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Competitive Paid Search Tactics | SMX London 2007

Still in the series of “notes from SMX London 2007″, here is the second post in the paid search track of the search marketing conference which took place in London on the 14 and 15 of November 2007. This second session covered a very interesting topic: Competitive Paid Search Tactics. As Yahoo pulled back the feature that allowed advertisers to find out about their competitor’s bids, it was going to be hard to discuss ‘competitive’ tactics, but the panel did it brilliantly, with special mention to Barry Lloyd from Make Me Top who completely rocked my socks off.

The Panel was composed of:

Robin Goad- Hitwise
Michael Sack- Idearc
Barry Lloyd – Make Me Top

and the Session was, well, interesting…

Robin Goad from Hitwise opened the session with some cool data which it gets from the ISPs themselves, and in that respects have a little bit more knowledge about searches in huge volumes. He explained that most of the traffic leading to the commerce site Amazon related to branded terms and products (in paid search anyways). This does not only mean that amazon has become the most important retailer on the net, but also that users trust amazon to an amazing extent: if searching for ‘Sony MP3 player’, they are more likely to go to Amazon than Sony… That just shows the awesome (in the British sense) power of branding.

Robin also explained that people are increasingly searching for brands and websites rather than te product they are looking for. This can be interpreted as users avoiding one extra click in the address bar, as top search results for the UK seemed to be things like ‘www.amazon.co.uk’, ‘amazon uk’, ‘www.amazon’ etc… These type of searches are called navigational searches because users simply search to have a link displayed; they also prove that users have more confidence in these websites as they search for the website knowing it will have the desired product instead of just searching for the name of the product.

Robin then explained that the long tail was getting longer, as users now enter more keywords into their search box to find desired content.

Michael Sack from Idearc explained that to be competitive in paid search, you have to analyse the times at which you are converting, and only advertise at that time. Mike used evidence from previous campaigns where he found that children searching for expensive sports shoes around five, after school, and did not purchase, wasted some of his media spend. however, day parting only works for certain businesses.

Michael also mentioned Hi-Lo optimisation which is identifying the window in which to bid up (as opposed to turning it off in day parting).

Michael finished by explaining that you have to look after your keywords like a portfolio: some will generate more than others, but it’s your group’s performance as a whole that is important.

Finally, Barry Lloyd evolved on Michael Sack’s points to explain a really competitive paid search technique. Some of you might know about this practice which is considered to be a dark shade of grey PPC, but for those who don’t it’s a great insight into competitive tactics, but to be used at your own risk of Google-Slap! However, as Barry explained ‘50% of his competition completely abandoned Search Engine Marketing’ after he implemented this technique: brilliant!

Barry started by explaining that finding the times of the day at which you convert the most is the basis for this technique (day parting). But after that is where things get superb: Instead of having one campaign bidding on a term, have 10-11 accounts bidding on the same terms, but only during conversion times. you have to bid high, but the idea is that your 10-11 ads will completely push your competition down to the second page during those ‘conversion hours’, meaning that they don’t get any ROI, and you get it all! Clever thinking… until Google catches you!

The best bit about this technique is that your competitors will not and can not have any idea about what is happening to them. The only thing they will see is their conversion line going downwards in their next report! Furthermore, they might attribute this downturn to an ‘unstable market’ and decide to continue advertising until they go bust!

Now that’s a Competitive Paid Search Tactic!

The only thing I found a bit problematic about this session, and actually the entire [tag]SMX[/tag] Paid Search Track, is that every single speaker was talking about bid management software and analytics packages that can do this and that… Does anyone still believe that the future holds SMX conferences that are pitch-less?

But anyway, thanks to [tag]Robin Goad[/tag], [tag]Michael Sack[/tag] and [tag]Barry Lloyd[/tag] for their presentations, there was some really good data to be found there! Long live [tag]SMX London[/tag]!

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