Category Archives: Search Marketing

Measuring SEO in the Enterprise Webinar

In case you missed it last week, Search Marketing Now has uploaded the webinar I did on “Demonstrating the Value of SEO within a Large Organization:  What to Measure, How to Report which was very well received by the attendees.

In the webinar I focused on four key types of reports that represent the key challenges of demonstrating the need and reporting on the results of your search engine optimization (SEO) program.

•Metrics to build the business case
•Metrics to keep your job & showcase your efforts
•Metrics to do your job & keep your sanity
•Metrics to show competitive environment

Go check out the recording of the webcast to learn:

  • How to report SEO results for large websites
  • What to measure and report that demonstrates value and ROI of SEO
  • How to share reporting up the management chain

Over the next few weeks I will be blogging about some of the reports I talked about and providing templates for some of the reports.  I have already put a few of them up in these articles –

The Cost of Not Ranking Organically

The integration of SEO and Social Media

The integration of SEO and Social Media should be as natural as a peanut butter and jelly. While a natural fit, few companies are even thinking of having these teams meet let along work together. Yes, many SEO teams have created some best practices and thrown them over the fence to the many Social Media task forces and teams that are sprouting like weeds but few have really integrated them. Even few have looked beyond the collaborative value of link building.

In the following paragraphs, I will try to illustrate why these two practices should be more tightly integrated.

Inbound Links

The desire for lot of high quality and relevant links is the main reason us SEO folks follow around the Social Media teams like lost puppies. Links have a pretty significant influence your rankings for specific search terms and the Social Media team can be on of our biggest allies in getting them but we need to ensure they have the knowledge and data integrated into their social media workflow.

Social Media teams are busy cranking out content on blogs, working their influencers and tweeting relevant tips, ideas and content that creates buzz, traffic and increased awareness but what if they use a less than optimal page, flowery words, and “click here” as the anchor text? That is more common than you think which is why we need to have collaboration to make sure every precious link and piece of UGC created ads incremental value beyond the social media uplift.

One key thing to remember is not to get too excited about the bounty of links that can come from Social Media site. Unfortunately, many of the biggest social-media sites don’t actually pass along any direct search benefit since they often apply a “nofollow” attribute to their outgoing links. This tells the search engines that they can’t really vouch for this link so don’t transfer any value or “link juice” to this page. This is the norm for major social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, Flickr as well as the comments sections of some of the most common blog platforms.

While these big sites won’t pass you any value, don’t get discouraged. We want the exposure on these sites to introduce our site and content to the visitors and participants in these sites. Once they do click through and visit our site they will often add links or other relevant information to their social media sites and blogs that will pass value to us.

Many companies are adopting short URL services such as bit.ly or developing their own. If you do use these shortened URL’s you want to make sure that they are using a 301 redirect to send people from the short URL to your site. By using a 301 you can often pick up some value from these links and tweets especially if that URL is taken and added into a blog post or website.

Consumer Intersection and Engagement

Understanding the key points of intersection with your target market is essential. We learned from Forrester’s Social Technographics profile, published in Q4 2009, that identified 70% of social media users as ‘spectators’ – “those who actively read blogs, tweets, customer reviews and content in forums as part of their regular online activity.” They went on to state that 33% “regularly engaging in conversation, and this conversation hasthe ability to live on indefinitely within the World Wide Web.”

With 70% consuming and 1/3 participating it is essential that we as search marketers need to understand how consumers find these “hubs of conversation.” We further need to ensure that they are aware and, whenever possible, talking about our brand. This will require an unparalleled level of participation and engagement from brands than they have been willing to undertake previously.

Most of us have learned to work with our PR teams to have them integrate keywords and relevant anchor text into the press releases but few have really looked at the bigger picture and the downstream influence of these releases especially in Social Media. Take for example Sony’s announcement recently on the large selection of 3d-capable HD TV’s.

sony3d

To date this press release has been picked up over 14,000 times with the exact subject line they sent it out as. The sites referencing it range from obscure review sites to major news outlets. The unfortunate face is there is only 1 link in the whole press release but fortunately that is to the home page of the 3d product category. The moral of the story is this release was picked up as is and then places on 14,000 sites with many of them being highly relevant such as Engadget and the Consumer Reports blog. In this case, this release generated over 600 new links to this category page, which is the Sony poster child for 3D TV but it has also resulted in a significant amount of ShelfSpace and intersections with people interested in 3D Televisions.

