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6 SEM Best Practices Growth Marketers Need To Master

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6 SEM Best Practices Growth Marketers Need To Master

Growth marketing and growth hacking are terms you hear loosely thrown around.

There are even job titles and functions that specialize in “growth hacking.”

But, what does growth marketing actually mean?

Simply put, growth marketing is finding and driving the right customers to your business. These are the people who are most likely to purchase from your brand – whether they’re at the top of the funnel or the bottom of the funnel.

So, what’s the key to growth marketing in today’s world?

Three words: search engine marketing (SEM).

Not to be confused with just PPC or SEO, search marketing has proven time and time again to produce successful results.

SEM is not a short-term effort: it’s an ongoing strategy to drive more qualified customers to conversion in the long term.

Below are six best practices for winning at SEM in today’s market.

1. Deliver Value Across The Decision Journey

As the behavior of your fragmented customers evolves, your growth marketing plan should as well.

Who are the customers behind all those clicks?

Research from Microsoft Ads allows us to better understand the five distinct stages of purchase intent all customers share:

  • Awareness: Getting background information and buying landscape to become a more informed researcher.
  • Consideration: Exploring buying guides, recommendations, and products that meet basic criteria. Comparing a handful of products that meet the customer’s criteria, including ratings, reviews, features, and cost.
  • Conversion: Finding where to buy, then seeing pricing and promotions, availability, and local stores – eventually making a purchase.
  • Maintain: While already having a relationship with a brand, they may come across products or services in different areas that you provide.
  • Expand: The user is a satisfied customer and leaves reviews for your business, word of mouth to peers, etc. These people then go into the Awareness stage.

2. Align Your Campaign & Business Goals

Search can impact, and help you measure, your business goals.

Be sure to align your SEM strategy with your campaign objectives:

  • Brand awareness and perception: Bid competitively on your non-brand, brand, and competitors’ keywords. Non-brand searches are the key to starting a journey: 69% of brand ad clicks are influenced by a non-brand search query. Searchers were 30% likelier to conduct a branded search after being exposed to a brand ad on a generic search query or a competitor’s branded query.
  • Win new customers: Consumers rely on search to inform purchase decisions. SEM can help with every stage of the decision process.
  • Drive sales: Search’s strength is driving conversions. It outperforms other marketing channels across devices in conversion rates.
  • Enter new markets: The ubiquity of search allows you to activate a cross-border marketing strategy that drives foot traffic with Location Extensions, gets more phone calls with Call Extensions, and increases ad clicks with Sitelink Extensions.

3. Expand Your Marketing Funnel

As our constant companion, search is no longer just a product – it’s a behavior.

We turn to search at all times and in all places, whether on our desktops, laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

Understanding how people search at different points on their purchase journeys opens the door to engaging your brand with this new audience.

Having become an engine of insights, search now delivers influence throughout the five buying stages (awareness, consideration, conversion, maintain, and expand).

SEM also reinforces your conversion funnel and unifies disparate marketing activities.

4. Take Audience Targeting To The Next Level

Right-time, right-place engagement alone is no longer enough to compel potential customers.

You need to reach as many unique searchers as possible utilizing audience targeting.

Step 1: Build richer buyer personas that consider these factors:

  • Behavioral: Past behaviors are useful for understanding consumers’ interests and their likelihood to purchase. To better measure user behavior, analyze activities across websites, searches, and content.
  • Demographic: Buying preferences are influenced by elementary but important factors that include age, gender, and location.
  • Contextual: Consumers often search at the moment. Analyzing where, when, and how they search can provide useful content for creating more impactful ad campaigns.

Step 2: Choose keywords that align with the key stages and mindsets of your target customers:

  • Awareness: Keywords such as “What is” and “Benefits of” work best at this stage.
  • Consideration: Keywords such as “Buying guide” and “Models” work best at this stage.
  • Conversion: Keywords such as “Where” and “Coupon” work best at this stage.
  • Maintain: Keywords such as “Support” and “Experience” work best at this stage.
  • Experience: Keywords such as “Reviews” work best at this stage.

5. Lift Other Investments With Paid Search

Optimize your search efforts by combining organic search with a paid SEM strategy.

  • Search and social: Customers who click your paid search and social ads are likelier to buy and spend more. Strengthen your keyword coverage to get more impressions, and tailor your bidding strategy for commercial-related PPC campaigns.
  • Search and TV: Search volume spikes for days after a commercial airs. In a Catalyst Digital study, search volume spiked over 30% vs. the same day and times when a commercial did not run.
  • Search and display: Running search and display simultaneously can allow you to make the best decision on which channel drives the best results, which may be both according to Investis Digital.
  • Search and other channels: When Microsoft Ads is alone in the purchase path, purchases have a 27% higher order average order value than purchases not including Microsoft Ads, which also generate value when paired with other channels.

6. Fight & Win The Battle For Paid Search Budget Share

SEM still competes with other channels for a share of your marketing budget.

So, bring along hard data that connects the dots between search engine marketing and business benefits.

