Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the fastest-growing categories in all of advertising, because it is both measurable and logical: present your ads when people are searching for what you're selling. A well-crafted search marketing program can provide not only broad brand exposure at a very reasonable cost (with CPMs of $10 or less), but also high-ROI lead generation. As with any other type of advertising, however, a poorly-designed campaign will be a disappointing waste of money.
In addition to best practices in search engine marketing, the following articles and blog posts were among the best of 2007 at providing helpful guidance for creating and managing effective search marketing programs.
Five Common Paid Search Mistakes That Can Sink Your Campaign by Search Engine Guide
Blogger Jennifer Laycock explains how common mistakes such as "ego bidding," writing a single ad for all keywords, and directing all of your traffic to a single landing page can limit the results of a search marketing program—and how to fix these and other problems.
Top 10 Reasons to Double Your Search Budget for '08 by ClickZ
Writer Kevin Lee gives ten reasons to dramatically increase search spending, including the growth in search volume, recognition that online campaigns drive both direct and offline behavior, and keyword price escalation (due the increasing popularity of this medium).
What do you mean I have a budget? by DMNews
Following on the theme of the previous article, this piece emphasizes consideration of revenue generation when establishing—or increasing—a search marketing budget. In the words of the author, "You need to set three key metrics on the way to managing by revenue: required margin per sale; close and conversion rates; and affordable CPC. These numbers can change dramatically from day to day, so manage and adjust them."
Ten Tips for Lead Generation Landing Pages by TopRank Online Marketing Blog
Guest blogger Jon Miller of Marketo points out that "improving your landing pages can increase your conversions by 40% or more...(and) optimized landing pages work even better—as high as 200% improvements in conversion rates" and then offers ten tips for designing more effective landing pages.
Use These 5 Steps to Triple Your Conversion Rate by Tropical SEO
Applicable to both SEO and SEM, this post provides five (well, four really) tips to significantly improve the conversion of site visitors to buyers or leads including conducting a site audit, rewriting selected content, and of course testing everything.
AdReady, Another Low-Cost Display Ad Shop, Opens by Online Media Daily
AdReady is a new service that aims to "democratize" search marketing by making it more accessible and affordable for smaller businesses. Per the article, "AdReady allows advertisers to pick and customize remarkably professional-looking ads for free. The AdReady application...then allows marketers to manage and track the progress of their ads across Google's AdSense ad network, Yahoo's RightMedia exchange, and AOL's Advertising.com network."
Evaluating Client Search Marketing Readiness by TopRank Online Marketing Blog
Master blogger Lee Odden supplies a list of questions to ask and factors to consider before embarking on a search marketing program. Though aimed at corporate marketing types looking to engage an agency, the criteria here apply just as well to search experts who are evaluating potential clients as well as corporate marketing managers evaluating their own internal programs and talent.
PPC Outsource or In-House? Rules of Thumb by The Rimm-Kaufman Group
In this post, blogger George Michie lays out a complex process for determining whether your company is best served by keeping search marketing in-house or outsourcing to an SEM agency. A useful guide, though the statement that "Outsourcing without any oversight is dangerous. Too many agencies will do nothing without oversight to drive them." seems somewhat odd; you should NEVER outsource SEM without ongoing reporting and analysis as part of the service offering. And that reporting can help make the key decision question much simpler: does the agency produce better results than you can achieve internally?
RIP, PPC by ClickZ
Author Gary Stein argues that click fraud, the rise of alternative online media, and CPA models will cause pay-per-click (PPC) advertising models, "the bright star of the online advertising universe...to fade a bit." Interesting theory, but overstated; the next few years are likely to see increasing investment across multiple forms of online promotion at the expense of difficult-to-measure and increasingly fragmented media like TV and print.
Pay Per Click: Boom or Bust? by Buzz Marketing for Technology
Podcaster Paul Dunay hosts an interesting debate between Steve Rubel—who claims that a PPC recession is looming—and Alan Rimm-Kaufman, who takes a more bullish view.
Evaluating Existing PPC Accounts by the Commerce360 Blog
Blogger Craig Danuloff offers helpful advice for evaluating the quality of existing PPC campaigns.
Dave to ad agencies: Do your homework or get out of my office by DMNews
After detailing the results of a recent study showing that "One hundred percent of the survey respondents stated that the most important factor governing their selection of a marketing services agency was its ability to provide insights into their customers...But here's the scandalous part: Eighty-five percent of the survey respondents believe that the agencies pitching them do a lousy job of researching their basic business issues before making their pitch. Astonishingly, 61 percent believe that the agency did no research at all," author Dave Pasternack produces a devastating but eye-opening critique of (many) marketing agencies. Then he offers advice on how SEM clients and agencies can work most productively together.
Landing Page Optimization by MarketingExperiments
An excellent post presenting two detailed case studies on how landing page optimization increased conversion rates by 50-60%.
Everything We Know About Search Is Wrong by MediaPost Search Insider
Writer Bob Heyman makes a compelling argument that search marketing gets too much credit for the "last click," which likely resulted not from search alone but rather from repeated brand exposure through PR, banners and other media first. "As an example, if a customer sees a banner promoting a product on Microsoft’s MSN and watches a related video on Time Warner Inc.’s AOL and then searches for the brand on Google before making a purchase, only Google gets paid for the sale."
Keyword Research for PPC by Internet Search Engine Database
In this article, Scott Van Achte lays out a process and toolset for crafting and fine-tuning a keyword list for SEM.
Previous articles in this series:
Best of 2007: SEO Analysis Tools
Best of 2007: SEO Keyword Research Tools
Best of 2007: News Articles on Social Media Marketing
Best of 2007: Blog Posts on Social Media Marketing
Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom