Ecommerce | Search Engine Marketing
Beyond the Keyword: Quick Tips from Search Expert Justin Freid
November 03, 2015
Search engine marketing, both paid and organic, is arguably the rabbit hole of online marketing. You start out with one specific task or goal in mind, only to find yourself tumbling deeper into keywords and search terms and tags and taxonomy. To help pull us out of the depths and gain some perspective—and practical advice—we turned to SEM and digital marketing guru Justin Freid. An in-demand speaker and writer, he practices what he preaches as vice president, emerging media at CMI Media, which specialises in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.
You've said that SEM managers need to "think past the keyword and truly understand where someone is during their research or purchase cycle." That sounds great in theory, but how can a business—particularly a not very deep-pocketed one—put that theory into practice?
Approaching search from this perspective has nothing to do with hiring a top agency or spending a lot of money on research tools. It's an approach that anyone can take.
For example, there are many signals searchers send to us through the queries they utilise when searching. A simple one to look out for is the use of singular or plural versions of the search queries. If someone were to search for insurance companies, it tells you they may be higher in the funnel, looking to compare insurance companies against each other. If the user was to search insurance company, they could possibly be further along the funnel, looking for a company to buy from.
You can also look for intent in search queries. Words like order, buy, sign up, and download can all provide you with insight that a user is ready to take action. While it is important to attract users to your content throughout the funnel, you may be willing to pay more or optimise your site for keywords that show intent.
What are the most common mistakes you see in paid and/or organic search? Is there any low-hanging fruit that many companies fail to grab?
For paid search, one of the easiest ways to improve your efforts is to limit the use of broad match [the inclusion of your ad in any search that uses any word in your key phrase, in any order]. Google and Bing are both very loose with what they match your keywords to, which causes your ads to show for search queries that are not relevant to your business. One simple way to decipher if this is occurring is to review your search query report. If your keywords are being matched to search queries that are not relevant, they should be added as negative keywords. Focusing on exact match can help control what searches your ads are showing for.
From an SEO perspective, over the past few years the industry has focused on content, as it should be. But before you focus on creating great content you need to ensure your website is technically sound. If Google and Bing web crawlers cannot index your website, having great content doesn't matter. By ensuring your site has proper URL structure, hierarchy, a functional XML sitemap, and canonical tags, you will set yourself up for success.
Way back when, SEO was viewed as a way for organisations with smaller budgets to play on a more level field with larger businesses. Is that still the case?
SEO is definitely still a playing field where small and medium-size business can play. As mentioned above, if you have a technically sound website and are creating content that your audience is looking for, you will be successful. Google's algorithm has shifted over the past few years to favor large brands, but in niche and local markets, it is still a very level playing field.
Social content is continually being touted as a great way to improve one's SEO. Any advice on how to get the most from it?
I always advise my clients to provide value to their potential customers. Leveraging social media is a great way to do so. Social media is a complex area to play in; simply going out there and saying, "Look at my brand and all the cool stuff we do" won't work. You have to do social listening up front to understand what your audience is interested in, what they are sharing, and the overall landscape that surrounds your industry. Crafting a social media strategy that provides value to your audience will ultimately benefit you from an SEO perspective.
Which metrics would you say are musts to track? And are there any metrics that are often overlooked but can yield great actionable insights?
At the end of the day, you should judge the success of your digital marketing efforts by what moves your business. If you sell widgets, you should judge the campaigns on how many additional widgets you sold. If you need sales leads, you should judge on how many leads and the quality of those leads that are generated by your efforts.
Metrics like CTR [click-through rate], CPC [cost per click], and page views can be used as diagnostic metrics to help you understand how your efforts are performing, but they should not be used as KPIs [key performance indicators]. Your KPIs should be tied to what drives your business. For industries that may have a longer sales cycle or no on-site conversion, developing a custom segment in Google Analytics that defines a "qualified site visitor" is the next best thing.
What question do you wish more people would ask?
"How can we improve this?" In the digital space, there are always new things to test, new partners to utilise, and optimisations to be made that can provide better results. Too often agencies and clients become complacent because their CTR went up. One of the main reasons I love what I do is because there is always a new challenge in front of me each and every day.