Search Marketing 101: How to Track and Measure Your PPC ROI

Search Marketing 101: How to Track and Measure Your PPC ROI

Measuring your success and return on investment (ROI) should be a key part of your search marketing strategy. Measurement helps you to understand if you are meeting your goals, forms a benchmark for future budgeting and justifies your marketing spend. Furthermore, effective measurement helps you to optimize the elements of your campaigns on the fly.

Use these insights and tips for tracking and optimizing your search marketing investments.

From Impressions to Conversions: A Primer

Before diving in, it’s worth taking the time to review the various opportunities for tracking search marketing success. Paid search networks offer plentiful opportunities to measure the success of your campaigns. The most basic measurements include:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad appears during a campaign.
  • Click-throughs: The number of times your ad is clicked on.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): The number of click-throughs divided by the number of impressions.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): The cost of each ad click-through.

These metrics are great at giving you a partial picture of success. But for a more comprehensive view, you also need to understand how to track conversions.

Conversion tracking helps you measure campaign ROI by counting the type and number of specified activities consumers complete on your website. How conversion rates are defined can vary between campaigns.

For example, for an online retailer with the goal of increasing sales, their conversion rate may simply be the number of clicks that led to a sale. For a B2B that is trying to generate leads, the conversion rate may be the number of people who downloaded a white paper or subscribed to a newsletter.

In general, tracking the following metrics can help you assess conversion rates:

  • Destination URL: The number of visits to a specific web page.
  • Events: The completion of a specified action such as subscribing to a blog.
  • Duration: The amount of time user spends engaging on a web page.
  • Pages viewed per visit: The number of web pages a consumer visits.

It’s important to note that once you have an idea of how you want to track conversions, you will need to use your search network tools to define and track those conversions.

Dealing with a Longer Conversion Cycle

One of the strengths of paid search is the ability to connect a click to a sale, and for e-commerce businesses selling products to consumers, tracking is often one-to-one. However, for B2B businesses, the conversion cycle can be much longer. The path a customer takes from initial research, to comparison shopping, to becoming a lead, and ultimately, to converting can be a long one.

Dealing with a longer conversion cycle can still be done. Target customers with appropriate messaging based on their current stage in the cycle. Understand that an early-stage click that doesn’t result in a lead may still have value. Setting expectations and having a long-term strategy can help you overcome this hurdle.

One-to-one conversion tracking is difficult for B2Bs when customers are interacting with your business through many channels and on different devices. To deal with this challenge, make sure that you have systems in place through your customer relationship management (CRM) system and call-tracking software to help tie everything together and give you the clearest view of how paid search is performing. When you know which campaigns are doing best (or worst), you can optimize and invest accordingly.

Determining Your Key Performance Indicators 

To track success, you must set relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of your campaign planning process. KPIs align to your specific business goals and will help you select the right ways to measure success and to quickly see what’s working and what’s not in your campaigns.

For example, if your goal is to build your customer base, your KPIs may define the percentage of new customers and conversion rates. If you want to increase call volume, you can set KPIs that measure increases in the number of calls and call conversions.

Dealing with Attribution

Even with advanced analytics and lead tracking in place, many businesses deal with the challenge of attributing everything correctly. An attribution model is a way to give credit for leads to different touchpoints in the conversion path. Choosing the right one for your business is important.

The most common attribution model is last click, but that doesn’t make it the best for your business. The last click model assigns credit to whichever channel drove the user to convert (for instance, if a customer clicks an ad and then converts on the site). But what if a user clicks an ad, leaves the site, and comes back a week later via an organic search?

Put a model in place to help you determine what channels are driving your leads. For B2B businesses with long sales cycles, multi-touch models like time decay make the most sense because they account for many interactions with different channels over time.

Strategies for Targeting the Entire Conversion Funnel

Paid search can play a role throughout the conversion cycle. It’s easy to focus efforts on the bottom of the funnel because that’s where most sales and leads come from. Such ads are valuable, but you can attract so many more potential customers by also targeting people in higher stages of the funnel. This is especially important for B2B businesses.

Target customers at each stage of the conversion funnel with different types of ads.

  • High: Customers high in the funnel are far from converting. They are often unfamiliar with your brand and what you offer. To target these customers, use non-branded search and display.
  • Mid: Customers in the middle of the funnel are aware of your brand but are still researching all the options. These customers may respond best to more specific non-branded search keywords and some branded search.
  • Low: Customers low in the funnel are interested in your brand and are ready to convert. Target them with remarketing and branded search.

