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Paid Media

Managing Marketing Spend in a Downturn

Photo credit: The composed Rafael Felisilda

In times of economic uncertainty, marketing spend is usually the first expense to get cut because it’s incredibly easy to adjust a budget or pause entire blocks of campaigns – but should marketing be the first place your business looks to conserve cash or is cutting budget a move that can worsen existing challenges to your business?

Marketing is Even More Important in Downturns

When consumers begin to cut spending and take a harder look at their choices for products and services, that’s the perfect opportunity for marketing to reinforce value propositions to existing customers while prospecting for new ones. 

Your existing customers will want reassurance that they’ve made and will continue to make the right decision buying from your brand and new customers need messaging that lets them know they are making the right choice. 

Pausing campaigns can have unintended negative consequences far beyond just losing visibility in a market. Keep in mind that almost every ad network/platform now uses machine learning to discover audiences with the best chance of conversion and stopping that flow of data and forcing those campaigns back into a learning phase will severely impact performance when you decide to restart spend.

Leverage Technology to Improve ROI

Many brands still spend large portions of their budget on prospecting campaigns that are often driven only by demographics or simple lookalike lists. These campaigns often have low ROIs but are seen as valuable to the business because they serve as a point of introduction and cast a wide net for brands at an inexpensive CPM/CPC.

Instead of continuing to spend on these “wide net” approaches, take a strategic look at the audiences, behaviors and demographics driving these campaigns and make strategic adjustments to cull underperforming groups or test new ones that can improve ROI. Little adjustments like changing the composition of a lookalike audience or pivoting out of specific demographic combinations can make a big difference. 

If You Have to Cut Spend

Should you need to reduce budget, the first place to start will be Google Ads because you’ll be able to use their competitive analytics data to make informed choices on spend reduction.

For any campaign that accounts for at least 5% of budget, look at the last 5-6 complete months of auction insights data and plot who bids on your terms and how that behavior has changed  over time. You may see competitors who have gone from having high impression overlaps (their ads were shown on the same searches as your own) to barely being visible and that may open opportunities for lower bid and target adjustments.

For non-brand campaigns you’ll want to take a deeper look at your main keywords and their underlying queries to determine your next steps. Utilize first click attribution as your starting point and look at both keywords and themes that perform well or vice versa.

For branded campaigns, really take a hard look at what you’re bidding on and how competitors are adjusting. Competitor conquest campaigns traditionally have the lowest immediate ROI and if the other players in your space are using ROI as their base metric you may find your branded campaigns as an opportunity to cut.

The second part of that equation is to audit your brand search queries and look at what branded terms are driving clicks. Any terms related to post purchase activity should be excluded as well as terms indicating an already strong preference for the brand.

I realize branded campaigns, for better or worse, are the aggregate ROI driver for marketers but freeing budget to go after people looking at alternatives while keeping costs in check is a scalable strategy that can fuel growth in better economic conditions.

Going Forward

Economic downturns are always stressful and having the right team in place that can assess existing spend and develop strategies to minimize loss of visibility while maximizing value is critical to success. If you haven’t already revisited marketing budget and priorities for Q3/Q4 and beyond, now is the time to do so.

Categories
Paid Media

Common Reasons Your Remarketing Campaign Isn’t Working

Photo Credit: The talented Thomas Bormans

Remarketing campaigns can be a great source of revenue but for many brands, remarketing is a poor performing channel because of overly broad audiences, mismatched messaging and poor funnel design.

If your remarketing campaign is a cost center rather than a revenue driver, here’s our list of common reasons for poor performance and how to address them:

Overly Broad Audiences

Most brands have just two remarketing audiences:

  1. All visitors
  2. Abandoned carts

Given the diversity of your users and the reasons for them to potentially convert into a lead or sale, these are simply not enough but brands often fail to diversify these lists as a result of resource or time constraints.

At the very least, you should have campaigns for each service you offer and product based remarketing for eCommerce. If you do want to keep an all visitors list then put gating around it with a minimum time on site or pages visited (in GA4 use engaged sessions). Adding rules and splitting out users will significantly cut down on waste and allow you to segment remarketing performance by audience to get feedback on where you’re strong and what pages may need work.

