportion of web site sales (80/20 rule). Focus optimization efforts only on these categories or products (optimizing on categories may have a greater impact). If in-house tech resources prevent even a small project from being completed, outsourcing should be considered, especially considering the ROI of SEO.

5) Sales from paid search are dropping. We assume it’s because of the economy, but how do we know for sure?

There are a few ways to troubleshoot this issue. Compare trademark terms’ year-over-year sales to direct load plus natural search. Changes to Google’s paid search algorithm may be pulling volume away from trademark paid search to direct load and natural search. If the combined total compares favorably to last year, then sales are probably shifting rather than dropping.

Next, look at impression share for your trademark term using Google Insights with a 12-month date range. Evaluate changes in impressions based on offline marketing activities. Changes in catalog circulation, TV or print advertising will typically impact impressions. Looking at the trends by date can help you pinpoint how offline channels have affected paid search sales.

Suzy Sandberg is President of PM Digital. This article first appeared in MediaPost.

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