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Written by Sam Yadegar on Jun 3 , 2020

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 find:

  • How SEM has changed in 2020
  • Ideas for adjusting your campaign
  • New industry trends and developments
  • Common campaign mistakes to avoid

The good news: with so much uncertainty about the future right now, search engine marketing is still worth leveraging. By making just a few tweaks, you can set up your SEM campaigns to succeed, no matter if the business climate is rocky or smooth sailing.

Changes to consider

Before adjusting your SEM strategy, you need to pinpoint what has changed about your target audience’s psychology and behavior, if anything.

  • Lower purchasing power – many consumers are experiencing a decrease in income and a shift in priorities, so purchasing power is dropping
  • Higher learning potential – with more time available, people are doing more research online, looking for educational materials, taking courses, and watching webinars
  • Demand for better digital interaction – consumers are spending more time at home and demand more convenience from remote service providers
  • Change of focus – consumers are shifting their focus to products of prime necessity
  • Remote operation – the majority of companies are moving their business online, increasing digital sales, and providing remote support
  • Lower costs – due to the decrease in demand, the cost per click (CPC) for paid search ads has dropped
hawksem: sem campaigns 2020 article

Be it your next blog article or an Instagram ad, you need to remove the filler. (Image via Unsplash)

What hasn’t changed is the need to promote your products and services. Experts say it’s OK to market your business during these times, as long as you lead with empathy, transparency, and with your customers’ current needs in mind. 

Since search engine marketing is an ongoing process, stopping it today may mean starting from scratch tomorrow. Adapting your promotional tactics to the new pain points and needs of the target audience is the key to your company’s success for the rest of 2020 and beyond.

1. Focus on content clarity

Be it your next blog article or an Instagram ad, you need to remove the filler. In 2020, consumers are spending more time online, which often means being bombarded by a ton of information. Because of this, they’re becoming more and more experienced in telling valuable information apart from thinly-veiled sales content.  

Google is also adjusting its algorithms to the new reality (as of its May 2020 core update) trying to focus on clarity. Here are some ways you can keep in the search engine’s good graces:

  • Focus on the readability of your content
  • Keep anything related to traveling or large gatherings out of your content
  • Don’t make any promises or wild predictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Focus on what you offer and how you follow through for your customers
  • Adjust your CTAs according to the latest developments (i.e. “visit our store” and “let’s meet” are rarely relevant these days)

2. Reevaluate your SEM campaign budget

Since the demand for products has shifted more towards essential goods in 2020, it may be a good idea to reevaluate your PPC campaign budget. With the average CPC dropping by 50% across the board, it’s an excellent time to redirect the budget to top performing SEM campaigns.

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.

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 pivoting how they do their jobs (if they were lucky enough to keep them), 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.

The time and money you invest in the educational content right now can bring impressive results in the future.

4. Capitalize on your knowledge base

Is your knowledge base sitting idle, aimed solely at customer support? The year 2020 is an excellent time to take full advantage of it for SEO

Here are some ideas for how to capitalize on this resource:

  • Turn your FAQ documentation into separate educational blogs
  • Link to your knowledge base to improve your internal linking efforts (link to it in “ticket received/closed” responses as well)
  • Study your customers’ behavioral patterns by checking which information they access most frequently, then create content based on those findings
  • Use the knowledge base to establish yourself as an authority in your industry

Put your knowledge base content in a nice wrapper (like a readable structure with entertainment elements and personalized touches). Then, use it on your website, social media, and for guest posting.

hawksem: sem campaign article 2020

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

5. Improve security

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

To date, almost 200,000 coronavirus-related cyber-attacks occur every week. 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 SSL
  • Reviewing all your SEO add-ons and plugins for security, stability, and updates

6. Inspire your customers

Right now, many people are rethinking their values, habits, and where they invest their time. This is an excellent opportunity to inspire them to try something new. Create inspirational content for your website and PPC ad campaigns as a creative way to highlight products you may have had a hard time promoting in the past.

For example, you can take full advantage of an Instagram paid ads campaign to show how you can improve your customers’ lives during these trying times. Such an approach can turn into an efficient SEM campaign after the pandemic subsides as well.

7. Discover more paid social platforms

It’s likely that your target audience is spending more time online. Meanwhile, advertising costs are dropping. It’s the perfect environment for exploring new paid social platforms

These ad types are often on the more affordable side when it comes to digital ads. Social media ads also seamlessly fit into feeds in a way that lets you meet your prospects where they already are. 

If you’ve been advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn, it’s time to look at Instagram and Pinterest and vice versa. You can direct your attention to YouTube in-video ad placement as well.

The takeaway

The companies that survive through hardships aren’t the ones who say “we’re not going to change how we do things.” Rather, they work to think outside of the box, adapt to changing dynamics, and pivot their strategies in creative ways. 

This is the motto for a high-quality 2020 SEM campaign. By rethinking your audience’s needs and adjusting to the new demands, you can set your brand up to survive any crisis — and gain valuable experience to capitalize on in 2021 and beyond.

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 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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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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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Written by Caroline Cox on Sep 23 , 2019

In marketing, as in sales, being able to save time wherever you can is a game-changer.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to track ROI from PPC
  • The best ROI tracking tools for PPC
  • Ways to increase year-over-year ROI results from PPC
  • How to generate ROI reports for PPC campaigns

For most marketing initiatives, there are multiple steps you have to take to see real results — from launching a campaign to closing a deal — but the fewer it takes to succeed, the better.

That’s where lead scoring comes in. For B2B and lead gen search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, in particular, experienced industry pros will tell you it’s crucial to know the value of the leads that are being generated. And, especially when you’re dealing with a high volume of leads (which is a good problem to have!), sorting through them can be time-consuming.

HawkSEM blog: PPC lead scoring

Lead scoring helps you better understand how certain keywords impact your conversions and, ultimately, the success of your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign overall. (Image via Unsplash)

By setting up a lead scoring system, which essentially assigns values to leads and ranks them against one another, 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).

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

 

How do I track ROI from PPC?

If you’re getting more than a couple of leads per week, it’s best to leverage a tool like Google Analytics to help you track keyword conversions. You or your marketing agency and connect this application to your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform (MAP) to include lead scoring based on behaviors and actions the new contact or prospect has taken.

Using software for this purpose will help you give value to your data while allowing you to zoom in on the keywords and campaigns that are most successful. This way, you can focus more of your efforts on revenue-producing PPC campaigns.

 

How do I launch an 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.

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

 

What if most leads aren’t converting to customers?

The biggest failure of PPC campaigns is not analyzing keywords and doing regular research to see which ones have a proven track record of producing results for your business. Beyond clicks, which keywords are driving the most revenue or lifetime value (LTV)? Focusing more on these “money keywords” can be the ticket to converting more conversations into actual sales.

Along with keyword monitoring, the formula you use to calculate your conversion goal when bidding for keywords should be based on the conversion rate you’re trying to achieve, rather than on the rate at which you’re looking to bid.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to achieve a 5:1 revenue-to-ad ratio. Knowing this, you should structure your campaign based on cost-per-acquisition (CPA) conversion goals. For successful ROI-driven PPC campaigns, it’s crucial that you know your goals and track pace to your goal along the way.

 

What are the best ROI tracking tools for PPC?

The most important thing you can do for your PPC campaigns is to pair a robust CRM or MAP (that includes lead scoring) with ValueTrack parameters, which are a type of URL parameter you can add to landing page URLs that collect info about those who click your ads. This allows you to analyze your PPC campaigns, target your money keywords, and develop real ROI-driven PPC campaigns.

Other trusted tools include Google Ads Editor, Google Keyword Planner, SpyFu, and SEMrush.

 

How do I track ROI from a PPC campaign with a complex, long sales cycle?

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 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. This info will help you better prioritize where to put your efforts as the cycle moves along.

 

How do I generate ROI reports for PPC campaigns?

Reporting is another place where PPC campaign tracking software is crucial to a thorough analysis. Putting tracking software in place lets you connect the dots with data between PPC traffic, CRM leads, and sales.

Quality ROI reports offer visibility into the PPC campaign, align goals with objectives, and give a big-picture overview of how a campaign is performing, so you’re not flying blind.

