snowstormpicAs I sit here working on client campaigns in the latest Chicago “polar vortex,” I started thinking about how important it is to work through the “flurry” and focus on the eye of the storm. In search engine marketing (SEM) you must have an ad presence for the terms that searchers are using to take action on your site. If you don’t, your competition will — and you’ll be blown over.

If you do a Google search for “SEM,” it will leave you inundated with metrics and various arguments for their level of importance. For instance, you want to know that your average cost per click is low, and that you are getting a good amount of traffic to your site. But as helpful as these numbers can be, the goal of your SEM spend should be for the searcher to ultimately take action on your site — meaning you need to view these metrics in the context of your overarching strategy. You shouldn’t discount phrases that may be a little higher in cost per click if they are the ones most likely to generate more actions on your site. The best way to make sure you are spending on the correct “action terms” is to build your account with a campaign structure that allows you to easily monitor what phrases and groups of phrases are prompting the most interaction.

How to Make Sure You Are Spending On the Right Terms

1. Identify the goals of the campaign. What action do you want the searcher to take on your site? Do you want them to pick up the phone and call you? Do you want them to leave their information? Is the goal to have them perform a particular search on your site?

2. Determine the phrases that searchers are using to interact with your site. Set up goals within Google Analytics and filter your traffic by paid search. Once you’ve allowed enough time for traffic to accumulate, you can then begin to analyze your keywords. Set your date range to at least 30 days so you have enough data to look at. Then you can sort out your SEM traffic according to goal completions, time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate. You want to evaluate the overall health of the interaction on the site for a particular term. These numbers are available in the AdWords interface, but you will want to take a look at the bigger picture in Analytics as well.

3. Structure your SEM account in a logical manner. This will allow you to shift your budget toward phrases that are hitting the goals and generating the interactions you are looking for. Tightly themed ad groups with representative ad copy will allow you to easily make sure you have a presence for your goal-generating phrases.4. Always be testing. SEM is a competition, and if you can identify strategies that make your product stand out while still providing a positive user experience, then that will benefit the goals of your site.

5. Have fun with it. Change up your ad copy and look for new ways to aid conversions. SEM is always changing, and you need to be able to evolve with it.

warm fireplaceIt is always going to be a multi-step process to achieve your SEM goals. It doesn’t happen overnight. You will need to be able to determine what terms searchers are using to interact with your site, eventually marrying this knowledge with your specific industry expertise and the capabilities of your digital marketing company. You are the expert in your business, and communication of this knowledge to your agency will benefit everyone.

Meet Noel Sutcliff

Noel Sutcliff has been doing paid search for over nine years. He is a student of the game and has his ears open to meet the goals of his clients. In his free time he enjoys reading and staying off the grid.