In Part 1 I roughly skimmed over what search marketing is all about. However, I didn’t get a chance to elaborate on how you can use it as leverage to help grow your business.
In summation, these are websites that we use a reference to culminate information that we seek. “Google” ranking as most popular as a search engine.
Google currently processes over 40 000 search queries every second, and no other search engine gets close to that.
I can guarantee you that a large proportion of those searches are related to finding or learning more about products and services, and that is why search engines are the perfect platform to help promote your business.
There are two ways to leverage search engines to your company’s advantage, and that is through search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).
The search engine depends on your team focus as well adapting the structures and content of the website to improve its rankings.
Search engine marketing is when you, your team or a marketing agency spends money on ads that feature in search engines that can help promote your business, products, and services.
I explained in part 1 that digital marketing is not limited to online companies or e-commerce stores, but expands as far as offline or local businesses that may benefit greatly by tapping into the digital realm.
With that in mind, in this article, we will be digging into how you as a solo entrepreneur, business owner or marketing manager can utilise search engine marketing to your advantage.
1Search Engine Search Network Ads
How often have you used Google to search for something? Have you ever noticed that the two or three positions usually say “ad”?
Well, those ads have been paid for by ‘someone’, ‘someone’ that is trying to promote a service or product related to your search query.
Let’s say you were searching for “red Nike running shoes,” the first two ads might be from a company like Takealot.com or Total Sports trying to showcase their running shoes.
Because it’s in the first or second position, most users think they are the most relevant results, and therefore click through to the website that has paid for the ad.
If you are using a laptop or desktop, then search ads can also appear on the side. These are usually less effective as fewer people pay attention to the side of their screens, however, they are still utilised.
I’ve mentioned before that 66% of all search traffic goes to the first five positions in Google, with that said, it’s crucial that you rank well either ‘organically’ or ‘through paid’ advertising to ensure you are not losing out to competitors.
3 Best features of search ads that can help grow your business
1. DRIVE TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE
One of the most popular reasons that companies use search ads is that they can drive customers directly to their site, or any related page for that matter.
This is the perfect example of the “red Nike running shoes” search query that I explained above.
This is not only an innovative means to increase brand awareness, but it’s one of the best ways to convert online shoppers into customers.
2. GET DIRECTIONS TO YOUR BUSINESS
Now, I know that the above example is mainly aimed at an online business or e-commerce store, but there are other great features specifically designed and tailored for the needs of local businesses or offline stores that will attract customers to your business.
If you’re a local panel beater in Sandton for example, you can run a search ad campaign to target only people in the Sandton area that are searching for an affordable panel beater to help them fix their car.
With that said, once the customer sees the ad, they can click to get directions to your workshop.
Now, do you see why I always say that digital marketing is not only for online focused businesses?
3. PHONE CALLS TO MAKE BOOKINGS OR ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
Another great option for both offline and online companies are the phone call feature.
If you’re a local restaurant, you can make your services pop up to customers in the area looking for places to dine.
Once they see the ad, they will have the option to phone your restaurant and make a booking.
The same goes for hairdressers, dry cleaners or literally any other business for that matter.
2Search Engine Display Network Ads
As mentioned in Part 1 of our Beginners Guide to Digital Marketing in South Africa, display ads are different to search ads in the way that they can show an image or a video with your message on it to the potential customer.
Have you ever wanted to advertise your services or products on a popular website? Well, with Google’s Display Networks Ads you can.
One attractive feature of display ads is that it allows you to reach more users as it extends beyond the user’s search terms.
It’s also an affordable way to increase brand awareness due to the fact that the image can be designed around your brands corporate identity.
How display ads work
Google’s Display Network is a collection of more than a million websites, blogs, mobile apps, videos and other online destinations that show Google Adwords Ads.
This allows you to put your brand and product in front of over 80% of the wos internet users who have a specific interest.
For instance, imagine that you are a travel agency this is not only looking to increase awareness about your agency, but to also promote your specials. Well, with the Google Display Network you can target users that are interested in traveling, and who are also in the market to booking a holiday.
