The year may be almost over, but that doesn't mean marketers can't squeak out a few more good campaigns. Search, with its ability to change on a dime, is a good place to focus attention—especially since search “helps build strong brands by bettering brand-health metrics,” according to an August eMarketer report (“Search for Branding: Tools for Better Campaigns”). And there's never been a better time to jump into the fray, according to another research firm. Forrester Research's “U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011 to 2016” forecast that search's share of the marketing budget will drop from 55% to 44% by 2016.
With more budgets going to mobile and social channels, marketers may continue seeing pay per click (PPC) costs drop as they have over the past four quarters. The latest Google results, for the third quarter released Oct. 18, found cost per click (CPC) dropped 15%, following 16% and 12% drops in previous quarters.
Cost doesn't matter, however, if marketers aren't executing campaigns correctly. To that end, experts suggested these seven strategies to help the b-to-b segment get the most out of its search efforts.
1) Don't automatically turn off PPC campaigns during the holidays.
While it's true that b-to-b buyers are probably spending less at the end of the fourth quarter, there are still deals getting done, said Joseph Kerschbaum, VP at Clix Marketing. Many b-to-b buyers are starting to research purchases that they will make in the first quarter, so it's important to be out there in front of them, he said. One strategy that may help marketers get the most out of their ad dollars: Spread out your spending differently than you normally would. You might have 30 days worth of budget to spend in November but, instead of dividing it by 30, spend 80% to 90% in the three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, leaving a smaller portion for that week and the following one, Kerschbaum said. In December, spend the bulk of your campaign funds between Dec. 1 and 21, ramping up again Dec. 30 and 31. “A lot of people come back to their offices before the new year to get a jump on their work,” he said.
2) Adjust your keyword list.
Most people take the “if it's not broken, don't fix it” position when it comes to adjusting keywords. However, experts said marketers should be continually analyzing and reviewing their keywords, retiring underperforming ones and adding new ones based on industry research and natural search analytics. Many marketers avoid using comparison keywords since they tend to resonate with buyers who are very early in the purchase cycle. However, these types of informational searches may fit into a company's fourth-quarter strategy.
3) Add sitelinks.
This strategy works well for paid and organic search, said Dana Todd, senior VP-marketing and business development at search company Performics. Sitelinks are part of an ad extension for Google that enables marketers to show links to pages from your website, in addition to the main landing page, beneath the text of your ads. They appear in two columns and usually give searchers quick shortcuts into your site as well as giving you more real estate on the actual search page since it extends your ad further on the page. It also pushes some of the competition and natural search results to the second page. “This is especially important when it comes to mobile since sitelinks fill out half the page on a mobile device,” Todd said. A telephone number should be one of those links since, especially on mobile devices, it gives prospects a way to instantly connect.
4) Complement your paid campaign with a display campaign.
“Now that Google opened up the DoubleClick exchange and other ad exchanges that are serving Google ads, display is easy to add to a campaign, too,” said Loren M. Baker, VP-business development at online marketing provider BlueGlass Interactive. The combination of search and display gives marketers the ability to retarget customers who have gone to a site by clicking on a paid link. “You can target them with a display ad that maybe has the same message and images the searcher saw when they clicked through to the site,” Baker said.
5) Bring keywords through to the landing page.
This seems like a no-brainer but it's one of the biggest mistakes that marketers make, Kerschbaum said. Whatever keyword or phrase that encouraged someone to click through should be featured prominently on the landing page—and that goes for any special pricing or language as well, he said. Nothing turns a searcher off more than having to dig through navigation or a lot of text to find what he or she was looking for to begin with.
6) Rethink your mobile strategy.
According to Adobe Systems' “2012 Global Digital Advertising Update and Emerging Trends” report, CPCs remained lower for mobile traffic than desktop CPCs, but conversion rates were 20% higher, as was ROI. The takeaway: Mobile strategy is imperative. It's all about context in mobile, Performics' Todd said, so ad copy should be localized whenever possible. “If it's an explicit local query such as "Chicago business insurance' make sure [the prospect] knows you're really local by adjusting the ad copy or sitelinks to include a local area code on the call number or a physical address/neighborhood reference such as "Serving the South Loop since 1979,' ” she said.
7) Forget the daily budget.
Search campaigns do best when they are based on accurate bidding—not a daily spending limit, Goodman said. It's OK to raise the budget one day and scale it back the next in order to capture the winning bid for your most successful keywords—those keywords that have been proven through testing and analytics.