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Strategies and Tools for Next Generation of Search Marketing
By Ilya Cherepakhin
Since search began, marketers have used keywords as proxies for user intent. But how accurate are keywords as predictors of someone’s stage in their research journey? Sure, anyone looking for “best family Caribbean resorts” is further along than somebody searching for just “family resorts”, but quite possibly not that much further along. In both cases, users can be at various points of readiness to plan their trips.
Keywords alone can say only so much about who is the actual user and what is their level of familiarity with one’s product or service (let alone with one’s brand). With back-to-school season upon us, searches for school gear abound. We need to know: Who are these users? What is their price sensitivity? Do they know my products or those of my competition? While one can align the right keywords with the right ad and landing page, answering the former questions is what it takes to win in the ever-competitive space. These insights are key for the right bidding strategy and ensuring the best conversion rates.
It’s time our keywords got a little help. With Google’s latest audience targeting solutions, we now have a perfect set of tools for smarter campaigns and better synergies with other online channels.
Below are five ideas to take your paid search audience strategy and campaigns to the next level.
- Segment Out Your Previous Users & Customers
RLSA has been around for a while and are a proven successful tactic. If you don’t already engage in remarketing for search, exclude users who have converted or do not offer recent non-converters a different user experience, you should.
But also go a step further.
- Set aside a small budget for converters to upsell them on add-ons.
- Use custom sitelinks taking them to help sections.
- Encourage them to enroll in loyalty programs or sign up for exclusive promotions.
- Some may argue that natural search is better positioned for low, short-term ROI tactics along these lines. Depending on one’s SEO results that may be true.
From an integrated marketing point, besides customer acquisition, SEM can play an important role in retention and loyalty building. This is especially vital if a customer is searching for your brand terms post-transaction.
The last thing you want is to frustrate customers with extra steps on your site when they can be getting a faster and more relevant user experience with SEM.
- Use Other Audience Lists You Already Have
Email lists are perhaps the most obvious and can be leveraged with Customer Match. Other similar tactics can involve creating audiences for custom campaigns for referrers from social media, those who responded to promotions, etc.
This is especially powerful if combined with segmentation by date of last interaction with you. Recent email list subscribers then have a different user experience from those from a long time ago.
Even minor personalization can have a big effect on performance. At the very least, do set different objectives for each audience because – even though the users searching with same terms – they are in a different mindset and will convert differently.
- Create Lists Based on Your Site Sections
Rather than treat all past visitors alike, create paid search audiences based on their past visit.
You can then infer with much greater accuracy who is the user buying that handbag: a woman who has been to other women’s pages, buying it for herself, or a man who visits the men’s section and gifting the bag.
- Watch Out for In-Market Audiences
While most widely available for GDN, in-market audiences are the space to watch. In-market audiences offer overlaying campaigns with audiences of users actively considering to buy a service or product. I have seen them perform quite well for GDN campaigns and outperform similar user’s segments.
The beta for using in-market audiences in standard search is closed as of this writing, but stay tuned for updates and do test it when it does open up.
- Adopt an Audience-Centric Mindset & Campaign Structure
Many marketing channels already plan their efforts based on audiences: for new customers, returning customers by type and frequency of transaction, etc. Setting up SEM efforts to align with that will position you to drive better synergies with your organization’s omnichannel efforts, from messaging and customer engagement to budgeting and planning.
The keyword is still king, but audience management is the queen. Together the two make quite the power couple.
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