Mismatched Messaging

Brands that do have their audiences properly sorted often undo that work by serving the same creative to multiple audiences or in some cases every audience.

Similar to the broad audiences problem, brands often don’t have specific remarketing creative for each audience segment because of time and resource constraints. However implementing messaging that speaks to each audiences has never been easier with Google and some programmatic networks even offering dynamic remarketing creative that can automatically do this for you.

Ads that don’t speak to a user or their intent will never get clicked.

Poor Funnel Design

Another reason that brands lose money on remarketing is that even if they have the audiences segmented out and the right messaging to them, they consistently dump these visitors on pages where they have to restart the conversion process.

If any of your remarketing campaigns are dumping people on the homepage then you need to pause and really think through the user journey. The goal of a remarketing campaign should be a seamless transition back to where a user left off vs putting them on a page where they have to search or navigate toward their ultimate goal. In some cases brands design landing pages specific to conversion that allow users to restart and finish their journey in a space that doesn’t distract them.

Poor Placements

The final way that brands lose money on remarketing is with poor placement management. Similar to search query reports for Google Ads, most programmatic networks and GDN allow you to view performance by placement and if you’ve never audited where your ads show, odds are the bulk of your impressions are on sites and apps that won’t make sense for conversion.

In my experience 40-45% of programmatic impressions are served via in game ads and it takes a lot to convince a customer to stop their quest to beat level 100 in Candy Crush to go back and purchase a product or continue learning about a service. In fact most of your programmatic clicks are likely people in these apps accidentally clicking an ad between levels or battles and this takes budget away from placements where you’re performing well and have better contextual conversion opportunities.

Always audit your placements and make sure your ads are showing where it makes sense.

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Paid Media SEO

Generating Leads in Competitive Industries for Less

Photo credit: The talented Zybnek Burival

Generating leads for ultra competitive industries can seem like a prohibitively expensive process. The reason is that for the last two decades brands have been stuck thinking that the only way to consistently generate inquiries is through high dollar Google Ads campaigns with the hope that over time and with enough investment they may be able to get organic visibility and direct traffic from branding.

It’s time for companies to break out of that cycle because there are evergreen and budget friendly ways to generate leads that diversify your marketing mix and improve your overall brand.

Here’s how to do it:

Build a Content Library

Content is king but brands often struggle from a lack of planning/organization or they develop content that is irrelevant, vague or doesn’t connect with their audience. A strong, well written, keyword optimized and interlinked content library that covers all stages of the buying cycle, customer needs, objections and features can generate a consistent volume of leads month in and month out.

Where to start:

The best part is that all the data you need to build a content machine is already out there.

Content Ideas

Google Ads (Free):  Their keyword tool is one of the most powerful business intelligence products on the market. You can literally see what people are searching for, how often they search, competition and other related queries.

AnswerThePublic (Free): This helpful tool scrapes Google Autocomplete data and organizes it by alphabetical, questions and prepositions and is a great way to develop taxonomies

SEMRush (Paid):  This tool offers both of the above and pulls in additional keyword data that won’t be found in Google Ads. One important thing to note with Google Ads data is that it only shows keywords where an ad matched to it so you don’t get the full spectrum of long tail searches that SEMRush provides.

Your CRM/Sales Team (Free): The best place to source content is your closed deals. Often you can find all the objections that had to be overcome, all the obstacles for approval, all the other vendors that were part of the selection process. Lea

Google Trends (Free):  If your business is seasonal, has a regional focus or is taking advantage of a new medium like NFTs then Google Trends is an incredible business tool.

Reddit (Free): Odds are your industry has its own subreddit(s) where your target audience is discussing questions, problems and solutions to what they’re encountering. Avoid spamming these discussions with self-promotion and instead focus on how to take common themes from the content and incorporating them into your content library

Quora (Free): The internet’s question database. Simply type in a keyword and find the most common questions or those with the most answers to uncover opportunity and points of confusion

Leverage Programmatic

Your customer’s search journey is so much more than a one or two word search phrase at the end of the funnel. They might go to 10-25 different places across multiple devices and channels and programmatic ad networks can help message your prospects throughout their journey.

