How paid search and personalisation can work together

A picture of Caroline Reynolds, VP of Paid Search at iProspect, giving her presentation at the CMA Digital Breakfast.

We don’t generally think of paid search as a great channel for personalisation, but increasingly, it’s becoming one.

Caroline Reynolds, VP of Paid Search at iProspect, gave a presentation at the Content Marketing Association’s most recent Digital Breakfast explaining exactly how personalisation and paid search can work together.

It’s never been easier to reach people through the myriad marketing channels at our disposal, and yet it’s also never been harder to make a real connection with them. Marketers are discovering that personalisation is key to this: it allows them to build an emotional connection with consumers in a way that was never possible before.

“It’s all about that personal, adaptive and valuable connection,” said Reynolds.

So how can this be done using paid search?

The audience revolution

With paid search, Reynolds explained in her presentation, small and large brands alike are on a level playing field. A paid search spot is a paid search spot – and even though larger brands might be able to ante up more funding for a higher position on the results page, many brands have discovered that the fourth or fifth position can still yield a good rate of click-through while not costing as much.

On top of this, paid search is particularly good on mobile, where a majority of search traffic now originates. Due to mobile’s narrow layout, paid search spots appear front and centre, requiring a lot of scrolling to move past, and they have been shown to deliver strong ROI.

A mobile screenshot showing a Google search for 'fintech', with two paid ads taking up the whole screen.

How does personalisation play into things? It’s about understanding the consumer at the moment of searching, adapting and making them care, said Reynolds.

We’ve reached a period that she has dubbed the “audience revolution”, in that we have more capacity than ever before to assemble data about the person behind any given search and work out exactly who they are.

For iProspect, the watershed moment came when Google gave them access to remarketing data which allowed them to see exactly who had interacted, who had bought before, and who had shown ‘affinity’ – the term given to someone who searches for things similar to what you’re selling. Now, the company only has a very small proportion of people who are unknown to them.

For example, Sky is one of iProspect’s clients. Every time someone carries out a search for Sky, iProspect will map it to an audience view and then tailor ad copy and personalise the site accordingly. Now, 90% of Sky’s traffic is known to them and personalised.

“You can understand your consumer, and we can do that better than we’ve ever done it before,” said Reynolds.

Connecting online with offline

The way that people search is influenced by external factors. The more of those you can plug in, the more relevant you can make your advertising, advised Reynolds.

One of the things that iProspect does most often is to connect offline channels like television to online. This is easier than you might think – a study by Millward Brown found that on average, people in the UK spend 50 minutes per day using both a TV and a smartphone, with 22% of people using this time to search for more information about what they’re watching on TV.

multi-screeningA breakdown of how people use their smartphones for TV-related activities

A technology known as digital fingerprinting can let brands know exactly when their advert is running on TV, allowing them to up their paid search accordingly.

For example, when British Gas ran their advert “No Place Like Home”, they were able to use paid search placements to send people directly to the relevant page online for a period of 5-10 minutes while the advert was airing.

Another example of how paid search can work with personalisation comes from Eurostar. A user can research ‘holidays to Paris’ and be directed to a PPC ad, through which they reach the Eurostar website and browse fares to Paris. Later on whilst surfing the web, they will be presented with a tailored display ad for Eurostar travel from London to Paris.

Takeaway tip: You can take what you learn on one channel, and adapt your messaging on other channels accordingly.

A slide from Caroline Reynolds' presentation at the CMA Digital Breakfast which illustrates the aforementioned journey from PPC ad, to Eurostar website, to being presented with a tailored display ad.

Some handy tools that Reynolds recommended which can help you gather data to personalise your paid search placements are:

  • Google Correlate: This tool allows you to find search patterns which correspond with real-world trends, such as looking at which search terms are more popular in winter, or which terms correlate with certain geographic locations.
  • Google Keyword Planner: A classic keyword research tool for Google Adwords, which gives access to keywords and ad groups ideas, historical statistics, and search traffic forecasts. (Though be aware that it is prone to inaccuracy in some areas).
  • Answer the Public: This handy tool lets you see the different questions and search terms that people have searched for any given keyword. As well as being a great campaign tool, this is also invaluable when you want to create SEO-friendly content marketing which answers people’s questions about a topic.

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