A Strategic Framework for Search Engine Optimization

Search engine marketing can be an analytical direct marketer’s dream: it’s quantifiable, trackable, and easy to scale up or down. However, scalability can quickly result in SEM becoming an exercise in “pruning the forest”—a never-ending tactical effort with little bottom-line impact. Raising or lowering bids, concocting new text ads, trying new landing pages—which all have value and can be effective tools for optimization—become random acts of tweaking unless they are applied on a strategic basis.

A strategic approach begins by establishing an analytical structure for organizing SEM performance data so that it brings to light the ad groups or even keywords that should be the target of performance-boosting initiatives like text ad and landing page testing. For example, a strategic approach to managing an organic/paid blended initiative could focus on balancing “click share” (the percent of impressions resulting in a click-through) with cost-efficiency. This would enable a manager to find sub-optimized keywords or groups—ones that are either generating few clicks or very expensive clicks (i.e., high CPC paid)—and to develop specific, targeted tests/changes for improvement.

In addition to enabling you to keep the big picture in view without losing sight of the details, having a strategic approach is a great way to demonstrate and quantify results. Overall search engine performance should go up as a result, but it is the keyword(s) targeted through the approach that will make the most powerful cause-and-effect case.