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SEO + Paid Search: An Aristotelian Lesson in Search Marketing Integration

Paid and SEO Search Marketing Integration

Paid and SEO Search Marketing Integration

The first search engine was created in 1990, over two millennia from when Aristotle, the famed Greek philosopher, walked the earth. Having never lived in a world that included a search engine, let alone paper, you might be wondering what advice Aristotle could possibly offer when it comes to search marketing, but one of his most famous quotes offers an invaluable lesson:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” 

Even in ~330 BC, Aristotle understood that combining two tactics together results in powerful outcomes that are greater than their individual parts.

Adopting this classic teaching to your modern paid search and SEO tactics, means getting more bang for your buck in search marketing. For starters, integrating paid and organic search has been found to increase conversions by 200%, according to Search Engine Watch. If you want to maximize your potential return on your search marketing efforts, they need to work together.

At TopRank Marketing, we believe integration makes the digital marketing world go round, bringing balance and harmony to your digital marketing efforts. To help you weave your paid search and SEO tactics together, we asked TopRank Marketing’s own search marketing philosophers, Joe Manier and Steve Slater, to share their advice and insights.

A Complementary Pair

Since we’re being philosophical and metaphorical, paid search and SEO are the pizza and beer pairing of digital marketing. They’re both awesome in their own right, but in coming together, they give you a more satisfying meal.

With “search” in the name of both tactics, you might already have an indication of why they make such a great pair. But in case you didn’t know, Joe and Steve give their reasons why they complement each other so well.

“SEO and paid search are two ways of coming at the same goal of getting clicks from searchers you care about,” is how Joe explains it.

For example, both tactics aim to earn high visibility in search results for target keywords. In order to reach that goal however, they utilize different strategies and techniques, allowing you to cover more ground in search results.

“SEO is not a promotional strategy. When you need to get eyeballs to a webpage, SEO can take time and the results come slowly. But when you turn on a paid search campaign, you instantly get traffic to your web page. Using the two together leads to instant impact and long-term results,” Steve says.

Not only do paid search and SEO go after similar goals, but they do it in two different ways, opening up the possibility of increasing your results exponentially.

[bctt tweet="Paid search & #SEO are the pizza & beer pairing of #DigitalMarketing. They’re both awesome in their own right, but in coming together, they give you a more satisfying meal. - @aleuman4" username="toprank"]

4 Lessons from Our Own Search Marketing Philosophers

To bring the two tactics together and get those high-flying results that Aristotle mentions, you need to use paid search to influence SEO and vice versa to create a truly synergistic relationship. To help you create that relationship, this is the advice that Joe and Steve have to offer.

#1 – Use paid search to test your hypothesis.

Because paid search is a way to “cheat” your way into a top ranking, you can actually glean a lot of insights from your search ads. Taking up the top four spots, ads receive a lot of impressions on search engine results pages (SERPs), giving you valuable information on what attracts clicks or conversions and what doesn’t.

“I use paid search as a testing method for what content resonates with searchers. After a campaign has run, I can see what messages led to higher click-through rates (CTR) with each of our target audiences. Then, I apply those insights to title tags and meta descriptions on high impression keywords or pages to boost organic CTR,” Joe says.

And by naming your campaigns strategically, you can immediately see what types of messaging perform well. For example, Joe has found success with solution-based ad messages, earning a great number of clicks and conversions. Knowing this, he can then insert more solution-based messages into organic meta content to try and replicate those same results.

Using the same principle, paid search could be a faster method for A/B testing any meta description or title tag changes as it doesn’t require that you actually update your website.

[bctt tweet="Use paid search as a testing method for what content resonates with searchers. - @joemanier #SearchMarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 – Take stock of conversions and the competition.

Paid search campaign data isn’t only good for meta content, it’s also great for assessing the keywords you want to target.

“If you want to know exactly what keywords lead to a conversion, you can run a paid search campaign and pretty easily start to fill in the blanks,” Steve explains.

In this scenario, you can look at the results of your paid campaign in Google AdWords (see below) to determine which keyword bids led to conversions. Those top converting keywords can then serve as focus areas for your SEO efforts.

Keyword Results from Google AdWords

In addition, AdWords data can help you identify which keywords are more difficult to go after. If you notice that a target keyword has a high average cost per click (CPC), it’s safe to assume that there’s a lot of competition driving the bids up. Given this information, you may want to adjust your optimization efforts towards lower-difficulty keywords that you have a better chance of ranking for.

#3 – Form your paid strategy based on current rankings.

We’ve shared how paid can influence your SEO strategy, but what about the other way around?

