Today’s post is by Account Associate Aaron Woolway, a scratch golfer who’s always keeping one step ahead of the course.

I play a lot of golf. I know that if you don’t get involved with the strategy process before a golf hole, you are setting yourself up for an undesirable position on your next shot. The same can be applied to SEM.

If you’re not inferring something about consumer intent from the query and using that wisdom in your bidding, keywords, landing pages, and the rest of the purchasing process, you’re not setting yourself or your client up to succeed.

The basic funnel path follows: query to keyword, ad copy, landing page, conversion, and thank-you page. Consumers’ thoughts are what drive intent; keywords are the vehicle to get them to where we as search marketers would like them to go. Keywords follow thoughts of a consumer, and depending on what vertical you’re marketing in, you will develop knowledge for the keyword selection process with experience of the customer base.

The lesson here: if you don’t apply knowledge of customer behavior and get more involved with your keyword selections and the bidding and ad copy processes, you’ll regret it.

Okay, great. So how?

The intent of the consumer who enters a particular query into a search engine is something that can be analyzed with historical data on the profitability of that query with a SQR and whether it is in your best interest to bid on that particular keyword. But the real dilemma is when you have a new account, and you need to rely heavily on consumer behavior trends and intuition to decide on a base set of head terms.

The Keyword Tool is a useful feature that Google provides, but it gives you a broad set of terms. It gives you a base set of keywords of a particular topic and/or phrases along with the monthly Global searches that are related to that keyword. Since the name of the game is profitability, it would be nice to have data associated with the relevancy of these keywords to a particular vertical and the profitability SEMers have seen.

In reality, though, Google is a profit center, and their main interest is to keep stockholders happy by maintaining profitability. They would rather have you throw as much bait on the end of your hook as you can to drive up cost and help them to accrue more profit.  Continuing optimization of your keyword set is a best practice when running your SEM account with new learnings about consumers and the way they are thinking about your product and service.

Again, great. So you have the basic queries. Where do you start?

The initial search will show the customer’s level of intent. Identifying the involvement of the consumer directly relates to the specifics of the query. The more specific the query becomes, the more highly involved/high-intent that consumer is (“buy a car” = low involvement; “buy a used Toyota Corolla” = high involvement). Consumers go through self-referencing in their head when choosing an ad to click on. What this means is they will identify how much the ad copy is related to what they picture the query (thoughts) should be associated with.

Historical trends have indicated that when a consumer is low-involved/low-intent, he or she is more susceptible to enter broad, generic queries and may be easily influenced to change his/her purchasing decision (“buy a car” doesn’t show much brand loyalty, for example). When this is the case, it is imperative to be in one of the top positions. The ad copy is important but can be more of a generic nature, mirroring the generic queries. The position is more important when a customer shows a low level of involvement; he/she isn’t ready to spend much time on the SERP.

With a highly involved consumer, ad copy becomes influential in getting the consumer to convert; tailoring ad copy to the query becomes increasingly important the more specific the query becomes (sticking with the car-focused ad copy, an ad calling out a Hummer wouldn’t do very well on the “buy a used Toyota Corolla” SERPs). When detailed queries are searched, the tailoring of the ad copy should become more specific. So, generally, the more the consumer is involved, the less important the top position becomes when you’re choosing ad rank with your bidding preferences. The consumers will go through the ads with their self-referencing abilities and will most likely arrive at the destination that they feel they are ideally looking for. Note, of course, that when consumers are highly involved, they are going to be doing comparison shopping, so they’ll have a tendency for higher bounce rates when conducting their initial research.

There are other customer behaviors you can learn and take advantage of, too. For instance, eCommerce consumers are more likely to click on common brands such as Amazon and eBay because of a consumer behavior effect called the “mere exposure effect” – when a consumer tends to prefer familiar objects to unfamiliar ones. You should make an effort to be in a position above or close to the giant online retailers to funnel good volume to your campaigns – providing, of course, your landing pages and value propositions can help you push consumers down the funnel.

After the consumer has reached the destination page, the optimization of the path should continue. If you can have a clear call to action with the product and service resonating from the thoughts of the consumers (queries), you will be in a position to increase conversion rates by successfully guiding more consumers through the conversion funnel.

– Aaron Woolway, Account Associate – Search

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