SEM continuity: The ROI-boosting digital marketing concept you’ve never heard of

SEM continuity: The ROI-boosting digital marketing concept you’ve never heard of

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A Google search for “Holism” yields no ads, but the following definition:

“the theory that parts of a whole are in intimate interconnection, such that they cannot exist independently of the whole, or cannot be understood without reference to the whole, which is thus regarded as greater than the sum of its parts.”

Much of our marketing optimization effort is highly focused in discrete parts of the customer journey. We’ve created specialized roles for these discrete parts, like ad copy writing, SEO, SEM bid management, keyword optimization, web IA, front-end web development, digital graphic design, interaction design, UX… the list goes on.

Yet, when customers travel on that journey, they are experiencing it in a non-discrete, holistic way. And when key parts of that journey aren’t holistically integrated, the customer experience can suffer — and thus, yields from our marketing programs can suffer.

To a great extent, we have accepted the status quo.

In accepting that status quo, we have also become robots, pulling the same levers and standardizing the optimization process. Robots are great at repeating processes with great precision, but they’re not well-suited for applying unique approaches based on context and circumstance.  It’s also difficult to rely on the robotic approach to help drive strategy.

For example, all digital advertisers understand the importance of refining keyword sets, optimizing ad copy and designing conversion-friendly landing pages. However, the often-overlooked opportunity is ensuring continuity among your keywords, ads and landing pages. This has become even more important as Google has advanced its Quality Score calculation. Let’s explore.

Keyword & call-to-action continuity

Most advertisers think of continuity as simply repeating keywords within their ad copy and landing pages for relevance purposes. This does produce several benefits, including generally higher click-through rates and better Quality Scores.

However, this approach does nothing for driving conversions at reasonable efficiency levels. In fact, taking this basic approach to continuity can actually hurt your PPC performance.

In addition to keyword continuity, it’s important to implement call-to-action (CTA) continuity. You may be familiar with the recommended approach for giving a strong speech or presentation: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.

We’re taking that same approach within our PPC experience; we introduce the CTA in the ad copy, then present the CTA on the landing page, and then confirm what the user requested/purchased on the confirmation page. This continuity softens the experience when the user hits the landing page, just like asking less intimidating questions at the beginning of a survey makes the respondent more comfortable with answering the questions and more likely to complete the entire survey.

The combined keyword and CTA continuity strategy will give you a measurable advantage in the hypercompetitive SEM space. But success isn’t guaranteed, and it isn’t binary. Even the placement of your CTA and key product/service benefits can impact performance.

We’ve seen significant gains when placing CTAs and benefits closer to the beginning of the message, which makes sense; most searchers don’t read the entire ad before clicking or moving on to the next result. Google’s recent release of expanded text ads makes your job even easier.  Now we can combine key benefits, keyword-centric headlines and CTAs all within the headlines of the ads.

The landing page & conversion funnel

So now that we’ve mastered keyword and CTA continuity and are generating quality traffic, what must the landing page and conversion funnel include to drive optimal conversion rates and deliver on the promise presented within our ads?

We’ve discussed the importance of continuity from keywords, at the search moment, to keywords in the ad itself, to keywords on the landing page. We need to satisfy the searcher, and the search engine, with this continuity — it provides actual content relevance in the eyes of the customer and keyword relevance in the eyes of the search engine and ad server algorithm.

So, we’ve done a great job with executing that continuity and getting the qualified traffic. Now what?

Well, think about what the searcher has experienced. In a matter of seconds, they have typed in a search query, seen your ad and clicked it. What about the seconds that come now — now that they have landed on your site, page, landing experience or mobile user experience? How can we ensure that these next precious seconds are treated with the level of care and continuity that we granted to the keyword match strategy, the SQR, the ad copy and ad testing, the geo and so on?

We can find the answer by thinking about: a) what our searcher just experienced; and b) what has proven to be an age-old method for commerce — interaction. We need to continue the call-and-response interaction that we helped start by placing our ads in market. Here’s the sequence:

  • We placed our ad in market.
  • The searcher searched for keywords we bid for.
  • We had our ad served.
  • The searcher saw our ad and clicked it.
  • We served up a user experience of our choosing (e.g., landing page).
  • The searcher has landed.

If Apollo 11’s Eagle had simply landed, and Neil Armstrong had not left the lunar lander and interacted with the moon, there would have been no small steps or giant leaps. Of course, landing itself was a big feat. But it was what happened after landing that was of value. What a sad tale it would have been had Neil and crew just blasted off and returned to Earth!

Yet this landing-then-go-home strategy is exactly what we’ve been doing as an industry for years. We’ve been missing out on providing the searchers (and ourselves) with so much more interaction in those moments after landing. What if…

  • We placed our ad in market.
  • The searcher searched for keywords we bid for.
  • We had our ad served.
  • The searcher saw our ad and clicked it.
  • We served up a user experience of our choosing (e.g., landing page).
  • The searcher landed.
  • We served up two or three relevant options for the searcher to engage with.
  • The searcher clicked one.
  • We served up another two or three relevant options for the searcher.
  • The searcher clicked another.
  • We then provided the searcher with even more relevant content based on their last two selections.
  • The searcher was more engaged than the lunar lander.

If you look at your own experiences, whether in person or virtual, you’ll no doubt recognize that the more valuable, richer experiences you’ve had are the ones where there’s a robust back and forth — and where, through that back and forth, the co-knowledge deepens with each progressive conversational action.

In our experience, we’ve seen conversion rates improve in excess of 100 percent when this approach is taken at the landing level. While it requires more work, the end result in terms of yield growth will always far surpass the investment it takes to execute and optimize customer experiences at the post-ad-response level.

Quality attracts quantity

So, the approach we need to take at the landing level is “quality first.” And this is not just for the sake of Quality Score. It’s essential because the first few seconds after the ad click are crucial in capturing the customer’s attention.

Instead of robotically putting up a “form on the right” landing page because that’s what everyone does to ensure the highest quantity of leads, why not say, “Let’s invest the time to craft a quality experience for our audience”? And, as the old adage goes, quality takes time. The care we put into creating quality experiences results in even stronger continuity for the searcher (and search engine).

It’s important to recognize that your digital marketing success is not reliant on one, two, or even three independent variables. You need all variables, from your keyword set to the messaging to the landing page experience, to be aligned, optimized and tested.

Historically, we’ve seen campaigns, programs and companies achieve “success in isolation” — for example, 50+ percent CTR improvements from incorporating CTA- and keyword-centric ad copy, or 50+ percent conversion rate improvements from optimizing the conversion funnel, or even 25+ percent improvements in Quality Score and CPC (cost per click) by making landing pages more Quality Score-friendly.

But the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you get all of your assets working in unison and master the science of marketing continuity, we’re confident you can achieve 100+ percent increases in ROI within a few months. Now, what’s the CPC of [holism]?


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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