Well, if you have a keyword glossary, Joe likes to use it to divvy up which keywords are ideal for SEO and which are better to go after with paid search.

“I like to combine newly finished keyword research with ranking reports from the get-go as it gives instant visibility into how we’re doing organically. Then, I sort the keywords based on if they’d be a better fit for SEO (such as long-tail question keywords) or paid search (keywords where we stand little chance of seeing organic wins in the near-term),” Joe offers.

In analyzing the different type of keywords you rank for, you can more easily identify keywords you should bid on in your paid search campaigns.

If you’re hoping to improve those organic rankings, however, you shouldn’t rely on your paid campaigns to move the needle.

“One thing you should not expect when it comes to running paid search and SEO together is even better rankings. Turning on paid search is not going to improve organic rankings,” Steve warns.

To improve organic rankings, it’s best to stick to alternative methods like on-page optimization around target keywords, internal cross-linking, or additional content.

[bctt tweet="Don't make the mistake of thinking that #PaidSearch will move organic rankings. - @TheSteve_Slater #SearchMarketing" username="toprank"]

#4 – Adopt an SEO philosophy when structuring paid search campaigns.

Using an SEO mindset when structuring a paid search campaign is another method that can be very beneficial. For example, tapping into SEO knowledge can help you earn higher quality scores for your AdWords campaigns.

“The quality score largely determines how a keyword performs in your AdWords campaign. The quality score is calculated by factoring in expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. When you think like an SEO it’s pretty easy to break these elements down.

“As an SEO, you understand how bots interpret a page and search intent, helping you craft relevant ad copy and an easy-to-use landing page experience that increases CTR and your quality score,” Steve says.

According to Google, ads with “higher quality scores typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions.” Increasing your score means optimizing your ads for increased visibility and clicks while lowering your CPC.

[bctt tweet="Tapping into #SEO knowledge can help you earn higher quality scores for your #AdWords campaigns. #SearchMarketing" username="toprank"]

A Timeless Lesson With Infinite Possibilities

Aristotle was onto something all the way back in ~330 BC and his advice is still relevant today.

While paid search and SEO can stand on their own and increase your search marketing results, if they’re paired together correctly, they can increase your CTR, boost impressions, and expand your keyword umbrella even further.

But that’s not the only opportunity for you to integrate your marketing strategies to drive incredible results. Find out how social media and SEO make an unlikely, yet beneficial pairing.

The post SEO + Paid Search: An Aristotelian Lesson in Search Marketing Integration appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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The #1 Reason Paid Ads (On Search, Social, and Display) Fail – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Pouring money into a paid ad campaign that’s destined to fail isn’t a sound growth strategy. Time and again, companies breaking into online ads don’t see success due to the same issue: they aren’t known to their audiences. There’s no trust, no recognition, and so the cost per click remains high and rising.

In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand identifies the cycle many brands get trapped in and outlines a solution to make those paid ad campaigns worth the dollars you put behind them.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about the number one reason so many paid ad campaigns, especially from new companies and companies with new products or new ventures that they’re going into, new markets and audiences they’re addressing, fail. They just fall apart. I see this scenario play out so many times, especially in the startup and entrepreneurial world but, to be honest, across the marketing landscape.

Here’s how it usually goes. You’ve got your CEO or your CMO or your business owner and they’re like, “Hey, we have this great new product. Let’s spread the word.” So they talk to a marketer. It could be a contractor. It could be an agency. It could be someone in-house.

The marketer is like, “Okay, yeah, I’ll buy some ads online, help us get the word out there and get us some traffic and conversions.”

Then a few months later, you basically get this. “How’s that paid ad campaign going?” “Well, not so good. I have bad news.”

The cycle

Almost always, this is the result of a cycle that looks like this. You have a new company’s campaign. The campaign is to sell something or get exposure for something, to try and drive visits back to a web page or a website, several pages on the site and then get conversions out of it. So you buy Facebook ads, Instagram ads, maybe LinkedIn and Twitter. You probably use the Google Display Network. You’re probably using AdWords. All of these sources are trying to drive traffic to your web page and then get a conversion that turns into money.

Now, what happens is that these get a high cost per click. They start out with a high cost per click because it’s a new campaign. So none of these platforms have experience with your campaign or your company. So you’re naturally going to get a higher-than-normal cost per click until you prove to them that you get high engagement, at which point they bring the cost per click down. But instead of proving to them you get high engagement, you end up getting low engagement, low click-through rate, low conversion rate. People don’t make it here. They don’t make it there. Why is that?

Why does this happen?

