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Cutting our search advertising cloth to suit

For most companies in non-consumer sectors, search advertising has been the most cost-effective advertising channel for many years. It’s a no-brainer to put our name in front of people who are self-identifying as being in the market for our product by searching online for information about it.

Few companies can spend enough to meet the voracious capacity that search advertising offers. Despite that, it’s still unusual for a company to spend 100% of its advertising budget on search, as there are reasons beyond cost-effectiveness for using other channels. And that means search advertising budgets really need to work hard.

If I could give three areas where search campaigns could be tightened up, it would probably be:

  1. Geographic reach – we might reasonably claim to serve the whole country, but in reality, if our sales are concentrated locally, it’s probably because many prospects prefer suppliers closer to home. Should we therefore narrow down our advertising reach to the areas where we tend to sell most? If we’re not sure about that, should we divide up the campaign and compare the results of advertising near and far?
  2. Product coverage – might we be better off going harder with advertising more profitable products and services at the expense of others?
  3. Negative keywords – these can be very effective at focusing campaigns on better-converting searches and specific points in the buying cycle, but they’re underused by many businesses.

Search advertising is great, but it can’t do everything unless we allocate serious (and increasing) budgets to it. If that’s not possible, we need to cut our cloth accordingly.