‚ÄúWe only launched our paid search campaign at the end of last year for our Chicago event,‚ÄĚ said Matt McGowan, global VP-marketing at SES. ‚ÄúI made the decision that we should start playing by our rules and practice what we preach.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúOur biggest problem going into any of these campaigns is we don‚Äôt have the budgets that large [SEM] agencies and technology companies selling bid management tools have for lead generation,‚ÄĚ McGowan said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre competing on terms they are bidding on and driving the price up.‚ÄĚ
All that meant it was it was difficult for SES to buy such general terms as ‚Äúsearch engine marketing‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúSEO‚ÄĚ because the minimum bid was beyond its reach.
McGowan decided to look for the so-called ‚Äúlong tail,‚ÄĚ or search terms that are three and four words long and very specific. He began to buy phrases like ‚Äúsearch engine marketing training‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúsearch engine marketing expo.‚ÄĚ Not only were these less expensive, they typically unearthed more relevant prospects.
‚ÄúWhen someone is typing ‚ÄėSEM,‚Äô they could be looking for information, an agency, tools, education [or] training,‚ÄĚ McGowan said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre not really sure what they are looking for. With keywords like ‚Äėsearch engine marketing training,‚Äô I‚Äôm more likely to find someone who is interested in going to an event. It‚Äôs also less competitive, so I can get high placement with less money.‚ÄĚ Because the intent of these searchers is clearer, McGowan said he gets much higher click-throughs and quality scores from Google.
‚ÄúOur main solution is going after those queries that are as specific as possible and [as] relevant as possible,‚ÄĚ 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 SES‚Äô agency, Underscore Marketing, New York. The campaign involved buying both branded and nonbranded search terms. Among the branded terms were ‚ÄúSES New York‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúSES NY‚ÄĚ; nonbranded terms included ‚Äúsearch training‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúpay-per-click conference.‚ÄĚ
The long tail strategy worked like magic.
‚ÄúWe saw a 6.19% return on our paid search campaign for SES New York,‚ÄĚ McGowan said. ‚ÄúFor every dollar I spent, I returned $6.19 in revenue.‚ÄĚ
McGowan thinks that is good, but that there is also plenty of room for growth. ‚ÄúWhen I spend a dollar, I‚Äôm looking for 10% or 15% return. [Six percent] is the lower end of the range that I allow.‚ÄĚ Does that mean he was disappointed in the New York campaign results? ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not disappointed because it was our second [search] campaign, but I‚Äôm looking to grow it,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt grow this overnight.‚ÄĚ
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 ‚ÄúSES‚ÄĚ because now SES delivers top rankings for, among other terms, ‚ÄúSouthern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúSenior Executive Service.‚ÄĚ
‚Äú ‚ÄėSES‚Äô was the most-searched term on my list of terms, and I was getting a high click-through rate and not driving any revenue,‚ÄĚ McGowan said. ‚ÄúWe paused [buying that] term halfway through our campaign.‚ÄĚ
Another thing McGowan learned was that the main source of traffic for the New York show was local. SES‚Äô 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.
‚ÄúAll the people who clicked on my ad globally didn‚Äôt convert,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThere was a low conversion rate outside the New York area. In a sense, I shouldn‚Äôt 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 didn‚Äôt need to market anywhere outside New York.‚ÄĚ