Tag Archives: search engine marketing

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jan 4 , 2021

Companies all over the world have to adjust to the new reality — which could mean rethinking current search engine marketing (SEM) strategies.

Here you’ll learn:

  • What Google has in store for search in 2021
  • Which new tools could enhance your SEM
  • The latest standout SEM trends
  • Tips for adjusting your campaigns in the new year

For most businesses, 2020 was a doozy. Between unpredictable sales and changes in customer behavior, many are still working on getting back to normal — the “new normal,” that is.

Meanwhile, the SEM landscape continues changing faster than you can flip calendar pages. Whether you’ve already finalized your marketing plans for 2021 or are scrambling to make it happen now, this is a great time to make sure your paid search plans are set up for success in the new year.

Below, we offer some ways to do just that.

1. Keep Google’s novelties in mind

Despite pandemic news and a holiday season unlike any other, Google continued updating its algorithms and policies. (Case in point: Their December 2020 core update.) 

Here are three planned Google updates that could have a significant impact on your marketing tactics and budget in 2021:

Mobile-first indexing

In March 2021, Google will fully switch to mobile-first indexing. This means that the search engine will look primarily at the information from the mobile version of your website when determining ranking. If you haven’t taken the steps to ensure your site is as mobile-friendly as possible, let this be the push you need to do so.

Core Web Vitals

In May 2021, Google will put new emphasis on page experience through the implementation of Core Web Vitals. With this rollout, some parameters will become significant ranking signals, such as:

  • Page loading time – loading time must be under 2.5 seconds.
  • Interactivity – the website should respond to the user’s actions in under 100 milliseconds.
  • Visual stability – the website should maintain a cumulative layout shift of less than 0.1.

Core Web Vitals means marketers will need to pay special attention to improving user experience (UX) on websites to match Google’s requirements. (However, because UX is already a priority for most brands, this shouldn’t be too big of a change-up.)

Third-party cookie phase-out

In January 2020, Google announced its plans to phase out third-party cookies (which have been used in marketing to track, monitor and analyze a site visitor’s behavior) on Chrome by 2022. It’s a move to quell growing online privacy concerns, with cookies slated to be replaced by “browser-based tools and techniques aimed at balancing personalization and privacy,” according to Marketing Land. 

This could affect your marketing strategies if you leverage advanced retargeting or remarketing tactics. The good news is that you have an entire year to learn how to pivot from relying on third-party cookies.

hawksem: sem campaigns 2020 article

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Get familiar with Google Analytics 4

Google is constantly perfecting its tools. One prime example of this is its new and improved analysis platform, Google Analytics 4. Launched in October 2020, this machine learning-driven program can help you get more nuanced insights into customers’ behavior.

New features also include the ability to track users across different platforms, improve audience segmentation in Google Ads, and much more. Exploring this new opportunity as soon as possible can help you gain a competitive edge and streamline your 2021 SEM campaign.

3. Beef up your educational content

As far as content types go, you can’t get much better than articles and other materials that aim to educate your audience. People love this kind of content because it provides a service and (ideally) helps them solve a problem or glean new information without having to make a purchase. 

With millions of people changing up their employment status in 2020, the need for educational content is on the rise. In fact, consumers are 131% more likely to buy a product after reading educational content, according to a recent study.

This content is a great incentive to include on a landing page in exchange for a user’s contact info. The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive results in the future.

4. Explore paid social advertising

When the pandemic moved millions of people to fully working, shopping, and seeking entertainment online in 2020, the number of active users across social media platforms increased dramatically.

The proof is in the data. Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users (that’s up from 500 million in 2019). Meanwhile, TikTok has more than 650 million monthly active users (up from 500 million in 2019).

Because of this, 2021 could be a great time to invest in paid social strategies. Social media ads are generally more affordable than other digital ad types, making them a smart diversification tactic. Depending on where your target audience is most active, you could explore ads on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest

hawksem: sem campaign article 2021

Right now, many people are rethinking their values, habits, and where they invest their time. (Image via Rawpixel)

5. Reevaluate your SEM campaign budget

Since the demand for products shifted more towards essential goods in 2020, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget as things go on the upswing. 

A good plan of action: Single out the highest performing ads and keywords, then channel more of your PPC budget to support them. To pace your campaign spend better, you may consider such settings as lifetime spend or monthly spend limits instead of daily budgets.

6. Keep a handle on security

A crisis can create fertile ground for all kinds of fraudulent activity. Criminals across the globe create malware and use names of famous brands to offer fake discounts while phishing for sensitive information. 