Well, before we address that, let’s talk about what happens here. When these are low, when you have a low engagement rate on the platform itself, when no one engages with your Facebook ads, no one engages with your Instagram ads, when no one clicks on your AdWords ad, when no one clicks on your display ads, the cost to show to more people goes up, and, as a result, these campaigns are much harder to make profitable and they’re shown to far fewer people.

So your exposure to the audience you want to reach is smaller and the cost to reach each next person and to drive each next action goes up. This, fundamentally, is because…

  • The audience that you’re trying to reach hasn’t heard of you before. They don’t know who you are.
  • They don’t know, trust, or like you or your company product, they don’t click. They don’t click. They don’t buy. They don’t share. They don’t like.

They don’t do all the engagement things that would drive this high cost per click down, and, because of that, your campaigns suffer and struggle.

I see so many marketers who think like this, who say yes to new company campaigns that start with an advertising-first approach. I want to be clear, there are some exceptions to the rule. I have seen some brand new companies that fit a certain mold do very well with Instagram advertising for certain types of products that appeal to that audience and don’t need a previously existing brand association. I’ve seen some players in the Google AdWords market do okay with this, some local businesses, some folks in areas where people don’t expect to have knowledge and awareness of a brand already in the space where they’re trying to discover them.

So it’s not the case always that this fails, but very often, often enough that I’m calling this the number one reason I see paid ads fail.

The solution

There’s only one solution and it’s not pretty. The solution is…

You have to get known to your audience before you pour money into advertising.

Meaning you need to invest in organic channels — content or SEO or press and PR or sponsorships or events, what have you, anything that can get your brand name and the names of your product out there.

Brand advertising, in fact, can work for this. So television brand advertising, folks have noticed that TV brand advertising often drives the cost per click down and drives engagement and click-through rates up, because people have heard of you and they know who you are. Magazine and offline advertising works like this. Sometimes even display advertising can work this way.

The second option is to…

Advertise primarily or exclusively to an audience that already has experience with you.

The way you can do this is through systems like Google’s retargeting and remarketing platforms. You can do the same thing with Facebook, through custom audiences of email addresses that you upload, same thing with Instagram, same thing with Twitter. You can target people who specifically only follow the accounts that you already own and control. Through these, you can get better engagement, better click-through rate, better conversion rate and drive down that cost per click and reach a broader audience.

But if you don’t do these things first, a lot of times these types of investments fall flat on their face, and a lot of marketers, to be honest, and agencies and consultants lose their jobs as a result. I don’t want that to happen to you. So invest in these first or find the niches where advertising can work for a first-time product. You’re going to be a lot happier.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Writers: It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth

This week is for our professional writers — whether you’re a freelancer or you work for a bigger organization. We’re tired of you missing out on the great gigs and the plum jobs, while you watch people zoom past you who can hardly type The Cat on the Mat. Poverty is overrated. Let’s get you
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New Findings Show Google Organic Clicks Shifting to Paid

Posted by Brian_W

On the Wayfair SEO team, we keep track of our non-branded click curves: the average click-through rate (CTR) for each ranking position. This helps us accurately evaluate the potential opportunity of keyword clusters.

Over the last two years, the total share of organic clicks on page one of our e-commerce SERPs has dropped 25% on desktop and 55% on mobile.

For the ad-heavy non-local SERPs that we work in, paid ads are likely now earning nearly the same percentage of clicks as organic results — a staggering change from most of the history of Google.

Organic CTR loses 25% of click share on desktop, 55% on mobile

Looking at 2015 vs 2017 data for all keywords ranking organically on the first page, we’ve seen a dramatic change in CTR. Below we’ve normalized our actual CTR on a 1–10 scale, representing a total drop of 25% of click share on desktop and 55% on mobile.

Organic receives 25% less desktop CTR and 55% less mobile CTR compared to two years ago.

The much larger drop on mobile is particularly relevant because we’ve seen large traffic shifts to mobile over the last two years as well. The overall percentage drop plays out somewhat similarly across the first page of results; however, the top four were most heavily impacted.

The first four organic results were most heavily impacted by the CTR shift from organic to paid.

About the data

It’s important to note that this type of CTR change is not true for every SERP. This data is only applicable to e-commerce intent search queries, where ads and PLAs are on nearly every query.

We gather the impression, click, and rank data from Search Console. While Search Console data isn’t quantitatively correct, it does appear to be directionally correct for us (if we see clicks double in Search Console, we also see organic Google traffic double in our analytics), site improvements that lead to meaningful CTR gains appear to be reflected in Search Console, we can roughly verify impressions via ad data, and we can confirm the accuracy of rank. For purposes of this data pull, we excluded any keywords that Search Console reported as a non-integer rank (such as ranking 1.2). We have thousands of page one keywords, including many large head terms comprising millions of combined clicks, which gives us a lot of data for each ranking position.

