Ok welcome everyone to my first installment in the Triple play coverage. I once again want to thank Barry and Ben for letting my join them on this endeavor, and I will do my best to keep the quality of the coverage up to the standards that Search Engine Roundtable readers expect. Sorry about the delay in this instalment as I had some technical difficulties.
Session: Eye of the Storm: Lessons from Large Search Marketers Description: Large marketers tend to have different needs and strategies than their smaller counterparts, such as requiring industrial strength analytics tools. What lessons can be learned from these marketers search practices? What do these companies look for in their search agencies?
This session started with an intro by Zia and then was a structured Q&A moderated by Zia.
Moderator: Zia Wigler- Jupiter Research “Welcome to SES. Quick presentation of some recent Jupiter research”
Definition of sophisticated SEM’s versus “unsophisticated“: sophisticated have begun to employ bid managment and analytics tools 58% have budget of 250k plus/.
“Sophisticated” are more confident about exploring different strategies new keywords ad text. Higher percentage of sophisticated marketers use tactics such as landing page optimization and testing, changing bids, updating keywords, changing ad text, changing landing pages. All these and more should be done monthly at least.
In regards to portals, 99% working with Google, 88% working with Yahoo! SM. Between 19-30% using others such as verticals find what.com.
Keyword “baskets.“ majority use 1-250 or 250-1000.
Most “sophisticates” use: technology to help with bidding.
Future bidding: “Sophisticates” looking to spend more money on SEM going fwd: 36% expect at least 25% increase vs. 42% expect less than 25% increase for a total of 67%. 16% plan to decrease spending, while the rest will maintain spending.
First question (1): How do you run your SEM?
Ethan Giffin- Allegis Group, Inc.: operated by an interactive media group that manages all websites
Emily Schubert- Travelocity: marketing dept is fragmented, but SEM is all under her, uses in house also.
Allan Dick- Vintage Tub and Bath: Staff of 4 purely geared towards SEM in house. Search has been “heart and sole of business, train everyone except warehousing staff in order to ensure everyone understands what is going on. Customer service and sales must be tuned to the fact that people search for SEM, and therefore helps to track new keywords or particular SE use to find products.”
(2) Primary goal direct sales or branding?
Et: No comment
El: Direct sales. Completely ROI focus Every dollar must be accounted for, but less emphasis. 25-30 percent of sales affected by search. Must ensure all copy is updated with seasonal and promotional updates. Working on increasing branding. Implementing new analytics program to help find more value in branding.
A: Completely ROI driven, but feeling that they are starting to build a brand: primary indicator that competition is starting to bid on their name.
(3) Working with agencies?
Et: Started to come to shows in 2001, but took a while to “sell” that search was important. Works very closely with one agency that has the ability to manage ALL aspects, paid and organic. Was very important to them to use a company that can do all things. Needed someone with the ability to add new campaigns as needed.
El: Has interesting agency relationship. They started with two ladies that were getting on their feet, and have grown with Travelocity. Echoes Allen’s comment that it is very important to know the subtleties of the business. This agency has done-so. By making a consistent effort. They have made changes to coincide with needs such as hiring an analyst when they became more ROI-focused.
A: Started on eBay, and then stuck with DOY mentality, tried some agencies, but had mixed results. Reason for not using agencies is that each agency has difference strengths, not exactly aligning with all needs of Vintage Tub and bath. Tries to first develop in house, but will try an agency on a trial basis. Was told by one SEM (after asking them) that if he were IBM, more focus would be spent on them.. Also, some SEM’s did not gain a familiarity with products, even with lots of training performed in house and paid for by Vintage. Has had better results internally for these reasons. Vendors have to become more accountable and more able to learn products in order to be considered. Doesn’t believe in “one size fits all agencies.”
(4) How have expectations of agencies changed?
Et: “Likes to do business with people that they like to hug.” Needs the ability to call and get a direct response.
El: Focus on ROI has enabled them to become more strategic with agencies and continual focus on the future and the “pulse of the search business.” Agencies should be becoming more focused on the ability to track data.
A: No comment
(5) Do you have an agency “wish list?”
Et: Keeping up with the most current methodology and technology.
El: Would like more help with long-term planning, but understands it is difficult in this industry.