Digital Asset Optimization

This is where us on the SEO side get to help the new kids in social media. Their goal is to generate as much “earned media” as possible. We fully support that and want to make sure as much of that newly minted content ends up in the search results and is indexed as possible. This is why all Marketers need to consider their “content enablement strategy” to understand how they will leverage all the digital touch points with their target market. This takes shape in three ways:

Uniform and Engaging Messages – You need to understand how to do it uniformly while providing relevant, useful and engaging messages to compel them to spread the word within their own individual networks. With an understanding of this ecosystem of awareness, Marketers need to ensure their digital assets are effectively optimized and distributed to the widest points on the net possible. Search is the logical team to help ensure this happens. They already manage the XML site maps and feed content into the search engines making it relatively easy for them to also integrate video, image, news and mobile feeds into that process and monitoring their performance.

Identify and Target the Ecosystem – Second to identifying the ecosystem is ensuring we have a key destination page within the site that will last beyond the any promotion or campaign. This page needs to be identified and shared with all stakeholders to ensure we get the widest distribution of the central page and the assets and messages contained therein. For many companies, this type of content mapping has already been done by the SEO team and just needs to be adapted for Social Media and PR uses. A well-organized SEO program will often have dozens, if not hundreds, of keywords that they have matched to highly relevant pages. By leveraging this list we will nearly ensure that we are pointing to the optimal page and use the keywords as anchor text. This uniformity ensures we get not only relevant inbound links but offer a common customer experience across all digital media.

Digital Asset Optimization – This is a key element where we are starting to get more alignment. This concept was introduced by Lee Oden at Top Rank Blog a few years ago in his article Extending SEO With Digital Asset Optimization that talked about optimizing all of your digital assets and ensuring they are findable in all search channels especially those beyond search engines.

match_media

Once you have alignment of optimized assets and the specific landing page we can start the process of submission and ensuring the assets are found, indexed and ranked in the major aggregation portals as shown below.

By enabling the submission and indexing in as many places as possible each of them offers incremental opportunities themselves but as more of them get indexed they in aggregate, foster a significant opportunity to dominate the shelfspace of various search engines.

Search Results ShelfSpace

This is a term I coined many years ago when working for a company that has multiple sites in the same category. The GSI team and I further perfected this approach while working on various categories at P&G. The goal then was to get as many of the brand pages indexed as possible on the first page in order to dominate the results the same as they would the physical shelf of a local supermarket – think Kellogg’s cereal.

As you can imagine, this would only work if you had a bunch of sites and you could get them to make the changes since the engines only allowed a maximum of two listings per domain in the search results. Yes, for the lucky, you could get benefit from multiple subdomains or international site but that was killed by Google.

Today we can do this a lot easier by leveraging the multitudes of social media sites. It works brilliantly for domains and brands but is a bit harder for specific categories but it is not impossible. This is where the collaboration and cooperation is the most important to make sure we are feeding the most relevant information that will help us get into the news, natural listings and the ever changing “real time” search results.

A great example of this is Old Spice they have all but 1 of the listing with a combination of their TV ads, images, news and specialty sites

oldspice

Reputation Management

For those thinking out of the box, the concept of dominating the SERP ShelfSpace should be sparking ideas and does have a significant opportunity in your online reputation management toolbox. Many companies struggle with “sucks sites” and those pesky negative blog posts which seem to make their way to the top of the search results for brand or product searches.

As I mentioned, ShelfSpace optimization was originally developed for companies like P&G to get multiple brands from the same company on the first page of the search results. Social media has made it been a great way to help dominate the ShelfSpace for a single brand company. By using the key social media outlets you have a great opportunity to push all or most of the negative listings off the first page for your brand or product name.

The overused example of the need for reputation management in many presentations was “Delta Airlines” and the infamous “Delta Sucks” site. That site and the other blog-based detractors are now gone, replaced by Delta’s Twitter account, mobile site, and their news site in addition to Wikipedia and a large block of “new” most of which was generated by Delta

delta_airlines

To make this work you have to participate in Social Media and leverage the optimization tactics to ensure the right use of names, keywords, tagging and of course, brand and keyword rich content.

