Four top tips from search marketing experts

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The search is on.

We asked four of Vertical Leap’s experts for their #1 top tip in relation to search marketing. Here’s what they came up with:

“Focus on experiential search”

Lee Wilson, head of SEO

People are increasingly looking for the offline experience online, eg. support, conversation, education, comparison etc. These needs are progressively being handled online with marketing tactics such as:

  • Chatbots;
  • FAQs content;
  • Community resources;
  • User generated content.

To make use of these marketing tactics, you need to ensure you:

  • Have a good understanding of your audiences;
  • Can effectively target these audiences;
  • Use data to personalise content.

Evidence that you are making progress with improving experiential search typically fall into:

  • Shorter buying cycles;
  • Increased engagement;
  • Better conversion rates, click through rates and micro/macro goal completions.

You will be able to see early indications that the actions you are taking are having the desired impact when social engagement increases, leading indicators such as impressions grow in key topic areas, and brand awareness and exposure to new audience builds momentum.

“Use automated bidding systems with caution”

Andy King, senior PPC specialist

Google Ads are continuing to develop and push their automated bidding systems which include Target CPA, Target ROAS and Maximise Conversions models. With the proposed benefit of increasing your ROI and increasing management efficiency, they seem like a no-brainer. But a word of caution – machine learning bidding models do not understand context such as high-quality leads vs low and high margin sales vs low.

In our experience, we see automated bidding working fantastically well in certain campaigns but equally not matching up to well optimised manual strategies in others. So how do you know if automated bidding is right for your campaign?

As with many things in digital marketing, a good old fashion A/B test is the best approach. The experiment feature in Google Ads allows you to adopt one bidding model for a segment of your campaign and another for the rest. Typically, we would use a 50/50 split – half of the traffic flowing through an automated model and the other half with manual bid allocations. However, your main measurement of success is likely to be average figures such as cost per conversion. You can therefore split the traffic more tentatively (25/75) if you want to avoid risking already high performing campaigns.

“Use attribution reports to properly measure your PPC”

James Faulkner, head of PPC

PPC conversion attribution is often over-looked and under-valued. Attribution reports show you the paths people take to complete a conversion and are crucial for correctly reporting on the full value of PPC activity. Understanding natural browsing patterns and user journeys are pivotal in understanding the role PPC plays throughout the funnel.

By its nature, PPC is a very tangible channel, yet because of this many still narrowly focus on final conversion points and attribute credit via last click metrics or isolated channel views. Instead, attribution gives credit for clicks along their journey and across different devices, where people begin their research and discover your brand and products on mobile, but later return perhaps via a branded search on a different device or channel altogether.

Google has also very recently extended the reporting of cross device conversions into all attribution reports - previously this was only shown in Device reports. This will help with previous inconsistencies. Using non last click attribution models is a good first step in looking at contribution but take a further step back and consider how important PPC is across the entire funnel exploiting the much greater range of metrics which are available.

“Don’t take SEO data at face value”

Stuart Clark, SEO specialist

In the SEO industry, we’ve traditionally been measured by rankings - how close your website appears to the top of the search results when you search for a specific keyword.

Although rankings are important, how this is measured makes it a flawed metric. The most obvious example of this is personalisation. Search results are tailored based on what search engines know about you, meaning everybody may see you in different positions.

Google Search Console offers a solution to this in the form of average positions. These show where you’ve been found for each keyword, averaged over each time you’ve appeared.

Even this is flawed though. When starting a new campaign, it’s likely somebody has manually checked where they rank. If they do this often, Google may show their website higher than it appears for other users. When SEO starts, more people find you, but initially in a lower position which causes your average position to drop, despite improved performance. Geo-targeting also causes confusion, because rankings from searchers outside your location may also skew your average position.

My tip is to not take data at face value, and drill into it to plan your campaign more effectively. Google Search Console lets you see how many sightings and clicks each keyword has generated. At Vertical Leap, we use Apollo Insights to obtain this data automatically, learn which keywords are underperforming, and identify those that will deliver increases in traffic, quickly.

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