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SEO Web Design / SEO  / PPC award winners talk strategies for competitive times, industries, and marketplaces

PPC award winners talk strategies for competitive times, industries, and marketplaces

In an interview with contributor Matt Van Wagner, the SEM initiative Search Engine Land Award winners talked about their strategies for a donation campaign combatting news searches during the bushfires in Australia, improving CRO in the very competitive financial services space, and improving margins for seasonal retail campaigns on Amazon. Watch the video below to check out the tactics:

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Best Overall SEM Initiative – Small Business

Matt Eden, Head of Performance Media at Reef Digital Agency

Tell us about your campaign, Matt.

Matt: The Vincent Paul Society approached us in late December about running a bushfire campaign. With bushfire campaigns, in particular, because Australia goes through this cycle of having bushfires, we usually have a build that’s ready to go. This one was a bit different because the crisis was much larger than we’ve ever had before. We tend to run our campaigns using broad-match modifiers initially. And then whittle down the list as quickly as we can with negative keywords and running those across just single keyword efforts.

I logged into it the next day at 9 am. And within that period it had raised already about $10,000 to $15,000. We’ve had a $10,000 budget that was due to run until January 11, but given just the amount of traffic, the amount of volume that was coming in the client quickly increased that because there was just a huge overwhelming number of donations that were coming in. So then we used that skeleton build that we had and then iterated on that and make it adaptable to 2019.

What were some of the challenges of that because it sounds like it moved very quickly? What surprised you on this campaign?

Matt: The big surprise was the number of donations that came in. When we look back to the end of last year, there were so many charities, so many news outlets, so many people on social media that were trying to drive donations and drive awareness, particularly for rural Australia. So what surprised me was there was still an enormous volume of users coming through, in spite of all this competition that was out there. We call it competition because everyone’s kind of fighting for the same thing, which is really just to drive donations for those areas. But it was really just the number of people that were still there that worked that wanted to donate, and it just maintained momentum; it didn’t stop. 

One of the biggest challenges was trying to avoid news outlets. Because we were on broad match

modifier, we wanted to avoid overlapping with any news outlets, anyone that might be searching for news, “bushfires near me” there was a huge amount of volume for keywords like that, looking at the live map to see where fires were, where they needed to be evacuated. Just avoiding all of that, or that sort of traffic, and actually wanting to stay away from it as much as possible. 

From what I understood that you noticed, and this was very clever, but you notice that the weather patterns or smoke patterns and influence on your campaigns and even react to that, you know, we have all these levers in front of us with you know all of the demographic and geographic and time of day. Tell me a little bit about what that was all about.

Matt: In Sydney, where I am, quite often a lot of the days, it was covered in smoke. And that would get a bit of a media uptick, you get a bit of news coverage out of that. So we’d upweight our bid, we were just running enhanced CPC for this as opposed to the bidding strategies, we would upweight our bid on those days in particular. But we’d also upweight them on days when there was controversial news coverage. I don’t know how much you saw, but our Prime Minister kind of dropped the ball several times with a bushfire crisis. So really upweighting the bids there as well, because we knew people would be looking and knew people would be active.

Best B2B Search Marketing Initiative – SEM

Christian Nicolini, VP of Paid Media at Ignite Visibility

Matt just talked about hammering home a couple of really powerful tactics and using them very effectively one-off, but you’ve had to do something different in a highly competitive marketplace. So if you can, tell us the story. And what the challenges were and what you had to do with paid search in order to make them successful.

Christian: This particular client is in the financial services space, seven-figure budget, very explicit acquisition goals. We’ve been working with the client for the last three years. We were coming up on the measurement period, which was March 1 through December 31 year over year. And we had just come off of our best year after acquiring this client from a previous agency. We had a lot to improve on if we wanted to beat year over your numbers, which, in turn, was about 40% year over year. 

And simply put, the conditions have revolved around four key search marketing pillars. Internally, our team is made up of disciplines such as our data science program, our search program, our creative, and CRO program. And we try to create the synergy between all these programs to allow us to achieve a really ambitious goal without increasing much of a budget. 

