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What Do 3Q and the NBA Have in Common?

Published: November 20, 2015

Author: Jack Stampfl

Here at 3Q Digital, we set up our campaigns using the tried and true Alpha-Beta structure. Alpha-Beta allows us the most control in optimizing ads and landing pages for top performing keywords while giving us the tools to identify other high- and low-performing keywords.
I’m a big fan of the NBA, and it occurs to me that NBA teams also use an Alpha-Beta structure when setting up their teams. How? Bear with me.

Alpha keywords = Steph Curry

It has been said that keywords are the building blocks of SEM. In the NBA, players are the building blocks of a team. An Alpha keyword is a keyword that has proven to be a top performer. When we identify these keywords, we put them in SKAG (single-keyword groups) use exact match for them. This gives us the most control when assigning ads and landing pages to match the user’s intent.
The Golden State Warriors have their own Alpha keyword/player: Steph Curry. Just like we try to extract as much performance as possible from Alpha keywords, the Warriors do as much possible to gain performance from Steph. This is done by running plays that give him favorable matchups and open shots. The Warriors also protect Curry’s efficiency by limiting his playing time.  Last year Steph played on average of 32.7 minutes per game. Kyrie Irving played 36.4 minutes per game, but when the lights shined the brightest during the NBA Finals, Kyrie was sidelined with injuries while Steph led his team to the championship. This is akin to bidding with a CPA goal in mind. You do not recklessly chase conversions with no regard to efficiency, just like you do not play players heavy minutes that tire them out while risking injury.

Beta campaigns = the Spurs’ draft picks and free agents

Beta campaigns are used to discover new high-performing keywords that could be promoted to Alpha campaigns or, on the flip side, used to identify keywords that need to be paused out because of poor performance. Using the same logic that players are keywords, the San Antonio Spurs have the best Beta campaign in the NBA, especially considering that they are usually “testing” assets acquired at the tail end of the draft.
Manu Ginobli was drafted out of Argentina with the 57th overall pick in the 1999 Draft; this is not typical Alpha territory. However, as Manu progressed, the Spurs began to treat him as an Alpha and viewed him as one of the cornerstones of the franchise. The league recognized his performance by naming him to the All- Star team in 2005 and 2011. Just like the Spurs are constantly looking for high-performing players, as a marketer you have to be on the lookout for high-performing keywords.

Accounts and teams alike must stay nimble

SEM is an ever-changing landscape. What works today may not work in the future. Sometimes Alpha keywords no longer perform as desired and cannot convert at the desired CPA goal. This happens in the NBA as well. Last week, reports surfaced that the “Derrick Rose breakup with the Bulls has begun”. Derrick Rose is a former MVP who, just a couple years ago, seemed like the future of the franchise.  However as injuries began to take their toll and Rose’s production began to dwindle, the Bulls have decided he is no longer the player around whom they will build their future. In SEM, just like in the NBA, you have to be nimble and willing to make changes and pause out keywords when performance is no longer aligned with expectations.
The Alpha-Beta process structure will help you identify and optimize winners while excluding losers. Not only does it work in SEM, but it also works in the NBA! Having a plan to leverage high performers while ridding yourself of poor performers, whether they are keywords or NBA players, is a necessity for any successful account or team. Doing this will maximize profits and wins alike!

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