At the top of the list of high-class problems in the search world rests the following question: "How do I max out my search spend?" Advertisers big and small face the dilemma of reaching max capacity with their search budgets and they reach a point of hesitation that resembles trying to swim through quicksand.
The October 2008 Marin Software commissioned report from JupiterResearch sought to uncover some of the key search expansion trepidations. One key data point in the survey sticks in my mind: 92 percent of companies said they would increase search budgets if only their perceived barriers were removed.
Perception is reality and, in many cases, fear is a motivator for the lack of change. Our financially challenged marketplace has once again turned to search for marketing answers, so let's take a look at some undiscovered opportunity and the barriers to expansion.
Jupiter's survey indicated that staffing was an issue for nearly 60 percent of companies with budgets greater than $500,000 per month. Just shy of a third said that available tools precluded their ability to spend more money on paid search. Across the board, around 40 percent said they were afraid of risking ROI performance, unable to meet target goals, or concerned about proving the ROI to management.
What does all of this lead up to? Better tools are out there and we should start using them.
The most popular tools are all too often contracted for use by large firms arbitrarily making search utility decisions based on the perceived ability to integrate with other online efforts. The combination of ad serving and search management is an enticing draw. A one-stop shop for analytics and paid search might make the numbers work better, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the best bang for your buck.
The new breed of tool providers may be struggling because the search technology selection process has become commoditized by big providers once known for their innovation and now part of the big corporate machine. The innovation ends when the big buy-out occurs as the chief innovators make their departures for new and better endeavors.
To make a long story endless, doing your search technology homework is far more important today, so avoid the "checking the box" approach.
Search Tactic Overdrive
Beyond the tool set selection process, many seem to overlook options for expanding efforts. If you really want to max out your search campaign, go beyond the basics. Search is so complicated that many folks are only doing the bare minimum while simultaneously complaining about expansion difficulties.
Of course, the first thing out of everyone's mouth when talking about search expansion is the utilization of content networks. Just remember, content isn't search, and the viewer's mindset will be quite different in content networks when compared to directive search.
Content search response rates will be very different, and you should avoid the temptation to simply migrate (without change) your directive search campaigns into content networks. Content of contextual search initiatives have evolved in recent years as well. You can target specific sites and even upload keyword sets to facilitate targeting.
Opportunity abounds in expanding your geo-targeting efforts, so think about setting up regional or country-specific campaigns. An expanded directed initiative for specific regions within a country may go a long way to grabbing more bang for increased search bucks.
Another fun way to expand search efforts would be to start going more local. When you opt-in to the search network (as long as there's a local business listing) you can upload a local business ad.
You can update your image with image ads on both Yahoo and Google as well. Yahoo announced its presence in the image world this week and Google's program is still in beta. Both represent opportunities to expand search dollars and returns.
Stop Whining and Start Doing
Expanding search efforts and going to maximum CPC overdrive shouldn't be a nightmarish endeavor. New tools are available every day, and expansion can be as easy as going local or getting smarter about how you target. What are you waiting for?
Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, including a ClickZ track, plus more than 150 exhibitors, networking events, parties, and training days.