Almost 200,000 coronavirus-related cyber-attacks occurred every week in 2020. Protect your information (and that of your customer’s) with tactics like:

  • Monitoring your log files for crawl errors to reveal if spambots are trying to access your website
  • Implementing Single Sign-On (SSO) technology for user authentication
  • Checking to see if the website is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate
  • Reviewing all your SEO add-ons and plugins for security, stability, and updates

The takeaway

There’s no arguing that 2020 was a chaotic year across the globe. But amid a crisis, there are almost always lessons to be learned. 

The last year taught many of us new aspects of flexibility, adaptability, and survival. In 2021, the pandemic is still likely to affect some of your marketing efforts. Thankfully, this time, you can be much more prepared. By thoughtfully preparing now, you can streamline your 2021 SEM campaigns for whatever comes next. 

This article has been updated and was originally published in June 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Nov 18 , 2020

Let’s dive into what lead scoring is, how it works, and the ways it benefits your digital marketing program. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • What lead scoring is
  • Ways it benefits your PPC
  • Tips to set up lead scoring
  • How it can improve paid search ROI

For most marketing initiatives, it takes a mix of time and multiple steps to achieve real results. But it’s also true that the less time it takes to start seeing success, the better and more quickly you can optimize and improve. 

That’s where lead scoring comes in. Essentially, lead scoring is the process of grading leads to gauge their potential value for your business by assigning them scores based on a variety of factors.

For B2B and lead generation search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns in particular, experienced industry pros will tell you it’s crucial to know the value of the leads being generated. Plus, when you’re dealing with a high volume of leads, manually sorting through them can be time-consuming.

HawkSEM blog: PPC lead scoring

it’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them as interested vs. intent to buy. (Image via Unsplash)

How does lead scoring work?

A lead scoring system assigns values to leads and then ranks them against one another. For this process, you can give scores based on various attributes and actions. This allows you to focus on leads that will generate the maximum revenue for your business with the least amount of effort — and in less time.

Scoring leads helps you better understand how certain keywords impact your conversions and, ultimately, the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign overall.

It works by assigning points based on actions a prospect takes, such as requesting a consultation or downloading a piece of content. Once a lead achieves a certain score, they can be considered a “hot lead.” From there, they can be potentially routed to sales to nurture them down the sales funnel.

Simply put by BigCommerce, “the top benefits of companies that use lead scoring are a more measurable return on investment (ROI), an increased conversion rate, and higher sales productivity and effectiveness.”

How do I set up lead scoring?

Getting more than a couple of leads per week? Then it’s probably best to leverage a tool like Google Analytics to help you track keyword conversions. You or your marketing agency can connect this application to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP). This will allow you to begin scoring leads based on behaviors and actions the new contact or prospect has taken.

As Salesforce explains, setting up lead scoring improperly can result in “poor conversion rates and sales funnel dropouts, or customers who stop considering your company for the product or service they want to buy.” That’s why it’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them as interested vs. intent to buy.

What factors should be taken into account with lead scoring?

It may be a process of trial and error to figure out the best lead scoring metrics for your business. One best practice many businesses suggest is considering different score thresholds for different products or services, if you offer a variety.

You also may want to add negative score options to easily disqualify people like existing customers or job seekers.

You can also get more granular by weighing different pages and pieces of content differently. For example, a case study, white paper, or service page may be worth more points than a more evergreen guide or your homepage. 

How does lead scoring create a more ROI-driven PPC strategy?

An ROI-driven PPC strategy is one that has been developed to produce revenue. By being strategic and iterating based on what’s working and what’s not, you can be poised for seeing serious results.

Along with scoring leads, other important elements of launching an ROI-driven PPC strategy include:

  • doing customer research
  • writing strong ads
  • creating optimized landing pages
  • having eye-catching CTAs
  • leveraging ad extensions
  • targeting revenue-producing keywords
  • having consistent messaging from ad copy to landing page
  • tracking metrics

Implementing lead scoring can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. (Image via Unsplash)

Does lead scoring make sense for longer sales cycles?

We know that a longer sales cycle means it can take a longer time to see results. Lead scoring is still important for these campaign types. That’s because you need to understand the value of each lead along the sales cycle.

This falls under the low-hanging fruit theory of easy wins. By scoring leads, you’ll know which prospects are closer to a sale and which are further away. This info will help you better prioritize where to put your efforts as the cycle moves along.

How often should I revisit my lead scoring metrics?

Scoring leads is a great way to ensure your sales and marketing teams are aligned. With that in mind, it’s a good idea for marketing team members to periodically check in with the sales department to see which types of leads are closing most often. 

