Paid search marketing is a tricky game. It can be an initially expensive process that eventually tails off as you dial in keyword responses, but it is a good source of new names and it can be used to target very specific verticals or products. Yet, be careful of how familiar your prospects may or may not be with your brands before asking them to fork over too much information after arriving to your site from a paid text ad.
How Much Are You Willing to Lose?
If you’re new to search engine marketing, general advice recommends experimenting with Google Adwords or the SEM modules in Web analytics packages such as WebTrends or Omniture. Set up a small budget and keyword array and monitor how your bidding progresses.
When you’re ready to launch a formal campaign, a budget is an obvious necessity, but make sure you’re also ready to benchmark how much you’re willing to lose. "You need to be really clear on what your goals are and what you want to measure and how much you want to spend," said Jackie Floyd, senior Web analytics manager for tech media company Ziff Davis Enterprise. "But how much are you willing to lose? Not all of your spend is going to bring in leads. You should know how much you can afford to spend and not generate leads."
Also make sure you know what your other sources’ conversion rates are. That way, you’ll know how well SEM stacks up as a viable source.
Work in good-better-best benchmarks to manage expectations and help you determine what your budget parameters should be. "Develop a range of cost-per-click numbers based on your particular category," said Floyd. "If you’re going after a very competitive category you’ll pay more than something that’s very targeted in a less competitive space."
Be Careful of What You Ask For
Floyd uses SEM as a hybrid traffic driver and lead generation source. Noting that paid ads are inherently tied to search—meaning it’s not a given that someone searching on a topic is familiar with your brand—Floyd cautions against asking for too much information on the landing page. "If they don’t already know your site, they’ll be less likely to give up that information on the first visit."
For first-time visitors, Floyd recommends setting your conversion hurdle very low. Surround them with relevant content that’s related to the topic that was promoted in the ad.
Floyd markets specific articles that address an industry vertical she wants to drive new traffic to. From there, leads can be "nurtured" and drawn through a link system that graduates the lead to higher-value content while simultaneously collecting richer demographic information. "[SEM] works like a funnel," she said. "It brings in a lot of traffic to look at specific articles and then they might continue on to lead-generation pages, such as whitepaper registration, for example. Even if they don’t, it’s not a total loss because they’ve also generated traffic to our site."
Another way of looking at that, said Floyd, is don’t write off visitors who come in via a paid ad, but don’t convert. "Find something else that might appeal to them. Offer other teasers to bring them back or ask them to sign up for a newsletter. They’re obviously interested because they clicked on the ad."