Applying Paid Search Optimization Techniques Beyond the Search Engine Results Page

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

In 2010, Forrester’s The Future of Search Marketing report predicted that “search marketing will become an umbrella term that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser get found.” Forrester was right. It’s now clear that search isn’t limited to being a channel.

Search is the science of understanding intent and acting on it to efficiently connect people to your brand — no matter if that connection is made on a search engine, social networking site, display network, affiliate network or other emerging medium. To foster these connections, search engine marketing best practices can be extended well beyond the search engine results page.

First, I’ll consider how traditional paid search techniques can be applied to display advertising to drive new-to-file customers. Like search, biddable display provides advertisers with targeting capabilities to find the right customer at the right price. While search marketers create segmentation via keywords to find the right audience, display marketers create segmentation via data sources.

For example, during back-to-school season this past year, one of Performics’ apparel retailer clients sought to efficiently boost year-over-year daily sales though performance display. Like we do with search campaigns, we restructured the retailer’s display campaign at a more granular level (31 different ads in 2011 versus 6 ads in 2010) to support product/offer testing.

The restructure revealed deeper audience insights, helping us buy only the impressions we wanted (i.e., the right placements at the right price). We also increased relevance through site retargeting (i.e., serving display ads to people who visited the advertiser’s website but didn’t take action). These strategies resulted in a 211 percent year-over-year increase in average daily sales at a 120 percent return on investment.

Likewise, paid search techniques can be applied to social media advertising. The obvious paid search/Facebook similarities are that Facebook cost-per-click ads are bid based, keyword triggered by likes/interests in users’ profiles and optimized through copy/creative testing. The obvious paid search/Twitter similarities are that Promoted Tweets are bid based, triggered by Twitter users’ search keywords and optimized through copy testing.

There are also less obvious similarities. For example, using paid search campaign structure best practices to boost Twitter followers via Promoted Accounts, which enable advertisers to recommend their account to particular Twitter users who may be interested in following them. For an advertiser’s account to be recommended, the advertiser targets Twitter users via keywords and bids on a cost-per-follower (CPF) basis. One of Performics’ clients sought to use Promoted Accounts to increase followers at a low CPF.

Borrowing from paid search, Performics restructured and relaunched the client’s Promoted Accounts campaign. We increased the account’s size from one campaign to 11 campaigns to include more granular, demographically relevant keywords. Like in paid search, more targeted keywords caused Twitter’s algorithm to recommend our client’s account to a more relevant Twitter audience. Post-optimization, the client achieved a 1,473 percent increase in followers at a 69 percent decrease in CPF.

Search will surely continue to evolve well beyond typing keywords in a search box (think asking Siri to find you an answer or using a mobile augmented reality app to see product reviews while walking through a store). Notwithstanding this evolution, time-tested paid search optimization techniques relentlessly focused on structuring campaigns to deliver the most relevant audiences at the lowest cost will always drive performance.

Why You Should Beware the ‘Quick SEO Copywriting Fix’

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present: “I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present.

“I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

I understand this mindset. I really do. Now that the recession is easing its iron grip on marketing budgets, companies are trying to make up for lost time. Now, more than ever, forward-thinking businesses have the opportunity to make a huge impact on their search engine rankings. And they’re doing what they can, where they can—as fast as they can.

But here’s the thing. There is no “quick SEO copywriting fix.” There’s no “easy way to get to the top of the search engines” like the spam e-mails promise. You can’t wave a magic algorithmic wand and transform your copy into search engine goodness.

You just have to roll your sleeves, do the hard work and get it done.

Unfortunately, many companies fall prey to this quick fix mentality and do stupid things that mess up their SEO campaigns, branding or both. For instance:

  • Building out stand-alone “SEO pages” geared to pull rankings

  • Hiring $10/post bloggers to write keyphrase-stuffed posts

  • Tweeting incessantly about their products or services without becoming a part of the Twitter community

Although these folks feel like progress is quickly being made (“Woo-hoo, now we have 50, poorly-written posts about legal services”), what they don’t realize is the unforeseen consequences. Poorly written content doesn’t convert. “Stand-alone” pages typically are over-optimized messes that search engines ignore. Splattering your sales message all over Twitter makes your firm look like a spammer.

So, what can you do to start seeing the search results (and conversions) you crave? I am so glad you asked …

1. Evaluate your existing content. Every marketer can leverage its own low-hanging fruit and focus on what specifically matters for its site. For some sites, penning new page titles can drive amazing results. For others, keyphrase editing (adding keyphrases to existing content) may be appropriate. Consider bringing in a consultant for this part of the process. The reason? The consultant doesn’t “own” the copy and can see it with fresh eyes. Because he’s not close to it, he can notice opportunities your marketing department may not.

2. Check your keyphrase research. It’s easy to let your keyphrase research stagnate when you don’t have the time (or funds) to spend on your site. Now that you’re planning a content overhaul, it’s crucial to examine what other keyphrases opportunities you can leverage – especially keyphrases that represent the research phase of the buy cycle. Research tools like WordStream, Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker can help you see what phrases people type into the search box to find products and services like yours.

3. Develop a (workable) content schedule and budget. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your site won’t be rewritten overnight. Work on your most important pages first, and set up a schedule where you’ll work on a certain number of pages a month. Or, if you know that writing content in-house isn’t your style, hire an experienced SEO copywriter and have him help. Creating content in baby steps is completely OK – and gives you the satisfaction of seeing continued improvement.

It’s tempting to fall prey to the SEO copywriting quick fix. But when you take strategic baby steps and focus on what’s really important to your site’s success, you’ll finally realize the search ranking (and conversions) you crave.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Since the topic turned out to be very popular — more than 500 attendees listened in and stayed for the duration of the 60-minute presentation — I thought I’d present the mistakes discussed. Here, I’ll discuss the first five mistakes, which were all presented by Amy. The last five mistakes, which were presented by Amy and Matt, will follow next week. (To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

Mistake 1: Believing people read what you write. Users don’t read; they scan, Schade said. As a result, when writing copy for the web, simple and straightforward are best.

Mistake 2: Reflecting your priorities, not your users’. Balance your goals and your users’ goals, Schade said. While you may want to promote your latest offer, sell off inventory, promote your brand or collect leads, your users probably want to get the answers to specific questions or get in and out of your site quickly.

Mistake 3: Ignoring standards. Some design elements on web pages already work and are de facto standards, Schade said. The search box, for example, is usually located in the upper right-hand corner of a web page. When a search box is moved to another spot on a page, this may give users the impression that a site is trying to hide the search box or that the search isn’t very good.

You don’t want to convey that information just because you changed the design location of where something appears on the page, Schade said. There’s room for creativity in web design, but make sure any new designs you try are usable.

Mistake 4: Using the wrong images. While pictures can go a long way on a website in terms of conveying information and getting users interested in your site, products or services, you don’t want to use the wrong ones, Schade said.

Examples of the wrong images include the following:
• generic or stock art;
• boring graphics;
• images that are not related to content; and
• graphics that look like ads.

The right images, on the other hand, include the following:
• images that are related to content;
• images that are clear and the right size; and
• pictures of approachable, real people.

Mistake 5: Not speaking your customers’ language
. It’s so easy getting caught up in the lingo and language used internally at your company when writing web copy; you forget about your users’ perspectives, Schade said. Big mistake. Instead, always think about how users may define or categorize your merchandise. Good places for inspiration on this front are your product reviews. Since they’re provided by users, they speak your users’ language.