Firm Increases Search Leads by Chasing Storms

Getting more out of your search marketing strategy isn’t just about choosing the right search terms. Sometimes it’s a matter of applying those terms in the right place at the right time.

It’s a lesson that American Residential Services learned last year when it turned to TMP Directional Marketing for help with its search engine marketing strategy. American Residential Services, based in Memphis, is the parent of ARS, a heating and air conditioning repair company, and Rescue Rooter, which cleans and repairs sewers and drains.

Because the company only operates in certain markets around the country, and because weather and other environmental factors heavily influence its business, it needed to focus more on getting attention in the right local markets at the right time.

“As we were ramping up the campaign and doing keyword expansions, we started to notice that often times if there was unseasonably cold weather in certain areas or flooding, there was an increase in traffic,” said Liz Serafin, senior director for SEM at TMP. “And in certain markets, depending on the duration of the triggers, they were running out of budget faster. So we took a step back and tried to get a little more strategic.”

TMP, which is based in New York, realized that in order to maximize ARS’s search marketing investment, it had to put the money where the flooding (or freezing) was. So in January of 2008 the agency began monitoring weather patterns across the U.S, and would quickly increase ARS’s search engine visibility in areas that were experiencing severe weather. The agency would simultaneously decrease budgets in areas that were less likely to need its services.

“We set up Google alerts and those sorts of automatic alerts to help us do that, and we also have a team of coordinators that would go to Weather.com and other sites” to track weather patterns nationally, Serafin said.

TMP also helped ARS design new creative that was heavily focused on emergencies. “We emphasized that you can call them 24/7,” Serafin said. “That’s been a proven ad-copy advantage for them.” Copy was also customized with specific geographic references for each market that would appeal to local customers.

Meanwhile, the search terms ARS was buying remained largely unchanged.

“In terms of the keywords themselves, it’s not that they have drastically changed,” Serafin said. “We definitely started to ramp up a lot more of the emergency types of keywords, ‘freezing emergency,’ ‘plumber emergency,’ that type of thing. But what we focused on was really ramping up their exposure within the right search engines in order to focus on their cost per lead.”

By March, ARS saw a 57 percent increase in leads nationally. In Los Angeles, which had experienced unusually cold weather during that period, the number was close to 80 percent. Meanwhile, its actual cost per lead remained below the company’s target.

“For ARS, local search is growing significantly because you have the flexibility to define your audience, to define your geography and to move very quickly in the interactive environment — whether that is paid search, natural search or Internet Yellow Pages,” Elizabeth Young, executive director of marketing and customer satisfaction at ARS, said. “The flexibility is really important, as well as the ability to target.”

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