We remove all branded queries from the data, which hugely skews click curves.

It’s important to note that paid ads are not getting all the clicks that organic is not. In addition to the small number of people who click beyond the first page, a surprising number do not click at all. Our best guess is that all ads combined now get about the same percentage of clicks (for our results) as all organic results combined.

Why is this happening?

It’s no secret to SEOs who work on transactional keywords why we no longer gain as large a share of clicks for our best rankings. We suspect the primary causes are the following:

  • Ads serving on more queries
  • More ads per query
  • Larger ads, with more space given to each ad
  • Google Shopping (which show up on more queries, list more products per query, and take up more space)
  • Subtler ad labeling, making it less obvious that an ad is an ad

At Wayfair, we’ve seen Google Shopping results appear on more and more search queries over the last year. Using Stat Search Analytics, we can track the growth in queries serving Google Shopping results (modified by search volume to give a qualitative visibility score) across the 25,000 keywords we track daily on mobile and desktop. The overall share of voice of Google Shopping has grown nearly 60% in the last year.

Number of transactional queries serving Google Shopping has grown nearly 60% in the last year.

On top of this, we’re often seeing four PPC ads for a typical non-branded commercial term, in addition to the Google Shopping results.

And with the expanded size of ads on mobile, almost none of our queries show anything other than ads without scrolling:

This great image from Edwords shows the steady growth in percent of the desktop page consumed by ads for a query that has only three ad results. We go from seeing five organic results above the scroll, to just one. In more recent years we’ve seen this size growth explode on mobile as well.

At the same time that ads have grown, the labeling of ads has become increasingly subtle. In a 2015 study, Ofcom found that half of adults don’t recognize ads in Google, and about 70% of teenagers didn’t recognize Google ads — and ad labeling has become substantially less obvious since then. For most of its history, Google ads were labeled by a large colored block that was intuitively separate from the non-ad results, though sometimes not visible on monitors with a higher brightness setting.

2000 – Shaded background around all ads:

2010 – Shaded background still exists around ads:

2014 – No background; yellow box label next to each ad (and ads take up a lot more space):

2017 – Yellow box changed to green, the same color as the URL it’s next to (and ads take up even more space):

2017 – Green box changed to a thin green outline the same color as the URL:

What to do about it

The good news is that this is impacting everyone in e-commerce equally, and all those search clicks are still happening — in other words, those users haven’t gone away. The growth in the number of searches each year means that you probably aren’t seeing huge losses in organic traffic; instead, it will show as small losses or anemic growth. The bad news is that it will cost you — as well as your competitors — more money to capture the same overall share of search traffic.

A strong search marketing strategy has always involved organic, paid search, and PLA combined. Sites optimizing for all search channels are already well-positioned to capture search traffic regardless of ad changes to the SERPs: if SEO growth slows, then PLA and paid search growth speeds up. As real estate for one channel shrinks, real estate for others grows.

If you haven’t been strongly invested in search ads or PLAs, then the Chinese proverb on the best time to plant a tree applies perfectly:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

With a similar percentage of clicks going to paid and organic, your investment in each should be similar (unless, of course, you have some catching up to do with one channel).

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SearchCap: Google AMP updates, SEO content & paid search clicks

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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Paid Social for Content Marketing Launches – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KaneJamison

Stuck in a content marketing rut? Relying on your existing newsletter, social followers, or email outreach won’t do your launches justice. Boosting your signal with paid social both introduces your brand to new audiences and improves your launch’s traffic and results. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we’re welcoming back our good friend Kane Jamison to highlight four straightforward, actionable tactics you can start using ASAP.

Paid social for content marketing launches

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. My name is Kane. I’m the founder of a content marketing agency here in Seattle called Content Harmony, and we do a lot of content marketing projects where we use paid social to launch them and get better traffic and results.

So I spoke about this, this past year at MozCon, and what I want to do today is share some of those tactics with you and help you get started with launching your content with some paid traction and not just relying on your email outreach or maybe your own existing email newsletter and social followers.

Especially for a lot of companies that are just getting started with content marketing, that audience development component is really important. A lot of people just don’t have a significant market share of their industry subscribed to their newsletter. So it’s great to use paid social in order to reach new people, get them over to your most important content projects, or even just get them over to your week-to-week blog content.

