By Abigail Luther, Client Strategy and Development
We, as search marketers, are always trying to push the envelope for our clients. We sell in the newest and greatest technology, ensure our clients are opted into all the new Google Beta programs, launch flashy integrated reporting dashboards, all in order to prove to our clients that we are the best and the brightest in the industry. However, as I have on-boarded new clients for Resolution Media over the past year I have realized that many search marketers out there have forgotten something that is core the who they are…they have forgotten how to effectively manage and run search marketing campaigns.
Getting back to the basics may not be the sexiest sales pitch. In fact you probably won’t win any large agency pitch by stating “we’re going to take your search account to the next level by actually executing basic search tactics well.” Clients want to see the flash demos, the set it and forget it push button technology tools (please note that these do not exist), the reporting dashboards and regression analyses. That’s how you win pitches folks!
Getting back to the basics may not win pitches but it will save clients a ton of money and drive about 80% of the incremental value that we strive to drive when we transition the business from an incumbent agency. Below is a list of basic issues that I have encountered when transitioning clients that you should be on the look-out when bringing on a new piece of business.
• Technology Tools = Not the End All Be All: Many search agencies nowadays have depended on technology tools to automate campaign management. However, what these tools can do if not managed correctly is artificially inflate high ROI keyword CPCs and positions and decrease low ROI keyword CPC’s and positions. I’ve seen technology tools turn the funnel on its head by bidding $14 a click for brand terms (because they are generating a high ROI) and general awareness terms were being shown on the second page at $.50 CPCs. Please note, unless you have a new domain no brand term should ever have a CPC above $.10 maximum!
• Structural Issues: In a perfect world, every keyword would have a unique piece of creative and a unique landing page. Since the world is far from perfect, the goal is to try and ensure that your keywords are tightly grouped so that every keyword is highly relevant to its associated ad-copy and landing pages. Brand keywords and general keywords should not be grouped together; high volume/highly efficient keywords should be grouped together.
• Keyword Overlap Across Campaigns: Duplicate keywords can reduce CTRs and quality score because you are essentially artificially increasing CPC prices within your own search program. Due to product/service overlaps across divisions advertisers sometimes tend to purchase the same keywords to support different agendas. Our job as search marketers should be to identify conflict and provide recommendations on how to resolve.
• Irrelevant Queries: It’s amazing to see the types of queries can be generated via Google’s expanded broad match technology. I have seen some of the most absurd queries generated through this system. For example, a technology client that I manage was being matched to the query “Cat delivering kittens information.” We spend so much time identifying irrelevant keywords in our accounts, however, what we should be focusing on is irrelevant queries that our “relevant” keywords are driving. Your agency should be pulling search query reports if not weekly/monthly to check to see what types of queries Google is matching your keywords too and develop aggressive ongoing match-type/negative strategies to counter this technology. If they are not, you are wasting money.
I think our biggest obstacle is selling the need to undergo a full campaign overhaul to our clients who have been running search campaigns with other agencies and don’t want to believe that an overhaul is needed to move forward. Sometimes this can be a sensitive discussion, especially if the client has invested a lot of their own time working with the previous agency developing the old search program. The easiest way to sell this is by giving your clients clear examples of issues along with clear recommendations on how to resolve them. In addition, many times we are faced with conflicting priorities (a new VP wants to launch a big branded YouTube program or your client is interested in testing mobile) which may take your eye off the ball, however I can guarantee that if you stick to your gut and prioritize the foundation first, your clients will thank you in the end. To help you , below are a few “client management” tactics that have worked to help me manage my clients’ expectations appropriately during a transition period.
• Prioritize and Plan Together: Partner with your clients to identify 3-6-9 month initiatives and work to prioritize initiatives against their business priorities and your search priorities. Agree to a plan and stick to it!
• Parallel Path Foundation Development with New Initiatives: Dedicate 20% of your team’s time to developing and executing new initiatives while the foundation of the program is being enhanced. This will keep the VPs happy while your team focuses on the nuts and bolts that will drive the greatest return.
• Merchandise, Merchandise, Merchandise: When you start seeing gains in performance merchandise your successes to your direct clients and give them case studies that they can share internally with their bosses. Once clients realize your rock-star capabilities they will help manage churn internally.
• Be the Search Expert and Allow the Client to Be the Business Expert: The client knows more about their business than you so don’t act like you know more. Spend the first 3-6 months during your client relationship listening to their wants and needs and follow up with search tactics to support their needs. Don’t start a relationship by telling a client something that they already know….it simply is their business.
• Be Transparent & Communicate: The more open you are with your clients about the status of the current account, issues on your team, etc. the more they are willing to trust you to make the decisions that they don’t have time or don’t really want to make. If you begin a relationship with an open line of communication you are opening a door to improved future performance.
By Abigail Luther, Client Strategy and Development