To learn more about building your KPIs, measuring ROI, and more, download The growth marketer’s guide to search.

Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Organic SEO vs. Local SEO: Which Do I Need?

Each of these digital marketing disciplines — organic SEO and local SEO — involves boosting online visibility for businesses and their websites. In other words, both strategies focus on making websites easy to find when potential customers search for relevant products and services of a business. Each discipline comes with its own distinct strategies and techniques and, when strategies for organic and local SEO dovetail with one another, they can become even more powerful.

Organic SEO

Components of organic SEO include selecting relevant keywords for a website that have reasonable levels of traffic with achievable levels of competition. These keywords are then used in page and blog copy, tags (title, meta description and H), internal links and so forth to send signals to the search engines about what keywords are important on that URL in particular and the site, overall.

Optimizing for keywords, though, is not enough. It’s important to also have a diverse set of quality inbound links pointing to a site. In addition to using common SEO tactics to improve your website’s ranking, you should also ensure that your site is well structured and easy to use. Equally as important, make sure the website aids in converting traffic into sales.

As part of organic SEO, it’s important to rank well for keywords that are appropriately paired with the locations of brick and mortar stores, if applicable, so strategically using geotargeted keywords (for example, Jacksonville blue widgets) is crucial. And, this is the point at which organic SEO and local SEO intersect.

Local SEO

A primary goal of local SEO is to have a website place well in the Google Maps local pack for relevant keywords. Not all keywords trigger a local map — only the ones that Google determines have local intent, such as for a pizza parlor or an attorney, a dentist or an ice cream stand.

When a local map does appear for a term, Google is currently showing three listings (the three-pack) and then a “More places” link. Ideally, you want your site to appear in the three-pack. To help make that happen, local SEO strategies include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Google My Business (GMB) optimization
  • Google reviews
  • Citation strategies, which involves verifying name, address and phone information wherever listed online, and correcting errors whenever possible

Local SEO became a unique discipline in 2005 by starting to distinguish itself as a separate branch of SEO. That’s when Google released its Local Business Center and then combined that center with its Google Maps. Although, as searchers, we now take this convenience for granted, that’s when we began to be able to access store information, including hours and contact information, with driving directions and more in one spot.

You can find more information about local SEO strategies here.

Strategic Synergy

Although organic SEO and local SEO each have unique features, commonalities exist, including:

  • Keyword research is essential for both, with organic SEO requiring a broader strategy and local SEO focusing on more niche ones.
  • Location pages on a website play a key role in both disciplines, as they can appear in search engine results pages (SERPs) as well provide key signals to help the site appear in Google three-packs for relevant keywords.
  • Online optimization is important for each, with NAP consistency central to local SEO.
  • Schema, a specialized form of HTML coding, helps Google “understand” the purposes of content; one area of specialization is for NAP, as one example, while another is for online reviews shared on the site.

Reverse Engineering Rankings

To rank well organically, it’s important to create keyword-rich content that engages readers, and to optimize back end tags and new URLs, to steadily increase the number of inbound links and so forth. Creating a quality user experience is also important, which includes (but is not limited to) boosting page speed. You can find more about organic SEO ranking factors in 2018 at Moz.com.

Ranking factors for local search, though, are somewhat different, focused on “relevance, distance, and prominence,” according to Google. “These factors are combined to help find the best match for your search. For example, Google algorithms might decide that a business that’s farther away from your location is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer, and therefore rank it higher in local results.”

To become more relevant, it’s important to comprehensively provide local information about the business. That’s because, the more easily Google can match your business and site with prospects searching for your products or services, the more often this will likely happen.

Distance is an important factor in local search, and Google will look at geotargeted terms used in a searcher’s query and then compare potential search results and their distance from the person. If the searcher doesn’t use a location-specific term, Google will still use what is known about that location when offering up results.

Then there is prominence. Being a well-known brand never hurts. But, even if you’re not a well-established brand, you can build a quality online presence to boost your authority signals. This can include regularly getting Google reviews, building relevant links and citations and more.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

People new to SEO sometimes have misconceptions about local SEO. As one of the most common examples, they might associate “local” with step one and “organic” as a broader step two. In fact, the most powerful SEO campaigns focus on how these two disciplines can be used in tandem to gain the most powerful online presence possible, being found right where potential customers are searching.

