We’ve all heard of growth marketing.
But what does growth marketing actually mean?
At the risk of over-simplifying, growth marketing is essentially the path to attracting the right visitors to your business. Not just the low-hanging-fruit, top-of-funnel visitors, but those who are “sticky” and likely to lead to a conversion or sale.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the unsung hero — and the secret weapon — for today’s growth marketing leaders.
In addition to achieving a successful consumer decision journey across multiple channels and devices, search delivers bottom-line results and ensures on-track results for the long-term.
Here are six best practices for a winning SEM strategy.
1. Deliver Value Across the Decision Journey
As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.
Who are the customers behind all those clicks?
New research from Bing Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages all customers share:
- Initiation: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
- Research: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria.
- Compare: Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
- Transaction: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores.
- Experience: Getting customer service, asking maintenance questions, and making additional purchases.
2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals
Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.
Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:
- Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 72 percent of brand ad clicks had a non-brand or conquest term in the user journey preceding the brand click. Searchers were 30 percent likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
- Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process. At the start of their journey, 49 percent of consumers use a search engine to find the products they want.
- Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
- Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, get more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increase ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.
3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel
As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product — it’s a behavior.
We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engage your brand with this new audience.
Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (initiation, research, compare, transaction, and experience).
SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.
4. Take Audience Targeting to the Next Level
Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.
You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.
Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:
- Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
- Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
- Contextual: Consumers often search in the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.
Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:
- Initiation: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
- Research: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
- Compare: Keywords such as “Reviews” and “Features” work best at this stage.
- Transaction: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
- Experience: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
5. Lift Other Investments with Paid Search
Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.
- Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
- Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Bing Ads study of the biggest commercial event of the year, the Super Bowl, the increase in branded search volume followed a consistent pattern across industries.
- Search and display: Conversion rates increased by 52 percent while display and search were running simultaneously. Not only did conversion metrics increase, but campaign reach (impressions) increased by 45 percent as well.
- Search and other channels: When Bing Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27 percent higher order average order value than purchases not including Bing Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.
6. Fight & Win the Battle for Paid Search Budget Share
SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.
So bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.
Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:
Pick the Right Metrics to Measure SEM Impact
Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.
Your team can test, change and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.
Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:
- Acquiring new customers
- Driving foot traffic
- Getting more phone calls
- Increasing ad clicks
- Building your brand trust
- Expanding cross-border strategy
Separate SEM Impacts from Other Channels
Know which channels drive your marketing results.
Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days or even weeks.
Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search deliver ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.
Apply the Same Process to Allocate Budget Between AdWords & Bing Ads
This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.
You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, you’ll be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.
SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix.
With so many channels and more fragmented customer journeys, the real challenge is ensuring you engage audiences at the right time through the right device.
You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network.
Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.
Then your fight for marketing resources will be far easier to win!
This cloud-based, multichannel commerce platform powers over 400,000 online stores. Find out some interesting facts and stats about Shopify’s success story.
Shopify has most certainly become a leader in eCommerce since it was launched back in 2004. This cloud-based, multichannel commerce platform powers over 400,000 online stores and sells products worth more than $34 billion in total. Designed for small and medium-sized businesses, Shopify is easy to set up, use, and manage.
Shopify noted a monumental global growth, especially during the last few years. International brands like Budweiser and Foo Fighters are using Shopify as an ecommerce solution for reaching their targeted markets.
Check this Website Builder infographic to find out some interesting facts and stats that you probably didn’t know about Shopify’s success story.
The best advertising strategy is one that helps the advertiser in delivering the message to a maximum number of people at a minimum cost. That is why from startup companies to large corporates; digital advertising is the first choice of smart businesses all over the world.
Almost a year back, the IT giant Cisco saved $ 100,000 when it decided to promote the newly launched router on digital platforms only. These days’ advertisers bet on digital advertising solutions because they help them accurately analyse the return on cost and the overall impact of an advertising campaign. A forecast made by PwC USA also claims that digital advertising is growing exponentially and American companies are going to spend $38.6bn by 2019 in this domain. In contrast, newspaper advertising is going to have a tough time and could experience a negative growth of 33% during the same period.
A major advantage of digital advertising is Pay per Click (PPC) payment mode, which means advertiser does not pay any extra amount to the partner website other than the number of clicks on the advertisement. Besides, display of an ad on both desktop and mobile screen ensure maximum outreach of a brand. Also, the mass appeal of social media and the availability of advanced analytical tools on social networks make Digital Advertising highly cost-effective and result oriented.
Strategies that Bring Results and Save Money
The cost of digital advertising is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising and businesses can save a great amount of if they carefully focus on the following things.
To ensure best returns from a digital advertising campaign, it should be targeted to the right audience. Advertisers who carefully select their target audience using the first-party data, second-party data, and third-party data as per their relevance receive impressions from the potential customers only. Data-based audience segmentation empowers advertisers with informed bidding decisions which ensure the success of an ad campaign and save money for the businesses.
Chase the Majority with Dayparting
Dayparting means dividing the scheduled week/day into multiple time slots and selecting those time slots when potential customers are expected to view and click on the ad. Various analytical tools help to study and predict the media consumption behaviour of the target audience and enable the advertiser to broadcast the ad at the right time. Dayparting ensures maximum return from a digital ad campaign because it empowers the advertiser with effective bidding strategies.