This will ensure that the lead scoring parameters you have in place are as accurate as possible. You want to have enough time to accrue significant data that you can analyze properly, so aiming to do one of these check-ins a few times a year is usually sufficient. 

The takeaway

Forget hot leads falling through the cracks or wasting time following up on unqualified or uninterested prospects. Implementing lead scoring can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. 

While it may take some tweaking to find the exact right method of lead scoring for your business, the time and investment are sure to be worth it once you see more leads becoming closed deals.  

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2014.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 4 , 2020

Paid search marketing for financial services can be a highly effective ROI driver — use it to build brand recognition and boost conversions quickly.

Here, you’ll find:

  • The regulations around financial services paid search marketing
  • Best practices for your paid search ads
  • The latest targeting updates
  • Why display ads are also worth exploring

Financial services encompass everything from credit unions, banks, and insurance to credit-card companies, financial technology (FinTech), and investment funds. But even though everyone should be thinking about at least some of these topics regularly, especially these days, not everyone does.

This makes it a challenge for financial services (or FinServ) marketers looking to attract new customers. Luckily, paid search or pay-per-click ads can give your digital marketing a boost by helping you build brand recognition, attract leads quickly, and drive conversions for your finance-based services. Below, we highlight 13 tips to help you develop top-notch search marketing strategies in the finance industry.

1. Understand the regulations

Financial products and services are highly regulated industries. This is why Google suggests that, when creating ads, you make sure to comply with local, state and national regulations. This may include specific disclosures that provide transparency to the product or services highlighted by the ad. Google and other search engines may also require specific information within the ad for it to be approved, such as:

  • Disclosure of associated fees
  • Contact information and physical location
  • Links for implied third-party endorsement or accreditation

Personal loan advertising must also contain info about the quality, fees, features, benefits, and risks associated with the product. The idea is that these disclosures provide valuable information to help consumers make informed decisions. When creating an ad, make sure your content contains:

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
  • Minimum and maximum repayment period
  • An example representing the total cost of the loan, including applicable fees
PPC for financial services

Whether you’re experienced in PPC or are new to paid search, starting slowly can help ensure you get the most efficient results possible. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Know the financial products Google won’t accept

Google doesn’t allow advertisers to promote a variety of financial products, including:

  • Short-term loans (loans that require full repayment within 60 days)
  • High APR personal loans
  • Trading binary options or similar products
  • Complex speculative financial products
  • Credit repair services

Advertising for loan modifications, debt services, and cryptocurrencies is allowed, but there are strict rules. If you’re planning PPC for financial services in these areas, review the guidelines carefully. Luckily, if your ad is not approved, Google provides guidance for what you can do to fix the issues.

3. Start paid search marketing slowly

Whether you’re experienced in PPC or are new to paid search, starting slowly can help ensure you get the most efficient results possible.

Start with one to three campaigns and a core group of four to ten keywords, then measure the results after a few weeks or so. You’ll see where your budget is being spent most effectively so you can cut the underperforming ads, continue to iterate, and put more effort towards what’s working.

4. Prepare for higher cost per click (CPC)

Financial keywords are competitive. When it comes to digital marketing for financial services, this often translates into a higher cost than for other industries. 

Focus keywords in your niche rather than the industry as a whole to help attract the most qualified leads, and leverage negative keywords when it makes sense to weed out unqualified leads.

5. Know your audience targeting options

If your company has physical locations in a few areas, tightly focused search engine marketing can help you make the most of your budget. In addition to targeting by geographic location, you were once able to can take advantage of other demographic options such as age, gender, household income, and more.

However, as of October 2020, Google will no longer allow housing, employment, and credit-related ads to target based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code in the U.S. or Canada. This applies to credit cards, loans including home loans, car loans, appliance loans, and short-term loans.

The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find your ideal target audience. For example, if you want to attract management-level consumers, use income levels, which should still be permitted. This can help you find the clients that want your products in a sea of those who aren’t the right fit for one reason or another.

6. Create original copy

To stand out from the crowd in the financial services industry, you’ve got to get creative. By writing unique copy that features offers and benefits, you can increase click-through rates (CTR) and attract the right consumers. 

For example, if you’re developing PPC for credit unions, credit cards or banking institutions, you may want to promote offerings like no annual fees or 24/7 customer service. If your campaign revolves around insurance company products, what perks or savings can you offer? Create a call to action (CTA) that stands out, catches the consumer’s eye, and inspires them to click.

7. Customize landing pages

If your ad simply goes to your company’s homepage, your campaign isn’t primed to convert. Keep conversion rates high by making sure the link on your ad goes to an optimized landing page that has the matching content.

