Perhaps the busy holiday season brought an influx of traffic to your website, and you’re looking for ways to continue to hold customers’ attention in the new year. Maybe holiday traffic was lax, and you’re wondering what you can do differently in 2016 to improve viewership. In both scenarios, paid search and remarketing can help.

No one can dispute the increasing influence of digital marketing across virtually every industry. Brandshop’s 2015 Digital Consumer Preferences Survey found:

  • More than 71 percent of consumers shop online several times a month.
  • Nearly all surveyed consumers (96 percent) said research is crucial to their shopping experience.
  • When it comes time to make a purchase, 82 percent want to be able to buy directly from a brand’s website, and 88 percent said they would prefer to do so.
  • Google is where more than half (58 percent) of all product searches/research begins.

How paid search drives traffic.

When an online shopper types keywords into a browser and the search engine returns its results, at the top of the page, or along the side, they will typically see a number of paid results. The positioning of these results, in theory, is more eye-catching to users, and so they’re worth paying for. Search engines charge accordingly.

But many digital marketing channels are relatively low-cost compared to legacy channels; some are even free. You don’t need to pay to have your website included in Google’s organically generated search results, either. You just need to have a good webpage. With so many lower-cost alternatives available, why should a small business still engage in paid search?

Sheer volume of views.

Remember that stat about how many searches start on Google? According to Internetlivestats, more than 3.5 billion searches per day occur on Google. That’s more than 40,000 every second. Imagine if just 5 percent of the people who saw your paid ad on Google clicked on it.

Paid ads ensure your message will appear in the search results of potentially billions of users every single day.

Greater specificity.

Informational searchers probably pay less attention to paid ads, while those looking for something to buy will give them more attention. That’s because pay-per-click ads allow businesses to be as specific as possible with the information they’re providing consumers. Buyers are often searching for a particular product or idea.

More ability to target by keyword.

Using paid search, your company can provide a result for a targeted keyword search and link to a specific part of your website. You can get extremely granular in your keywords, right down to a part number.

Greater directional flexibility.

If you want to drive traffic to a page on your website, a paid ad allows you to do that easily. For example, if a user searches for “jewelry” and you want to sell butterfly necklaces, you can link from your ad to the page where you’re selling them.

The ability to be location-specific.

As a local business, you will find location-based targeting to be very valuable. You can use this approach to market to people only within an acceptable driving distance from your business. What is that range? It will depend on multiple factors, including the uniqueness of your product or service, the value it brings to the consumer and the time and cost it will require the buyer to drive to your location. Or, you can bypass this equation by allowing consumers to buy directly through your website.

Establishing location parameters is easy in Google Adwords. Click on settings, select locations and then add city, state or ZIP code information to add or remove locations that work (or don’t) for your business. Depending on your company, this can be as narrow as a 10-block radius around your store (based on ZIP code) or as wide as cities, states or even countries.

The adjustments are handy because you can include, exclude or “adjust” the bid amount you’re willing to pay for specific locations.

For example, you may be willing to pay 100 percent of your bid amount for any ZIP code within that 10 block radius, 75 percent for those 11 to 20 blocks away, but nothing for anyone more than 20 blocks from your store, office or shop.

Greater control over timing.

Setting the time of day when your ads will appear is another great way to target your audience. And, as with the location targeting, you can use percentage adjustments to increase or decrease (right down to zero) how much you’ll pay during specific hours of specific days.

Again, found in that handy “settings” section, it’s an easy grid block to fill out with bid adjustments.

Implementation of Shopping Campaigns.

Another key area worth considering is Shopping Campaigns. These are primarily intended for online retailers with a significant number of products. However, if you have a list of any products, details, pricing, images, etc. then it does provide an excellent showcase of your products when matched to the right keyword.

Keep in mind setting up the initial list of products is labor-intensive, so it may not be worth doing unless you have at least a few hundred different, highly searchable products.

Local businesses can use Local Inventory and Local Ad Extensions. Local Inventory Ads are like Shopping Campaigns, but focus on what is in stock near the person who is searching. Also effective, but with less heavy lifting to get it started, are Local Ad Extensions. These simply show your address, phone number, map details, etc. that are attached to your ad.

A word about organic search.

If you haven’t already set up your Google My Business section, you should do so immediately. SEO is a critical part of search success. As with PPC, it’s important to be specific, relevant and unique in order to gain traction in organic search.

The role of remarketing.

Busy shoppers sometimes forget what they saw and/or where they saw it. Remarketing helps your ad stay front-of-mind for them. Here’s how it works:

Perhaps you’ve visited a particular website or browsed for a particular product. You navigate away from that page only to notice that the ads on the next page you arrive at are related to the search you just did. Those are remarketing ads.

Depending on the complexity and popularity of your site, you can choose from three main levels of remarketing, based on how much time and energy it takes to set them up.

Level 1 – This is the simplest type of remarketing ad. It focuses on your company and goes to everyone who visited your website so that they don’t forget about you.

Level 2 – This type is a bit more complicated. You have a “main ad,” but then also create specific ads for specific sections on your site. This can be a product category, or if you have a handful of products that drive a majority of your site traffic and sales, you can focus on them.

Level 3 – This is the most effective as it gets right down to what shoppers were viewing. It’s also the most complicated and takes the most time, energy and resources to set up.

For most small businesses, the first two types of remarketing ads will be sufficient. However, if you get to level 3 and want to go even further, some “next-level” remarketing options are available to expand your remarketing horizons.

Linking it all together.

Whether you opt for PPC, remarketing ads or both, it’s important to keep a few rules in mind:

  • Be as specific as possible. People are busy, and they’ll value your brand more if you make it easy for them to find and buy what they want.
  • Target only the people you can truly serve. Don’t waste their time or your money by marketing to consumers if you can’t provide them with products or services they need.
  • Show consumers what they need to see.
  • Take them where they need to go.
  • Remind them about your brand whenever possible.

Finally, here are some helpful links to information discussed in this article:

Want to know more about search marketing? Check out SEO vs. SEM: A Common Misconception.

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