Social teaser content

So the first thing I want to start with is expanding a little bit beyond just your average image ad. A lot of social networks, especially Facebook, are promoting video heavily nowadays. You can use that to get a lot cheaper engagement than you can from a typical image ad. If you’ve logged in to your Facebook feed lately, you’ve probably noticed that aside from birth announcements, there’s a lot of videos filling up the feed. So as an advertiser, if you want to blend in well with that, using video as a teaser or a sampler for the content that you’re producing is a great way to kind of look natural and look like you belong in the user’s feed.

So different things you can do include:

  • Short animated videos explaining what the project is and why you did it.
  • Maybe doing talking head videos with some of your executives or staff or marketing team, just talking on screen with whatever in the background about the project you created and kind of drumming up interest to actually get people over to the site.

So that can be really great for team recognition if you’re trying to build thought leadership in your space. It’s a great way to introduce the face of your team members that might be speaking at industry conferences and events. It’s a great way to just get people recognizing their name or maybe just help them feel closer to your company because they recognize their voice and face.

So everybody’s instant reaction, of course, is, “I don’t have the budget for video.” That’s okay. You don’t need to be a videography expert to create decent social ads. There’s a lot of great tools out there.

  • Soapbox by Wistia is a great one, that’s been released recently, that allows you to do kind of a webcam combined with your browser type of video. There are also tools like…
  • Bigvu.tv
  • Shakr
  • Promo, which is a tool by a company called Slidely, I think.

All of those tools are great ways to create short, 20-second, 60-second types of videos. They let you create captions. So if you’re scrolling through a social feed and you see an autoplay video, there’s a good chance that the audio on that is turned off, so you can create captions to let people know what the video is about if it’s not instantly obvious from the video itself. So that’s a great way to get cheaper distribution than you might get from your typical image ad, and it’s really going to stick out to users because most other companies aren’t spending the time to do that.

Lookalike audiences

Another really valuable tactic is to create lookalike audiences from your best customers. Now, you can track your best customers in a couple of ways:

  • You could have a pixel, a Facebook pixel or another network pixel on your website that just tracks the people that have been to the site a number of times or that have been through the shopping cart at a certain dollar value.
  • We can take our email list and use the emails of customers that have ordered from us or just the emails of customers that are on our newsletter that seem like they open up every newsletter and they really like our content.

We can upload those into a custom audience in the social network of our choice and then create what’s called a lookalike audience. In this case, I’d recommend what’s called a “one percent lookalike audience.” So if you’re targeting people in the US, it means the one percent of people in the US that appear most like your audience. So if your audience is men ages 35 to 45, typically that are interested in a specific topic, the lookalike audience will probably be a lot of other men in a similar age group that like similar topics.

So Facebook is making that choice, which means you may or may not get the perfect audience right from the start. So it’s great to test additional filters on top of the default lookalike audience. So, for example, you could target people by household income. You could target people by additional interests that may or may not be obvious from the custom audience, just to make sure you’re only reaching the users that are interested in your topic. Whatever it might be, if this is going to end up being three or four million people at one percent of the country, it’s probably good to go ahead and filter that down to a smaller audience that’s a little bit closer to your exact target that you want to reach. So excellent way to create brand awareness with that target audience.

Influencers

The next thing I’d like you to test is getting your ads and your content in front of influencers in your space. That could mean…

  • Bloggers
  • Journalists
  • Or it could just mean people like page managers in Facebook, people that have access to a Facebook page that can share updates. Those could be social media managers. That could be bloggers. That could even be somebody running the page for the local church or a PTA group. Regardless, those people are probably going to have a lot of contacts, be likely to share things with friends and family or followers on social media.

Higher cost but embedded value

When you start running ads to this type of group, you’re going to find that it costs a little bit more per click. If you’re used to paying $ 0.50 to $ 1.00 per click, you might end up paying $ 1.00 or $ 2.00 per click to reach this audience. That’s okay. There’s a lot more embedded value with this audience than the typical user, because they’re likely, on average, to have more reach, more followers, more influence.

Test share-focused CTAs

It’s worth testing share focus call to actions. What that means is encouraging people to share this with some people they know that might be interested. Post it to their page even is something worth testing. It may or may not work every time, but certainly valuable to test.

Filters

So the way we recommend reaching most of these users is through something like a job title filter. Somebody says they’re a blogger, says they’re an editor-in-chief, that’s the clearest way to reach them. They may not always have that as their job title, so you could also do employers. That’s another good example.

I recommend combining that with broad interests. So if I am targeting journalists because I have a new research piece out, it’s great for us to attach interests that are relevant to our space. If we’re in health care, we might target people interested in health care and the FDA and other big companies in the space that they’d likely be following for updates. If we’re in fashion, we might just be selecting people that are fans of big brands, Nordstrom and others like that. Whatever it is, you can take this audience of a few hundred thousand or whatever it might be down to just a few thousand and really focus on the people that are most likely to be writing about or influential in your space.

