Search Engine Keyword Buys Are Essential Campaign Element

If you’re putting together an online advertising campaign, you’d better be buying keywords on search engines.

That’s the conclusion of speakers at internet.com‘s Search Engine Strategies 2000 conference in New York.

“I’d be surprised if there were any campaigns at all that shouldn’t be buying keywords,” said Greg March, New York media manager for Beyond Interactive.

Search engines are particularly powerful, says March, because you’re capturing an individual who is actively seeking a product, or information about a product.

Banner ads aren’t the only options, either. On many search engines, you can buy text placements, advertorial placements on category results pages, and combinations of these and banners. These integrate advertisements into related content, making them more likely to be relevant to the searcher.

“Context is the Web,” March said. “Since you’re hyper-targeting your audience, and you’re building targeted creative, your cost per acquisition can very well be lower.”

March recommended favoring larger search engines over smaller, simply because they have more inventory to offer.

“Larger search engines are going to have more impressions in the targeted area that you’re looking for.”

Your options include those like Yahoo, AskJeeves, and Lycos, which sell on a CPM basis, or other search engines like GoTo.com and FindWhat.com, which sell on a cost-per-click basis. Although CPM buys may give advertisers branding benefits, a CPC purchase is low risk and especially suited to driving traffic to e-commerce sites.

Reps at the search engine can help advertisers pick appropriate keywords, but you should consider buying words that intuitively fit, synonyms to those words, related product interest categories, your competitor’s brand name, and misspellings.

“When trying to make a list of keywords, use every resource at your disposal,” March said. “The more keywords you have that are relevant to your audience, the better. This method of advertising is very trackable.”

Once you’ve made your purchase, make sure you track its effectiveness, said Catherine Seda, director of online promotions at SiteLab International, an interactive marketing firm.

Check traffic statistics from your site’s log files at least once a month, set up special re-direct or tracking pages for certain campaigns so you can see where people are coming from, and get reports from the sites where you make your buys.

Once you’ve got serious amounts of data to parse, it might be time to move up to buying through a third-party ad server.

It’s definitely the way to go when you want to get into hard core tracking,” Seda said.

One of the most important parts of setting your search engine advertising strategy, experts agree, is deciding what you want to achieve. Are you looking for new users? Branding? Sales? Or to develop new distribution channels? How you approach your campaign, and how you measure results, depends on what you’re looking to accomplish.

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