This works similar to search ads, but take into account that the presentation of ads is different.
Instead of showing up in Google search results, your banner,ad or video will be shown on any website that is running Google Adsense, but only the user interested in booking a holiday will see your ad.
As an alternative, you can also choose where your ads get displayed, for example, websites related to traveling.
Display ads provide you with a powerful conduit to reach customers who want to hear your message.
Imagine there were a way that you could reach customers that hadn’t visited your website in a while?
What if there were a way to reconnect with a customer who wasn’t ready to make a purchase the first time around?
Or maybe you just want to increase your brand awareness, and want to make sure people see your brand message often. Well, with Google Retargeting Ads you can do all of that.
The feature I love most about Google Remarketing is that your brand and message can be displayed to your previous site visitors wherever they might be browsing.
Not only does this help your brand remain fresh in the cuomers mind, but it can also help capture lost sales.
A while ago one of the biggest problems in digital marketing was that there was no way to follow up with a website visitor, especially if they didn’t buy anything.
This helps you, as a business to remain in the consumers mind subconsciously, without lifting a finger or incuring any detremental cost to your company.
How does one charge for these ads?
COST PER MILE (CPM)
CPM stands for cost per mile. However, it’s actually cost per thousand impressions. An impression is each time the ad gets shown to someone.
This means that you will pay each time that the ad gets shown to a thousand people.
You can manually set this in Google Adwords, and you can programme Google to what you are willing to pay each time that your ad gets shown to a thousand users.
Google will provide you with a suggested bid, and you can then decide what you are willing to pay.
Bidding too low can result in your ad getting outbidded every single time and therefore never airing.
Bidding too high can result in your ad winning every bid and running out of budget quicker than you can say Mississippi.
COST PER CLICK (CPC)
This is what you, the advertisers are willing to pay each time a user clicks on your ad.
If your daily budget is R100 and you are willing to spend R5 a click, then worst case scenario is that you receive 20 clicks on your ad.
I say worst case, as the CPC can be lower than the bid you provided. It’s possible to bid R5 a CPC, but that doesn’t mean that you are going to spend R5 every time.
This only means that you are willing to compete with a competitor for the ad space as long as the value of that click is no higher than R5.
COST PER ENGAGEMENT (CPE)
Cost per engagement might sound similar to CPC as it if a user engages with your ad he is clicking on it right?
Correct. However, you might want to drive the user to the website. What happens if he clicks on directions and then leaves.
That would mean he never visited the website, but you still paid for the click.
For some advertisers this is not ideal, so Google launched CPE.
If you’re a local business wanting people to give you a call, then you will only be charged each time someone clicks the telephone icon.
That would be your CPE.
Target your audience based on demographics and more
The best feature of Google Adwords and other search engine marketing solutions is that you can target people based on where they live, their age, what they are interested in as well as what device they are using to search or browse the internet.
This is especially handy for local businesses looking to target people in a given area.
On the other hand, if your business mainly sells makeup, then you will mainly be using the gender specific function.
These are simple and very basic functions that most digital advertising platforms have, but they are most definitely underrated when it comes to their overall influence.
5 Main Reasons why Search Engine Marketing Ads should be a part of your marketing campaign
1. YOUR CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS ARE ONLINE, DEAL WITH IT.
Stats from Statista.com show that 26% of online shoppers spend 5 hours or more on the internet.
But it’s not just online shoppers that spend time on the internet, Statista concluded that of the number of shoppers that spend time on the internet, 19% were offline customers.
Below is the percentage of South African customers that spend their time on the internet:
30 Minutes or More
- Online shoppers = 7%
- Offline shoppers = 14%
- Online shoppers = 12%
- Offline shoppers = 18%
- Online Shoppers = 22%
- Offline Shoppers = 21%
- Online Shoppers = 18%
- Offline Shoppers = 17%
- Online Shoppers = 16%
- Offline Shoppers = 11%
- Online Shoppers = 26%
- Offline Shoppers = 19%
So, if your customers are online and browsing and searching the internet, why aren’t you using this opportunity to talk to them?