That goal was personalizing the search results, maximizing exposure in a high-value auction using impression share strategies, curating a landing page experience using dynamic elements on the site, and then bridging that gap between online and offline conversion tracking. And what I’ve found is we have to push back information from an open opportunity, a lead, and then push back the scoring of those leads and closed opportunities back as low as they keyword level, and even the creative level, and then being able to differentiate what segments of our marketing images are impacting the highest quality of leads coming through. 

And I know you were talking about challenges prior with Matt, and with us the competitiveness of this auction is a challenge within itself. CPC is extremely high–closing in on the three digits, typically between $50-80 CPCs depending on the type of service that we’re bidding on. The client really struggled to hit a specific CPA target while scaling the budget. Of course, you can scale the budget, but maintaining the CPA that we needed was a difficult challenge. 

On top of that, fending off competitors with brand search. Insulating against our competitors was a challenge within itself and making sure that we are always going after net-new opportunities and not expanding our budgets and brand search environments where the competition wasn’t necessarily as relevant. 

When it comes to maintaining on-site conversion rate, when you typically scale enterprise search like this, dealing with budgets in the seven figures, it’s really easy to buy traffic. What’s harder to do is buy a ton of traffic and convert that traffic and try to maintain that conversion rate. So we had to bring in some resources on the CRO front, which enabled us to overall increase our engagement rate at the ad level. We were able to leverage impression share bid strategies and analytics to maximize our exposure while keeping costs down. And we were able to maintain our on-site conversion rate while increasing our reach and traffic to our site by incorporating a really disciplined CRO strategy.

Best Retail Search Marketing Initiative – SEM

Brittany Oliverio, Director of Channel Solutions at Sidecar

You were working in a retail space which is pretty competitive. Margins are always a challenge there. Can you tell us a bit about what the problem was, what the market looked like, and what you were able to do and how you’re able to do it?

Brittany: Amazon charges fees just to advertise simply advertise as a couple of different fulfillment methods that they layer on extra fees. So generally when advertising on Amazon margins are slimmer, than when advertising on other channels. Due to this, a lot of our customers have some issues with advertising and their margins and need to make sure that they are obviously making money on their lower margin products.

Summit Sports sells outdoor apparel and equipment ranging from boats to snow gear and ski equipment. THeir products were not only seasonal, but in different seasons. They were having a hard time figuring out how to set up their campaigns when some of their products were higher and lower margins as well as seasonal.

We started off by looking at brands, product types, and actual individual use to see where the different margins lie, and how it made sense to break out the campaigns. We found that the their private label items, as you would suspect, had higher margins than the third party items. We took that data and were able to break the brands out into separate campaigns. We worked with the ebbs and flows of their peak seasons and low seasons as well as the margin differences to set up different cost of sale goals across the different campaigns that we had set up.

You had to feed some sales and margin data into your bidding system. How was that? Was that easy? Was there a lot of manual connection? What did you do?

Brittany: It definitely took a lot of work on our back end internal tools. This is a strategy that we had used previously, across some of our Google customers that we saw worked pretty well. It is newer in Amazon, just due to the newness of the platform and not having all of the capabilities that Google does. So we worked pretty hard to update our internal technology to be able to ingest the data, and therefore make data-driven decisions off of the margin. So we were able to set different cost of sale goals per campaign based off of the margin data, because they had different goals per campaign. Then our technology would look at the data and make it adjustments according to those cost of sale goals that we had set up.

What what was the biggest surprise? Did it that it happened quickly? Did it did it take a lot of iteration?

Brittany: I think the biggest surprise was that it worked pretty quickly. A lot of data needs to be ingested in order for our technology to make these decisions. But given that we’ve worked with some in sports, for a bit of time before we decided to implement this strategy, we had enough data to work off of. We were able to make some pretty impactful adjustments pretty quickly. We increased their revenue significantly within two of their marketplaces while remaining at their cost of sales, which was the main priority.

Watch the video above for more tips from the Search Engine Land SEM Initiative Awards winners.[1]

About The Author

Carolyn Lyden serves as the Director of Search Content for Search Engine Land and SMX. With expertise in SEO, content marketing, local search, and analytics, she focuses on making marketers’ jobs easier with important news and educational content.

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