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Standing Out on Search

How to develop a winning Google strategy

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Jay Williams
Jay Williams
Director of Digital Strategy at Agency Within

Jay Williams is the Director of Digital Strategy at Agency Within, a full service digital marketing agency for enterprise brands. Agency Within specializes in strategy, customer acquisition, customer retention, marketing automation, and conversion rate/ landing page optimization, serving brands including, Nike, Spanx, Shake Shack, and Diesel.

Search: One Part of the Marketing Ecosystem

Advertisers are becoming more and more savvy about paid search marketing, and this is driving up cost-per-click (CPC) and cost of customer acquisition (CAC) in the channel for most advertisers. So, when we talk about search with our clients, we encourage them to take a holistic approach and think about search as one segment of the overall marketing puzzle. This route will help to maximize returns across the portfolio of channels being managed, and prevent brands from over-committing to any specific channel or opportunity.

Once that consideration has been made, the focus can then move to how brands can leverage paid search for driving business growth.

Fine-tune Your Messaging

Effectiveness in search is mostly a function of two factors:

  1.  Paying the right price for a user/keyword:This comes in the form of your bid and targeting options.
  2. Serving the user the best messaging and landing page experience.

On the messaging front, that comes in two forms: Relevancy and novelty. To be relevant, your ad copy should be tailored to the search query. For instance, if I’m searching for “red sneakers,” I’m more likely to click on an ad that includes the words “red sneakers,” rather than just a generic shoe ad.

When it comes to novelty, it’s about differentiating your ad and brand from the wall of content that’s bombarding users whenever they type in a Google search. So, while you want to make sure the messaging you have is aligned with your brand and products, you also want to add something unique to draw the user’s attention, whether that’s Yotpo star ratings or playful messaging.

Get Granular

Competing on large traffic-generating keywords like “men’s t-shirts” will be difficult due to the prohibitively high CPCs and the high brand awareness likely needed to capture the click (if your ad is lucky enough to be served). On the other hand, long-tail keywords like “100% cotton pre shrunk t-shirt produced in the US” will have lower overall search traffic, but lower CPCs as well as a result of weaker competition from less advertiser participation. This means that advertisers that are able to build out and appropriately target large volumes of long-tail keywords will be able capture a lot of traffic that wouldn’t be available if the same budget were invested in the short tail. This would result in more potential sales volume with the same level of spend, meaning lower CPAs.

Leverage a Strategy That is Tied to Your Business

Consider two different campaigns, each acquired through $20 in non-brand search spend:

  • Keyword A – two purchases generating $20 in profit. $10 CPA.
  • Keyword B – one purchase generating $100 in profit. $20 CPA.

Looking at these keywords using a CPA lens, Campaign A would look stronger, having half the CPA of Campaign B. However, Campaign B is five times as profitable as Campaign A, a consideration that wouldn’t be factored into a CPA driven strategy. This is a simple example, but it illustrates how a strategy might look good on the outset (new customers), but might not be aligned with what’s best for the business.

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Don’t Assume — Test Everything

Your performance in Google Shopping or search is going to come down to several factors (a few of which are listed below):

  • Campaign settings
  • Ad experience
  • Landing page experience
  • Cost of traffic
  • Brand
  • Product
  • Price

Because of the variable nature of several of the items above, no one — no agency, no advertising platform, not even Google — could tell you how you’re going to perform in any channel until you start testing. Sometimes data can surprise you, so it’s in a brand’s best interest to be open-minded about testing different opportunities.

And while you’re testing, you’ll want to leverage every possible opportunity to improve performance. For Google Shopping, create an optimized shopping feed that includes detailed information to increase likelihood to convert. For search, ensure that you’re applying the best ad experience for the keywords in your account. Utilize campaign settings and bidding strategies that are aligned with your performance goals.

And finally, test everything: Test Google Shopping, test search, test Facebook — see where you do the best, and then use that to inform where you’re allocating your budget. Let the data do the talking. Don’t let intuition drive decision-making. For instance, if you’re spending $100 to acquire a customer on search and you can acquire a customer for $50 on Facebook, there’s no real reason to spend that much of your budget on search. Be open-minded and test everything so you can make the most of your ad budget.

Conclusion

  • Tailor your message – Write ad copy that is tailored to the user and their search query
  • Get down to the details – Use long-tail, descriptive keywords to avoid mass competition and improve cost-per-conversion.
  • Follow your customer lifecycle – Track your customer cohorts by keyword and see which keywords bring in customers with higher lifetime value.
  • Test everything – Ideal ad spend per channel is highly individual. Test and optimize ads everywhere before determining the right mix for your budget.

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