With all the changes, new technologies, features and options available in the digital marketing space, it is easy to get lost or left behind. After hearing some opinions on Search Engine Marketing recently, it seems to me that many advertisers have been left behind in terms of what modern SEM is. So here is my take on what Search Engine Marketing (or paid search marketing) is in 2015.
Many of the basic concepts of search engine marketing have not changed, especially when you look at the fundamental mechanics of it. For those of you who are not familiar, here is a quick rundown of search engine marketing.
From an advertiser’s perspective, you have an ad creative, keywords (‘targeting options’ in 2015 – but we will get to that later) and bids. You set a bid for specific keywords, and then when someone uses the search engine using your keywords, your ad and other competitors’ ads enter a blind auction to decide what position the ads appear on the search results page for that particular user.
However, the auction doesn’t work solely on bid price. In order to ensure that the ads are relevant to users and are of good quality, most search engines implement a bidding system that includes some quality factors. For example, Google gives your ads and keywords a quality score, which is determined by a combination of factors including click-through rates, landing page relevance, and ad relevance.
Higher quality ads enjoy lower costs, making it less expensive to achieve higher positions and gain more clicks. Lower quality ads need to pay more, which usually forces them further down the list, or makes bidding on those particular keywords unprofitable.
Once you have your head around the relationship between your keywords, ads, bids and user searches, you have got the fundamentals of search engine marketing!
What is different in 2015?
As I hinted above, the biggest change in Search Engine Marketing is a gradual shift from keyword targeting to a combination of targeting options. Modern search engine targeting options focus on keywords, demographics, and audiences.
Keywords still play a major role in search engine marketing, since targeting search queries is a great way to gauge people’s intentions. For example, it is not hard to imagine what someone wants when they type in “Buy running shoes online”. However, searches with clear buying intent only make up a small portion of search engine activity. That is where other targeting methods come in.
Demographic targeting is ideal for brand awareness, reputation and PR campaigns. Search engines are able to target on a huge range of factors including physical location, age, gender, device, browser, network and more.
Audience targeting allows you to collect a group of individuals, and craft specific messages to appeal to them. For example, you can create an audience of people who left your e-commerce site without purchasing the items in their cart and offer them a 20% discount to complete their purchase. Audiences are even more powerful because major search engines like Google are able to identify your audience even when they move between devices such as from their smartphone to a desktop computer.
So in 2015, good marketers are using a combination of some or all of these targeting options to match a compelling marketing message to the right audience while they are in the appropriate stage of the buying cycle.
There are a few other changes that were not around a few years ago, and while these may not be as fundamental as the move away from pure keyword targeting, they are none-the-less vital to understanding search engine marketing in 2015.
Remarketing has been revolutionary for search engine marketing. Remarketing allows you to create an audience of users who engaged with your brand but didn’t convert. You can then use this list to reach out to that audience and encourage them to re-engage. You can even reach users across multiple browsers and devices. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, remarketing works, but you have to do it right.
Another major concept to grasp is ad extensions. Google has been adding ad extensions for almost anything you can think of, and Bing is just a few steps behind. You can add links to download apps, phone call buttons, your business address, links to other pages on your website, promotions, reviews, ratings, key benefits of your products, and more.
Attribution has become a bit of a buzzword in the digital marketing space, and with good reason. The concept is that for most websites, it takes multiple clicks and visits before a user converts, so value must be attributed across all contributing clicks, not just the last one. Google Adwords allows you to implement conversion attribution models that will distribute the value of your conversions across the various clicks that contributed to it. Using attribution models allows you to better measure the value that your company derives from branding and awareness campaigns that don’t necessarily lead to direct sales. Other search engines will most likely implement similar solutions soon.
While the fundamentals of Search Engine Marketing have remained the same for a long time, there have been some major changes and upgrades this year that have increased the versatility and effectiveness of this marketing channel; making Paid Search Marketing a serious tool for marketers to incorporate into their digital marketing strategies.
Have I missed any? let me know on Twitter @nathan5ri