Why PPC Lead Scoring is Crucial to SEM Programs - HawkSEM blog

There are several different ways to calculate ROI for PPC. (Image via Unsplash)

How can I increase year-over-year ROI results from PPC?

In our years of experience, we’ve found that the best way to increase year-over-year ROI from your PPC campaigns is to track every campaign and analyze the results accordingly. When you home in on your money words and target your campaigns toward those keywords, while using lead scoring to prioritize your follow-ups, you can really start to see maximized profits.

It’s also important to monitor which ads are performing best, so you can put more resources into those better performing ads. By following this process, you can begin to pinpoint the PPC campaigns that work — and start to see all of your efforts pay off.

 

How do I measure the revenue generated per lead?

If you know what to look for, calculating ROI is a fairly straightforward process. The basic formula is calculated as:

Profit minus cost divided by cost: (Profit – Cost) / Cost

However, when it comes to calculating ROI for PPC, there are several different ways to do it. When advertisers talk about ROI from PPC, many are actually referring to return on ad spend (ROAS). This is a simple formula to calculate as well — it’s generally expressed as a percentage:

(PPC Profit – PPC Cost)/ PPC Cost x 100

Let’s say that you have $1,000 in sales from your PPC campaign. If you paid $500 against the PPC click costs, your ROAS would be 100%.

$1,000 profit – $500 cost = $500 / $500 cost = 1.0 = 100%

Lead scoring is a great tactic for a more efficient marketing process, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. But when you pair this strategy with smart keywords, consistent data tracking, and quality landing pages, you’re one step closer to boosting conversion rates and running a successful SEM program.

 

This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated in September 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 Aug 21 , 2019

Paid search marketing for financial services can be an effective component of a marketing strategy — use it to build brand recognition and boost conversions quickly.

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

This makes it a challenge for marketers. Luckily, Google Ads can give your financial services digital marketing a boost and build brand recognition, while paid search can attract leads quickly and drive conversions for 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. When creating ads, make sure you 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

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

Advertising for loan modifications and cryptocurrencies is allowed, but there are strict rules. If you’re planning PPC for financial services in these areas, review the guidelines carefully. 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. You’ll see where your budget is being spent most effectively so you can cut the underperforming ads.

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.

5. Narrow the target audience

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

The more specific you can be, the easier it is to find your ideal target audience. For example, if you want to attract management-level consumers, use income levels and demographics. This can help you find the clients that want your products in a sea of unqualified leads.

6. Create original copy

To stand apart from the crowd, you’ve got to get creative. By writing unique copy that features offers and benefits, you can increase click-through rates 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 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 and catches the consumer’s eye.

7. Customize landing pages

If your ad simply goes to your company’s homepage, you could be missing out on conversions. Make sure the link on your ad goes to a page that has the matching content.

The messaging across ads and landing pages should be consistent, relevant, and valuable to the consumer. You can even customize it based on the keywords and ad groups to encourage further interaction.

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

Display advertising offers you several options to improve engagement and boost conversion rates. (Image via Unsplash)

8. Leverage display advertising

Although the requirements for advertising may be strict, 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 you several options to improve engagement and boost conversion rates:

  • Behavioral
  • Contextual
  • Geographical
  • Site-specific

9. Know these 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. Here are a few to consider:

  • Go local: Localize your ad to make your interactions more relevant. Use familiar local terms and graphics to increase messaging and conversion rates.
  • 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 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. 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.

10. Be aware of competitor positioning

Who are your top competitors? What features do they highlight? Be ready to outdo them with your product’s value proposition benefits.

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

11. 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 form.

Minimizing the number of steps and removing unnecessary fields has been shown to increase conversions significantly.

12. 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 tune for the highest return on investment.

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.

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 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 can be an 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.

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.

PPC advertising campaigns can deliver targeted, highly qualified traffic when developed correctly. At HawkSEM, we provide a customized approach based on your particular needs. Our passion for results and drive to meet goals ensure we do right by you, generating a higher ROI. Contact us today to learn how we can help dramatically improve your digital marketing results.

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.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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