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Are you frustrating buyers with your paid search ads?

Many of you buy paid search ads–they work and you’re smart to use anything that works. But sometimes I see techniques that just don’t make any sense when you break them down. When companies have tens or even hundreds of thousands of keywords, they are always looking to add to the scale while reducing their own work. Every time they can reduce the work they are adding to the profit, so they look for new ways to cut costs every day. Bid management tools are a great way to do that, but companies look for automation, too–sometimes in all the wrong places.

Google AdWords Local Plus Box
Photo credit: rustybrick

One automation method that I have seen more and more in recent years is the use of website search technology to dynamically show a list of search results when a paid search ad is clicked. Look at this example from the well-respected retailer Target:

target-ppc

And check out the landing page that the PPC ad leads to:

target-landing-page

All that Target is doing is picking out a few keywords and issuing a search to its website search engine. It didn’t take all of the keywords entered, however, because of the way that it managed the paid search ads. It doesn’t have a paid search ad for every possible keyword–Target uses broad match and other kinds of techniques so that the same website search results page shows up for a slew of different keywords entered into Google.

The problem with this technique? A search results page is not usually what searches want when they click through on a…wait for it…search results page. In fact, Google knows this–in the last two years they have dramatically cut down on organic search results that show just a new search results page, so why haven’t they done so in paid search?

If searchers don’t like this experience in organic search why would they like it in paid search? Perhaps Target has tested this and knows that it converts well with this technique, but it doesn’t look like a strong approach to me. What do you think?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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