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Search Visibility – The Paid, The Natural and The News

If you want to be found in search, there are four primary ways to get there. Each has its strengths and weaknesses – but understanding what you can expect from each method can help you get visibility online and in Google.

Over the next several posts, you’ll get some background on the following, including what to consider when you’re optimizing for each:

Paid– Also known as sponsored links, appear at the top and/or right side of the page

Natural– Appear in the center / left portion of the page

News– Appear with natural results, often with an image

Local–  Appear with a map, link to further information/reviews

Paid Search

Getting into paid search is relatively simple to start, difficult to do well, and can be really expensive. Google AdWords is an auction-based platform that lets you bid for position for specific keywords against everyone else bidding to be seen. These results show up at the top or right side of a search results page, and are labeled “Sponsored Links.”

Google’s objective: Making money. Don’t forget that, because AdWords makes it very easy to spend. So easy, in fact, that the majority of Google’s billions come from paid search advertisers.

PRO: Get your advertising seen within the day. You can control where people land when they click. You can measure results easily.

CON: Can be very expensive – especially if you are just getting started. Start small or seek professional advice! But if you do want to try it on your own, here are some steps to follow.

Five Steps To Creating An Effective Paid Search Campaign

  1. Decide what you are going to measure as success. Is it a phone call? Is it a registration? Is it a purchase from your site? Google lets you track some of these (registrations and purchases), and some you will need to control through what the visitor sees on the landing page.
  2. Develop cul-de-sac landing pages. This is very important – if you have a specific objective for a visitor, you’ll know what you want them to do, so make that page give them one choice – to call, fill out a form or buy. Oh, and give them enough information that they understand what they are getting from you for taking that action (free trial, free account, discounted shipping, free initial consultation… the possibilities are endless). For more about landing pages, check out Tim Ash’s awesome book on Landing Page Optimization.
  3. Implement AdWords conversion tracking on your site. If you handle your site creation, this is pretty easy – if you don’t then buy the developer a beer… I mean, work with your technical team to implement it. Google tracks one type of conversion at a time – so choose whether you track a registration, lead, key page visit or sale as your primary conversion metric.
  4. Create and organize your AdWords account. Google lets you organize your pay per click efforts in a hierarchy: Campaign, Ad Group, Keyword. Here’s the low-down on each:
    • Campaign: You can set your daily budget at this level as well as ad distribution (search or content). So as you are organizing how you’ll work, figure out what keywords or concepts you want to control an individualized budget for. This can be by location (geography), audience (keywords for business owners vs. marketers), by product, etc. Let your marketing strategy drive how much you budget to each campaign segment. Hint: start out with just one until you get the feel for it. Expand when you want to try something new.
    • Ad group: You can have several ad groups per campaign. Each ad group can share ad copy across the keywords, and you can send someone to a specific landing page based on the ad copy that you are showing them. Google uses quality scores as a part of how they charge  you in the auction, and quality scores start with how well the keywords and ad copy match. BIG HINT: Keep your adgroups small, with very similar keywords. That helps to boost quality and lower costs.
    • Keywords: Each adgroup can have as many or as few keywords as you like, however the closer they are in concept the better the user experience. Also, Google lets you use “match types.” With broad match, your ad will show up when that phrase or one that they think is similar shows up. Phrase match means that the phrase is a part of the search. Exact match means that your ad will show up only when the exact phrase is entered by a searcher. I strongly recommend you start with exact and phrase match.
  5. Measure. Measure. Measure. If you have conversion tracking set up before your campaign launches (really, you must do that first), you can see which campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and ads are driving the performance metric you want. One of my favorite views of Google is the “Home” tag. This page shows you key performance metrics right up front like cost per click, total spend, cost per acquisition, and more. You can also set it up to show you a couple of line graphs if that helps you.

If you want more information, check out this step-by-step article by Google about how get started with AdWords. It’s a bit outdated, but is a good start. For a deeper dive, check out SmallBiz Marketing Tips website – they have a series of articles about how to advertise with Google AdWords.

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