Keep the Campaign Fresh with Frequency Capping
Frequency capping decides that how many times the ad will be displayed or broadcasted to the particular audience during the total duration of the campaign. Advertisers who strategically fix the frequency capping usually get better attention of the people and they positively influence the decision of the prospective buyer. Low-frequency cap is considered beneficial for new campaigns with fresh creative while in the case of repeat/revised campaign frequency capping should be increased moderately.
Choose the Right Destination with Geotargeting
Geo targeting means more qualified leads and maximum utilisation of the ad spends because it allows the advertiser to run a campaign in selected geographical locations. The target area can be finalised within a particular state, city or even a selected region of the city which ultimately reduce advertising waste. Geotargeting is an ideal way to control advertisement investments in digital landscapes as it enables the advertiser to develop a customised campaign for niche segments. Geotargeting is ..
Owning more paid search spots on search results can increase your clicks by 30–50 percent for each additional spot that you occupy. To get this type of monster click growth from paid search, tap on your affiliates, partners and resellers to make a paid search land grab. For example, if your CTR (click-through rate) alone is 2 percent, removing one competitor and replacing it with one affiliate with a CTR of 0.8 percent grows your additive CTR to 2.8 percent — a 40 percent gain!
The learnings I am about to share come from years of working with search marketing clients through my position as CEO of The Search Monitor.
Growth hack 1: Use affiliates to protect brand terms
One of the most effective ways to use your affiliates is to box out competitors on your brand and brand+ keywords. In this hack, you will grant a trusted list of affiliates with brand bidding rights. Typically, you will also restrict ranking so that your ads always appear on top. By utilizing affiliates to fill in competitive ad spots on your brand+ keywords, you effectively reduce the reach of your competition.
The big benefit: More page real estate for you
This tactic works best if you are in a highly competitive space with three or more advertisers bidding on your brands. If you are already dominant — i.e., the only advertiser on your brand and brand+ keywords — then this tactic does not make sense for you.
The big challenge: Cannibalizing your clicks and messaging
To protect yourself from cannibalizing your SEM team’s efforts, you need to ensure a few safeties are in place:
- Your affiliates are granted limited rank rights so that you are always at the top.
- Your affiliates stay on message so that there are no conflicting offers showing.
Below is an example of Verizon taking advantage of this tactic. All of the top positions are for Verizon — nicely done!
By contrast, the screen shot below provides an example of ADT getting taken advantage of by not using this tactic. Positions 2, 3 and 4 are occupied by competitors.
If the cumulative CTR for ads on this keyword is 6 percent, then assuming the off-brand competitors are able to snag 2-3 percent CTR as a group, ADT has lost ~50 percent of its potential clicks. Given that SimpliSafe has a better offer at $15/month versus ADT’s offer of $9/week, the click loss might be higher than this.
Growth hack 2: Use affiliates to bid on brands you sell
To extend your reach, consider granting your trusted affiliates with direct linking rights to brand bid on brands that you sell. Direct linking involves an affiliate using your display URL in the ad (so that the ad looks like yours), and then driving the clicks through an affiliate link as the destination URL, then directly to your website.
The big benefit: More reach for you, no SEM budget changes
This tactic extends your paid search reach without extending your paid search budget. Your affiliates take on the risk and the budget, while driving traffic, branding and attention to your own website.
Amazon uses this tactic a lot. Amazon’s reach is tremendous because it uses this tactic across nearly every brand where you see an Amazon ad. The ads below are all direct linking ads from Amazon’s affiliates marketing on non-Amazon brands: Nike, Keurig, DKNY, Logitech and Verizon:
The big challenge: Direct linking is risky
Allowing affiliates to link directly is a bit risky, which is why most advertisers do not allow their affiliates to do it. A few problems can arise without careful monitoring:
- If the keyword lists overlap with your SEM team’s list, direct linking will cause tremendous channel conflict between the affiliate and paid search teams.
- Ad copy and messaging need to be carefully monitored to ensure that the messaging is on-brand.
- If the affiliate direct links on your own brand name, you have defeated the very purpose of this tactic; you should never allow affiliates to direct link on your own brand name.
To showcase these challenges, here are a few Amazon backfires:
- Here, Amazon gave its affiliate too much leeway. The resulting keyword choice and ad copy messaging makes no sense:
- Here, an Amazon affiliate sneaked up on Amazon’s own branded keyword. Brand bidding should never be allowed by direct linking affiliates. We call this problem “URL Hijacking”:
Do your homework
If you are going to deploy either of the above tactics, be sure to do your homework so that all goes well and you can sleep easily at night.
Define your search policy. Your affiliate agreement must describe exactly what is and is not allowed, including keyword bidding, messaging and direct linking.
Pick trusted affiliates. Pick affiliates who have the ability to manage SEM properly. To gauge trust, ask these questions:
- Is your affiliate monitoring its own activities? A huge credibility win is when your affiliate uses a compliance monitoring utility to police itself.
- Is your affiliate risky to other merchants? Try to gain insight into the brand bidding behavior that the affiliate poses towards other merchants.
Monitor for compliance and report often. For this plan to work, all of your affiliates must comply with your rules. Carefully monitor search results pages, automate reports, get alerts and fire off complaints if affiliates are not following your rules.
How will you know if this strategy is working?
Below are signs that your plan is working:
- Your traffic increases from the paid search channel.
- Your reach increases — your ads appear on more search results.
- You see fewer competitors on your brand terms.
- Your CPC (cost per click) decreases — our clients expect to see a 50-60 percent decrease in CPCs.
- Your CTR increases — our clients have seen 30-40 percent increases in clicks.