Search Engine Marketing: Full Funnel in 2020

Erica Magnotto, Senior SEM Manager

The market is inundated with versions of the ‘Marketing Funnel.’ This familiar upside-down triangle is usually marked with ‘Awareness’ at the top and ends with ‘Action’ as the final point in the marketing journey. Traditionally, paid search is considered a lower-funnel tactic, but actually plays a pivotal role in every stage of the funnel. Learning to leverage paid search at each stage will not only yield a stronger ROI from your account but will also establish account sophistication and; greater sophistication indicates less wasted budget, higher quality conversions and stronger targeting tactics. 

It’s time to ditch the traditional views on paid search as only a lead generation tool and start embracing this channel as a strategic, multi-layer approach to the full user journey in the new year.  
If you’re currently investing in awareness channels, you’re likely leveraging a combination of programmatic display, video, social, influencers and traditional channels to connect with your audience. However, paid search plays a critical role in branding and driving new users to the website through competitor and educational campaigns.  

  Competitor Campaigns 
Bidding on competitor terms, although expensive, can also be useful tactic to convert competitive users. Keep in mind these keywords usually garner low quality scores and average positioning, but overall can help inform and influence users of their options within the industry. If a user is looking for your direct competitor, it’s likely they’re in need of your services as well. 

  Brand Education 
Users seeking information for research and education on a particular product, service or in a “need / problem state” are likely to start to with search. This is an opportunity to connect with your audience and provide value by driving users to specific content on your website that answer their questions. Blogs, white papers, fact pages and industry updates are all useful forms of user education that can develop brand awareness and promote trust with your audience. Combine branding and lead gen by gating some of this content and collecting user information that can later be repurposed for email marketing, retargeting, lookalike audiences and more. 

Interest is developed after a user visits the website and gains familiarity with your brand. Paid search campaigns keep that interest top of mind through retargeting list search ads and audience bidding.  

  Retargeting List Search Ads (RLSAs)
RLSAs are a fantastic way to drive repeat visits to your website by directly targeting and bidding on those previous website visitors. These campaigns typically use unique ad messaging to create urgency, such as a discount, countdown, or reminder to complete an action on your website. RLSAs could be leveraged with brand and non-branded terms to entice user action from the middle funnel. 

  Audience Bidding
Consider applying in-market audiences to your campaigns on observation mode to understand how each audience segment performs. Audience segments that perform or convert at a high level indicate interest from that pool of users, and therefore, worth a higher investment through the use of bid modifiers. Bid up on these audiences to garner a stronger return. 

The Decision stage hosts users who have made the conscious decision to interact or convert with your brand. Investing in your brand terms on paid search creates a seamless user experience and defense against competitor interaction. Additionally, implementing extensions is likely to have more influence in the decision stage and garner greater user engagement. 

  Bid on Brand Terms 
Brand terms serve two purposes: visibility and defense. It’s important to remain dominant on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), by showing representation in both organic and paid results with brand bidding. This is also beneficial for mobile devices due to the limited screen space and the ability to own mobile real estate if someone is searching for your brand. Second, just like you have the flexibility to bid on competitor terms, competitors can bid on your terms in return. Avoid competitors showing up in place of your brand through a dedicated brand strategy on search. 

  Use Extensions 
Extensions such as site links, callouts, and structured snippets help your ads take up more real estate on the SERP, giving your ads more influence in the user decision. Consider using as many relevant extensions as possible to create stronger click-through-rates (CTRs) and higher quality scores. 

Once a user takes action on your website through a paid search ad, search engines can more accurately optimize towards that conversion action through automated bidding. 

  Automated Bidding
The conversion data (or action data) stored in Google or Microsoft Ads is re-purposed to support automated bidding strategies, such as Target CPA, Maximize Conversions or Target ROAS. These features support various conversion goals through Google’s AI automation, so setting up accurate conversions in your account is critical for the final step of the funnel.

Paid search has become a foundational channel for driving lead generation initiatives, and now with its vast capabilities, search plays a strategic role in every stage of the marketing funnel. Consider reaching out to your in-house team or agency partners to revamp your Paid Search 2020 strategy to ensure you are leveraging search across the funnel, ultimately increasing this versatile channel’s impact to your bottom line. 

About the author: Erica Magnotto

As a Sr. Search Engine Marketing Manager at R2i, Erica oversees SEM strategy for multiple paid search clients, as well as, manages and facilitates the growth of more junior team members on the paid search team. She takes a highly technical and holistic approach to paid search execution to ensure optimal ROI and organization that seamlessly compliments other media initiatives. With experience in multiple B2C and B2B SEM accounts, Erica is well versed in identifying nuances and customizing each client strategy to their goals in order to impact their bottom line. 

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