The messaging across ads and landing pages should be consistent, relevant, and highlight the value to the consumer. From there, you can customize it based on the keywords and ad groups to encourage further interaction. The most effective landing pages feature an attention-grabbing headline, proof points, and an easy form. 

Pro tip: It’s a good idea for your landing page’s H1 (main headline) and H2 (subheadline) text to either match or resonate with top keywords you’re aiming to rank for. This alignment can help with quality score and engagement.

Paid Search Marketing for Financial Services: 13 Tips from an SEM Agency

Types of display ads include static, animated, interactive, video, and expanding. (Image via Unsplash)

8. Leverage display advertising

Sure, the requirements for advertising may be strict. But millions of consumers need financial products — from help with tax preparation, retirement, and home equity loans to auto insurance and basic banking accounts.

Display advertising offers several options to improve engagement and boost conversion rates:

  • Behavioral
  • Contextual
  • Geographical
  • Site-specific

Types of display ads include static, animated, interactive, video, and expanding.

Display ad best practices

The marketing strategy for an insurance company, banking institution, or financial products group must have the right mix of elements to be successful (no surprise there). Here are a few proven best practices to consider when creating your campaigns:

  • Go local: Localize your ad to make your interactions more relevant. Use familiar local terms and graphics to increase messaging and conversion rates.
  • Make it actionable: Consider adding a call to action (CTA) message or button to the banner itself to help inspire people to click for more. 
  • Add a focused hero image: If your product benefits a particular audience, use images that resonate with that specific consumer. For example, a happy young family in a yard for first-time homeowners may resonate better than a generic stock image of a wallet.
  • Build trust: Fear and uncertainty are common emotions associated with financial decision-making. Keep the message simple and repeat it, since most consumers need to see an ad several times before they believe it, without fear-mongering. Add any certificates or recognized local customers to establish trust.
  • Combine search marketing with display: Display ads increase brand recognition. As more consumers become aware of your product, they’ll search for it as they move through their decision-making process. As the search numbers increase, your search engine ranking improves, which can result in more sales.

9. Be aware of competitor positioning

Who are your top competitors? What features do they highlight? Research them so you can be ready to outdo them with your product’s value proposition benefits.

Consumers often comparison shop, so they’ll be looking for how you’re similar to competitors and what makes you different.

10. Make it a user-friendly experience

Keep your message simple and make it easy for consumers to understand what to do next. Use a quick form that lets them speed through the process, whether the desired action is downloading content, registering an account, or completing a request.

Minimizing the number of steps and removing unnecessary fields has been shown to increase conversions significantly. You can even test a short multi-page form that first asks a fun or simple question, followed by a page that asks for the required info.

11. Test, adjust, and test again

Take your PPC insurance, loan, or banking campaign’s search marketing results to the next level by testing individual components. Start by auditing keywords for funding value, rather than for leads or conversions, to help you score the highest return on investment.

Next, look at the segment breakdown for tablet, mobile and desktop to see which ads perform best. You may find that it makes sense to run some ads only for mobile and others only for tablets or desktops.

A/B testing can illuminate which ad elements resonate most with your audience. You can test things like the images, headlines, and ad copy by running two ads simultaneously. Just make sure you only test one element per A/B test so you can accurately pinpoint results.

12. Consider lead scoring

All leads are not created equal. Because of this, it’s a good idea to align your sales and marketing goals by using lead scoring. This method prioritizes leads, allowing you to respond quickly to people most interested in your products and increase the conversion rate. It assigns points to contacts so you know which leads require ongoing communication and which should be fast-tracked.

The most effective systems use a variety of attributes including but not limited to:

  • Demographics
  • Keywords
  • Clicks
  • Website visits

13. Add retargeting to your ads

Retargeting (also called remarketing) can be a highly effective method for increasing conversions. It encourages consumers to return to your website and complete an action they may have started but not finished, such as filling out a form or completing an order.

However, there are rules that may limit how much you can do in this area, so take some time to research the requirements in your niche to find out if it’s worth it for your company.

The takeaway

When people are seeking out financial services, they’re often in the midst of making their decision, so timing is critical. You have a short time frame to attract and convert prospects to customers.

Paid search marketing can jumpstart your efforts and show results quickly, which can help you tighten the focus of your messaging and improve ROI.

This article has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Jane Serra on Jun 1 , 2020

Check off these boxes to ensure your paid search marketing strategies are on the right track for your software as a service (SaaS) brand.

