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Searching for searchers: Audiences are the new keywords


Search as we know it is changing, with keywords and match types giving way to a more audience-powered approach. It’s a transition that has been slowly coming, but now that remarketing and remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) are available on Bing and Google, search marketers can no longer afford to ignore audience-based buying.

In the new search world order, searching for searchers will increasingly be a part of every successful marketer’s integrated search strategy.

Welcome to the new world of search

In the early days of search, keywords and match types were the main levers search advertisers used to find customers. Keywords allowed us to reach the consumers who were searching for our products and services, while match types allowed the query-to-keyword relationship to be more or less relevant, a kind of volume and relevance throttle.

Today, audiences enable advertisers to target the right message to the right person — at potentially the right time — in a way that keywords cannot. Keywords can give you intent and interest levels, but search is now on the cusp of something greater: the ability to create campaigns to specifically meet customers, wherever they are.

Just as exciting, we can use audiences to help us stop wasting digital marketing spend… and those audiences don’t have to be limited to users who have engaged with us from a search standpoint.

Could all search campaigns be remarketing campaigns?

I’ve been noodling on the idea for a while that all campaigns are remarketing campaigns. You might disagree with me, especially since Bing only allows a -90-percent bid modifier. But… a -90-percent bid modifier is still fairly close to creating an exclusion or a negative campaign.

Why is this important? It gives you the ability to segment your customers, adjust your bid strategy to reduce acquisition costs and adjust your messaging based on the audience segment.

Consider this scenario:

In the paid search brand campaigns I managed, I noticed that over time, my CPAs were steadily increasing. Using analytics to investigate, I found that there were a lot of return visitors on our brand keywords. I was paying to re-engage existing customers who were lazy and clicking on my paid search ads to navigate to the site or get a specific offer/deal instead of navigating through organic links or going directly to the website.

This, in conjunction with more competition bidding on my brand keywords, was causing my CPCs and my CPA to increase. My goal was to decrease my CPA and CPC and target net new customers to increase our overall awareness.

I decided to segment the brand campaign into two groups:

  • Engaged Visitors. Site visitors from the last 30 days who didn’t bounce right away, purchasers, visitors who touched other high-cost channels.
  • Net-new or Low Engagement Visitors. Visitors who haven’t been to the site in more than 30 days, visitors who bounced within x seconds in the last 30 days and people who haven’t been to my site.

Each group had different bid strategies and messaging.

With the Engaged Visitor segment, I reduced my bids, allowing my ads to go into a lower position, knowing that I ranked well organically. I also adjusted my messaging to our existing customers to not promote discounts/sales.

For the Net-new and Low Engagement Visitors, I did the inverse, increasing bids to make sure I was in prominent positioning with value-based customer messaging.

Making these adjustments, I was able to decrease my CPA for existing customers. And by focusing less on discount or promotional messaging to existing customers, I wasn’t paying to reacquire them every time they wanted to make a transaction. Instead, I could focus on building a new customer base that had a higher lifetime value to my client’s business.

Asking the right questions

I was able to use remarketing because I started to think more strategically about how I was targeting different customer segments.

Think about what other questions you can ask to segment out consumers and what you might do differently in terms of bidding, targeted keywords (head vs. tail) and the overall messaging (ad copy, ad extensions) and user experience. Learn to ask the right questions so you can develop remarketing strategies that align to your business goals.

Ask questions like:

  • Would you create different user experience for new vs. existing customers?
  • Has a customer been to your website previously?
  • Have they engaged through other high-cost channels?
  • Have they engaged multiple times across multiple marketing channels?

If you are strategic and smart about the questions you ask, you might change your perspective about how you use audiences and RLSA to make your search campaigns more effective.

Be customer-obsessed

There are a million ways to segment your search campaigns based on audiences — and they all lead to better experiences for your customers. But by using audiences to segment users and create custom messaging and experiences for specific audiences, you will dramatically increase the scale and size of your search marketing campaigns.

Of course, there is a cost associated with managing this; but in most cases, changing your bid strategies or re-attracting and engaging with consumers who are more likely to convert will lead to both campaign spend savings and higher-value relationships with your customers.

Mind blown? It’s because you’re searching for an audience that is using keywords, not just keywords themselves. The new world of search means putting the customer (audience) first and trying to create a great user experience specifically for them.

 

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