So, as a final piece of advice, we recommend you create a customized SEO strategy for your site that, from its inception, includes a focus on both local SEO and organic SEO.

5 Unique Ways to Repurpose Old Blog Content

5 Unique Ways to Repurpose Old Blog Content

If you’re operating a unique niche business, and your website is packed with relevant articles relating to said business, then you should definitely be recycling your old content. A good content marketing plan consists of not only creating new content, but of recycling what you already have and putting a fresh, updated twist on it.

It’s important to revisit old content to help with improving your overall SEO. By restructuring your meta information and keywords, you can increase your chances of improving your overall ranking in SERPs (search engine results pages). Once you’ve updated the article’s date or added a note, you’ll be letting Google know that you’ve refreshed that content. Additionally, you can backlink to newer articles and improve your off-site SEO.

Other benefits include improving your blog overall and earning the trust of your customers by presenting them with high-quality, relevant information.

Here are a few ways you can repurpose your old content:

Use Old Articles to Create New Ones

This is one of the best ways to recycle your old content. The ideas are already right in front of you, but it’s up to you to make them new and fresh, while still educating your audience on a relevant topic. You might consider taking an article with several components (like a how-to or “5 ways”) and breaking down each component individually.

If a topic is still relevant and your customers are still interested in learning more about it, then repurposing old articles makes sense. If you have any articles in mind already that you know have performed really well, it might be best to start there.

Write a Follow-up

If you’re a pioneer in your industry, then you likely know what your customers are most interested in learning more about. Think of some of the more complicated or popular articles you’ve written and create a follow-up article that goes into more detail about the topic. Or, if you can think of a particular trend or component of your business that’s changed over time, you can revisit that article and discuss the transformation from then until now.

Always make sure to add a “part 2” so that your audience knows that you’re building off an older article. This also provides the added benefit of backlinking to the older article. Simply add in, “To view the original post, click here.”

Turn Blogs into Podcasts

Podcasts have become an important piece of marketing content for small businesses. They provide a great way to tell your business’s story and dive into more specific details about the most unique components of your business. Listening can also sometimes be more beneficial than reading and can create a more personalized feel for your customers.

Blogs are a great platform for both promoting podcasts, as well as finding information that can be used to create new podcasts. If you can, try and bring another employee on board to give the podcast a conversational feel. That way too, you can gather the opinions of others within your organization on various topics. This can also showcase to customers that your employees are educated on the different elements of your business.

Create Infographics

It’s never a bad idea to take a visual approach when creating content. Infographics present your audience with a clear visualization of the content that you’re providing. To do this, you’ll want to pick apart an old blog, breaking it down piece by piece into smaller sections. Then you can replace some of that text with pictures. Try to emphasize interesting stats, facts, quotes and side-by-side comparisons where you can.

Create an FAQ Page from Old Articles

Rather than creating a new FAQ article, look back at some of your older content and create an FAQ page based on that information. Is there a topic that you’re often asked about by your customers? Or perhaps certain components of your business’s products or services that are particularly confusing? Start there and create blurbs that answer those lingering questions. This may also help improve your ranking in voice search results, as voice queries entail longer queries and keywords (like questions).

Rather than constantly look to create new content, take a step back and look at some of your old content. You’ll be surprised how efficient and easy it can be to breathe new life into old content and how much it can benefit your business in the future.

Search Marketing 101: 4 Questions to Answer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Search Marketing 101: 4 Questions to Answer for a Successful Digital Marketing Campaign

Search marketing pays off in multiple ways, from boosting sales and market share to enhancing the impact of your other marketing investments. Which is why setting aside ample budget to achieve your goals is critical to your success. Establishing your budget is dependent upon many factors, such as your vertical, keyword competition, the time of year and overall goals. It’s also dependent upon your other marketing investments and where search marketing fits into the mix.

So where do you start? Here are four questions to ask yourself when setting your budget.

1. What is your marketing goal?

Always start with your business goal in mind. Are you launching a new product or trying to boost sales of an existing product? Are you trying to build brand awareness? Whatever the goal, make sure you have a crystal-clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish, since everything you do needs to propel this goal forward.

