Search Advertising, Simplified

Digital marketing has become a complicated beast.

I have been in many digital marketing conferences, seeing all the sophistications that drive people crazy. I start to wonder no matter how hard we pitch digital marketing, we still make the audience clueless. And I believe the “technical part” that we use to differentiate ourselves from the “laymen” is just what drives us away from the crowd. We, the digital marketers, become the lonely crowd.

In this article, I want to take a no-frills approach and talk about how search advertising can be plain simple. No fancy tool is required. I think this is the original face of search advertising when it was invented: Uncomplicated.

If you are in the agency business, I want to share this rule of thumb with you, “Keywords talk to search queries, ad copy talk to the audience, and CPC talks to the customers”. Don’t mix them up. For example, if you focus too much on CPC in your keyword research, you will limit your strategic and creative thoughts and give yourself fewer choices. Same reason for you not to talk keywords to the audience: they search using keywords and then click after reading your ad copy. Keywords won’t make them click.

Before the technical part such as bid automation, optimisation, etc., begins, you always start with semantic research. Don’t rely on any tool that promises to give you the most accurate choice of keywords. Basically, you only need the search engine keyword suggestion tools to give you all the keywords although they are not fully relevant (after all, they are just machines).

After you get suggestions from the search engines, you should categorise them according to your game plan. Depending on how deep your understanding of the product is, your keyword categories will fit into different semantic sets. And then each semantic set becomes an ad group.

For semantic research, don’t settle with the search engine data. Do a competitor research by analysing the competitors’ ad copy, then extract and add a few business intelligences into your semantic sets. You can do this by simply searching your intended keywords on search engines and collect all the sponsored ad copy. Always make sure that your ad copy is appealing and competitive at the same time. For your ad copywriting, use a simple strategy: Brand and no brand. In my recent experiment, ad copies without brand wordings yield better result.

Source: Google Analytics

Last but not the least, I want to share with you a framework of executing a search advertising campaign. Plan your execution by following the sequence: “Past, present, and future.”

Past means even before you start the semantic research look at the previous analytics and understand the keyword level search trait. Because once you’ve launched your website, it will be listed on search engines and has been talking to the audience. Remember that in order to let you see the trend clearly, always add time factor to compare the two periods.

Present means when you do semantic research, collect your competitors’ ad copy, budget your ad spend, and project your benchmark. Try to tie every thought with the rationalisation of the past.

Future is about optimisation, bid management, ongoing analytics, etc. Those elements that you need to boost performance. Take all the wisdom from the past and present and start with a new cycle.

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A series of green arrows pointing into the distance, one reading NO ADS in white block capitals.