Boosting CTRs in a Search Fragmenting World

When discussing the possible fragmentation of search last week, I asked for feedback on what other search marketers are doing to combat the inevitable click-through drop that occurs during fragmentation. I guess this isn’t as big a problem for others as I thought it would be as I received only one response so far (albeit a very good one) from Kim Thiel of Searchlight LLC.

Tips for Maintaining Good CTRs

Kim has some great, basic ideas for keeping click-throughs up in a fragmenting world. Below is an excerpt from her response.

“One, we put more focus on multiple term keywords – these are obviously more focused and reduce the risk of unwanted matching. By adding significant 2+ term keywords, we can rely less on our one-term keywords, which tend to be the pain point.

Two, regarding the single term keywords, we do still bid on them but are very much utilizing Google's new query report to see all the queries that we may not want to be matched to and add them as negative keywords. Sometimes they make sense, but adding them as negative terms along with the first tactic tends to re-direct those you do still desire to the more appropriate multiple term keywords in our account.

Third, we have also started launching all major single term keywords on the different match types - on exact, broad, and phrase. This allows us better insight into which variation of the single term keywords is causing us the most unwanted clicks. Tends to be the broad term, which allows us to stay competitive on the exact term (which is also usually the main traffic driver and the one you don't want to lose) while being able to bid down or suppress the broad variations and rely on our robust tail list to pick up any queries we would still want.”

More Creative Tactics

While most of Kim’s suggestions fall under best practices for search marketers regardless of the environment, they are more important now than ever. The more relevant the results you provide to potential visitors, the more likely they are to convert to a desired action.

Decreasing your dependence on broad match terms can significantly increase click-through rates. Your reach can be severely hampered by this approach, but those who are still looking at their search impressions as a meaningful metric for measuring the success of a direct-response search engine marketing campaign are behind the curve already.

One other basic tactic that Kim didn’t mention is the honing of your creative. Keyword insertion is a great tool when used properly; however, problems arise when everyone bidding on a specific keyword is utilizing keyword insertion tactics. When that happens, all the ads on the page look the same, and your ad is no different from your competitors'. That’s why it’s important to check the search engine results pages to see what others are saying about their product using your strategic keywords. Many times you can increase your click-through rate simply by doing something different from your competitors.

Another creative tactic is to test special offers in your creative. For many, free shipping is still a great offer, even though many of us marketers see it as a passé offering. Believe me, this works. Last week, I was buying a Little Tikes swing set for my soon to be two-year-old (Happy Birthday, Nathan!). The shipping on the swing set was going to be over $150, and I couldn’t find the one I wanted in the store. When I saw a coupon offering free shipping from the Little Tikes Web site, I jumped on the offer. Other consumers will do the same, especially when the shipping cost is a considerable expense. Offering other specials, like deep discounts or sale prices, can grab consumers who have done their research and are ready to buy. Plus, this keeps the CTRs up as well.

Finally, the best thing you can do to keep your CTR up is to know where your ads are showing. If you have opted into contextual listings, do you know where those listings are appearing? If you are using broad match, do you have enough negative keywords to ensure you don’t appear on too many irrelevant pages?

Keeping up with the changes at the major search engines is a lot of work, but it's necessary for success in this market. So read, read, and read some more. Kevin Newcomb and his team do a fine job over at the Search Engine Watch blog. If you aren’t there daily, I daresay you might be behind the curve as well.