2. IN-MARKET AUDIENCES
When driving, I see a ton of billboards representing car companies showcasing their new models that have just been released.
How many people do you think drive by these billboards on a daily basis? Probably thousands.
But, have you ever wondered how many of them actually have the intent to buy a car?
If you were a car dealership, how great would it be to be able to advertise to someone who had the intention of buying a car? Well, with search engine marketing you can, and it’s called in-market audiences.
In-market audiences from Google can decipher when a customer is in the market to purchase a product as opposed to when they are just simply browsing.
Google surmises this by looking at a users search history. If that user has been browsing reviews from different car manufacturers, performed price comparisons, and clicked on certain ads related to buying a car, that user becomes an in-market user for your car dealership.
And the best part is you can now show the user your ads which provide you with the chance of a sale you probably didn’t have before.
3. SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING IS AGILE
I would say one of the biggest benefits of search engine marketing is that it allows you to change your message in real time.
What I mean by that is, that back in the day, if you wanted to advertise a product, you would have had to get your creative team to work on some artwork first.
From there you would have to send it to the printers and then wait 3-4 weeks before the ad was live in the magazine that was presented on the shelves. The same goes with old fashion billboards etc.
Don’t get me wrong waiting is not necessarily a bad thing, but what if the ad had been planned to run for two months and the supplier ran out of stock of the product you were advertising?
If you don’t have stock, you can’t supply the customer, that means that all the money and time spent creating and not to mention paying for the ad would be in vain.
When it comes to search engine marketing, and search ads specifically you can easily change your message without having to wait for anyone.
The moment you perceive that your campaign is not generating the wanted results you can manipulate the outcome. For example, if you run out of stock of the product being advertised, you can just change it to another product, to your own convenience.
Having an agile marketing solution can go a long way, keeping you ahead of the competition and narrowing the timeframe between an idea and execution.
4. INSTANT RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Most marketing campaigns can take anything between three to twelve months to show a positive ROI (Return on Investment). However, with search engine marketing (if executed correctly), you can spot a positive change in sales within as little as a few days.
Maybe you spotted that sales on a particular product have slowed down? Or maybe you are just looking for a quick and affordable way to upscale your business?
Well, search engine marketing is the answer.
5. CALCULATED RISKS & UPSCALING
Back in the day, upscaling meant one thing, investing a ton of money. Whether it was in stock, staff, warehousing or marketing for that matter.
It meant that you had to reinvest your capital before you could reap the rewards.
With search engine advertising (or most digital other digital advertising solutions) one can analyse which channels are bringing in the biggest ROI and increase that channels budget.
The odds are that your specified channel would be able to bring in the same ratio of ROI just on a larger scale. With the extra profits, you can then decide if it is necessary to allocate more money into resources to help cope with the demand.
This is what I call calculated upscaling.
SEM is a very powerful tool that can help you take your business to a whole new level.
It’s sad that most marketers or agencies don’t use it to its fullest potential.
Search ads are a great way to help find the ideal customer, not to mention that you can advertise to them at the correct time.
By targeting users based on their demographics and interest, you will have a higher chance of your ROI should be positive.
Display ads are a great way to stay on top of mind in today’s competitive space, and it’s a cost-effective way to get previous website visitors back to your platform.
With that said, this concludes Part 3, I sincerely hope that this has changed your perception of search engine marketing.
Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes
A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.
“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Keeping it real is the new deal
Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.
32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.
Living the dream?
With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less. This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.
New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.
One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.
Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.
Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.
Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV
The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity. This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.
All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.
Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.
The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.
Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.
Establishing a preparedness programme
Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.
Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.
Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.
If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Building a digital foundation
In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.
To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.
Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.
There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.
When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.
Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.
Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.
Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.
There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.
Five variables to address ahead of a crisis
- Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
- What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
- How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
- What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
- Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.
Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)
Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.
Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
The Risks of Social Media
Lost Working Hours
The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.
With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.
Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.
15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.
The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.
It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.
This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.
How Can a Social Media Policy Help?
Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.
A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.
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