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Despite this, a survey conducted by Microsoft at the end of last year showed 59 per cent of small businesses which have a website do not have a current paid search campaign. That is incredible. For controlled bursts of marketing and the building of brand awareness, paid search can be a powerful tool.
However, it is very easy to get it wrong and fail to make the most of your spending. Here are the essential rules for highly effective paid search.
Measure success through ROI
It is great that your paid search campaign has upped your traffic by 700 per cent. However, if the increased number of visitors has failed to up your conversions by a similarly astounding figure then some of that budget has been wasted.
Return on investment (ROI) is the only measure of success. If your chosen keywords are bringing vast quantities of people to your pages but these are not relevant or interested individuals then your campaign is not working.
Similarly, if your paid search spend is seeing sales soar, then make sure you increase the budget on your campaign and milk every prospective penny.
Seek sustainable goals
In paid search, the way in which you use your budget is key. If you spend all your money bidding on hugely popular and therefore expensive words, you are unlikely to have maximised the potential of your investment.
Spending X pounds securing 50 visitors who typed in ‘car insurance’ is fine. However, if that X pounds could have paid for 150 visitors who typed in ‘car cover’, then you have lost 100 potential customers through overly-ambitious keywords.
Managing your money effectively and sustainably is essential to long-term success.
Do not use paid search in isolation
You know all that stuff I said at the beginning about how paid search rocks? Well, it is all true, paid search is a really useful and effective tool when used well.
However, the best online campaigns will not simply rely on paid search but use SEO as well to ensure the brand is getting the maximum coverage.
Many, many searchers trust the organic results far more than the paid ads. That does not mean paid ads are ineffective (returns on paid search can be immense), it means that a company wanting to appeal to the widest possible group will work on both.
Use analytics tools
Not using the various analytical tools on offer is like not reading the instructions that come with your new high-tech gadget. You can probably still make it work but you won’t know how to get it to do all the cool stuff you bought it for in the first place.
If you could know important, useful and relevant stuff about where your visitors are coming from and what they do on your site, why would you choose not to?
Taking the time to understand the behaviour and actions of your consumers will help you hone all your online marketing efforts. Not to take advantage of the many free tools out there is crazy.
Consider consumer concerns
Obviously paid search has to be relevant if it is to be effective. However, before bidding on certain keywords and phrases, be sure you are targeting a consumer who wants to hear your marketing message.
To pick an extreme example, if you are a free-trade coffee seller, displaying adverts when a consumer searches for “fair-trade coffee seller” may not leave that searcher feeling positive about your brand.
Newspapers have been criticised for bidding on keywords such as “Madeleine McCann”, debate has raged over the ethics of letting pro-life groups bid on words such as “termination”. Consumers are always on the watch for acts of overt cynicism and will react negatively if your advert is insensitively positioned.
Bear in mind that with everything you do online, the end result is a human being, sitting behind a keyboard developing an opinion on your brand.