This happens more than youâd think, according to experts. The problem is even more pronounced when you look at paid search engine placement. Everyone may be doing itâsearch advertising spending rose 123% between 2002 and 2003, topping $2 billion, according to research firm eMarketerâbut not everyone is doing it well.
"Even though Google, for example, designed its AdWords paid search program so that even small companies can set up a campaign, not all companies on their own are savvy enough to bid on the keywords that will bring them the most traffic, let alone create a viable paid search budget that wonât evaporate after a few days," said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer.
There are some tactics marketers can use to boost their odds. Here are 10 simple strategies and fixes that can help your site get maximum search engine placement for minimum output.
1)Make sure text on the landing page features the keyword. Picture this: A potential client searches for widgets. Youâve purchased the No. 1 slot on Google, and the user clicks on your ad. Once he or she gets to your Web site or landing page, the word "widget" isnât anywhere on the page or in the title. The customer, thinking he or she has stumbled onto the wrong site, leaves.
This scenario isnât so far fetched, said Jeff Ramminger, KnowledgeStormâs exec VP of products, technology and marketing. "Make sure that customer sees that keyword as soon as they land on your page," he said. "You only have a moment before the person clicks back to the rest of the results."
2)Create a unique landing page. Even if users arrive on your site and see the keyword they searched for, they wonât stay long if itâs too hard to find detailed information. Searchersâespecially potential b-to-b customersâwant instant gratification.
Youâll have better luck and conversion rates if you create a unique landing page for each specific keyword or search term, said Todd Daum, VP-marketing for search services company Overture.
"Every additional page you send a customer through to, thereâs a chance youâll lose them. Send them to a page that reflects what they are focused on," Daum said. Also, give them something of value, such as a white paper, a specific contact name or a free trial.
3)Be specific. This tip applies to both natural and paid search. Research shows that searchers are becoming more sophisticated, using search phrases instead of one or two keywords. For example, someone looking for a new energy efficient air conditioner will type, "energy efficient commercial air conditioner" rather than "air conditioner," said Sara Holoubek, icrossingâs chief strategy officer.
"Search is reverse direct marketing," she said. "You need to find the words that real customers are using to find your site."
Not sure which words or phrases to use? Try a search term suggestion tool. Most search engine optimization companies offer such tools, as do search engines. Paid tools include Wordtracker and BuildTraffic.
4)Watch for bid gaps. Itâs not always important to be the No. 1âor even No. 2âpaid ad on a search engine results page. As long as your ad sits above the page-break, potential customers will see it, said Melissa Burgess, director of business development with search engine marketing firm Impaqt.
That said, check out the cost span between the companies that sit at the second and third or third and fourth positions. Then, place your bid right in the middle.
A word of caution, though: This strategy will only work on a short-term basis. Unless you have the time to sit and watch your listing or donât mind getting into a bidding war, your competitor may eventually reclaim what youâve stolen away.
5)Watch the competition. If you hope to lure customers away from your competitor, youâll need to use the same keywords and phrases they do. "They might be going after phrases that apply to your company but you havenât thought of yet," said KnowledgeStormâs Ramminger.
6)Watch your auctions. Overtureâs Daum suggested separating your search terms into categoriesâfor example, by what they cost or by specific types of productsâand watching the ones that mean the most to you.
Impaqtâs Burgess agreed. "If youâre launching a new product or pushing a marketing campaign, youâll want to plan on spending a lot of time watching auctions that relate to what youâre doing," she said.
7)Create a site map, and make sure all of your pages are linked. "Any single Web page that you have that doesnât have a link into it is going to be completely ignored by Google," said John Lustina, chairman and co-founder of Intrapromote. "The site map clears up that issue. If you have a site map, the Google spider will find each and every one of your pages and index [them]."
8)Donât rely on Flash, Java and images. When a search engine spider crawls your site, itâs documenting all the text-based content on your site. Unfortunately, if your site is filled with fancy Web navigation toolsâroll-overs, pop-ups and transparent GIFsâthe only thing the spiders see is blank pages, Lustina said. Itâs OK to make your site look good, but donât give up on using plain old HTML code, too, he added.
9)Donât put all your eggs in one basket. More searches go through Googleâs engine than any other, according to a recent eMarketer reportâalthough that may change now that Yahoo! stopped using the Google engineâbut that doesnât mean that you should only use one search engine. Make lots of small buys on various engines and see which ones bring the best results.
10)Test, test and test again. You can buy the top positions on every search engine and follow every expert tip and trick, but if youâre not making sure what youâre doing is working, youâre not taking advantage of the medium. According to a 2003 eMarketer report, three out of 10 marketers never assess their search engine campaigns, and 40% of those that do are just going by click-through numbers.
Said icrossingâs Holoubek: "You can change a paid search campaign whenever you want. Experiment until you find what works for you."