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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 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.

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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.

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