Using lists, competitor sites/apps and other important customer attributes will help you get the best ROI from your campaigns and you can work with your programmatic provider to feed data back to their systems to help further hone in targets.

Where to Start: 

There are a number of great programmatic networks and providers that can help guide your business from setup to final execution.

Providers:

StackAdapt: They have a great dataset and offer a number of custom ad units that really make brands pop

Criteo: They have the best data of any network but their ad units are fairly generic. Perfect for service based businesses.

Airtory: They have an amazing ad builder that turns your static creative into engaging dynamic ads

Become an Industry Influencer

There are influencers in every industry and becoming one doesn’t mean having to do a catchy Tiktok dance or trying to make a video go viral. You can be an influencer by simply being a consistent source of quality information in the forums and mediums where it matters.

Where to Start:

Reddit and Quora should be the first places you being to establish a presence. What you’ll want to do is start involving yourself as often as you can in discussions relevant to your industry and most importantly you’ll want to give straightforward answers leveraging your experience while not being overly promotional.

Once you’ve taken 2-3 weeks to really involve yourself in these communities, it’s time to start leveraging video, specifically YouTube, Tiktok and Reels to rehash popular discussion topics (with your answers of course) and assert experience.

If you have a well defined audience, then we recommend boosting each post to that group to help with views and subscriber/follower counts and the key here is to consistently post rather than make 3 videos and call it a day.

For an added bonus, you’ll want to then blog about each video and tie to it existing relevant content or use it as the backbone for a strong well researched article.

Brands that do these 3 things will find themselves generating a consistent stream of inbound leads while putting there name out there at every step of the consumer journey.

Categories
Paid Media

Preparing for Performance Max Campaigns

Photo credit: The impeccable Debby Hudson

In October of 2020 Google announced the launch of Performance Max campaigns as the company continued to push for new automated ways to target audiences online. After a year of testing Google then decided earlier this year to not only make them available to all advertisers but to replace existing smart shopping and local campaigns with the new feature.

Advertisers who have been using either campaign types will be happy to know that Performance Max has additional features to help them potentially capture more revenue and higher ROI and if you’re trying to figure out how to get started transitioning your campaign types, here’s what we recommend.

Reassess Your Goals

Let’s talk through both campaign types, why they’re typically run and what will carry over:

Smart Shopping: These campaigns take your existing product feed and using machine learning try to automatically match the product, message and placement to consumers in the shopping/discovery phase. Performance Max campaigns won’t be too different other than offering additional ad inventory placements.

Local Campaigns: These are simple local business campaigns that take your address, a few selling points and assets and automatically generate ads. I really recommend that if you are running them, you meet with a paid search agency/freelancer because there are far better and more granular ways to setup campaigns that will target customers and generate ROI for your business.

Upgrade Window

The best thing about this transition is that Google will be providing a one-click upgrade experience starting in April for existing campaigns. Previously when campaigns were deprecated, they could often run without any edits for a limited time but had to be completely rebuilt in the new campaign type. This takes out a lot of the management headaches and gives advertisers a great starting point going forward.

What Performance Am I Seeing?

So far clients who have tested Performance Max campaigns have seen incremental improvement which we feel is largely related to improved machine learning and placement. I still recommend that before flipping the switch, brands need to make sure these campaign types still align with their business objectives.

Managing Complexity

If your brand is currently running smart shopping or local campaigns and is trying to figure out next steps, there are a number of great paid search agencies and practitioners that can build, transition and optimize your campaigns for the new format.

Categories
Paid Media SEO

4 ONLINE MARKETING MISTAKES ALMOST EVERY LAW FIRM MAKES

Photo credit: The classical Gianmarco

Legal marketing is arguably the most competitive industry online and many firms make basic mistakes that hurt their ability to drive case volume and lower their overall return on ad spend. Having had the opportunity to scale successful lead generation campaigns for firms ranging from three person personal injury practices to 200+ employee firms I thought it would be a good idea to share the basic mistakes that almost every practice makes and how to remedy them. 

Only Running Expensive Paid Search Campaigns

What’s the easiest way to get a case in the next 24 hours? Run a paid search campaign.