For example, if you’re trying to drive traffic to your website, you’ll need to know how many clicks you’re getting each month and how many more you’ll need to meet your goal. In this case, you can reverse-engineer a starting budget. Simply multiply the desired monthly clicks by the cost per click (CPC) to determine your monthly budget. For instance, if you want 1,000 clicks per month and the CPC is $1.50, then your monthly budget is $1,500.

On the other hand, if you have a monthly sales target but you don’t know how many clicks you need, you’ll need to base your budget on estimates for average cost per sale and conversion rates. Be as flexible as you can. If your campaigns are returning at a highly profitable rate, increasing budget will quickly result in greater return.

2. How does paid search fit into your overall marketing strategy?

Paid search is an important part of the modern marketing mix. But what percentage of your overall marketing budget should you devote to it? The best starting point is to understand the marketing attribution — which marketing channels are driving results.

Attribution is not always a straightforward process, as oftentimes multiple marketing channels play a role in closing a sale. In a study with Pepperjam, Bing Ads served as the first touchpoint. In 28% of the sales, Bing closed the sale. But in 22% of the sales, the closer was an affiliate channel and 17% of the time the sale was closed through organic search. While 72% of the time other channels closed the sale, search still played a role as the introducer.

It’s also important to note that the role of paid search also enhances the effectiveness of other channels by bridging gaps in the customer decision journey. For example, Marin Software found that customers who clicked both search and social ads were not only more likely to buy, they were more likely to spend more. Likewise, this Big Game study found that search volume spikes for up to 72 hours from when a TV commercial is aired.

3. What are your constraints?

Budget restriction is the number-one obstacle for small businesses trying to market themselves online. Pay-per-click (PPC) is a way to “buy visits,” and when done properly, it can be cost effective. Since advertisers only pay when users click on your ads, paid search ad setup is free.

That said, advertisers still need to set aside budget for ad spend. Understanding what the average cost-per-click (CPC) is for a given vertical helps you define a monthly ad budget. Step one when beginning a new PPC campaign is understand what budgetary constraints your business has for the channel. Try using this keyword planner to get a better understanding of what your CPC will be. Then identify the number of website visits you hope to get through PPC. This simple formula will help you set a monthly budget: (estimated CPC) x (website sessions) = Cost.

4. What is the time of year?

Take time to review the history of ad performance and previous budgets to get a better idea of how much you should allocate. This is especially important if you’re advertising during a peak retail season, such as the holidays, when you’ll be competing more heavily with other brands.

While there’s no magic formula for building your budget, asking these questions can get you off to a good start. For more information, be sure to check out the full ebook, The growth marketer’s guide to search.

Search Marketing 101: Plan a Winning Strategy

Search Marketing 101: Plan a Winning Strategy

Is your paid search strategy all about click-through rates? If so, you could be missing the boat.

While your search campaign also depends upon your goals, business model, and budget, understanding the customer decision journey (CDJ) will help you maximize the impact of your campaign. Meeting your customers’ needs during each of the five CDJ phases — initiation, research, comparison, transaction, and experience — can help you ensure a more successful campaign.

Below are some tips to help you plan and structure your campaign.

Understand the Customer Decision Journey

All customers go through the five stages of the CDJ, although these stages can vary in length and level of importance, based on factors such as product cost, purchase frequency, complexity and shopper demographic. For example, a consumer will typically spend less time researching a clock radio than they will a dishwasher.

What this means is that you need to ensure you have the right information readily available for the consumer at their time of need. Shoppers in the research phase will want buying guides and recommendations whereas shoppers in the comparison phase will be looking at reviews and ratings and cross-product comparisons. Shoppers in the transaction phase will be scouting promotions or purchase locations. Ensuring your customers find the information they need at the time they need it will help you optimize the success of your campaign.

Snap to Your Business Goals

Your campaign must directly support your business goals, whether you want to increase brand awareness, boost product sales or expand your customer base.

Building brand awareness is key to growing your business. In a recent study, researchers from Bing found that 72% of brand ad clicks were preceded by a non-brand or conquest term in the user’s search journey. Which means that if brand awareness is your goal, you’ll want to ensure you are bidding on non-brand, brand and competitor’s keywords.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for new customers, you’ll be interested to know that 49% of consumers find products they want using a search engine vs heading straight over to a brand website or store location. Understanding your target audience and how they are searching can help drive additional customers to your brand.

Consider Your Budget

Budget limitations also play a role in planning a campaign. For small businesses with strict budgets, your best bet is to identify and focus on your most successful products or services for maximum impact. Your campaign structure should reflect this.