Retarget non-subscribers

The fourth thing you can test is retargeting non-subscribers. So a big goal of content marketing is having those pop-ups or call to actions on the site to get people to download a bigger piece of content, download a checklist, whatever it might be so that we can get them on our email newsletter. There’s a lot of people that are going to click out of that. 90% to 95% of the people that visit your site or more probably aren’t going to take that call to action.

So what we can do is convert this into more of a social ad unit and just show the same messaging to the people that didn’t sign up on the site. Maybe they just hate pop-ups by default. They will never sign up for them. That’s okay. They might be more receptive to a lead ad in Facebook that says “subscribe” or “download” instead of something that pops up on their screen.

Keep testing new messaging

The other thing we can do is start testing new messages and new content. Maybe this offer wasn’t interesting to them because they don’t need that guide, but maybe they need your checklist instead, or maybe they’d just like your email drip series that has an educational component to it. So keep testing different types of messaging. Just because this one wasn’t valuable doesn’t mean your other content isn’t interesting to them, and it doesn’t mean they’re not interested in your email list.

Redo split tests from your site

We can keep testing messaging. So if we are testing messaging on our site, we might take the top two or three and test that messaging on ads. We might find that different messaging works better on social than it does on pop-ups or banners on the site. So it’s worth redoing split tests that seemed conclusive on your site because things might be different on the social media network.


So that’s it for today. What I’d love for you guys to do is if you have some great examples of targeting that’s worked for you, messaging that’s worked for you, or just other paid social tactics that have worked really well for your content marketing campaigns, I’d love to hear examples of that in the comments on the post, and we’d be happy to answer questions you guys have on how to actually get some of this stuff done. Whether it’s targeting questions, how to set up lookalike audiences, anything like that, we’d be happy to answer questions there as well.

So that’s it for me today. Thanks, Moz fans. We’ll see you next time.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SearchCap: Google menu list, Bing popular content & paid mistakes

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

The post SearchCap: Google menu list, Bing popular content & paid mistakes appeared first on Search Engine Land.



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Compare 9 paid search campaign management tools

Marketing Land’s “Enterprise Paid Media Campaign Management Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” examines the market for paid search and other media campaign management platforms and the considerations involved in implementing this software into your business. This 50-page report…



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No, Paid Search Audiences Won’t Replace Keywords

Posted by PPCKirk

I have been chewing on a keyword vs. audience targeting post for roughly two years now. In that time we have seen audience targeting grow in popularity (as expected) and depth.

“Popularity” is somewhat of an understatement here. I would go so far as to say that I’ve heard it lauded in messianic-like “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” reverential awe by some paid search marketers. as if paid search were lacking a heartbeat before the life-giving audience targeting had arrived and 1-2-3-clear’ed it into relevance.

However, I would argue that despite audience targeting’s popularity (and understandable success), we have also seen the revelation of some weaknesses as well. It turns out it’s not quite the heroic, rescue-the-captives targeting method paid searchers had hoped it would be.

The purpose of this post is to argue against the notion that audience targeting can replace the keyword in paid search.

Now, before we get into the throes of keyword philosophy, I’d like to reduce the number of angry comments this post receives by acknowledging a crucial point.

It is not my intention in any way to set up a false dichotomy. Yes, I believe the keyword is still the most valuable form of targeting for a paid search marketer, but I also believe that audience targeting can play a valuable complementary role in search bidding.

In fact, as I think about it, I would argue that I am writing this post in response to what I have heard become a false dichotomy. That is, that audience targeting is better than keyword targeting and will eventually replace it.

I disagree with this idea vehemently, as I will demonstrate in the rest of this article.

One seasoned (age, not steak) traditional marketer’s point of view

The best illustration I’ve heard on the core weakness of audience targeting was from an older traditional marketer who has probably never accessed the Keyword Planner in his life.

“I have two teenage daughters.” He revealed, with no small amount of pride.

“They are within 18 months of each other, so in age demographic targeting they are the same person.”

“They are both young women, so in gender demographic targeting they are the same person.”

“They are both my daughters in my care, so in income demographic targeting they are the same person.”

“They are both living in my house, so in geographical targeting they are the same person.”

“They share the same friends, so in social targeting they are the same person.”

“However, in terms of personality, they couldn’t be more different. One is artistic and enjoys heels and dresses and makeup. The other loves the outdoors and sports, and spends her time in blue jeans and sneakers.”