Voice of the Consumer

Another key value of the integration is the shared data. Search gives you a lens into what people are “looking for” and Social Media conversation mining gives you insight into what they are actually talking about. Looking at both pieces of data can often find key emerging opportunities to develop content along specific conversations people are having. This will create additional content elements that you can use to intersect with consumers at the critical point of interest where you have the best opportunity to influence the next step in their purchase behavior.

Imagine if the content team could prioritize content best on not only this historical demand from search query volume but also real time input from social media monitoring.

Search Rankings Identify Relevance and Influence

Bloggers are especially important to identify and classify by their relative influence as well as their organic rankings for relevant terms. An often discarded by-product of ranking reports is the “other listings” that are in the top 10. If we look at these results we can often find blogs or other social media participants that are contextually relevant enough to show up on the top 10 listings in the search engines. These influencers with a high ranking blog will help increase the potential consideration from visitors since they are often looking for recommendations and reviews from places other than from the manufacturer.

Once we indentify these relevant blog and social media sites we can reach out to these bloggers who are always looking for new content. Once we reach out to them with quality information they will often register for your RSS feeds, press releases, and social media mentions of companies in the product area or vertical they are writing about. This can be the gift that keeps on giving since they will then be feeding them selves with this optimized content being pushed via these other distribution

As has always been said about SEO it is the content that matters from both a ranking as well as getting links. The best thing you can do is create relevant content and participate in the conversation

The Cost of Not Ranking Organically

For one company it was potentially $2.3 million for just 7 words

I have had a number of people ask me to explain this worksheet since I presented it recently at a local conference.  I developed a more advanced version of this worksheet a number of years ago for a company to help them justify to management they should spend money on SEO.  This is a variation of the Missed Opportunity Matrix I introduced over 10 years ago at an SES event.

The focus of this exercise was to highlight that the company was paying for a segment of traffic they could/should be getting from SEO if they were only ranking better.  Ranking better in this case was to have a listing in the Top 10 positions.  Yes, I know that you really want to be in the Top 5 but we had to start simple with this company so work with me here.  Yes, I know there is an argument that one should even care about ranking but when we did this exercise it still very much mattered.

Here is the chart I developed [key is at the bottom of the article]

Initial Findings:

For the 7 words that were deemed “critical” to the client:

  • They had first page rankings for only 1 of the 7 terms.
  • In 5/7 cases they had received ZERO organic traffic for these words
  • In all cases they were getting less than a fraction of 1% of the opportunity
  • For the 1 term in the 4th position, there was no description due to flash content

The Hypothesis of the Worksheet

You may need to jump down to the key to understand some of the columns of data I used for the calculations but essentially we showed that if they could get on the first page of Google and capture 5% of the search volume of traffic then that would be that much less traffic they would have to pay for.  Currently, to capture 5% of the opportunity at their current average cost per click would require a paid search budget of slightly over $2.3 million dollars per year to generate the same level of traffic they should be getting without paying for the click.  Sample Cost of Not Ranking Template

cost_of_not_ranking

The Cost of Not Ranking would cost them $2.3 million per year

We can argue how much traffic they should be getting and from where.  However, the fact is they are category leaders in many of these categories yet they have no organic exposure.  If we can agree that somewhere between 60% to 90% of all searchers click on the organic listings over the paid listings then we can agree that they were missing out on a lot of traffic that they would now have to acquire by the click.  At the CPC listed in the worksheet that is a lot of money to get traffic they deemed “critical” to their company.

The Outcome

The management team saw this matrix and was stunned.  First, they did not really understand the search opportunity in terms of how many people were looking for the types of products they offered.  They them had a better appreciation of the opportunity of search – that is the purpose of the Missed Opportunity Matrix”

Second, they came to the realization that they “only click on organic listings” and therefore their peers and prospects would only do the same.  They then mandated that this problem be resolved for the top 10 keywords that were listed as mission critical as a test.

We started an aggressive optimization program that resulted in significant increases in traffic.  While the program did steal budget from the paid search program it did drive a significant increase in traffic.  In a later review meeting the now more savvy executives wanted to know about the correlation of paid and organic which resulted in a number of worksheets that showed how they should be effectively integrated to maximize success.