We’re calling it now: “pivot” is the theme of business in 2020. That goes for digital marketing, too. Across industries, customer needs and wants are changing. If you haven’t revisited your strategy playbook, now’s the time.

Luckily, SaaS teams are often more familiar with ever-changing goal posts than most. Whether B2B or B2C, SaaS products and platforms play a huge role across many industries, from finance to project planning and everything in between.

As your SaaS company adapts its marketing strategies to the changing times, there are a few key areas to focus on to make your paid search campaigns more effective. As one of the most effective digital marketing tactics in terms of ROI, this strategy can help ensure your SaaS company is set up to forge ahead. Here are some expert insights for how to do it right.

1. Aim for the right type of lead volume

Of course, there’s a drastic difference between increasing your SaaS lead count and attracting high-quality leads. If more people are clicking on your ad but there’s no increase in on-site conversions — or, ultimately, sales — you know adjustments need to be made. (This is especially crucial because you’re paying for each click.)

Sometimes, aligning yourself with well-known clients or customers can encourage higher caliber prospects to jump on board. Consider using recognizable industry names from your portfolio of happy customers in ads or on landing pages. This, paired with any industry awards, certifications or accolades, can boost your credibility and authority in the industry. 

2. Focus on the facts

As a SaaS company, successful sales often rely on how effectively you demonstrate the value of your product — and how it stands out from your competition. When you know the challenges faced by your prospective clients, you can cater your ads and content to the product features that will be most relevant to their needs.

Showing metrics is also a good way to prove your offering’s worth. It’s one thing to say you can save a company money, for example. It’s quite another to say you can potentially save them at least $50,000 — and have the data to back it up.

3. Know how to properly use LTV

Too many SaaS marketing agencies focus on lead volume. But especially with the longer sales cycles that tend to come with SaaS, it’s crucial to be calculating lifetime value (LTV). This figure can be used to make critical decisions, such as how much you pay for user acquisition and how your target through paid search ads. This is why lead scoring, as we’ve mentioned before, is crucial for a strong SaaS marketing strategy.

Hubspot explains you can determine lifetime value by calculating the average purchase value, average purchase frequency rate, customer value, and average customer lifespan. Ultimately, multiplying customer value by the average customer lifespan should give you your LTV. Once you have an accurate number, compare that with your customer acquisition cost (CAC) to make sure you’re getting the ROI you want. 

4. Understand what constitutes quality conversions

Speaking of LTV, your goal should always be to create clients for life. Because it costs money to acquire new clients, the more clients you keep, the less it’ll cost you (no surprise there). Plus, an increase in client volume coupled with a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) can save you serious money.

Understanding this can help you market with the long game in mind. Big players and key clients will sometimes visit your website or contact you with questions many times before deciding to make a purchase, but that type of client can be more lucrative in the long run. 

Pro tip: Investing in remarketing is a great way to keep your brand top of mind with those who are already aware of your business but maybe weren’t yet ready to buy the last time they interacted with your site. 

10 Tips SaaS Companies Need to Know About Paid Search Marketing

Using charts, diagrams and grids can allow you to clearly display how you’re different from your competition. (Image via Unsplash)

5. Consider your landing page your lifeline

A landing page is where a user ends up after clicking your paid search ad. This page needs to present the purpose and products of your company clearly and convincingly. It should give viewers a reason to take an action, whether that’s downloading a piece of content or filling out a form. 

One way to create landing pages that offer a wow factor is to use impressive numbers and statistics as proof points. Think of it as walking the walk — not just talking the talk. For example, stating that you can save clients up to 50% or cut their customer service calls in half (and even offering a past customer example) is more convincing than saying your product “utilizes the latest technology.”

Along with potentially incorporating metrics, visual aids can be effective at drawing attention to the desired call to action (CTA). Using charts, diagrams and grids can allow you to more clearly display how you’re different from your competition in terms of:

  • Cost
  • Features and benefits
  • Contract or subscription type
  • Results

You can also mention specifics, like cost per user and “freemium” models. This helps attract clients’ attention and makes it easier for someone to familiarize themselves with your offerings before making a full-on purchase decision.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to target your competitors and their keywords with your SaaS paid search. This helps increase your exposure and gives you a chance to highlight what sets you apart from the rest, whether it’s a certain feature or a special offer.

6. Study your ideal client and current clients

If your search marketing strategy isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, you may have misread what matters to your target audience. Especially for technical and niche business, keyword targeting is crucial.

