Dave Chaffey - Insights Director at ClickThrough Marketing, The Search Conversion ExpertsWhen we work with a new client reviewing their search strategy, there is a common set of issues that are often discussed. I thought it would be useful to set these down, so that you can think through which apply to you. I have covered them as a series of basic questions to be reviewed.

Question 1. Goals and objectives

Do we have the right types of goals to review paid search effectiveness and efficiency?

You should set goals and review performance against volume (e.g. visits), quality (e.g. bounce rate, conversion % to lead or sale), cost (e.g. average cost per click and cost per conversion) and value measures (e.g. for transactional Ecommerce sites with a referral engine, Cost Per Acquisition, ROAS, Revenue per visit). If you’re not running a transactional site, you should still try to establish the value of leads since you won’t be able to estimate the returns you need otherwise.

Question 2. Performance targets

Do we have clear targets to ensure the agency meets goals of value generation and cost?

If you’re not paying by performance, then it’s essential to set targets to encourage optimisation of the account through improving quality score

Question 3. Keyphrase targeting selection and reporting

Are you investing in the right keyphrases to meet your objectives and performance targets?

Often not enough consideration is given into how to group keyphrases so that the right investments are made to drive commercial outcomes. Suitable top-level grouping of the performance of the many search terms on an account will be needed to do this. For example, can you determine the commercial contribution of these:

  • Pure brand
  • Brand + generic
  • Brand + product
  • Non-brand generic – category
  • Non-brand generic – product, etc

Using the new Multichannel Funnels in Google Analytics for search analysis can help you identify terms which assist in conversion to sale, even if they aren’t responsible for the final click.

Question 4. Always on paid search

Are we investing continuously in paid search at the levels necessary to create demand for our products and help consumers choose us?

In some companies, paid search is intermittent, often related to campaigns which may miss opportunities if the case for continuous, always-on paid search hasn’t been made.

Did you know that according to Google research on their client accounts, 89% of search traffic is incremental?

Question 5. Customer journeys

Are we directing visitors to the right landing pages on our site to meet our objectives?

Test whether it is best to route visitors direct to a category landing page, rather than the home or category page. Ask where it makes sense to create tailored landing pages to increase conversion and quality score rather than existing site pages.

As mentioned in question 3, the importance of multiple visits in driving sales should also be understood.

Question 6. Improving relevance and Quality Score

How can we improve quality score?

To improve account efficiency means improving relevance of ads based on targeting through account structure, match types and ad creative.

Since Google Quality Score is so important to managing paid search we recommend you read this latest guidance if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Question 7. Google Display Network

Are we managing the display network well enough?

The Display network (once known as the Content Network) can still be effective for demand generation and generating awareness since your ads are displayed on related pages/sites according to the keywords they contain. It’s often neglected because of poor performance when it isn’t treated separately from Google search, but it can and should be optimised.

Question 8. Remarketing

Are we using Google’s new Remarketing features?

Adwords now uses cookies from previous visitors to the site to use ads on the Content Network to remind visitors who have shown interest in a product to explore more. Define clear re-targeting rules which target those with the highest intent and potential value, for example directing to the referral engine or store locator where relevant.

Question 9. Non-Google networks

Do we pay enough attention to other search networks

In this note I have focused on Google since it’s dominant in many markets but not all – in many others Google is not the market leader. But consumers do use other search networks and particularly for brand keyphrases volume will be sufficient in other search engines. So select the top 3-5 search networks that are important in your country and apply these notes across all 3 networks.

Question 10. Testing and review

What is our optimisation process to improve ROI?

All search networks have excellent options to test targeting, offer and creative, so put time into refining the approach for all the different factors above.

So those are the ten fundamental questions to improve paid search, I hope they help you review your approach.

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About the author:

An acknowledged expert on digital marketing, Dave was recognised in 2004 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of “50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing“. Dave is also author of five best-selling books including Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice; and eMarketing eXcellence.