Paid search marketing is nothing new. It's been around for a long time and has become a very effective means of marketing for many companies of all sizes. Paid search favors companies with well-known brands or images, or companies with very focused merchandise or services offerings, while depth of the offering increases chances for a sale.

Paid search marketing, like any other marketing, seeks to influence customer behavior. We want to drive more people to our site to see our products or services and convert that visit to a sale.

Sounds simple, right? But the teaser can only be a few words, so what should it say? What  should be on the landing page? What is the right combination of marketing information and actual content? Should we require information from our visitor before providing the information promised in the teaser?

Tease Me

When writing teasers and tag lines, it is best if the information presented is as specific to the search as possible. With only a few words to get a consumer's attention, a reference to the word that was searched is a huge plus, rather than a general company tag line. For well-known brands or products, a generic line can be effective to produce a click, but for new products or services, the teaser must be relevant to the search.

Upon Arrival

Landing page content is crucial. When you have successfully enticed a consumer to click on an ad based on either the results rank or the teaser line, the landing page content must match the consumer's expectation if there is to be a conversion. For example, I looked on the major search engines for "picture frames." The search returned a solid set of results, but I only had to skip down to position three on Google and position five on Yahoo! to find a generic tag line referencing a site-wide sale. When I clicked through on both, I landed on the company's home page and had to click around (three clicks) to find picture frames. The other listings took me directly to shopping for frames. The landing page must meet the customer's expectations or frustration will set in and the visitor will be lost.

Setup and Keywords

Managing the paid search process includes initial setup and long-term maintenance. The level of effort is usually dictated by the number of products or services offered, which determines the number of keywords and landing pages. After initial setup and keyword list generation, there is list maintenance, landing page modification and enhancement, and keyword bidding. Finally, there is evaluation of the program and resetting of strategy and goals.

Keyword bidding may be a time-consuming process depending on the number of keywords required. The number of keywords is usually based on the number of products and services. Prices for keywords can range anywhere from a few cents to many dollars per click. The fee is paid when a consumer clicks on the ad. Companies with just a few keywords can manage them in house to cut overall marketing costs. For larger efforts, a company must decide if the time and resources required to effectively manage the process is a more effective path than outsourcing. A slew of firms handle the functions around paid search. From site architecture to keyword bidding, these firms can manage landing pages and spend.

Rewards and Bear Traps

Goals and ROI should be tracked for all marketing efforts. With paid search, goals could include customer acquisition targets, a certain number of clickthroughs or certain sales targets. ROI for product-based companies is easier to calculate than for service-based companies. The ROI for a product-based company can be defined as ad profits divided by ad costs multiplied by 100. The same calculation can be used for service-based organizations if the final sale can be tracked to the clickthough. If not, it can be useful to track the number of leads and determine the average number of leads that convert to sales.

Unfortunately, there are some dangers associated with paid search. Click fraud, as it is referred to, can take a number of forms. The most common include repeated clicks on a competitor's ad word to deplete marketing budget or using another firm's trademarked keywords to divert consumers in a deceptive fashion. Both are bothersome, and the second can cause serious issues. It is best to work with the search engine to establish trademark protection, and when possible, contact the offending competitor directly to alert them to trademark infringement. Be advised, there are ongoing legal actions around who holds responsibility for enforcement.
Paid search can be an effective marketing tool for firms to drive traffic to their Web site. Attention to landing pages and effective keyword selection and bidding will help drive the right traffic to your site and make your program successful.

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