Note: That listing that had a #4 position but little traffic, once identified and the snippet created started getting over 35% of the total estimated click volume.  That single change allowed us to show immediate results in the program resulting in significant budgets being applied to SEO activities.

Key

Keywords – these were the sampling words that they wanted to perform better for but could not convince management to make the effort to make the investment.

Estimated Searches Per month – this comes from the Google Keyword suggestion tool.  Since the paid search words were on broad match we used the broad match volume here which will skew the data for organic but we opted to go with it for dramatic effect.

Current Traffic (Organic) – represents many visits they had come to their site for that keyword phrases based on their web analytics tool.

Share Of Clicks – As a percentage of the total opportunity [Estimated Searchers /Current Traffic] we could show what share they were getting of the opportunity.

Current Rank Google – This was added to show “cause/effect” of not ranking.

Top 10 Click Opp – This is the estimated share of clicks we could get if we were in the top 10.  Yes, this should be higher but we needed the simplest demonstratable point possible – for these words there are the top 10 organic and also 10 paid search terms.  This means there are 20 options for a searcher to take.  There is a 1 in 20 chance of being clicked.  A 1/20 ratio is 5% so it is relatively defendable to the client.  There is a more sophisticated version were we incorporate click probabilities based on position but that was introduced later.

Organic Traffic – this is the number of visits we should be getting “if” we had a top 10 position – or 5% of the total search volume for that phrase.

Missed Opp – this is the delta between what they are getting and what they could get if they were ranking and could capture a 5% share of the volume.

CPC – this is the average CPC they were paying for these terms in the paid search campaign.  You can take the estimated CPC from the Google Keyword Suggestion tool but since they were buying those words already we used their exact average CPC.

Incremental Traffic Cost – This is what it cost them to “buy” that 5% share of traffic they could be getting with organic search.  Yes, there is cannibalization of the organic traffic with paid but that typically happens when they rank higher.  Also, with paid they were averaging about a 1% click rate on their paid search since it was poorly executed.  Even if they had 100% cannibalization they would still have to pay for the 4% opportunity difference.

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Maximize Search Relevance to Attract, Engage and Retain Searchers

In a recent post I discussed how businesses should be leveraging Search Marketing techniques to intersect with existing searcher demand.   I firmly believe that when we understand the searcher’s intent, where a searcher is in the buying cycle or even understanding the type of search they are doing, advertisers can better intersect with the current demand for their type of products and services to increase sales.
In today’s post, I want to walk you through the next critical step of leveraging relevance and searcher interest.   Now our programs should be connecting with the right targets and our focus turns from attracting to engaging the searcher once they come to your Website.

Advertisers who truly want to get the most out of search marketing need to establish stricter measures of success for their campaigns and monitor them to ensure they are capturing more of the right traffic and avoiding the wrong traffic.

Decreasing Bounce Rates means more engagements

In a pull driven marketing environment like search, one where the consumer actively reaches out for information, we have this unique opportunity to connect with them and guide them through the stages of learning about our products all the way to conversion.   With this opportunity comes an implied obligation that we will present the searcher with the best information and engage them to take the next step in your specific purchase cycle.  A failure to engage searchers by not presenting them with content that matches their needs, that engages and compels them to interact further, will result in them clicking the back button never to be seen again.

In a perfect world we would have a single landing page for each keyword phrase to precisely match the intent of their search with content on your site.  Unfortunately, we live in a world of limited resources and sites that match our company organization, messaging and not always flexible to the broad needs and interests of our search prospects.

Various studies suggest the average Search Marketing program has bounce rates well over 60 percent.  This means only less than 40 percent of those who click a search listing are finding what they want on the landing page.   Bounce rates are typically defined as those visitors who landed on a page from search listing and did not move forward but simply clicked the back button and left the site.

One of the easiest ways for advertisers to generate immediate improvements in their search marketing programs is to simply reduce their bounce rates for important keywords. A single 10 percent decrease in bounces will result in significantly more opportunities to connect with high quality traffic.

Landing Page Optimization improves engagement and conversions

So we monitor our bounce rate and it shows that we are not engaging as well as we should for critical keywords. What can we do to improve it?  The logical approach is to look at the pages and try to understand why searchers are not engaging and converting.

The most common problem is that the advertiser as bunching too many varied keywords into a single batch and pointing them to the same landing page and then expecting that page to magically meet the needs of a varied community.

