Searching For The Truth in S.E.M.

As everyone knows by now, Search Engine Marketing works. Search continues to be one of the primary elements for any marketer, brand development or direct response, as it drives both awareness and acquisition. None of this comes as a surprise to anyone who is involved in online advertising, but what may come as a surprise is the amount of work that goes into making these programs effective.

Any marketer with a credit card can get listed on the top engines with minimal effort, but savvy marketers realize that there are numerous intricacies that drive volume as well as efficiency, and the marriage of the two is the most important aspect of a good campaign.

If you are starting to utilize Search, you must first understand the fundamental (Primary) elements that go into an effective campaign. These elements are:

  • Word Selection

  • Cost Per Click Allowable

  • Conversion and/or Cost Per Action Goal

  • Budgets and Daily Spend Levels

    The selection of the terms and the management of these terms on a CPC or CPA level are what initially drive your Search Engine Marketing. These are what most Agencies and most third-party Search Management tools will focus on, but there is also a secondary level of analysis and elements that go into your campaign that truly determine the overall effectiveness of the campaign. These Secondary elements are:



  • Ratio of Position to Performance

  • Syndication Factor

  • Aggressive Copy

    Ratio of Position To Performance

    Currently there is no industry-wide data that details what the average effect on clicks or conversions are between relative positions within a Search Engine. Basic optimization assumes that position 1 and position 2 will generate the same click rate and same conversion rate, but this is not always the case. Position 1 is typically going to receive the highest click rate, and if the category was not initially cluttered, it may receive a higher conversion rate as well. The user may assume that this fits their needs exactly and will lock-in right away. Conversely, being in position 2 or position 3 may see a lower click rate, but the conversion rate may fluctuate as well.

    An effective Search marketer will run some testing that tracks the response rates while at different positions and track this through to a cost per action. This analysis requires that the daily spend levels are high enough to reduce the variable of time of day and only focus on position. Your client may see that position 1, though it costs more on a CPC basis, actually converts better and therefore is a better placement for them.

    Syndication Factor

    The Syndication Factor refers to whether the potion you are paying for will be within the top 3-4 positions, which are most likely to be syndicated to the publishers' partner sites. If your result is not syndicated, then you may lose a significant amount of volume and your campaign will not be viewed as scalable as it should be. Though the higher positions may cost more, the conversion factor may be different on certain words and may be worthy of the increased value. This also needs to factor in the client's valuation of efficiency vs. volume. If a slightly higher cost per customer can be achieved and volume achieved as well, you can always offset this with other lower cost alternatives on smaller volume words.

    Aggressive Copy

    This is a luxury that is afforded the number 1 or number 2 players in a category. Specifically, if you are viewed as the leader in the category, everyone else comes after you. This translates to the abuse of your name and offerings in the copy of other advertisers. This can be avoided if you have a copyrighted or trademarked name in some cases, but not always. This requires some work on your part, but in the meantime you need to be aware of this as an issue and act upon it. Whether it means addressing the attacks in the copy specifically or just being aware of what the other advertisers are saying, it is important.

    This only addresses 3 of the Secondary elements within SEM (Search Engine Marketing), but I can't give away all of our tricks here, that wouldn't be fair. The issue to raise, though, is that your SEM efforts require a large amount of work to get the most value out of them. It is not a matter of turning on a faucet and watching what happens.

    Don't you agree?

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