With January underway, most search marketers have already made their personal New Year resolutions. Whether it’s better health, spending more time with friends and family, or helping out in the community, we all have high hopes for 2013. For me, and many other search marketers, the motivation to do better each year defines the strategies I hope to execute on in 2013. It all starts with planning and creativity. After analyzing this past year’s performance and factoring in the objectives that have been set, three additional New Year resolutions made it on my list. The following are what I hope to do more of for my paid search program in 2013 and how I plan to get there.
1. Test More of Everything
My testing plans tend to go through cycles of high activity and mild dormancy. Building a test, analyzing results, implement the findings, and building the next test takes time and often loses steam when coupled with a busy schedule. This year, I’m going to test more and test often. This will include not just search landing pages, but also ad creative, conversion pages, and display banners. I’m working with my design team to create an optimization calendar that fits their bandwidth and allows me to prioritize tests across our multiple marketing channels. Testing more will be especially be critical this year as I look to grow leads incrementally without expanding budgets.
2. Re-Organize Messy Campaigns
Though this resolution is much more time consuming and has more long term than short term implications, I believe that it will pay big dividends during critical seasonal periods of 2013. Many times search campaigns are built out with a structure that makes sense at that time. However, as campaigns mature and outgrow that structure, they no longer perform at optimal levels. Aggressive keyword expansion can lead to less relevant creative; and less aggressive negative keyword expansion can result in unwanted clicks. On top of that, as Google and Bing come out with new features and functionality, the account structure may become dated and less productive.
This year, I’m reviewing the structure of my campaigns and groups. Groups that achieved lower than average click-through rates (CTR) in 2012 will be split out into more granular ones. Since keywords under this new structure will vary less within any one group, I can then generate highly relevant creative and leverage more specific landing pages in hopes of increasing Quality Score, CTR, and conversion rate.
3. Prioritize Creative Optimization
I've talked about this particular resolution in my previous articles, yet it always seems to fall lower in the pecking order of my daily optimization efforts. Especially among small to medium sized businesses where budgets are tight, creative testing and optimization is critical to incremental growth and improvements in overall paid search performance. In fact, all three of my resolutions for 2013 fall into the category of maximizing performance without increasing budgets. Splitting keywords out into more granular groups will require continuous testing to increase relevance and improve creative performance. To capitalize on the largest revenue opportunities, I’ll prioritize my optimization efforts to groups with high traffic volume, but poor performance. This is likely where I’ll get the most return on my time spent optimizing creative.
The key this New Year is building on the momentum from 2012. There are plenty of new publisher features and tools like remarketing and Product Listing Ads out there to try. Regardless, I've decided to rely on these three basic optimization strategies—aligning them with my marketing objectives—to improve my paid search program and increase conversions in 2013.