Running a SEM Campaign? Cheap Isn't Always Better

What makes a paid search campaign successful? Is it an extremely low cost-per-click (CPC)? A large volume of clicks? A high click through rate (CTR)? 

There are so many metrics a marketer can use to evaluate a successful paid search campaign. Very often, running an efficient paid search campaign, with an extremely low CPC, is top of mind for marketers.  Deleting expensive keywords and adding efficient ones helps generate a large quantity of clicks, translating into a high site visitation volume.  However, does a low CPC guarantee a successful campaign? Not necessarily.

If the primary goal of the campaign is to drive conversions (i.e., sign-ups, online sales, etc.), marketers need to implement conversion-based optimizations.  Keywords need to be evaluated on their conversion, or cost per acquisition (CPA), not their CPC. What good is a click if the consumer does not convert? When optimizing against conversion, the keywords that generate the cheapest conversions or assist in generating conversions in the purchase funnel, should receive a larger percent of the budget, regardless of their CPC.

If the campaign’s goal is to drive brand awareness or generate offline sales, it could be more difficult in measuring the effectiveness of a click, as marketers may not be sure that a paid search click definitely translates into offline sales. The good news is that there are many metrics that can help marketers evaluate user engagement, to determine if the people driven to their website are qualified visitors.

Some key engagement metrics include: dwell time, bounce rate and pages per visit. These metrics help marketers understand what visitors do once they land on the website. How much time do they spend on the site? Do they bounce off of the site right away? Do they visit multiple pages on the site? All of this valuable information can be analyzed at the keyword level which can help marketers optimize the campaign based on user engagement, not just price.

The key to a successful search engine marketing campaign is to find a balance among efficiency, volume and quality. Depending on the campaign goal, different metrics should be prioritized and set in motion to optimize the campaign and deliver the right audience.

Peggy Hsu, Digital Analyst, Blue Plate Media Services 

Published 05.22.13