30-second summary:

  • Improving their organic search presence is the top inbound marketing priority for 61% of marketers.
  • It’s imperative that today’s marketers leverage paid search at every stage to create more sophisticated strategies because greater sophistication means less wasted budget and higher quality conversions. 
  • Erica Magnotto gives a crisp breakdown and categorization of how to make your sales and marketing funnel work through SEO.

Improving their organic search presence is the top inbound marketing priority for 61% of marketers. But many are unaware their tried-and-true search engine optimization tactics have lost their potency thanks to today’s more fluid marketing funnel.

Every marketer knows the marketing funnel: The famous upside-down triangle used to visualize the customer journey from “awareness” at the top to “action” at the bottom. Paid search is typically considered a lower-funnel tactic used to nudge customers toward a conversion. But in today’s digitally-dominated landscape, paid search plays a more integrated role. 

It’s imperative that today’s marketers leverage paid search at every stage to create more sophisticated strategies because greater sophistication means less wasted budget and higher quality conversions. Here are seven tips to plug in paid search throughout your customer relationships in 2020.

Phase one: Awareness

If you’re currently investing in awareness channels, you’re likely using a combination of programmatic display, video, social and influencers to connect with your audiencesBut don’t overlook paid search, which is also effective at driving new users to the website through competitor and educational campaigns.  

1. Competitor campaigns 

If a customer is looking for your direct competitor, it’s likely they’re in need of your services as well, so bidding on competitor terms is a great way to capture your competitor’s customers. Keep in mind though these keywords are usually expensive and receive lower quality scoresthey can help inform customers of their options within your industry. 

2. Brand education 

Customers looking to educate themselves on a particular product or service are likely to go to Google firstUse this knee-jerk reaction to send web traffic in your direction by adding specific content on your website that answer their questions. Blogs, white papers, FAQ pages, and industry updates are valuable forms of customer education that can develop brand awareness and promote trust with your audience. Even better, you can combine branding and lead generation by gating some of this content to collect user information that can later be repurposed for email marketing, retargeting, lookalike audiences and more. 

Phase two: Interest

After a user visits the website and gains familiarity with your brand keep your brand top of mind through retargeting list search ads and audience bidding.  

3. Retargeting List Search Ads (RLSAs)

RLSAs can help drive repeat visits to your website by directly targeting and bidding on those previous website visitors. These campaigns typically use tailored messaging, such as a discount, countdown or reminder to complete an action on your website, to create urgency. RLSAs can also be used with the brand and non-branded terms to entice user action in the decision phase of the funnel. 

4. Audience bidding

Marketers should consider applying in-market audiences to campaigns on observation mode to develop a clearer image of how each audience segment performs. Segments that perform or convert at a high level indicate interest from that grouping of potential customers and, therefore, are worth a higher investment through the use of bid modifiers. Bid up on these audiences to garner a stronger return. 

Phase Three: Decision

Invest in your brand terms to protect yourself from competitor interference once potential customers have made the conscious decision to engage with your brand. You can also implement extensions to impart more influence during the decision stage and garner increased user engagement. 

5. Bid on brand terms 

Brand terms serve two purposes in SEO: visibility and defence. First, it’s important to remain relevant to the SERPs by being represented in organic and paid results. Second, while you have the flexibility to bid on competitor terms, the competition can bid on your terms as wellBy creating a dedicated brand strategy for search, you can help cut down on competitors showing up in place of you.

6. Use extensions 

Extensions such as site links, callouts and structured snippets place more ads on SERPs, giving your ads more opportunity to influence in the decision of customersMarketers should use as many relevant extensions as possible to improve click-through-rates (CTRs) and higher quality scores. 

Phase four: Action

Search engines can optimize toward conversion action through automated bidding after users take action on your website through a paid ad. 

7. Automated bidding

Conversion or action data that are stored in Google or Microsoft Ads is repurposed to support automated bidding like Target Cost Per Action (CPA), Maximize Conversions or Target Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). These features support a variety of conversion goals through Google’s AI automation. Creating accurate conversions in your account is essential during the final step of the funnel.

Paid search is a foundational channel for driving lead generation initiatives, as it has vast capabilities. Search plays an integral role in every stage of the marketing funnel – not just at the top. Consider connecting with your in-house team or agency partners to revamp your paid search strategy for 2020 to ensure you are leveraging search across the funnel, and, ultimately, boosting the channels’ benefit to your bottom line.  

Erica Magnotto is Senior Search Engine Marketing Manager at R2i. 



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