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Has Paid Search Become The New NYC Mailbox?

Has Paid Search Become The New NYC Mailbox?

If you have ever lived in New York City, you know possibly the worst thing about the city is finding an apartment. It is miserable plain and simple. You sort through thousands of Craigslist postings, a few New York Times postings, and answer every ad posted on every mailbox in the city only to realize 90 percent of the listings are for apartments that aren’t available, never existed, and were made up by some super shady broker just to try to get you to give them a call.

Sadly, of late, more and more retail paid search ads seem to resemble NYC apartment ads than they do search ads – and it’s costing advertisers money, clicks, and customers.

Running effective paid search accounts is no easy feat. You have keywords, bids, match types, tracking, and about 50 other things to worry about. Unfortunately, creative seems to be the piece that is most often, if not most obviously, neglected.

Full disclosure: I was a journalism major in college and while that doesn’t excuse my poor writing it does allow me to criticize the writing of others – particularly in search ads. But writing effective creative is an easy and free way to improve search campaign performance.

When done well, it increases traffic, increases quality score, lowers CPC, and ultimately increases revenues, subscriptions, or whatever your end goal might be. There are three keys to writing effective search creative:

Your Goal Is Not To Get Every Click, Only Profitable Ones

It is a bit of a simple goal, but so many retail marketers tend to miss it completely. Not unlike NYC apartment brokers and their misleading ads, so many folks are caught up in trying to get as many clicks as possible, that they forget to properly qualify the traffic.

While this may lead to a higher CTR, which might look great on a report you show your boss, the reality is you are wasting marketing dollars. And for those leveraging search traffic to help fuel retargeting display media campaigns, you have no effectively wasted marketing dollars in two channels (and if we really want to go down this path, you are also clouding your demographic and geographic data too since you are flooding it with users that aren’t truly a match for your business).

Good creative can do a lot of things, but perhaps the most valuable thing it can do is prequalify each and every click you get. By simply shifting your focus from getting every click to getting every profitable click, you will not only improve your overall marketing effectiveness, but you will ultimately help you more clearly outline who your core customer might be.

In apartment broker talk, you will get more people making $100,000 a year for the lovely 3-bedroom in the East Village than those straight out of NYU students who need 10 guarantors and can only afford a split loft in Bed Stuy.

Differentiation Helps In A Super Crowded Market

Do a search for “men’s running shoes.” What do you see? Anyone stick out to you? If your answer is no, I would assume most consumers would say the same thing.

Of the 11 ads, seven have creative touting free shipping (or free ship in one case), seven have five-star ratings, six have some sort of discount above 75 percent or a price lower than $50, and there are an obnoxious seven exclamation points used. Seven! I didn’t know running shoes had that much worth yelling about.

If I was truly shopping for athletic shoes, how would I choose which is best? I suppose I would just click on all of them until I found the right one, which is bad for advertisers and consumers.

Instead of assuming your free shipping/price/catchy URL is the best thing for your creative, before you write a single piece of creative, take a good look at your competition. What is everyone saying? Can you differentiate yourself somehow? Free shipping and free returns perhaps? What about an easy, quick shopping experience?

Take a good look at what other retailers are saying, then take a good look at your own business and figure out where the differences lie. Adjusting your creative to truly differentiate yourself should more than make up for any traffic you dropped whenever you did #1 on this list.

Focus On The Value You Actually Offer Or Offer Value

Yes, this is basic. Yes, we have all heard it a million times. Yes, this is boring. But most digital retail marketers still miss this key fact.  Rather than going in promising the world just to disappoint, talk about what you truly do offer that is different or better than what people expect.

If you don’t have any value to offer (you likely have some big problems), try creating value. For example, we once worked with an athletic shoes company that gave us some creative freedom.

In an effort to create value for the consumers we ran two tests. First, we bought terms surrounding the NYC Marathon, but instead of cramming a generic marketing message and numerous exclamation points into our creative, we wrote a simple message: Good luck in the marathon from your friends at [brand name here].

We actually tried to give value (luck) to our core customers, and they responded. Click through rate was through the roof and sales, which we weren’t expecting, were strong as well. We repeated the test at various points surrounding other events, weather happenings, etc. – each time finding strong results by differentiating our message and giving our customers value.

None of the above ideas are earth shattering, nor is creative something that can single handedly solve all your problems. However, when done correctly, it can help save you money and improve campaign performance.

And if all that fails for some reason, at the very least you will be able to sleep soundly at night knowing you are better than those lying, cheating brokers that prey on the young, innocent people that are just trying to make it in the big city.