For example, if you have a clothing boutique, you may already be aware that dresses and sweaters have the largest margins and are therefore the priority. You’ll want to build campaigns for those products and keywords first. Only widen your campaign to a larger catalog of products once you reach a point of diminishing return for your best-performing products. This will yield better sales than spreading your budget too thin by targeting everything you sell.

Structure Your Campaign

How you structure your campaign depends upon your budget and goals as well as your business type. Local businesses, such as accounting firms, may need to organize by geography. Ecommerce businesses may need to organize by product type and B2B businesses may need to organize by type of user.

One tactic for structuring your campaign is to look to your website’s navigation. A well-planned website typically arranges available products in a way that creates a simple and logical user experience. The same organization technique applies when building pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.

Going back to the online clothing boutique, using one large campaign for all products would be the least effective structure. A better structure would be one campaign focusing on one type of product — dresses, jeans, skirts, or sweaters.

The right campaign structure will make it easy for you to optimize how your ads run based on searches for specific products or services and align ad copy and landing pages with keywords. The more you break campaigns out by theme, the better you can target and optimize.

Outline Campaigns and Ad Groups 

Before jumping into your account to build a new campaign, take time to create an outline. This simple step will save you time later and will keep the structure clean.

Using a logical naming convention for campaigns will help you keep track of what’s in each campaign. Don’t name your campaigns Campaign 1, Campaign 2 and so on. Use a short but descriptive name for each one. If you can’t keep it short, that’s a good indication the campaign is too general.

While planning your campaign doesn’t have to be rocket science, it does require thoughtful preparation based on insights and research. For more information on building out your search strategy, take time to view the free Bing Ads ebook, The growth marketer’s guide to search.

This is the second installment of this series, to view the first click here

This is How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

This is How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

We know that online reviews can make or break your local business. They are a huge part of your online reputation and good reviews can even cause consumers to spend more money while negative reviews tarnish your online reputation and cause consumers to lose trust.

Reviews can even improve your local search ranking. But, until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of research on how those reviews can affect your click-through rates (CTR).

A recent study, though, found that online reviews, good and bad, directly affect whether or not a consumer will click on your business’s listing in local search results.

Let’s look at the findings.

How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

The study used local search results (the local pack/map results) as well as localized organic results and listed businesses with the following variations:

  • No star rating
  • Low star rating (1-2)
  • Higher star rating (3-5)

Using 18 variations of search results containing the types of star ratings listed above, a panel of 6,283 participants viewed search results and were told to click on the business that seemed like the best choice.

And, the results are not surprising. Here’s what they found:

Reviews are the Main Reason Consumers Click on Your Listing

Participants were asked why they chose to click certain listings, from reasons like “I liked the business name,” to “It was the top result.”

The most common answer, by far, was “It had positive reviews and star ratings.” In fact, 56 percent of people gave this reason for choosing a business while only 10 percent of participants gave the next most common answer, “I liked the business name.”

A measly 9 percent chose a business just because it was the top listing, meaning that it’s better to show up lower and have good reviews than to show up at the top of the local search results but have a bad star rating.

A Higher Star Rating Increases Your CTR

Listings with five stars got the most clicks (nearly 70 percent!) from the local pack while each decrease in star rating meant fewer clicks. Listings with four stars got 59 percent of the clicks and if a business had 3 stars, it got 44 percent of the clicks.

The good news is that improving your star rating improves your CTR. Boosting your rating from 3 stars to 5 stars gets you 25 percent more clicks.

Low Star Ratings Decrease Your Local Search CTR

It’s no surprise that low star ratings will make consumers less likely to choose your business. The study found that having a one-star rating decreases your clicks by 11 percent.

What is surprising, though, is that listings that only had a one-or-two-star rating received fewer clicks than listings with no rating at all. So, it’s better to have no reviews than to have a low star rating, not that we would recommend neglecting your review marketing and reputation management.

Final Thoughts

To increase your CTR in local search results, drive traffic to your website and bring in new customers, you need a positive star rating. This study showed that if your star rating is low, consumers will look right past your business and toward the competition, so now is the time to improve your star rating.

To understand how to improve your star rating, you’ll need to first know why consumers leave negative reviews. Once you have that down, you should start replying to your online reviews. Follow this up by actively working to get more reviews and you’ll be well on your way.