If an audience-targeting marketer selling spring dresses saw them in his marketing list, he would (1) see two older high school girls with the same income in the same geographical area, (2) assume they are both interested in what he has to sell, and (3) only make one sale.

The problem isn’t with his targeting, the problem is that not all those forced into an audience persona box will fit.

In September of 2015, Aaron Levy (a brilliant marketing mind; go follow him) wrote a fabulously under-shared post revealing these weaknesses in another way: What You Think You Know About Your Customers’ Persona is Wrong

In this article, Aaron first bravely broaches the subject of audience targeting by describing how it is far from the exact science we all have hoped it to be. He noted a few ways that audience targeting can be erroneous, and even *gasp* used data to formulate his conclusions.

It’s OK to question audience targeting — really!

Let me be clear: I believe audience targeting is popular because there genuinely is value in it (it’s amazing data to have… when it’s accurate!). The insights we can get about personas, which we can then use to power our ads, are quite amazing and powerful.

So, why the heck am I droning on about audience targeting weaknesses? Well, I’m trying to set you up for something. I’m trying to get us to admit that audience targeting itself has some weaknesses, and isn’t the savior of all digital marketing that some make it out to be, and that there is a tried-and-true solution that fits well with demographic targeting, but is not replaced by it. It is a targeting that we paid searchers have used joyfully and successfully for years now.

It is the keyword.

Whereas audience targeting chafes under the law of averages (i.e., “at some point, someone in my demographic targeted list has to actually be interested in what I am selling”), keyword targeting shines in individual-revealing user intent.

Keyword targeting does something an audience can never, ever, ever do…

Keywords: Personal intent powerhouses

A keyword is still my favorite form of targeting in paid search because it reveals individual, personal, and temporal intent. Those aren’t just three buzzwords I pulled out of the air because I needed to stretch this already obesely-long post out further. They are intentional, and worth exploring.

Individual

A keyword is such a powerful targeting method because it is written (or spoken!) by a single person. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s rare to have more than one person huddled around the computer shouting at it. Keywords are generally from the mind of one individual, and because of that they have frightening potential.

Remember, audience targeting is based off of assumptions. That is, you’re taking a group of people who “probably” think the same way in a certain area, but does that mean they cannot have unique tastes? For instance, one person preferring to buy sneakers with another preferring to buy heels?

Keyword targeting is demographic-blind.

It doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love me… err, I mean, it doesn’t care about your demographic, just about what you’re individually interested in.

Personal

The next aspect of keywords powering their targeting awesomeness is that they reveal personal intent. Whereas the “individual” aspect of keyword targeting narrows our targeting from a group of people to a single person, the “personal” aspect of keyword targeting goes into the very mind of that individual.

Don’t you wish there was a way to market to people in which you could truly discern the intentions of their hearts? Wouldn’t that be a powerful method of targeting? Well, yes — and that is keyword targeting!

Think about it: a keyword is a form of communication. It is a person typing or telling you what is on their mind. For a split second, in their search, you and they are as connected through communication as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson on the first phone call. That person is revealing to you what’s on her mind, and that’s a power which cannot be underestimated.

When a person tells Google they want to know “how does someone earn a black belt,” that is telling your client — the Jumping Judo Janes of Jordan — this person genuinely wants to learn more about their services and they can display an ad that matches that intent (Ready for that Black Belt? It’s Not Hard, Let Us Help!). Paid search keywords officiate the wedding of personal intent with advertising in a way that previous marketers could only dream of. We aren’t finding random people we think might be interested based upon where they live. We are responding to a person telling us they are interested.

Temporal

The final note of keyword targeting that cannot be underestimated, is the temporal aspect. Anyone worth their salt in marketing can tell you “timing is everything”. With keyword targeting, the timing is inseparable from the intent. When is this person interested in learning about your Judo classes? At the time they are searching, NOW!

You are not blasting your ads into your users lives, interrupting them as they go about their business or family time hoping to jumpstart their interest by distracting them from their activities. You are responding to their query, at the very time they are interested in learning more.

Timing. Is. Everything.

The situation settles into stickiness

Thus, to summarize: a “search” is done when an individual reveals his/her personal intent with communication (keywords/queries) at a specific time. Because of that, I maintain that keyword targeting trumps audience targeting in paid search.

Paid search is an evolving industry, but it is still “search,” which requires communication, which requires words (until that time when the emoji takes over the English language, but that’s okay because the rioting in the streets will have gotten us first).

Of course, we would be remiss in ignoring some legitimate questions which inevitably arise. As ideal as the outline I’ve laid out before you sounds, you’re probably beginning to formulate something like the following four questions.