(6) When is it time to expand budget?
Et: Likes to spend money, so will continue to expand as often as possible.
El: Is the time right? High travel seasons, etc, dictate increase of budget. Increases keyword list according to campaign promotions that are going on and as they discover trends in particular keyword ROI increases. Also focuses on more niches such as “gay travel,” “sky travel,” etc… Likes to look at overall CPC growths and keep pace, although they do not bid as high as many of the competitors. Use of analytics and bid management has greatly helped guide budget changes.
A: “We are opportunistic, nice way of saying : We don’t have a business plan (laughs)” Expands when they feel the time is right. Has been able to track revenue due to addition of special coded character on the bottom of the page. Sales force asks for this and it helps them track where and when to expand.
(7) When to use/ how to evaluate new portals?
Et: Most of paid goes to big two, but does use vertical search since 1997 to drive job postings across Internet..
El: Portion of budget is geared towards 30-90 day testing and then analyze volume performance. What is opportunity cost of taking it away from major portals? What verticals are most important. Unless you have unlimited cap on spending, majority should go towards “big three.” Had very bad ROI from “second tier.”
A: Use of second tier were consistently bad with both page depth and ROI. They stick with big three to ensure consistency. But they will keep testing.
(8) How often/ how indepth do you evaluate competition?
Et: They do quarterly analysis of competition. They do use agency for this.
El: They do watch affiliate marketers especially for misuse of logo or using of brand name. Also watch competitors affiliates to watch for “bid jamming.” They use legal department often in order to stop this. Not a game of “they did X so we’ll do X.” They use agency for monthly reports vs. completion on natural side, but paid side is more informal.
A: They definitely monitor competition. One person actually dedicated to monitoring bidding strategies, location, etc. They know the “ego bidders” all the way to the “mathematicians.” They are aggressive with that, and it impacts what they do. If they do not see ROI, but competition is bidding on it, they will continue to avoid. Difficult to determine what the competition ROI is, so speculation could be dangerous.
(9) How to make argument of SEM versus other media?
Et: SEM has consistently proven to be a better ROI than offline media, so they focus on that.
El: Uses and agency to help determine this using an econometric model and analyzing after time period. Shifts money sometimes due to ability to see that some efforts are not working and others are. Can usually get more money for search when they ask for it, but must keep overall media mix in mind.
A: Use your own SEM results to compare to other marketing: ask them what their ROI is for a particular newspaper ad, or other effort. No need to apologize for being a search marketer, since we have the ability to measure returns so much more thoroughly..
(10) Biggest Frustration with SEM?
Et: Technology issues trying to keep up with SEM and analytics market.
El: Wishes that they could keep up with the pace of SEM, in their feeling the business is not moving fast enough to keep up with SEM.
A: Not enough terms, since only a limited number of terms are applicable to their products. They need to expand product offerings before expanding SEM.
(11) Forecast for next two years? Et: Hopefully on a beach with a cigar and a laptop (laughs). Hard to tell, but sees more consolidation in the market.
El: Hard to predict where search is going, but she predicts that from a management perspective it will be more important to integrate tools and analytics into campaigns. Increasing CPC bid pressure. Hopes se’s take action against rogue affiliates. Focus on new ways to draw a user to click on ad-moving towards more graphics interface? Keeping an eye on other search such as mobile, etc.
A: Agreed with Emily and Ethan. Thinks SEM is like a thirteen year old. Still awkward, hasn’t figured its role in marketing yet, but this will change in next couple of years. This will make things more difficult as it becomes less of a “wild west” environment to “break into it” since those that were in from the beginning have already tested so many things. Will get tougher to break into market because of this.
Audience Q: “How are they getting feedback from clients to help judge value?”
A: Trying to ask more questions of clients, but just need to “listen to what is going on.” Their department is in tune to tracking such things to help tracking, will increase in importance.
Audience Q: How are they getting feedback from clients to help judge value?
A: Use of training associates to ask the right questions.
Audience: “How do you protect brand name, especially since so generic?”
A: They first ask people not to bid on their brand name, they try to do the same by not bidding on competitors. If they are stealing content, they get legal, and they do remember who does this. They will beat the deal of that competitor “no matter what.”