Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Matthew Small
by Matthew Small
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Mastering Google AdWords isn't enough, is competitive conquesting the answer?

11/26/2012
Mastering Google AdWords isn't enough, is competitive conquesting the answer?

When mastery of Google AdWords (or Bing Ads) isn’t enough, is competitive conquesting the answer?

For the novice who’s never used Google AdWords or Bing Ads, these advertising programs can definitely be difficult to master.  We've been managing PPC professionally since the GoTo days (e.g. 1999). Creating a campaign starting from scratch can be a challenge. The platorm interfaces change all too often and the competitive landscape is ebbing and flowing too.  Then there's the impact of competitive conquesting where the brand is crowded out. With the continued challenging economic times, we are seeing greater conquesting activities.

So what is competitive conquesting?

In the digital paid search space, it’s when brand A seeks to message its brand and/or products when a user is searching on brand B and oftentimes pays a premium for this opportunity. For example (note this example is being shared solely for illustrative purposes): if Coke wants to gain market share in a geo-location using Google or Bing PPC, it may elect to purchase Pepsi keywords (and of course, wrap around a campaign to interrupt the user’s brand impressions). Oftentimes, terms like neutralizing the competition, conquesting, and competitive messaging terms are used to describe this interruption marketing.

Tedious amounts of time go into tweaking campaigns to perfect them. Editing the campaign’s setting, revising ad groups, and updating ads and keywords can be a monotonous process. While the goal of the effort can be branding, most of our client use SEM for lead generation, to drive prospects and returning customers to a brand. When a brand is fully digital (and only gains sales from e-commerce and m-commerce), the goal is online conversion. If the business operates a storefront or a hybrid business model (some online sales, some offline sales), paid advertising serves users to a site for either purchasing or the user completes one or more intake form. The conversion path or the sales funnel of a site is another topic but let’s say that the science of user experience and personas are important inputs with tweaking and testing along with branding, content, and use of push and pull marketing strategies between social, blogs, and online reputation. Okay back to SEM.

When will a paid search program come to fruition? After you’ve added in negative keywords? Or dayparting? Set up your remarketing campaigns? Or is it a continuous process of never ending improvements?

Getting your program where it’s converting prospects to leads (or online sales) is the end game. This can be completed by keeping a steady eye on a few very important attributes that Google AdWords (and Bing Ads) provides for you as listed below.

  1. Impressions
  2. Estimated First Page Bid
  3. Quality Score
  4. Average Position

These are interdependent where one affects the other, both positively and negatively. When diagnosing a problem with a campaign, I always start by looking at the impressions. If people are not seeing your ad, they obviously are unable to click on it and therefore they are unable to give you the business lead you are looking for. Why you aren’t getting the necessary impression could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps there’s something amiss with your geo-targeting or perhaps your CPC bid is too low. Look to your estimated first page bid and even your estimated top page bid. These two columns in your account can tell you a lot about the market in which your brand is competing. You may be in a very competitive market where the CPC bid needs to be raised higher than you were originally comfortable (something we’ve recently encountered). Whatever it may be, before you can move on you must resolve this issue. Test different scenarios, look for better-searched keywords, keywords that have slipped through the cracks (i.e. common misspelled keywords that may not be included in broad match search assuming you are using broad match), etc.

If you are seeing the impressions you are seeking and you are still not getting the clicks you desire, look at the average position of your ad. Ad position can help summarize where your ad stands in comparison to your competitors. Personally, I like to see a position of 1-3 but can live with least 4 or 5 (and remember it’s a balancing act of position versus spend). Since we resolved any CPC bid issues we had earlier and if your ad position is low, we find that it’s likely the result of your quality score. Google defines quality score as an estimate of how relevant your ads, keywords, and landing page are to a person seeing your ad. My goal as an ad creator is to write an ad that gives a consumer exactly what they are looking for, and as quickly and easily as possible. Some quick and simple tips on creating relevant ads include placing the keywords specifically in the headline, the text and the URL of the ad, in addition of having a relevant landing page.

Monitoring these attributes and using easy to remember tips, you soon will be able to leave your paid search program in a stable and self-reliant state to where your regular maintenance is only out of want and not dire need. Now, this is, of course, considering your brand’s competitors don’t change their tactics ... ummm ... that’s for another post.

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