Now that you know a little bit about how ads show up and the typical account structure, let’s look at three important, interdependent aspects of paid search: key words, creative and landing pages.
First, you have to build a key word list for each of the ad groups. The categories make it easier to think about what to use, but do the research. Know your industry and competitors (both in the real as well as the search world), understand your goal, and use your patron’s language.
Here are some tips for key words:
- Use common misspellings and plurals
- Exclude the negative key words (for example, think of excluding words like “operating system” if you’re in the business of selling actual windows)
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool and Google Insights for Search
Key word themes should take into account the different phases of the buying cycle (and your creative and landing page should align with these phases as well).
The Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool shows suggestions for “Los Angeles Philharmonic Tickets” from the high volume “concert tickets” to the lower volume, yet more specific “walt disney concert hall schedule” and “la philharmonic tickets.”
You have to tailor your creative and your landing pages to these specific themes. Patrons who search “concert tickets” will be in a different phase of the buying cycle than people who search “la philharmonic tickets,” and those people will be even in a different phase than others who search the more specific “la philharmonic tickets beethoven.”
Each of these phases should generate different creative and guide the customer to a different landing page.
Let’s look at creative first. You should do continuous testing of customized messages in order to get maximum relevancy (quality score!) and maximum efficiency, click-through and conversion rate (depending on what your goal is). Specific ads typically convert more sales, general ads generate more clicks.
Keep in mind that the creative consists of the title (approx. 25 characters); the description (2 lines of 35 characters each); the display URL (e.g. www.laphil.org); and the invisible destination URL (e.g. http://www.laphil.com/tickets/2010/beethoven).
The example above could make up the following ad (keep in mind it’s sample copy; you will have to test different variations to see what works best!):
LA Phil plays Beethoven
Hear music by Beethoven at the LA Phil. See complete schedule and get great deals!
This ad would bring people to a full schedule of Beethoven concerts by the LA Phil (the fictional destination URL from above). This brings us to landing pages. So you’ve used the right key words and persuasive creative to land people on your page. What to do now? First, make sure that the page your patrons are reaching is the relevant page they were looking for. Assuming you want the patrons to take some kind of action (fill out a form, a survey, or simply buy tickets), make sure that that process is easy and short.
Drew McManus, in his Orchestra Web Site Reviews, has been telling managers for years to keep the purchasing (and donating) options short and painless. Don’t make users log in before trying to purchase tickets and don’t create unnecessary steps in the purchasing process. Make your landing page relevant and your purchase process clear and concise. Your conversation rate will depend on it.
Targeting your ads
Besides targeting your ads through key word selections, you can set other parameters to more specifically attract your desired audience. One of the main options is geo-targeting.
Let’s say someone searches “beethoven concert” without indicating a specific orchestra or location. Bidding on this high volume key word might be expensive and for someone in Atlanta an ad about a Beethoven concert in Los Angeles would not be relevant (so no click-throughs or conversions). But if someone searches that term in Los Angeles, it would most definitely be relevant. You can target your ads specifically to Los Angeles, California or a something-mile radius from a certain point. You can also indicate several different locations. Keep in mind, however, that the location of the user depends on the server they use, and that server might not be located in the area in which they live.
Another targeting method is using the hour of the day or day of the week. Perhaps your budget is limited and you have found that your best click-through and conversion rates happen on Friday at 4 p.m. You can specify your ads to only show up around that day and time. Yet another method is targeting on language. Perhaps a Mariachi group is scheduled to perform at the Walt Disney Hall. You might specifically target Spanish language searches.
Paid search performance metrics
You can’t set up a paid search effort without measuring your performance and using that data to optimize your efforts. But beware for over-analyzing; there are many factors influencing click-through and conversion rates, including external factors that have little to do with search. Don’t analyze every day; make it monthly or quarterly.
Click-through-rate (clicks/impressions) is a simple metric that is often used to demonstrate the effectiveness of your ad and ad copy. But unless you’re aiming to create general awareness, a click-through-rate might be misleading. More important is your conversion rate (# of orders/clicks) and your ROAS, or return on advertising spend (sales amount/costs).
For example, what would be better: a high click-through-rate with a low conversion rate, or a low click-through-rate with a high conversion rate? Well, it really depends on the exact numbers you put in and on your ROAS.
You can, for example, calculate your maximum cost-per-click based on ROAS. Let’s say you are aiming to make $5 on every advertising dollar spent, you have a conversion rate of 1.5%, and your average sale amount is $165. Your maximum cost-per-click would be ($165/$5) / (1/0.015) = $0.49. You can also determine your max CPC based on your desired cost-per-acquisition.
Benchmark your baseline performance metrics and set and check milestones along the way.
A little bit more about conversion rate. Let’s say, your average order is $100, your conversion rate is 1.25% and your sales revenue on your Web site from paid search ads is $100,000 annually. That means 1,000 out of 80,000 people who clicked-through that year purchased tickets. Well, let’s say you tweak your ad copy to be more effective, perhaps change your landing page a bit, and make the purchase process easier. You’ll get a conversion rate of 1.5%. Out of 80,000 people who clicked through, now 1,200 will purchase tickets. That means your sales revenue is $120,000. You tweak some more and you hit the 2008 e-commerce industry conversion rate average of 1.75%. You’ll now be making $140,000 annually.
Small changes can mean big results. Test, measure and optimize. Once again, you can’t live without measuring your performance and using that data to optimize your efforts.
This concludes the four part series on search engine marketing and orchestras. I have glossed over some of the basic concepts and hopefully shown that search engine marketing, both natural and paid, should be important parts of your online marketing and communications strategy. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day either, so take your time to find your groove. But I can’t mention enough that you should try things out in small steps and monitor for results, then use that data to optimize.