In our Paid Search consulting engagements with various clients, one of the most frequent account issues we encounter is also one of the most fundamental: lack of disciplined naming conventions and, subsequently, poor account segmentation.

Frequently, account managers overlook the importance of being able to draw clear lines through their Paid Search traffic.  As an account manager you may be thinking that adjusting campaign naming conventions will not have any actual impact on account performance, and is therefore not worth the effort. You may have a point: as far as we know, the name of a campaign will not directly impact the performance of the keywords and ads it contains.

However, the purpose of consistently naming campaigns and ad groups is to inform the account manager (i.e. optimizer, reporter) as to the contents of the campaigns and ad groups in question. Consistency and transparency in the naming convention will improve visibility and facilitate more sophisticated optimization decisions.  It will also support automation of reporting or optimization where appropriate.

In certain industries, structure can be a somewhat trivial matter.  After all, if you only have 20 keywords in your account that are converting, it may be simple enough to place them all in a single ad group, monitor their individual performance on a regular basis, and adjust bids accordingly.  However, when you are dealing with a complex international airline with extensive inventory spanning numerous languages and markets, keyword-level optimization is simply not feasible across the entire account structure.

In the upcoming series, we will explain the importance of organizing an SEM campaign, and the implications, dimensions and labels to consider. In this first edition of the series, we attempt to explain why a consistent organization and structure are crucial to optimizing paid search campaigns.

Two Types of Optimization

When we optimize, we are essentially making a predictive assessment of the quality of the next click a given campaign, ad group, ad, keyword, or ad extension will receive.  This assessment is not made blindly, but rather is based on analyzing information, which can roughly be divided into two types: Performance Data and Contextual Analysis.

Performance Data

Optimization based on performance data is relatively straightforward, and is perfectly illustrated by the previous example of the 20-keyword account:

  • Analyze Data: Look at each of the 20 keywords and evaluate their historical performance. “How frequently have users arriving via these keywords fulfilled my account’s conversion goals?”
  • Take Action: Adjust bids according to a keyword’s likelihood to lead to a conversion.

This type of optimization is incredibly important. It is however, limited.  For one thing, it treats all conversions equally, blind to the broader goals of a marketing department and company at large.  Additionally, this type of optimization is neither simple nor, by itself, effective for an account containing, for example, more than 5,000 unique routes being advertised globally in 20 different languages.

Contextual Analysis

The second type of optimization is what we call Contextual Analysis.  It is not as clearly-defined as Performance Data analysis, and will differ significantly depending on the vertical you are dealing with (travel, retail, finance, etc.).  The best way to conceptualize it is to imagine what SEM management would be without any on-site performance data.  This may seem impossible, but anyone with a solid understanding of their client’s business and a basic knowledge of search user behavior could probably do a relatively good job of purchasing valuable traffic without visibility into post-click performance.

Basic activities will ensure you are bringing converting users to your site: protecting the brand; bidding on top-performing products in top-performing markets; performing search query reports to identify and exclude unwanted traffic; stopping SEM activity for a route once inventory runs out; pushing bids when advertising sales and promos; etc.

At risk of being overly simplistic, one can think of Performance Data Optimization as the tool of a Junior SEM Account Manager, and Contextual Analysis as more of a tool of a Senior Marketing Manager. Analysis of performance data asks the question “what is happening?” whereas contextual analysis asks “why is this happening?”

Actionable Insights

The most effective SEM performance will be driven by a combination of both types of optimization.  But how do we synthesize our performance data with our intuitions and understandings about our product offerings?  We must strive to maximize visibility into the contents of our account in order to understand what category of traffic we are driving, and also how those users are performing post-click.

This is where segmentation and disciplined naming conventions become so important. Transparency into the performance of specific segments and sub-segments of your customers combined with in-depth understanding of your client’s business generates actionable insights that will improve performance.

In the second part of this article, we will include all key dimensions of campaign segmentation and naming convention necessary to optimize in the context of a complex airline SEM strategy.

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