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Where's the Creativity in SEM?

  |  October 31, 2008   |  Comments

Don't be a PPC drone. Here are four ways that search marketers can use the right side of their brains.

Many traditional (and even most online) agencies hate SEM (define) (both organic and paid search), because they think it lacks creativity. If compared to TV advertising this may seem to be the case. But there's a lot of room for creativity in SEO (define) and PPC (define) search marketing.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard someone in our industry rave about a creative way that a search marketing campaign was executed. Outside our industry, I don't think I've ever heard or seen creativity in search covered in the press or at a conference.

Agencies desire Clio Awards, the ADDY Awards, or Cannes Lions. These are creative awards. Even the Effie Awards aren't as coveted because they're more about results (effectiveness).

A few online industry conferences, summits, and events have started rolling out search categories as part of their awards, but I've yet to see an award that balances rewarding creativity with recognizing results. In the end, marketers and advertisers desire, strive for, and rejoice in the results.

However, there's room for creativity in PPC search. There are lots of ways that creativity can help drive results. There's an extra level of satisfaction that comes with moving beyond the analytics and beyond the endless tasks associated with PPC search and doing something creative.

Creative Strategies in PPC Search

A creative strategy often includes thinking differently about your product, service, offer, pricing, or buy-flow. If you're selling a product, do you offer alternative payment options? If a service, do you offer different subscription lengths?

Is there a form of guarantee or other trust-building message you could use to improve conversion rates and still be consistent with your brand? Are you treating new and returning visitors the same, or would it make sense to change the message or offer? What about returning customers vs. existing customers -- should they experience your site differently?

What about your offline business? Is there a way to make your online search and offline shopping behavior sync up better? Consider using offer codes and coupons.

Creative Keywords

Keyword expansion can be tedious and boring. However what if you find some high-volume opportunities that could work? I'm sure the search marketing teams that decided to take advantage of the spike in searches for "Sarah Palin Eyeglasses" or "Sarah Palin Eyewear" are feeling quite creative.

You can go further by tapping high opportunity keywords, even though they aren't a perfect fit for your product or brand. For example, banks can advertise on the keyword "FDIC," capturing the attention of nervous depositors looking to diversify their bank deposits. Similarly, the keyword "credit crunch" has only a few advertisers running on it and clearly has a significant volume of new searchers, as shown in Google Trends.

Landing Page Creativity

Perhaps the greatest area of creative opportunity is the PPC search landing page. Unlike organic search landing pages, we have a significant level of flexibility in our landing page. No need to worry about Flash content being overused, as long as there's enough content on the page to satisfy Google's landing page scoring systems and the page loads quickly enough.

Don't be afraid to almost completely eliminate your navigation on such pages. Keep it short, make it long, let the image be more stunning, kill the beauty shot altogether. Do whatever it takes to engage and influence your visitors more than you are now.

Think your landing page is great? What percentage of visitors abandon right at your landing page? My guess is well over 50 percent -- and perhaps it's closer to 90 percent. There's a lot of room for creativity there. Both expected and unexpected elements can make for a good landing page, but keep in mind that these searchers are on a mission unlike that of regular surfers.

Integration Creativity

Be creative in the way you integrate and mash up your online and offline data together. Nowhere else can you learn as fast as with an online campaign. Are you using that data only to improve the online campaigns? Don't ignore the jump-start it may give you offline.

Send me some examples of your creativity in search.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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