Back To Basics

My fellow Search Insiders and I write a lot about innovation, new tools, and how our industry is changing.  I can only speak for myself, but I can't help writing about these subjects -- this is a very exciting time for our industry.  There's no shortage of new technologies to enhance intelligence or improve the operational efficiencies of campaign management.  The engines are in a permanent state of flux with new filters, algorithms, and targeting that add to the complexity of managing search campaigns -- which, in turn, only create a greater need for technology to help us be successful.

All this is fine, but the topic I see continually overlooked is best practices.   I started touching on this theme with my last article, entitled "Automation Moderation."  Increasingly, when I speak with clients, fellow search professionals, and vendors, I see a focus on automated intelligence and optimizations that neglects the human factor. Per my early points, we do need the technology to enable us to chug through the mountains of data we create with our tracking. But this week I wanted to discuss getting back to the basics of managing a search campaign.



One of the first basics is the seemingly simple process of selecting keywords.  There are a variety of tools out there to help you do so, but I won't evaluate any of them here.  What's important, though, is the thinking that goes into the process.  One must factor in goals and budgets in the context of industry-specific consumer search behavior and the competitive landscape.  Search is all about a price/volume trade-off, and a piece of automated technology can't help you choose the appropriate balance.  This takes experience.

Next up is your account structure, which may be the most important (and yet overlooked) component of a successful search campaign.  It's almost funny to me that when we win a new client, often just optimizing the structure will yield excellent performance gains.  I should take this moment to thank my competition for making it easy for me to look good.

Seriously, though, don't underestimate the importance of appropriately organizing keywords by groups according to category, search type, desired action, and any other specific differentiating factors, because this drives how flexible you can be with optimizations.  A bad account structure limits your options, which include copy-landing page combinations, bid, CTR and Quality Score optimizations, as well as match types. So don't handicap yourself.  Remember, creative is displayed at the Ad Group level, so the more granular the organization, the better.

Another important basic is setting up campaigns.  A tool, regardless of automation, can't tell you how many campaigns to set up.  This is also a factor of experience. Campaigns should be broken up based on geo factors, varying budgets and goals, or any other important factors that may affect what you're willing to pay for a click.  You should also take into account how you plan to report and optimize.

Second to structure, I'd argue the next most important basic is measurement.  Setting the metrics baseline is crucial for success.  You shouldn't even launch a search campaign until you know what your KPIs are, what your strategy is to achieve them, and that you have a system in place to enable you to track, report, and optimize against them.  Keep in mind, these don't always have to be ecommerce-based metrics.  If you don't sell a product online, do some research and find out what actions on your site are the best indicators of whether a searcher will take offline action.  Or better yet, create a unique tracking system so you can attribute those offline sales to your online efforts.

Lastly, one key basic that comes from experience is simply adjusting to the market drivers, technology changes, and oddball glitches that occur in our industry.  The more we rely on technology, the more quirky things can come up that require a human eye to spot and a human brain to react to.  Take a recent Google example, where some odd behavior has been happening in regard to match-type settings and delivery. Handling this problem will require some core best practices -- and smart, experienced professionals to put those best practices into place.

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