Advertisers can fix this by segmenting the keywords into smaller more relevant categories based on various segmentation categories around buy cycle, branded and unbranded, product and feature keywords then match them to landing pages that are more closely related to the segmentation and the intent of the searcher.

The other challenge we face is the assumptive close nature of most search landing pages.  Search Marketing has typically been a sales or lead generation activity and marketers leverage tried and true direct marketing practices of limiting the choice of the searcher.   These direct marketing tactics work brilliantly when the searcher is in the final stages of purchase.  For example, a search query “Canon EOS 50D” allows us to assume they want to know about that specific camera and should take them to a page with sufficient details about the product and a compelling offer to purchase.  However, if we bring a searcher for Canon Digital Cameras to the same page we are most likely going to loose them since they have not yet committed on a specific model or segment of cameras.

The essence of landing page testing and optimization is to try different ideas to simplify the purpose of the page and integrate messages to make sure the page’s purpose is aligned with what the customers.  There are many tools to make this process easier and scalable.  It is critical to implement optimization for your top tier keywords and especially those phrases you expect to generate high conversions beyond just monitoring your bounce rates.

I strongly suggest that you deploy strict landing page optimization best practices and closely match words to page and test the different messaging options on them.  As you start to find those that work the best you can integrate them more widely into your programs.  It is understood that you will not be able to do this for all of your words and pages so segment those that are the most likely to convert, drive current sales goals or have performed strongly in the past.   Remember, we can use our trusty bounce rate metric to find pages that are getting lots of clicks but not engaging the visitor.  Start with them and make page level improvements that engage and move them into a conversion opportunity.

Ensuring a Quality Ecosystem with Quality Scores

So far everything in this article seems so obvious, pick the right words, write enticing ad copy and bring them to pages that engage and encourage conversions.  While it is easy, far too many advertisers are not implementing the fundamentals to ensure they are maximizing their opportunities.

The search engine results page is often looked at as just a simple page of results when it is actually a very complex ecosystem that supports the goals of multiple members.  To the searcher, their goal is to be presented to be the most relevant of all sources of data on the topic so they can select an option that will answer their question.  To the search engine, they hope that they have met that demand of the searcher and actually aggregated and presented the most relevant sources of information to answer the searchers question.  The goal of the content owner is more complex since they not only want to be seen but hope to somehow engage the searcher to purchase something on their site.

Unfortunately, it is often the content owner or their agency that is the one who disrupts this fragile ecosystem by trying to push in content that is not truly relevant or solves the searchers problem.  For example, a recent search for digital cameras resulted in numerous paid search ads for car companies.  This was strange, and being curious, I clicked the links and went to the various sites.  None of the sites had anything to do with digital cameras.  These sites had simply bought a popular keyword phrase and were hoping that they could get brand exposure with those users.  Now, we can argue that the millions of searchers looking for digital cameras also had a brand experience with these car companies but I think that is a stretch and so do Google and Baidu.

Google adopted their “Quality Score” a while back that I have jokingly referred to as “Google’s Profit Maximization Score” since it was essentially a sin tax on those lazy advertisers who just slap together a search program and throw it up for Internet riches.  Baidu, has since joined the party and in their updated Phoenix Nest Platform, Baidu introduced a new “quality of ads” scoring mechanism called  “Comprehensive Rank Index” focused on improving the overall relevance of ads for searchers and advertisers.  Similar to Google, they are measuring multiple factors such as click rate, landing page context and bounce rates as measures of contextual relevancy of the ads.  This is not necessary for the organic results because they are generally assured to be relevant from algorithmic content scoring.

I love these “quality score” tools since this quality scoring mechanism rewards advertisers who actually have relevant messages and offers by dynamically lowering the cost they pay for each click.  This benefits all in the ecosystem since the ads are more relevant, searchers click more, advertisers get more opportunities to engage, and the search engine’s revenues increase.  However, for advertisers who’s ads are not relevant, and hoping for that transient click, their costs increase and will now be incentivized to improve their messaging.
Respect the power of search marketing to attract, engage and convert

With the adoption of quality scores and increased competition in organic listings it is essential that advertisers pause and give a deeper look at their search marketing programs.  Without a doubt, search marketing has created an unmatched opportunity to effectively target potential customers at the very time they are looking for something they sell.  Unfortunately, while searchers have become more demanding of higher quality results, and the search engines working ever harder to return quality results, many advertisers and their agencies have become fat and lazy and have taken the opportunities of search riches for granted and only achieved a sliver of what is possible.