Your budget share battle plan involves three elements:

Pick The Right Metrics To Measure SEM Impact

Metrics provide an easy way to see what is and isn’t working.

Your team can test, change, and optimize your brand’s SEM strategy for better results.

Focus your reporting by identifying and tracking key performance indicators that reflect your business goals:

  • Acquiring new customers.
  • Driving foot traffic.
  • Getting more phone calls.
  • Increasing ad clicks.
  • Building your brand trust.
  • Expanding cross-border strategy.

Separate SEM Impacts From Other Channels

Know which channels drive your marketing results.

Each sale is the culmination of a series of marketing touches that may involve several channels over the course of days, weeks, or even months.

Attribution gets quite complex at times, so if you can prove campaigns with paid search delivers ROI and bottom-line results, you’ll unlock more budget and further optimize search performance.

If you are still looking at conversions through a last-click attribution model, you could be vastly underestimating how other channels and tactics contribute to the overall success.

Apply The Same Process To Allocate Budget Between Google Ads & Microsoft Ads

This last piece falls into place when you analyze the paid click share and query that each SEM option represents within your industry.

You’ll not only get your business in front of a large audience, but you’ll also be confident that your paid ads will lead to clicks.

Conclusion

SEM is the backbone of today’s marketing mix and is crucial for growth marketing.

An expansion of channel availability, and multiple devices per user, can create a more fragmented customer journey.

One of the biggest challenges is getting the right message to the right customer, at the right time, on the right device.

In addition to these challenges, arguably the biggest challenge is measuring the success due to user-privacy limitations.

You no longer can afford to put all of your marketing dollars into one search ad network. If you want to grow your marketing, you must enlist other channels to expand your addressable market.

Follow the best practices outlined here to maximize the reach, impact, and value of your paid search campaigns with bottom-line results.

Utilizing these best practices will equip you when trying to obtain marketing resources or budgets.

More Resources:


Featured Image: suphakit73/Shutterstock



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Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget: Are They Ranking Factors?

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Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget: Are They Ranking Factors?

Crawling is the first step on any page’s journey to a results page.

Search engines must discover your page before evaluating it and deciding where to place it in the results.

Crawling the web is a resource-intensive process. Search engines like Google draw from hundreds of billions of webpages, videos, images, products, documents, books, etc., to deliver query results.

So, they prioritize crawling efforts to conserve resources and the load on the websites they’re visiting.

There’s a limit on how much time crawlers can spend on you.

The amount of time that Google devotes to crawling a site is called the site’s crawl budget.

Any technical hiccups that interrupt Google’s ability to crawl your site are called crawl errors.

Smaller sites are not likely to be affected. When you hit over a few thousand URLs, it becomes essential to help Googlebot discover and prioritize the content to crawl and when and how much of the server resources to allocate.

Given it’s the starting point, you may wonder: Is how well Google can crawl my website a ranking factor?

[Deep Dive:] The Complete Guide To Google Ranking Factors

The Claim: Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget As Ranking Factors

Reducing crawl errors and improving the crawl budget are both major focuses of technical SEO, and for a good reason!

You invest tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year creating high-quality content, then hit publish, and all you can do is wait for your hard work to appear in search results.

The trouble is, if Google doesn’t crawl a page due to an error or limited crawl budget, the page can’t rank for anything at all.

For a page to appear in Google search results, it must first be crawled by Googlebot.

That is why some marketers consider crawl budget a ranking factor.

Let’s see if there is any evidence to support that claim.

The Evidence: Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget As Ranking Factors

Understanding how a page gets from a website to the search engine result page (SERP) is essential to determine if crawl budget could be a ranking factor.

The process involves three steps: crawling, indexing, and ranking.

Read about the intricacies of the process in SEJ’s ebook, “How Search Engines Work.

Crawl budget and crawl errors fall under “crawling”; bots follow links to discover pages.

Indexing is analyzing a page and storing it in a catalog for easy retrieval.

After a page has been crawled and indexed, it is eligible to display in search results.

Ranking essentially lists the most relevant webpage at the top of search results, followed by the other pages, based on how well Google thinks the page answers the query.

The ranking stage includes most of the analysis performed by Google’s algorithms. To be considered a ranking factor, something needs to be given weight during the ranking stage.

While crawling is required for ranking once met, this prerequisite is not weighted during ranking.

Just in case that doesn’t fully settle the issue for you:

Google addresses whether or not crawling is a ranking factor directly in their “Top questions” section of the Google Search Central blog.

Screenshot from Google Search Central, June 2022Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget: Are They Ranking Factors?

Google’s documentation reassures readers that while crawling is necessary for being in search results, it is not a ranking factor.

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights

Our Verdict: Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget Are Not Ranking Factors

Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget: Are They Ranking Factors?

Crawl Errors And Crawl Budget: Are They Ranking Factors?

Google determines rankings by many factors. However, crawl errors and crawl budgets are not one of them.

Think of crawling as the entry point into Google’s search results.

Search engines need to be able to crawl your website to index your pages. Indexing is required for ranking. But, an increased crawl budget is not responsible for better positions in search results.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]

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