Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Successful search engine marketing: Four 'must dos'

Author: Manoj Aravindakshan

Article: A few months ago, I attended a seminar on search engine marketing organized by <a href=""http://www.hitwise.com"">Hitwise</a>, the competitive intelligence provider. The event, held in our home base of Singapore where paid search marketing still has a long way to go, was an attempt at creating greater awareness of the potential of this channel in a lukewarm market. Apart from a speaker from Hitwise, the select panel also included representatives from <a href=""http://www.yahoo.com"">Yahoo</a>, <a href=""http://www.msn.com"">MSN</a> (representing the search engine side) and <a href=""http://www.ebay.com"">eBay</a> & B2B media company, <a href=""http://www.globalsources.com"">Global Sources</a> (representing successful search engine marketers).

Towards the end of the seminar, the panelists were asked to name the one advice they would give to individuals or companies considering search engine marketing. Their responses summarized the key things that any search engine marketer--even someone who is considerably experienced--would do well to remember.

<b>Experiment</b>: Contrary to what some people might lead you to believe, one will be hard-pressed to find a single, permanent path to paid search marketing success. Like any other science, one needs to continue to experiment--- be it with the keywords being targeted, or the bids and campaign budgets, the ad creative or the landing page where users are led to from the ad. One of the biggest advantages of most pay-per-click (PPC) search engine marketing campaigns is that it is conducive to lots of experimentation, so make the most of it.

<b>Start small</b>: PPC search marketing, while one of the most cost-effective marketing channels, can still drain the advertising dollars very quickly, if one doesn't watch campaigns closely. Small to medium-sized businesses, in particular, will be best served by starting with smaller budgets, experimenting and progressively increasing their spend after they achieve a certain minimum threshold in cost-effectiveness that works for them.

<b>Get the message in context</b>: Your messages have to be absolutely in context to what the user is looking for. Context and relevance (see next point) and may sometimes be a bit confusing and interchangeable, but that is because these are essentially two of the most critical pillars of search engine marketing.

Relevance of the ad results can be viewed as a match with the <b>fundamental motivation</b> that drives a user to take the action that he/she eventually takes, while context is about the influential environment that can sway a user another way--- it is like identifying the right bait, or the underlying or even dormant motivation of the user If you can get context and relevance to be congruent, such that the user gets exactly <b>what</b> he wants <b>when</b> he wants it, you have maximized your chance of getting the highest quality click, and possibly the best return on the dollar that you just paid the search engine. On to relevance....

<b>Keep your ad and site content relevant</b>: This almost goes without saying, but it is often overlooked. The success of a PPC campaign depends on the relevance of the keywords selected, the relevance of the advertising message (remember that an ad is competing against the perception of relevance of the organic search results as well as against other sponsored/ paid ads), and last but certainly not the least, the relevance of the content on the page that the user lands after clicking on the ad message. Constantly evaluate all of the above for relevance, and work on making those as relevant as you can to what the user is looking for.

About the author: Manoj Aravindakshan is Director of On Target Media & Marketing Services, a Singapore-based marketing services company, offering <a href=""http://www.ontarget-media.com/marketing_services.htm"">paid search engine marketing (PPC) and search engine optimization(SEO)</a> services, in addition to a range of other online marketing and <a href=""http://www.ontarget-media.com/media_services.htm"">web content services</a>.

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