January 23, 2012

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Article

Hitting the Target

Successful Companies Must Develop an Online Marketing Plan

Russ Page

January 23, 2012

Take a moment to visit 1994 with me. I was sitting in a word processing class learning commands on a DOS-based computer with a green-colored screen. Smartphones have more power than that computer. Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Schindler’s List won best picture, Woodstock had its 25th anniversary and the NFL added the Jacksonville Jaguars to the league. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but a lot has changed in 16 years. This was also the same year a man named Tim Berners-Lee founded an organization called the World Wide Web Consortium, which would be the catalyst to our days of Facebook, YouTube, online banking and Google. Google founders Larry Page (no relation to me) and Sergey Brin, two Stanford Ph.D. students, wouldn’t even form the company until 1998, but would have $23.6 billion in revenue a decade later by capitalizing on context-based advertisements shown to Web searchers. When you do a Google search today, or use most any search engine for that matter, you’ll see sponsored results (alongside your other results) which are targeted advertisements delivered specifically to a searcher’s interest. Many businesses are aware they can advertise online for products like legal services, dental work, plastic surgery, bicycles, travel, books or financial services, yet they still aren’t doing it. Search Marketing Opportunity In December of 2009, people from around the world told search engines what they were looking for more than 130 billion times, and search engines showed them correlating advertisements on every search. That was a 46 percent increase over 2008. Fifteen years ago, advertising consisted of billboards, direct mail, TV, radio and a handful of other things that sought to target individuals in a crowd, and for direct mail purposes, a hefty postal bill came attached to it. Google and other tools made it possible to reach crowds of targeted individuals who showed interest in the product. One of those tools is called pay-per-click marketing (PPC). Google’s version of PPC is called AdWords. PPC is a form of context-based advertising that allows companies to select and bid on specific terms that searchers type like “Utah family dentist” or “attorneys in Salt Lake.” Instead of companies hoping they’ll find a qualified buyer via traditional advertising, Google and other paid search platforms prescreen the buyers for companies, and companies don’t pay for the ad unless users click on it, hence the name “pay-per-click.” The Challenge PPC marketing allows companies to reach and track sales to targeted customers more efficiently than traditional forms of media, but there is a science to it that should be undertaken with caution. As a Google advertising professional, I was hired to manage the search marketing campaign for one of the largest travel companies in the Western United States. To protect that company’s privacy, we’ll call it “Travel Co.” Travel Co.’s previous Internet marketing company was a very large venture capital-backed firm. Though Travel Co. was seeing some results from its marketing plan, the marketing plan received little attention to the testing and continual improvement of the paid search campaign. My company, Fifty Studio, was brought in to not only manage and run Travel Co.’s campaign, but to also provide strategic counsel on product selection based on optimal return on investment for the allotted ad budget. We quickly discovered that the previous marketing company set up the marketing campaign in a way that Travel Co. would only be able access to if they continued to do business with the previous marketing company. This raised an immediate red flag since Google allows companies to set up their own accounts and grants others access to manage it. A Modern Marketing Plan As we looked at the current campaign and what offerings would fit Travel Co. best, we agreed on paid search (PPC), bid management, paid search ad testing and development, analytics reporting, and call tracking. Analytics are vital to a company’s online marketing plan, as analytics inform companies of whether the plan is working. There are number of tools that you can use to track user behavior in terms of your paid search marketing campaigns. One of the more popular resources is Google Analytics, and it can be directly tied to your Google AdWords paid search campaigns. It’s also free. Call tracking is another effective tool. Many companies offer telephone call tracking abilities that can tie ROI to your search marketing campaigns. These are generally very expensive up front, but effective. Fifty Studio conducted extensive research and discovered that Travel Co.’s previous marketing plan was not only missing some important opportunities in terms of product offerings, but that it was also not effectively targeting geo-specific locales where the current customer base was found. We also found that certain products being advertised under the current budget were not going to bring the optimal ROI and that other offerings should be promoted more heavily. Consequently, we implemented individual campaigns targeted at specific U.S. states. Google allows you to market to customers within designated geographical areas at the country level, state level or even the city level. Since Travel Co. didn’t process transactions, Fifty Studio also implemented an online integrated analytic tracking that allowed Travel Co. to not only see which campaigns performed the best, but how they were performing the best. We have also conducted a series of A/B testing experiments on advertisements to increase their effectiveness while lowering the overall cost-per-click attributed to search phrases being displayed with those ads. The Results Within three months of launching the new paid search campaign, the qualified lead traffic was increased by 78 percent, while lowering what was previously spent on ads by 13 percent. We’re also on track to increase the previous call volume by 53 percent over what was previously done within that budget. Today’s marketing world is a vastly different landscape than just a few years ago. Successful companies will develop a strategic online marketing plan and use analytics to ensure that plan is working. About Russ Page Russ Page is a certified Google Advertising Professional and the chief operating officer of Fifty Studio, a Web development and internet marketing firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Fifty is a 4-time W3 award winner. His company can be found at www.FiftyStudio.com Strategic Breakdown How your company can put this case study to work. Situation Travel Co.’s online marketing plan was producing insufficient results. Little attention was given to the testing and continual improvement of the paid search campaign. Problem Travel Co. was losing potential customers. Goals Develop an online marketing campaign that will increase qualified lead traffic and produce an optimal return on investment. Plan Travel Co.’s new online marketing campaign included paid search (PPC), bid management, paid search ad testing and development, analytics reporting, and call tracking. Results Within three months of launching the new campaign, qualified lead traffic was increased by 78 percent, while lowering what was previously spent on ads by 13 percent. Lessons Today’s businesses must develop a strategic online marketing campaign and use analytics to ensure the plan is working.
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