Paid Search managers are always under the gun to bring more traffic and more revenue, but there is always a budget involved. Out of all of the marketing channels Paid Search is one of the most challenging. Keywords that are performing well this week may perform poorly next week. Return on ad spend may differ from week to week and managing a large base of keywords requires attention to detail. Even managed well you still have to account for what your competitors are doing different daily. The strategy evolves typically on a weekly basis.
Depending on the budget you are working with you may want leverage more robust tools like Kenshoo to manage your program. When you first begin Google Adwords is perfectly fine. As keyword inventory grows, evaluating the management tools becomes more important. One of the most important aspects of managing a Paid Search program is setting ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) goals. Most companies are happy with an average ROAS that delivers $4 on every $1 spent. The ROAS goal depends though based on the margins and how much channel overlap occurs with your business. In some cases you may need to increase ROAS goals to account for margin and overlap or reduce the goal to prospect and grow your customer database to leverage other channels. In all cases remember to manage to an average when budget allows so you can get a mix of high margin orders and customer acquisition growth.
To reiterate on averages, do not discount the losers. Evaluate the traffic potential in terms of brand awareness, new customer acquisition, and repeat order average. Different methods are used to determine how much you should spend for a customer. My suggestion is run your program on last click, or first click, or split attribution if you wish, but do not let these rules prevent you from evaluating lifetime value. In some campaigns I have created specific groups of keywords that are profitable on a lifetime value basis, but not on a first order basis. Budget permitting, I turn these campaigns on and off to increase new customer count, and or to invest in the future.
Investing in the future is a decision that is made above the Paid Search manager’s pay grade. The company must commit to an investment spend with a budget. Often Paid Search managers that have proven that they can manage the mix of current goal campaigns and long-term investment will be provided with more flexibility. If you do not have an investment spend budget, put the lifetime numbers together and create a business case for the budget. Lifetime value analysis takes time but it is critical in terms of building a case for budget. Most Paid Search channels drive significant customer acquisition, incur reduced marketing expense on repeat orders, and deliver a higher lifetime value than other channels. These metrics improve as the program matures.
Optimizing Paid Search takes time. Educating team members outside of the team is critical in receiving the budget and empowerment you need to build a successful program. Do your homework; organize your keyword groups based on goals. Goals should align with the defined strategy for the program. For example, for established brands where there are many marketing channels at work online or offline, the Paid Search program serves as a net so to speak to capture the demand created by the other channels. Established brands also need to have defined goals around brand protection. Protecting the brand and acquiring traffic and sales can be achieved in parallel, but this has to be a defined goal as the ROAS may vary.
Working parallel goals requires close coordination with all marketing, merchandising, and product development personnel in some cases. Knowing where the business focus is headed in terms of new products, new categories within an industry, and how the overall marketing message is being delivered in other channels is key to building a mature program that drives value beyond the order obtained. Paid Search and PLAs are excellent sources for testing marketing messages to see what keywords or phrases resonate with the target audience. Refining the messaging is significantly less expensive in Paid Search than it is in other Paid Media campaigns. SEO personnel should be meeting with you at least monthly as well to review data to create synergies between the two channels. If a paid ad is working well in terms of CTR and ultimately converts well on the website, the content should be reviewed for inclusion in the SEO meta tags.
Paid Search regardless of budget is a powerful tool for testing, and measuring overall brand marketing. If branded terms begin to decline in search volume and impressions, it is critical to communicate that information back to all other marketing managers so adjustments can be made on multiple fronts. Strategy, goals, communication, and cross-functional collaboration are the minimum requirements to build a mature program. Look for more articles on how to adapt to changes, performing keyword research, and how the metrics drive decision making.