Google search has 67% market share, with no other single competitor coming even close. Google’s ad revenue has exceeded that of print and TV ad revenue in some countries, totalling $42 billion in 2012. As a result of this near-monopoly, the ad market is becoming more and more of an uphill battle for many digital advertisers due to rising costs. Pair this with a near humanization of Google search algorithms and you find yourself in a very challenging playing field.
Digital advertisers have spent years learning to think like robots, so they can cheat complex algorithms by fudging meta-data and building illusory interlinkages among various web assets. When the new Google search algorithm – Hummingbird – came into effect in September, 2013, almost overnight, many front-runners found themselves on page 100 of search results to their great disappointment. Many saw this as a call to make their keyword strategies and SEO tactics even more elaborate, when the easiest way to success is to start thinking like a human – what is valuable to your audiences will be valuable to Google.
In the early years of Google, it was constrained by the cost of computing power. Google simply did not have resources to analyze all the content on your pages. It had to rely on meta-data and headings to map out content. The great responsibility to produce meta-data was left with content owners, and unfortunately, this trust was abused. The black hat search engine optimization (SEO) tactics have prospered and the unscrupulous reaped the benefits. With the increase in computing power, Google was finally able to create algorithms that, instead of focusing on meta-data, became able to analyze and “comprehend” content, hence determine its real value and relevance. Gone are the days when throwing in 100 standard keywords could get you a decent ranking in Google search results.
At Enerica, we welcomed these changes since they perfectly aligned with our SEO philosophy – content is the king. If you give people value, they will come. The key to digital success is transparency – don’t try to fool your users. Give them what they are looking for and no nonsense. We run all our campaigns via Google MCC centre that allows central management of all accounts in one convenient place. It takes about five minutes to set up a simple advertising campaign, but it takes days and weeks to properly plan for it.
We chose Google Ads as opposed to Facebook and LinkedIn, because this is an ideal platform if you want to improve findability and rating in Google search. If a correct strategy is chosen, your pages are pushed to the prime real estate of Google’s first page search results. Google now does a better job at integrating paid ads in the search results to make them less discernible – let’s face it, users ignore the links if they think they are paid promotions.
Before you start a CPC campaign, zero in on your objectives – both business and digital. Why “both”? Because, the majority of consultants and clients focus on digital objectives first, such as to get a certain number of clicks or a specific bounce rate. Also, a great many out there ignore the long-term benefits of increased digital visibility. You can think of your digital presence as capital and determine its current value by discounting it back using a reasonable discount rate (same you would do with financial capital). This unconventional approach may help you shift your focus from short term return to long-term benefit of CPC advertising.
For business objectives, you have to answer such questions as “How does the CPC traffic contribute to my bottom line?” or “What are the long term benefits of improved brand recognition?” For digital objectives, you should focus on the metrics that are easy to collect and monitor. Finally, to bridge your digital and business objectives, you should decide which areas of your website are best positioned to generate leads or showcase your products and services in the best possible light. We recommend to go even further and do an environmental analysis, as we do for all our projects. Yes, it takes time and resources, but attaining your digital objectives without strict alignment with your business objectives will be a waste of your time and resources. These objectives must also be realistic, otherwise you set yourself up for disappointment.
To select keywords for an advertising campaign, we do an environmental analysis with focus on digital competition and SEO. The main goal of the SEO analysis is to pick the keywords that not only attract traffic, but also have lower competition. Sometimes, it becomes a real challenge to find an affordable keyword that is relevant to your business, especially if you are mainstream and have not found your competitive niche yet. On the other hand, current markets are the markets of niches and if you have not found yours, CPC advertising may not be such a good idea – you will pay lots of money just to attract traffic to your competition. You must be clear about your competitive edge and focus your marketing efforts on it.
We run our campaigns in the automated bidding mode. In this mode, you let Google determine the best balance between the quantity of clicks and cost. It’s recommended to create campaigns based on specific distinct themes, where each theme contains relevant keywords. Your keywords should be related to the content of your website and the landing page. Better matching of the content on your page to specific keyword helps improve keywords quality and lower the cost of each click.
When running CPC campaigns, try focusing on finding the best possible keywords and planning and writing ads. Ads that have low relevance to the page content, will be a waste of money, as they do not result in conversions.
We have also had poor results using the Google ads display network and avoid using this option in our campaigns. Display networks are capable of producing lots of traffic and clicks in a very short time. From our experience this traffic is of low quality manifested through extremely high bounce rates and low engagement with the content. Also based on our experience, search-only campaigns produce better quality traffic that results in more conversions.