âWe only launched our paid search campaign at the end of last year for our Chicago event,â said Matt McGowan, global VP-marketing at SES. âI made the decision that we should start playing by our rules and practice what we preach.â
Incisive pulled back on direct mail and print ads, and accelerated its online spending in four areas: paid search, SEO, social networks and banner ads.
In addition, Incisive was challenged by a relatively small budget, which now needed to include paid search, and was bidding on the same terms that many search engine marketing (SEM) agencies want, meaning those terms were often expensive.
âOur biggest problem going into any of these campaigns is we donât have the budgets that large [SEM] agencies and technology companies selling bid management tools have for lead generation,â McGowan said. âWeâre competing on terms they are bidding on and driving the price up.â
All that meant it was it was difficult for SES to buy such general terms as âsearch engine marketingâ or âSEOâ because the minimum bid was beyond its reach.
McGowan decided to look for the so-called âlong tail,â or search terms that are three and four words long and very specific. He began to buy phrases like âsearch engine marketing trainingâ and âsearch engine marketing expo.â Not only were these less expensive, they typically unearthed more relevant prospects.
âWhen someone is typing âSEM,â they could be looking for information, an agency, tools, education [or] training,â McGowan said. âYouâre not really sure what they are looking for. With keywords like âsearch engine marketing training,â Iâm more likely to find someone who is interested in going to an event. Itâs also less competitive, so I can get high placement with less money.â Because the intent of these searchers is clearer, McGowan said he gets much higher click-throughs and quality scores from Google.
âOur main solution is going after those queries that are as specific as possible and [as] relevant as possible,â he said.
In preparation for its March show in New York (March 17 to 20), McGowan kicked off the search effort in mid-December with help from SESâ agency, Underscore Marketing, New York. The campaign involved buying both branded and nonbranded search terms. Among the branded terms were âSES New Yorkâ and âSES NYâ; nonbranded terms included âsearch trainingâ and âpay-per-click conference.â
The long tail strategy worked like magic.
âWe saw a 6.19% return on our paid search campaign for SES New York,â McGowan said. âFor every dollar I spent, I returned $6.19 in revenue.â
McGowan thinks that is good, but that there is also plenty of room for growth. âWhen I spend a dollar, Iâm looking for 10% or 15% return. [Six percent] is the lower end of the range that I allow.â Does that mean he was disappointed in the New York campaign results? âIâm not disappointed because it was our second [search] campaign, but Iâm looking to grow it,â he said. âYou canât grow this overnight.â
McGowan said the campaign was also valuable for the education it provided.
For example, one of the words it is not bidding on anymore is âSESâ because now SES delivers top rankings for, among other terms, âSouthern Evangelical Seminary and Bible Collegeâ and âSenior Executive Service.â
â âSESâ was the most-searched term on my list of terms, and I was getting a high click-through rate and not driving any revenue,â McGowan said. âWe paused [buying that] term halfway through our campaign.â
Another thing McGowan learned was that the main source of traffic for the New York show was local. SESâ paid search strategy in December focused on California, Canada, England and Hawaii. Two months before the event, McGowan shifted the geo-targeting strategy from global to national. Three weeks before the event, he focused on areas west of the Mississippi River; and the week before, he concentrated on the New York metropolitan area.
âAll the people who clicked on my ad globally didnât convert,â he said. âThere was a low conversion rate outside the New York area. In a sense, I shouldnât have spent all that money, but we do events in those areas, so the hope is they ultimately clicked through to a local event. Looking at the results, we probably didnât need to market anywhere outside New York.â