Search engine marketing and orchestras: part 3

After a couple more classes and a Thanksgiving break, I’m back with renewed energy to write more about search engine marketing and orchestras. This time, I’m covering paid search. As I wrote before, if natural search is public relations, then paid search is advertising. Paid search is instantaneous, direct and controllable, extremely measurable, and when done right, very cost effective.

To keep things simple, I will only be looking at Google, as it represents by far the biggest share of the pie, but other search engines will work in roughly the same manner. I will go into the basics of how an ad shows up, what a typical account structure looks like, tips and information about key words, creative, landing pages and targeting, and, of course, performance measurement. I’ll be taking the Los Angeles Philharmonic as an example this time. They currently do some paid search, but as I have no knowledge about its structure or strategy, I will ignore their current efforts and create a theoretical case.

What is paid search?

Paid search, or pay-per-click, is an Internet advertising model. This model is used by networks such as Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter.

Advertisers pay these companies only when their ad is clicked. In these bid-based models, the advertisers pay the companies only when their ad is clicked. The advertiser competes against other advertisers in a blind auction.

How does your ad show up?

Although the exact algorithm is a secret, we know that your ad position is determined by two factors: quality score (relevance) x maximum cost-per-click (the highest amount an advertiser is willing to pay for one click).

Your quality score is determined by different kinds of relevance: the click-through-rate on (clicks divided by impressions), which shows how relevant consumers think your ad is to their query; the key word and ad text relevance to the query, and landing page quality and relevance to the query.

Here follows a simple, fictitious calculation to demonstrate that the New York Philharmonic would be positioned above the Los Angeles Philharmonic, despite a lesser willingness to pay.

Quality Score x Max CPC = Ad Rank
New York Philharmonic: 2.0 x $0.40 = 0.80
Los Angeles Philharmonic: 1.4 x $0.52 = 0.73

Keep in mind, the guy positioned below you sets the price; your cost is $0.01 more than the spot below you. So what does the New York Philharmonic pay per click? Remember that the actual cost-per-click is the same or lower than the maximum cost-per-click. In this case, the New York Philharmonic pays 0.73 (LA Phil Ad Rank) / 2.0 (NY Phil Quality Score) + $0.01 = $0.375 per click.

The bids are blind; organizations cannot see a competitor’s click-through-rate, max/actual CPC bid, or quality score. So you’ll need to tweak you own bid in order to gain prominence. But remember, as you can see, improving quality score is an effective way to raise ad position, while controlling costs.

Paid search account structure

Your paid search strategy is not just simply bidding on your own brand. In fact, your brand is probably a very small portion of the whole effort. You have to know, and test, what your patrons are looking for and use their language.

A typical account structure begins with the account itself; in this case the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The account has different campaigns. When I looked at the LA Phil’s Web site, I saw an almost natural ordering of the campaigns right on the front page: classical concerts, jazz concerts, world music concerts, and pop, family & others (and we can go on and create campaigns for brand, recordings, Dudamel, the Hollywood Bowl etc.).

Those different campaigns will be divided into several ad groups. For example, when hovering over the classical tab, concerts include Los Angeles Philharmonic, visiting orchestras, baroque variations, celebrity recitals, casual Friday, and chamber music.

Each of these ad groups will have scores of key words and certain key words can be grouped together with the same creative (ad copy) and landing page. But stay tuned for more about that in the next part.

Here below is an illustration of a part of the fictitious Los Angeles Philharmonic account structure.

Search Account Chart
Search Account Chart

I am aware that, unlike retailers such as Target or Home Depot, inventory for tickets at orchestras has a time limit and is ever evolving. Perhaps you could further divide Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts by weekly program and create key word themes for each of the weekly programs, ranging from repertoire to guest artists. You will have to make those decisions based on how you want to categorize your campaigns.

It will all make a bit more sense in the next part, when I delve deeper into key words, ad creative and landing pages. Stay tuned.