‘Segmentation modeling’ is a priority, SEM executive says

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Search engine marketing waters can be complex to navigate, which is why marketers sometimes turn to SEM agencies such as for help.

Kevin Lee, executive chairman and founder of, spoke with BtoB Senior Reporter Carol Krol about topics including the trend towards segmentation modeling, the merits of a pay-per-call ad model and the importance of analytics to a search campaign.

BtoB: What do you see as the biggest trend in search engine marketing right now?

Lee: For our clients, increased segmentation modeling has become a priority. Everyone tends to think about search as keywords. That is the foundation, but in order to squeeze the most out of paid search, it’s critical to think beyond the keyword.

We’re doing a lot of segmentation modeling for our clients. It’s very similar to direct marketing modeling; we’re thinking about all the ways to slice the data.

One way to do that is by geography. Instead of running a national campaign only, you might want to consider supplementing that with a regional campaign.

BtoB: Is pay-per-call better than pay-per-click advertising?

Lee: It’s not an either-or scenario. There may be situations where search engines have portions of their screen real estate allocated to pay-per-call ads and [portions allocated to] pay-per-click ads or messages.

Pay-per call-tends to be a good fit for local marketers and for b-to-b marketers. We may see an increased use of different kinds of pay-per-call b-to-b advertising either through vertical search engines or on the major engines if the query has local intent.

BtoB: Are your clients doing much back-end analysis? If so, how is it affecting their search engine marketing strategy?

Lee: Often clients don’t have the human resources or the technology resources to do a lot of the back-end analysis, so they often look to third parties to take up some of that slack. Clients can pass a lot of variables into our system and have our analyst crunch the data.

One thing we get a lot is b-to-b marketers that, instead of just telling us a lead occurred, pass along information about title or company or geography.

That analysis ends up informing our decisions and allows us to adjust strategy and tactics. It creates a campaign that changes over time and adapts to fit the marketplace.

For example, we had one b-to-b marketer recently that told us a new customer is worth more to them than a returning customer. We were able to tune their campaign to emphasize that. We looked for correlations between things like keywords, creative changes, time of day and geography to find themes in the data to indicate we should “do more of this and less of that.” We look for patterns in the data.

BtoB: What can a b-to-b marketer with limited resources do to maximize a search strategy?

Lee: A lot of marketers with smaller budgets dive into search without thinking about their existing best customers first. Before you throw the switch and buy a bunch of keywords, take a step back and look at your customers.

Maybe there is a way to use search marketing to look for like-minded customers. It’s often a step marketers skip, and they tend to think all customers and all leads are created equal. The difference between a so-so and a great customer can be significant.

What do your best customers look like? [For example,] in a b-to-b environment, are they all purchasing managers or are they all engineers? The more you think about it, the more it can inform the way you structure your campaign. If engineers have a lot of influence in the purchase of your product, and you are coming up with nonengineering-specific keywords. … How do they search? What are they looking for? How are they different?

BtoB: Where are the dollars flowing right now—natural or paid search?

Lee: It’s all over the place. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth. Often when a marketer first starts thinking about search engine marketing, they want to improve their organic results. The CEO may say, “I need to figure out why our biggest competitor shows up there and I don’t.” That ends up in a realization that the Web site is not search friendly. SEO is not that difficult, and there are some easy ways to fix it to get the low-hanging fruit.

Then marketers think of keywords as a short-term fix and many times think of it as a short-term fix until their Web site is improved and optimized. Then keyword prices go up. Then they focus on organic again.

Now, organic SEO is harder than it was the first time because more marketers are doing it. Then they go back and say, “At least on paid search, I know what I’m getting.”

You can’t ignore one and put all your resources into the other.

It’s not a matter of allocating [a certain amount] against organic and paid. Organic is more about teaching your Web master to do things the right way. Once they’ve been taught the fundamentals of SEO and they understand that, it doesn’t cost more for them to do it the right way. Initially, you may need to pay a consultant to teach you, but once the IT team—or Web master in the case of a smaller marketer—understands that, they just need to keep doing things right. There may not always be a need for external SEO services.

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