Top 5 Questions Clients Ask About Search Engine Marketing
Even though using Google and other search engines has become as habitual in our day-to-day lives as a morning cup of coffee, many clients undertaking their first search engine marketing campaigns realize that advertising on Google may not be entirely intuitive. In fact, managing a search engine marketing campaign involves handling a lot of moving parts and requires the willingness to think both analytically and abstractly. If you’re new to SEM and are feeling somewhat in the dark about the terminology and processes it entails, know that you’re not alone.
It’s helpful to know the basics of search engine marketing in order to better understand the role it plays in a larger marketing plan and the impact it makes on your business. As an SEM specialist, I’ve heard all manner of questions over the years, yet a few stand out as the most commonly, and often reluctantly, vocalized; here, I’ve captured the five most common questions I receive from clients who are new to the wonderful world of SEM.
1) What is an impression and how is it different from a click?
An impression is what is registered when someone types a search query in a search engine and paid search ads appear. If your ad is triggered in response to a search query, it will generate an impression, and that impression is included in performance data regardless of whether it is shown in the first position on the first page, or the bottom of the third page. A click is registered when someone clicks on the ad and is directed to your website.
2) How are paid search ads different from organic search ads?
Paid search results typically appear at the top or right hand side of the search results page. There may be text above the ads calling out the fact that they’re ‘Sponsored Ads,’ indicating that they’re the result of paid marketing. Organic search ads, by contrast, appear in the body of the search results page and the content they display may be less neat and clean or less focused on selling a product or service, as they are in part triggered by relevant news and industry happenings, as opposed to marketing goals.
3) Why am I not seeing my ad when I search for it?
A number of factors are taken into account when a search engine determines whether or not to serve an ad in response to a search query.
Budget is a primary factor in this process, as a search engine calculates your daily budget along with the perceived demand in the market to decide how frequently it can show ads. Unless a campaign is set to deliver at an accelerated pace (i.e. Show ads as quickly as possible in response to demand and shut off once the daily budget is depleted), a search engine will distribute ad delivery as evenly as possible throughout the day to ensure that some degree of visibility is maintained morning, afternoon and night. This may mean, however, that if demand is particularly high during the morning hours, a search engine will not show ads in response to every search query so as to reserve some for projected potential searches done later in the day.
Search frequency also plays a role; if a search engine intuits that a particular source is generating a large share of search queries for a particular keyword or keywords, it will stop showing ads to that user/location. Search engines read this type of activity as potentially nonviable, as if it were coming from a competitor trying to rack up activity, preventing the budget from being spent on viable search activity.
Lastly, geography is taken into account. For campaigns with highly refined geo targeting, anyone performing a search must be within the targeted area. For those running campaigns outside their physical location and really anyone looking to check for their ads on Google, I recommend using the Ad Preview tool, which allows you to plug in your geographic target, search on a keyword and see (or not see) your ad without generating any impressions.
4) What are average CPC and max CPC and why are they important?
CPC, or cost per click, is the price of a click on an ad. Average CPC is based on actual results and indicates the average expenditure for all clicks accumulated within a given date range. Average CPC can be assessed on a micro level, looking at activity for an individual keyword, or a macro level, averaging the cost and clicks for one or more ad groups, campaigns or the entire account. Max CPC, on the other hand, indicates the price that an advertiser is willing to pay for a click, though an actual click may not ultimately cost that amount. As the CPC model is a bid-based auction, advertisers compete with each other to have their ads shown in highly visible positions on the search results page; the degree of demand for a given keyword plays an important role in determining what an advertiser may need to bid in order to stay competitive.
5) What makes my ad appear on the search results page?
Several factors, a major one being max CPC. Since a ‘highest bidder wins’-type scenario would prohibit advertisers with lower budgets from staying visible, the ad auction has leveled the playing field by utilizing relevancy factors along with max CPC. The contextual relevance of both the keyword that’s searched on and the ad that appears in response to the search is part of this relevancy equation, which is why you want your keywords and ads to be pertinent to your brand and to your website. If a keyword and corresponding ad don’t relate well to the content of the landing page they direct users to, ad delivery may be negatively impacted. Performance factors such as historical click rate also count, meaning that ads that have established strong efficiency by converting a high number of impressions to clicks over time are more likely to be shown on the search results page.
So there you have it – the questions most often on new SEM clients’ minds. If you find yourself scratching your head, mystified by expansive excel documents, confused by cryptic abbreviations like KPI’s, CTR and CPC or perplexed at how destination and display URLs aren’t the same thing, just keep in mind that most people are equally flummoxed when they first encounter search engine marketing and that it can and will sink it.