Due to the hyper-focused nature of the lingo in some of these industries, one keyword may have multiple meanings, some of which may not apply to your business (like event planning software for businesses vs. ticketed event platforms). It can be helpful to go back through and make some of the following changes:

  • Adjust display times
  • Switch up keywords
  • Use more compelling ad copy
  • Tailor by language and location
  • Add negative keywords to your paid search campaigns

Sometimes all you need is a display campaign targeted to a very narrow audience to start attracting the right kind of clients. When you choose to go this route, however, it’s key to pick your placements carefully and make sure they’re on relevant sites.

7. Leverage long-tail keywords

When it comes to paid search marketing, longer search terms often mean higher intent. Think of it this way: someone searches “blender,” and someone else searches “Vitamix black 5200 standard high performance blender.” Who do you think is more inclined to make a purchase?

The same goes for SaaS. Going after more relevant, long-tail keywords not only targets those with higher intent, but it also snags those who are potentially in the “research” stage of the funnel, which can be just as valuable.

ten-tips-saas-companies

Offering educational content shows clients and prospects that you genuinely want to help them solve problems and illustrates that you’re a thought leader. (Image via Unsplash)

8. Aim to educate

While you’re certainly aware of the benefits your products and services offer, you have to assume prospective clients aren’t. That’s why educating your audience should be a big focus in your digital marketing strategy. You can do this through leveraging content like:

  • Demos
  • Video tutorials
  • White papers
  • Case studies

Offering educational content not only shows your clients and prospects that you genuinely want to help them solve problems, but it illustrates that you’re a thought leader in your space as well. You can offer this content via your paid search ad or on the landing page to get interested leads clicking around your site. 

9. Stay true to your brand

Using a variety of simultaneous campaigns and platforms is often a strong approach, since most viewers don’t become clients after one touchpoint or interaction. But even though you’re using different ad channels, your message and mission should be consistent across all of them.

Analyzing your data through Google Analytics or your CRM can highlight typical user patterns. This lets you focus your efforts on the best channels to increase ad effectiveness. When you know your standard user goes from an ad click to remarketing to white paper to a YouTube video before converting, you can budget better.

10. Look beyond Google Ads

There’s no denying that, by and large, Google is the top search engine around. But that doesn’t mean others, like Microsoft’s Bing, are worth ignoring. In fact, Microsoft Advertising makes it easy to export your Google Ads campaigns to their platform. 

Not only that, but you could see better results with a lower average cost per click (CPC). Depending on your target audience, you may even find less competition on the Microsoft Ad platform, which includes those searching on the Bing, Yahoo, and AOL platforms.

The takeaway

As you talk through your paid search marketing goals and strategies, you may find that a SaaS marketing agency is what you need to take your program to the next level and leverage ideas you might not have thought of before. 

For example, you may achieve a lower CPC when you push content downloads and assets and then follow up with an email or retargeting instead of focusing solely on free trials and demos. Whether you partner with pros or keep things in-house, the above best practices will set you up to craft winning paid search campaigns for your SaaS company.

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2019.

Jane Serra

Jane Serra

Jane Serra is the VP of Marketing at HawkSEM. She's an accomplished marketing executive with more than 12 years of experience leading digital marketing teams across demand generation, branding, events, content, and communications. When she's not strategizing, networking, and honing her craft, she enjoys traveling and scrolling Yelp for new restaurants to try.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 18 , 2020

Know what to look for in an SEM specialist — and the questions that’ll help determine if they’re right for you.

Here you’ll find:

  • Key traits an ideal SEM specialist should possess
  • Questions to ask a potential specialist
  • Tips for selecting the right candidates
  • Expert insights from industry pros

You’ve asked around, browsed reviews, narrowed down your list of candidates, and checked it twice. Now, what’s next? How can you figure out which search engine marketing (SEM) specialist is right for you?

We’re glad you asked.

Since SEM is an integral part of any solid digital marketing strategy, the demand for top-notch experts is high. This demand produces such a high supply that choosing the right person for the job can be overwhelming.

Let’s go over the nine traits to look for in an ideal (or nearly so) SEM expert for your company.

hawksem: sem specialist

Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they should have a good understanding of what quality content is and how it works. (Image via Rawpixel)

1. Experience in your niche

Sure, it’s obvious that an SEM specialist must be experienced. But how do you determine if their experience is a match for your particular company? Oftentimes, brands don’t know what to look for in their candidate’s experience. This can leave you out of the loop and in the dark in your marketing partnership.

Experienced specialists understand that each business needs a unique approach to SEM. That means that no two strategies will be exactly alike. While most qualified SEM experts can set up a strategy for any niche, the process is much faster if they’ve worked with businesses similar to yours in the past.