  • What about low search volume keywords?
  • What if the search engines kill keyword targeting?
  • What if IoT monsters kill search engines?
  • What about social ads?

We’ll close by discussing each of these four questions.

Low search volume terms (LSVs)

Low search volume keywords stink like poo (excuse the rather strong language there). I’m not sure if there is any data on this out there (if so, please share it below), but I have run into low search volume terms far more in the past year than when I first started managing PPC campaigns in 2010.

I don’t know all the reasons for this; perhaps it’s worth another blog post, but the reality is it’s getting harder to be creative and target high-value long-tail keywords when so many are getting shut off due to low search volume.

This seems like a fairly smooth way being paved for Google/Bing to eventually “take over” (i.e., “automate for our good”) keyword targeting, at the very least for SMBs (small-medium businesses) where LSVs can be a significant problem. In this instance, the keyword would still be around, it just wouldn’t be managed by us PPCers directly. Boo.

Search engine decrees

I’ve already addressed the power search engines have here, but I will be the first to admit that, as much as I like keyword targeting and as much as I have hopefully proven how valuable it is, it still would be a fairly easy thing for Google or Bing to kill off completely. Major boo.

Since paid search relies on keywords and queries and language to work, I imagine this would look more like an automated solution (think DSAs and shopping), in which they make keyword targeting into a dynamic system that works in conjunction with audience targeting.

While this was about a year and a half ago, it is worth noting that at Hero Conference in London, Bing Ads’ ebullient Tor Crockett did make the public statement that Bing at the time had no plans to sunset the keyword as a bidding option. We can only hope this sentiment remains, and transfers over to Google as well.

But Internet of Things (IoT) Frankenstein devices!

Finally, it could be that search engines won’t be around forever. Perhaps this will look like IoT devices such as Alexa that incorporate some level of search into them, but pull traffic away from using Google/Bing search bars. As an example of this in real life, you don’t need to ask Google where to find (queries, keywords, communication, search) the best price on laundry detergent if you can just push the Dash button, or your smart washing machine can just order you more without a search effort.

Image source

On the other hand, I still believe we’re a long way off from this in the same way that the freak-out over mobile devices killing personal computers has slowed down. That is, we still utilize our computers for education & work (even if personal usage revolves around tablets and mobile devices and IoT freaks-of-nature… smart toasters anyone?) and our mobile devices for queries on the go. Computers are still a primary source of search in terms of work and education as well as more intensive personal activities (vacation planning, for instance), and thus computers still rely heavily on search. Mobile devices are still heavily query-centered for various tasks, especially as voice search (still query-centered!) kicks in harder.

The social effect

Social is its own animal in a way, and why I believe it is already and will continue to have an effect on search and keywords (though not in a terribly worrisome way). Social definitely pulls a level of traffic from search, specifically in product queries. “Who has used this dishwasher before, any other recommendations?” Social ads are exploding in popularity as well, and in large part because they are working. People are purchasing more than they ever have from social ads and marketers are rushing to be there for them.

The flip side of this: a social and paid search comparison is apples-to-oranges. There are different motivations and purposes for using search engines and querying your friends.

Audience targeting works great in a social setting since that social network has phenomenally accurate and specific targeting for individuals, but it is the rare individual curious about the ideal condom to purchase who queries his family and friends on Facebook. There will always be elements of social and search that are unique and valuable in their own way, and audience targeting for social and keyword targeting for search complement those unique elements of each.

Idealism incarnate

Thus, it is my belief that as long as we have search, we will still have keywords and keyword targeting will be the best way to target — as long as costs remain low enough to be realistic for budgets and the search engines don’t kill keyword bidding for an automated solution.

Don’t give up, the keyword is not dead. Stay focused, and carry on with your match types!

I want to close by re-acknowledging the crucial point I opened with.

It has not been my intention in any way to set up a false dichotomy. In fact, as I think about it, I would argue that I am writing this in response to what I have heard become a false dichotomy. That is, that audience targeting is better than keyword targeting and will eventually replace it…

I believe the keyword is still the most valuable form of targeting for a paid search marketer, but I also believe that audience demographics can play a valuable complementary role in bidding.

A prime example that we already use is remarketing lists for search ads, in which we can layer on remarketing audiences in both Google and Bing into our search queries. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could someday do this with massive amounts of audience data? I’ve said this before, but were Bing Ads to use its LinkedIn acquisition to allow us to layer on LinkedIn audiences into our current keyword framework, the B2B angels would surely rejoice over us (Bing has responded, by the way, that something is in the works!).

Either way, I hope I’ve demonstrated that far from being on its deathbed, the keyword is still the most essential tool in the paid search marketer’s toolbox.

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