- Digital transformation affords businesses opportunities to make genuine connections with customers through personalized marketing experiences.
- Digital buyer behavior is changing, with increased consumer expectations for digital-only interactions and reduced tolerance for traditional sales tactics like cold-calling.
- Paid search is a fast-growing channel that warrants a data-driven approach to strategy and execution.
- Evan Kent, VP Integrated Marketing at Schneider Electric, and Kimberly Dutcher, SEM Manager at Merkle share their collaborative approach to a paid search strategy redesign that continues to drive positive business results.
There’s no more denying that digital transformation is here. It’s on the mind of every business leader, changing how businesses employ digital technologies and organize their business models to create more value for their brand. In the marketing space, digital transformation affords businesses countless opportunities to make a genuine connection with customers through personalized marketing experiences. By designing business organization, strategy, and technology around digital transformation, brands can ultimately deliver customer experiences that are contextually relevant and personally informed.
Schneider Electric and its paid search partner of five years, Merkle, tackled the digital transformation challenge head-on in 2019. They engaged in a more purposeful way than ever before to redesign the brand’s approach to paid search marketing in an effort to align with the business’s overall digital transformation initiatives.
Diving into digital transformation
Schneider Electric’s purpose is to empower everyone to make the most of their energy and resources, bridging progress and sustainability for all. As the global specialist in energy management and automation, it is the business’s mission to be a digital partner for sustainability and efficiency. To support this mission, the Schneider Electric team recognized an immediate need to redesign their search marketing program to improve the quality of traffic driven to the website.
With recent changes in digital buying behavior, the Schneider Electric team quickly recognized that overall search volume was outpacing their investment. The market was growing, yet Schneider Electric’s investment was shrinking. The brand’s soft voice in the market was compounded by a siloed approach to marketing investment. Paid search programs were defined by available investment from business units (BUs) versus starting with the available search volume and then defining an investment need. This resulted in campaigns that were under-funded, chasing search volume that simply did not exist, and a general lack of evergreen brand paid search.
The Schneider Electric team decided it was time for a change. To resolve its in-house challenges, the business created a team of dedicated search specialists to work side-by-side with its digital agency, Merkle. These specialists are the link between deep knowledge of Schneider Electric’s audiences and account optimization. The Schneider Electric paid search team made an intentional shift from creating and running reactive paid search campaigns to proactive market and industry-based planning. Their search mission changed to focus on traffic, landing pages, and the basic need to answer the questions searchers have.
Unifying digital transformation with paid search
Having worked with Schneider Electric for five years on paid search, the Merkle SEM team had valuable historical information on the business and its paid search trends. This data was invaluable to proposing a consolidated, centrally budgeted paid search account structure for the US. The restructure evolved Schneider Electric’s US paid search program from 14 paid search accounts and 22 budgets for seven BUs to one account with one budget. This drove considerable performance improvements and allowed for a robust test-and-learn environment.
The account redesign was also an opportunity for the unified paid search team across Schneider Electric and Merkle to lay the groundwork for future paid search marketing expansion and success. For the first time, the teams were able to take a big-picture, data-driven, strategic approach to the channel that gave all parties the information they needed to drive big results for the business, rather than driving localized results for individual BUs.
Key levers for successful transformation
In creating a transformed US paid search account aligned to Schneider Electric’s business goals of driving the right search traffic to the right pages on the site, the unified paid search team wasn’t starting from square one. Years of historical data and analysis helped guide the teams on which keywords were historically the best performing. In the case of this paid search digital transformation, a keyword audit was a critical piece to start with, ensuring the team was focused on the right keywords for the brand and its critical products and solutions. Click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) were the team’s primary key performance indicators (KPIs), given the strong historical data in the engine and the wide breadth of optimization levers that could help improve those metrics in the early stages of account optimization.
The unified paid search team took a two-pronged initial approach to their paid search final URL selection. First, the team worked to identify whether they had assigned the most relevant URLs for the keywords. Boosting quality score was a critical KPI, as quality score is a major factor in how often and how high your ads show on the search engine results page (SERP). Second, the Schneider Electric paid search team translated the quality score for the Schneider Electric web team to improve overall page quality and user experience on the site. It is these types of cross-channel collaborations that are necessary to drive continued marketing success; the business’s digital transformation can’t be successful without it.
3. Efficiency metrics and results
Continual monitoring and optimization of the team’s high-level KPIs, CTR, and CPC is what ultimately drove success for the business. Over the course of 2020, the paid search team drove 137 percent year-over-year increase in CTR through keyword audits, URL audits, ongoing performance optimizations, and flexible allocation of budget to the most efficient keywords. Collaboration with the Schneider Electric site analytics team was critical for measurement as well, with bounce rate and site engagement becoming key user experience measurement metrics.
Continually evolving paid search with digital transformation
In 2020, the first year of the transformation, the paid search team was focused on the basics: Who is the target audience? Where on the site would they land? Do we have the answer to the searcher’s question? Are we bidding on the right keywords? Is there an existing search volume? How much investment do we need? How long should a program run? How do we integrate other media functions to optimize the buy? Do we have the best ad copy? Designing this customer-first approach took time (and optimization is an iterative process), but the results have been exponential: Lower cost per click. More traffic to the site. Searchers go deeper into the site.
Now that the paid search team has a solid foundation, the door is open for experimenting with new and more advanced search techniques to further optimize audiences, bidding strategies, and cross-sell opportunities. With the right traffic coming to the site, the team can focus on monetizing that traffic by driving and measuring site engagement, leads, and contribution to revenue. Paid search is no longer a guessing game – data-driven and statistical techniques are used to optimize investment.
With a number of 2021 paid search marketing trends emerging, especially around automation in the industry, the Schneider Electric and Merkle paid search team is excited to dig into what opportunities exist for further expansion of their marketing efforts. B2B advertisers are changing the way they play the search marketing game in 2021, and those who innovate early and often are the ones who rise to the challenge, and, ultimately, capitalize on the opportunity.
Evan Kent is VP Integrated Marketing at Schneider Electric and Kimberly Dutcher is SEM Manager at Merkle.