Questions to ask:

2. Ability to speak the truth

Search engine optimization isn’t an exact science — there’s an art to it as well. That’s why an experienced SEM specialist probably won’t offer you any guarantees. If a candidate promises to get your website to the top pages of search engine results in a week or even a month, that’s a red flag.

A trustworthy SEM expert won’t give you exact dates, either. Instead, they’re more likely to lay out the rough scope of work that needs to be done to achieve results in the nearest future.

Questions to ask:

  • How long will it take you to get my website on the first page of Google? (Trick question!)
  • Were you able to get your previous clients’ websites to the first page of Google?
  • How much approximate traffic can I get in one week/month/year?

Pro tip: Generally, SEM campaigns take at least three months to start showing solid results.

3. Fine writing skills

Content marketing is an integral part of SEM efforts. Even though specialists may not be writing on their own, they should have a good understanding of what quality content is and how it works.

Questions to ask:

  • Do you offer content writing services?
  • Can I see successful content pieces you created for previous clients?

4. Flexibility

You already know that SEM isn’t an exact science. It’s also highly volatile. What works perfectly today could blow up in your face tomorrow (thanks, algorithm!). 

Unless you follow the latest trends and adjust to new requirements on the go, it’s impossible to stay ahead of the competition. Experienced SEM specialists know how that works. That’s why they prioritize staying on top of the latest and greatest industry updates and news.

Questions to ask:

5. Stellar organization practices

An SEM specialist’s work is never done. Once you launch a campaign, it’s all about monitoring, analyzing, and optimizing.

Without knowing how to judge, prioritize, and delegate, an SEM expert can’t survive. That’s why you want someone who knows how to think creatively and make independent decisions.

Questions to ask:

  • How many other experts do you work with?
  • How often do you report on your work?
  • Will there be a person designated specifically to work on my project?
hawksem: find an sem specialist

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Excellent communication skills

Communication skills are one of the top traits you should be evaluating when hiring an SEM specialist. These experts have to work with many other strategists, such as SEO experts, content managers, designers, and more. 

A lack of communication, particularly up front, can lead to misaligned expectations (or worse). If you aren’t happy with their communication skills during an interview, they’re not likely going to improve once you partner with them.

Questions to ask:

  • How many specialists are on your team?
  • What are your top methods for staying in touch with a client?
  • How do you report a mistake?

7. Technical knowledge

An SEM specialist should have technical knowledge to come up with high-quality SEO and PPC strategies. They should know the ins and outs of Google Ads and related platforms that help launch campaigns, offer insight, and provide data.

Questions to ask:

  • What platforms do you use when conducting SEM?
  • Do you know JavaScript?
  • How do you create or obtain graphics and imagery?

Pro tip: Speaking of SEM technicalities, you want to find someone who can handle multiple mediums (such as Google, Microsoft Ads, and AdRoll), and understands where your industry generally performs best.

8. Passion for the field

The best SEM experts are passionate about their job. When you’re asking questions about their plans for your company or previous clients, look for passion or excitement in their voices.

Search engine marketing is a creative process. Without passion and inspiration, it’s often tough to achieve desirable results.

Questions to ask:

  • What are your favorite SEM tricks?
  • What was the most amazing breakthrough you ever achieved with SEM?

9. A dose of curiosity

To stay on top of their game, SEM experts must be curious and ready to ask questions. SEM is a joint effort. If the specialist doesn’t ask the right questions throughout the process, you may not get what you want.

Your potential SEM partner should be curious about the way your company works and always look for new ways to improve it.

Question to ask:

  • What questions do you have for me?

The takeaway

With so many SEM candidates vying for your attention, it could be tough to choose the perfect partner. By focusing on their behavior and asking the right questions, you’ll be in a position to pinpoint the ideal search engine marketing specialist after a couple of interviews.

Now that you know what to look for, an efficient partnership could be right around the corner.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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Written by Sam Yadegar on May 6 , 2020

As with any partnership, finding the right SEM agency for your brand takes patience and preparation.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Key questions to ask potential agencies
  • How to determine which one is right for your business
  • Ways to align expectations and communication
  • Red flags to look out for during the process

Whether you’re just starting out with search engine marketing (SEM) or have a successful program that’s just too much to manage on your own, partnering with an agency can be a great solution. But that doesn’t mean the process is simple.

As a marketer, you know how important search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and similar marketing tactics are, and doing these things properly can mean huge growth for your business. But SEM is a specific niche within digital marketing, and bringing in experts who know their stuff is key to achieving the growth you desire. 

So, how do you know what to look for in an SEM agency? Let’s break it down.