So I challenge all marketers to take a few minutes and ask the hard questions about your campaigns.  What are your bounce rates, poor performing words and even go as far as click your ads.  You must fully evaluate the experience you are presenting to this high quality, ripe for the picking, prospects and see if the experience you are presenting is optimal.
SEM, unlike any other marketing activities, is changeable, scalable and hands down, offers the single best returns on your advertising spend.  The opportunities for significant conversions are there but only to those who take the time to understand what the searcher wants and truly engage them, as they want to be engaged.

Leverage Search Marketing for Demand Intersection

I recently had an interesting discussion with a CMO of a personal computer manufacturing company about how little they were leveraging search marketing.  He told me that their main objective in this recession was to maximize traditional advertising to generate awareness and therefore increase demand for their products.

I told him that was admirable but what are you doing to capture those who are already aware of these types of products? You are not doing anything to leverage the existing demand demonstrated by the millions of searches each month from consumers who are already aware, and are actively looking for information for products like yours.  He seemed stunned by the comment for a moment then asked me to explain what I meant.

I explained that all of your current advertising is generating awareness as is the advertising of your competition.  There are over 10 million searches each month for variations of the phrase laptop and notebook computer this is existing demand and all we have to do it be there with the right message when they are looking for your type of products and services.

These are “hand raisers” or consumers who have explicitly told you they are interested in a laptop or notebook computer.  Many of these are actually using phrases directly related to your brand.  Surely you want to capture those who took the extra step of searching for your specific product.

Companies are too focused on “creating demand” since that is what they have always done.   This is what we now call “faith based marketing” which is spending money to attract consumers and hoping that we have a corresponding increase in sales.

In these trying economic times it is imperative that we “intersect” with the existing demand and ensure we are capturing as much of these opportunities as we can.  Nimble companies are seizing this opportunity already — is it not time for your company to capture your share?

The Web task-oriented environment

The word “search” is a verb and implies to look for something.  Consumers use search engines to find information. In fact, research shows there are only three types of searches that consumers do:

  • Navigational searchers want to find a specific Web site (perhaps because they do not know the exact URL), and use queries such as “PADI” or “Beijing City Airport”.
  • Informational searchers want information to answer their questions or to learn about a new subject, and use queries such as “what is scuba” or “green tea diet”.
  • Transactional searchers want to do something (buy something, sign up, enter a contest, and so forth), and use queries such as “Sydney weather” or “discount laptops”.

We need to examine each kind of searcher so that you can reach them with content from your Web site. Understand that real people shift roles all the time the same searcher might enter informational queries to learn about your new product and suddenly decide to use a transactional query to buy it. A clear understanding of the types of searchers and their respective intent will help you reach more searchers with less effort.

This is what turns much of traditional marketing on its head because customers find content themselves, rather than the traditional model of content being carefully placed in front of them (such as with print or TV). In order to be found (and not summarily rejected when the user is dissatisfied with the resulting Web site), you must know what words customers use when they search.

Speaking the Customers’ Language

As already stated, with search marketing we are simply trying to intersect with existing demand.  One problem we face is that “search demand” is in the language of the customer with does not often sync with the language you use on your website to describe your products or services.

If you do not use your customers’ language you provide little value, as your content does not match their mission. By speaking your customers language, you uncover opportunities to find new customers or better serve existing ones.

So, how do you know what language your customers are speaking? Keyword research is the practice of mining various sources of data mixed with intuition and a little brainstorming with a dash of guesswork.

Although searchers are growing more sophisticated each year, the task of actually choosing the words for the query is one of the most difficult parts of searching.  It is especially complex in China where entering characters into a keyboard or a mobile handset is a challenge.  Chinese searchers tend to use fewer variations of keywords than they would in the west.

Develop a Keyword Strategy

The objective your keyword strategy is to identify, prioritize and map a complete set of keywords that best match the business objectives of your company but more importantly, the terms searchers are using to find you.

