SEM Power Tips

The most enjoyable thing about marketing in general, and search engine marketing (SEM) in particular, is continually learning, experimenting, and uncovering ways of making your campaigns more efficient to increase sales and boost return on investment (ROI). The new year is an opportune time to look back at some things that work especially well. Many can apply beyond SEM. Some may surprise you.

Brands Have an Advantage

Not a huge surprise, but the important part of the brand effect is marketers can use brand names in titles and descriptions in paid search and, when appropriate, in copy on their sites. There are legal issues surrounding trademark use in paid ads and meta tags. Overall, if you’re a product reseller/retailer and others are using the brand name in ads, it’s likely OK to use it.

Listing Copy Influences Quality and Behavior

What searchers read in listing results influences if they click, who clicks, and how those users feels when they get to your site. Listing copy sets expectations. What influenced you when you first wrote that copy was balancing maximizing click-throughs against prequalification. If that copy isn’t doing its job, a change is in order.

Constraints around changing listing copy are different with each vendor. Think long and hard before you make changes in Overture. Your present listing might not pass editorial review based on current guidelines and standards. Before you tweak your listing copy, review guidelines to make sure you’ll still have a listing after the edits. The types of changes you may want to consider in Overture are:

  • Prequalifying or educating searchers. By explaining more about your product, service, or offer, you’ll assure better quality click-throughs. Searcher experience is better when she understands before she clicks. This can reduce your CTR, or Click Index, which risks your ad being removed. But if your prequalification works and your ad isn’t cursed by a Click Index removal, you’ll lower spending while increasing click quality.
  • Boost CTR with enticing copy. Copy can sometimes increase CTR, driving more volume without sacrificing quality (or at least striking a reasonable tradeoff). Include words explaining price, value, guarantees, selection, and shipping options. You’ll distinguish your listing from others on a results page.

Assuming you adhere to Google AdWords guidelines, there’s flexibility to test different copy ideas without fear of losing a listing due to human intervention. However, you can lose if the new creative has a lower CTR. Google’s algorithm penalizes ads with low CTRs, so prequalification copy strategies are not recommended unless you happen to be the sole advertiser for a keyword. If that’s the case, you may be able to do minor prequalification as long as CTR meets the minimums.

Landing Pages Matter — a Lot

We all know user experience is important. The landing page is the first thing a visitor to your site sees. Putting numbers to the situation exposes landing page power.

There are, of course, costs associated with testing landing pages. My fellow ClickZ columnist Bryan Eisenberg is a conversion marketing guru. His archived columns are full of tips in this area. For some sites, a complete revamp is worth doing. For others, small changes can yield huge results. A way to decide whether to make changes is to test small sections of a site to determine improvements, then calculate the ROI changes. Power tips for landing page improvement:

  • Know your objectives. Write copy with those objectives in mind.
  • Understand not everyone is ready to buy. Provide alternative actions, including “learn more” and “register.”
  • Make pages skimable and scannable.
  • Cross-sell if there’s another area of interest for the visitor.
  • Understand the ways site pages look in different screen resolutions and Web browsers.
  • Provide options for interaction. Include phone and chat applications.

The White Paper Effect

This is one example of a landing page change working so well, it deserves its own section. Even after writing a landing page column, I was unprepared for the difference in conversion on my site after we offered a white paper download. We’d offered a newsletter subscription, but after adding the white paper, conversion went up seven-fold. Better, 65 percent of people requesting the white paper also subscribed to the newsletter, a win-win situation. I wish we’d written that white paper years ago!

The Audio Effect

This was almost as dramatic as the white paper. A client added a nice voiceover to his site. It autolaunches as an audiocentric Flash animation. Conversions went up 15 percent. Because he sells licensed software at no marginal cost, bottom-line numbers also rose 15 percent.

Not all sites can get away with adding voiceover. But I’ll be testing it on my site, as well as on a few clients’, to see if I can duplicate the results this one client experienced.

Have a SEM power tip that made a huge difference in your success? E-mail me. Perhaps I’ll share it with readers.

Related reading

Brand Top Level Domains