HawkSEM: Find the right SEM agency

Create a shortlist of agencies that seem to align with your goals and have experience in your particular industry. (Image via Unsplash)

1. Clearly define your goals

The first thing you need to do is create some clear, actionable goals you’d like to reach. When you begin working with an agency, they’ll want to get a clear picture of what you’d like to achieve through SEM. Having this information ready to go from the start will ensure you’re prepared, on the same page, and can hit the ground running.

After all, if you don’t thoroughly understand your own business’s goals, then you might not be able to get the most out of the relationship you want to form with the agency. 

Think about your current SEM strategies, and ask yourself or your team questions such as:

  • What parts have been successful, and what parts haven’t been working so well?
  • Do you want to improve your ability to drive organic traffic from qualified keywords on search engines like Google? 
  • Do you want to increase your return on investment from online marketing as a whole or just PPC ads? 
  • Would you like to improve your ROI while increasing certain metrics or KPIs by a certain percentage?

These goals can be improved by making them even more specific. 

2. Do your research

It’s not enough to just pick the first SEM agency that comes up in a Google search. Instead, create a shortlist of agencies that seem to align with your goals and have experience in your particular industry. 

From there, you can dive deeply into any information you can find out about the company. Check out their website, read reviews and customer testimonials, look at examples from their portfolio, and see if they offer any references you can contact. Being able to chat with past clients can offer insight into the way the agency functions and what you can expect when working with them. 

Other things to look for include how many years of experience they have, case studies, and sample reports. If any bad reviews exist online, did the review receive a response? No agency is perfect, but they should be able to use less-than-perfect customer experiences as a learning tool. 

In this research, you should also be able to find out if they’ve worked with companies in your industry before. This is key, because if they have, then they’ll already have a bit of background and knowledge of what worked best for other businesses in your field. 

Successful SEM and PPC advertising strategies can differ widely between industries, so it’s a bonus if an agency has a lot of experience with companies similar to yours. The learning curve will be shorter and you’ll be able to see results quickly when you work with people who already know a lot about your industry. 

3. See how well you “click”

You want to form a long-lasting, productive relationship with the SEM agency you choose. That’s why it’s important that you feel a connection right from the start. Take time to interview each of the agencies on your shortlist. Ask questions about their process, learn about the team you’d be working with, and see if their values and mentality match with yours.  

This is also a great time to look for transparency. If you feel like they’re withholding any information or shying away from certain questions or topics, this might be a red flag that they may not be completely upfront or honest. 

Regardless of how they answer your questions, if something doesn’t feel right, go with your gut. The agency should be happy to tell you about their process, totally clear about pricing, and eager to point you to references who can give you even more insight. 

Remember: Search engine marketing is an ongoing process. You’re looking for an agency that you trust from the first time you interact with them. You’ll likely be working together for a long time, and you want to feel comfortable handing over your account or platform information. 

Does it seem like they’re communicative, friendly, and willing to listen to your input? You can also ask how often they plan to conduct meetings, phone calls or check-ins, and how open they are to revising strategies that don’t seem to be working well. 

HawkSEM: Find the right SEM agency

The more information you can get from the agency, the more sure you can be of your final decision. (Image via Rawpixel)

4. Discuss deliverables

Another important question: How will the agency show you that their efforts are paying off? Lots of the metrics they’ll be dealing with are easy to track and measure, so find out how often they’ll be providing you with reports and what these reports will include. 

You can ask for the prospective agency to provide a sample report. You can also ask questions like:

  • How does your agency measure things like brand awareness? 
  • How does your agency weigh traffic coming from different sources? 
  • What attribution models does your agency use?
  • Does your agency use different attribution models in different circumstances? 
  • How do you measure ROI?

Communication and regular reporting are important for establishing a strong two-way relationship, so don’t be afraid to ask direct questions and expect direct answers.

5. Break down the specifics

By now, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of which agency you’d like to work with, but there are few things to hash out before you make a final decision. For one, be sure that the agency’s services are within your budget. 

Successful SEM isn’t a one-off “set it and forget it” project. Ask how they handle ongoing maintenance of your strategies. Will you be working with an account manager or communicating with an entire team? Ask how many employees they have and where they’re based. How much experience do the team members who will be handling your project have? The more information you can get from the agency, the more sure you can be of your final decision.

The takeaway

Hiring an SEM agency can help you take your digital marketing strategy to the next level, and choosing the right agency can make all the difference. 

By following these steps, you can feel confident that you’ve got the tools you need to make the right choice.

Looking for an SEM agency that checks all these boxes and more? You’ve come to the right place.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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