This process consists of a number of steps each of which is designed to make the case for or against a particular keyword by gathering and examining a variety of data. We suggest that you look at demand volumes provided by the search engines, your current paid search program, conversion metrics, the content you have, your on site search engine database, your competitions website and most importantly conduct searches in Baidu to see how many pages containing those phrases are currently indexed.

Once you have your list, there is no rule on how large or small the list should be, the next step is to understand why a searcher would use that phrase and what type of content they are looking for when they do the search.

Understand the Searchers’ Intent

John Battelle refers to search engines as the “Database of Intentions” because of the vast amount of data about what people want to know or do that has been amassed by the various engines over the last 10 years.  By carefully looking at “why” someone did a search and “what they hope to find” we can discover many opportunities to connect with the searcher and truly offer them exactly what they are looking for at that phase of their discovery process.

The “why” is actually a very simple question that not enough companies ask when they start their search marketing program.  Too many times companies want to “tell the searcher” what they want them to know or do rather than understanding that the searcher wanted when they did the query.  We must remember the searcher is in control and if we understand their needs and wants we can create an unmatched opportunity to connect with them and lead them down a path that will result in significantly higher engagements.

For example, a leading art and print site in the US was spending millions of dollars on paid search placements for art-related search queries. The marketing manager knew that “monet” was one of its most heavily trafficked queries.  He noticed that the cost per click for the phrase “monet” had increased significantly.  What had changed?  There were two new competitors for the phrase who were willing to pay significantly more for the click.

This prompted a deeper look into the click and conversion data for the phrase “Monet”.   As well as a survey on the landing page to ask the visitors why they did this query.  Of the survey respondents, 95 percent indicated they were students simply looking for biographical information on Monet and information about his paintings. These were informational searchers who had no desire to ever buy a Monet print.

Armed with this information, the marketing manager switched his paid placement buys from an informational query (“monet”) to specific transactional queries (the names of Monet paintings such as “water lilies”). This strategy not only increased traffic but also increased sales, by capturing people who were more informed about the painter and more likely to buy a specific print.

As you can see, careful study of the searcher’s intent pays off in more visitors who are focused on your site’s goal. It can be just as important to avoid the wrong traffic as to get the right traffic.   By focusing on queries that real purchasers use, the art and print site reduced the art students and attracted more art buyers at the same time, thus selling more and getting more overall value from their search marketing program.

If you, as the experienced marketer, do not believe the searcher is in control, simply look at the bounce rates for not only your paid search campaign but your site in general.  The bounce rate refers to the visitors who came to a page on your site and immediately clicked the back button leaving to go back to the search results.  Most companies who do not try to leverage searcher intent experience bounce rates of sixty to eighty percent.  A goal would be to keep your bounce rates to below twenty percent.

Emphasizing your Value Proposition in 95 Characters or Less

The switch to PPC from traditional marketing tactics was a big one.  This monumental change has forced companies to drop imagery and communicate their message through words alone.

With PPC, marketers today are forced to present their value proposition to consumers in 95 characters or less which is the typical size of the search ad space.  This new brevity can be a daunting task for those experienced in using voice, images and full-page newspaper ads to create a compelling and moving experience and generate awareness to their product or service.

With search the awareness is there since they have stated what they are looking for and it is our opportunity to connect with them by saying “yes, we have what you seek” and get them to click our listing over those of the competition.

You can dramatically improve your search marketing by thinking about the “need behind the query”.  This knowledge helps you deliver the best possible content to your visitors when they search while ensuring you only pay for the clicks which convert and guarantee a positive searcher experience.

Add Search Marketing to your Marketing Mix

But the fun does not stop there.  Many companies are integrating paid search into their other marketing mixes with great success. They are leveraging paid search ads to test their email subject lines and even starting to test TV and print advertising messages before they are integrated to see which work best with consumers.

Search is unmatched as the logical next step for those consumers who have seen any of your other advertising.  If they saw the newest mobile phone commercial and want more information on that phone their option is to go to a local merchant or simply do a search in Google.  Many companies in the west are using increases in search volume and clocks from search as a proxy for awareness of new products and how well the message is received from consumers.

While search marketing may seem to be a daunting task, leveraging even a few of these simple best practices described above will reap significant gains and help you to see that search marketing is the most effective marketing tactic available to marketers. We are finding more and more savvy marketers not only adopting search marketing but mandating that it be the first dollar you spend of your precious marketing budget.