What’s the most expensive way to get a case in the next 24 hours? Run a paid search campaign.

If you’re reading this and you’ve ever done paid search, especially for ultra-competitive practice areas like personal injury, truck accidents or mesothelioma you know that clicks can cost $150 or more. You also know the uncomfortable truth that most of those clicks are your competitors or people who aren’t serious and while Google can filter out some of that behavior, for the most part the majority of your clicks are wasted. 

For those clicks that are actually genuine, if visitors don’t have a user experience that immediately empathizes, educates and lets them take action they’ll leave and there’s nothing worse than seeing you’ve spent $1500 in a day and didn’t get a single call or form fill (for both the lawyer and the agency that will get a call from said lawyer the next day).

The way to improve visibility and reduce reliance on expensive terms is to think of the decision making process for your client. If someone is in a wreck for instance, a lawyer is actually what they search for well after the accident as their immediate needs center around insurance processes, liability, treatment, rentals etc …

Strategically having visibility on their journey is not only cost effective but gets your name into their minds well before they reach a point of seeking legal assistance.

Ignoring Organic SEO

What we generally hear from firms that rely heavily on paid search for lead volume is that they tried SEO and didn’t get traction or they were quoted a long timeline and heavy investment with no guarantee of page 1 ranking. The second part is true to a degree in that if you’re a brand new site, the odds you’ll rank on page 1 for your main practice term in a short span of time are low.

However SEO is often the best place to generate leads because as we began to discuss in the previous section, there is an entire ecosystem of online activity around even the simplest of cases. 

For instance with the car wreck example above there could be issues around fault, insured/uninsured motorists, diminution of value, medical billing, short term financial woes as a result of injury. Every firm I’ve seen strategically invest in content tailored to specific questions and issues always get results vs those spinning their wheels on expensive paid search campaigns. Would you rather invest in 10 well-written and optimized pieces of evergreen content that will generate pageviews and leads for years or x10 $200 clicks for car accident attorney Dallas? 

In fact when I previously worked on behalf of a firm that handled asbestos litigation, we spent thousands of hours mapping out every possible search area for mesothelioma including symptoms, diagnosis, actual factories/ships/places for exposure and reading through clinical trial data for potential therapies. The result is that we built an extensive content library that gave a full context around the cancer and every element of it and became a powerful lead generation engine that needed relatively little ongoing maintenance.

Falling Flat With Video 

Your firm has probably at one point or another been told you need to be on YouTube and most firms do the exact same thing: build a channel, upload their latest TV ad or radio spot and then watch as they rack up 2-3 views per month.

Most law firms look at YouTube from the lens of reality … people go there to watch cat videos and people playing video games. However the opportunity for law firms is that video for many people is easier to absorb and understand and taking the above example of evergreen content and applying that to video you can start to see where the opportunity exists. There are countless 200k+ view videos from lawyers explaining (without giving legal advice) obstacles, questions and challenges someone might face after a car accident.

When done right (not shot an iPhone as you walk down a loud street downtown) video can be an evergreen medium for connection, links and ultimately get people onto your site and into your queue. Video is the medium of the future and firms are even beginning to look at platforms like Snapchat and TikTok (especially for criminal law).

Downplaying Spanish Search 

The way that firms approach Spanish speakers is still relatively basic. I’ve consulted with many that hired Spanish speaking staff specifically to handle inbound calls and are shocked when they never seem to materialize.

The problem is most firms put it as a footnote for their advertising because they assume the Spanish speaking audience doesn’t need sophisticated messaging – just put Se Habla Espanol somewhere by the phone number and they’ll know what to do next. 

But often the web experience for many of these consumers is 99% in English and that doesn’t do enough to build confidence and not only win the click but win the client. If your firm has invested resources in accommodating Spanish speakers, you need to understand the investment should go beyond people and into the marketing assets themselves.

Basics like a Spanish language landing page and dedicated Spanish language ads are easy additions to existing web assets. Spanish speaking consumers will encounter the same questions and obstacles as their English speaking counterparts so investing in content marketing, often as a first mover in many markets, can pay significant dividends.