Search engine marketing (SEM) can provide outstanding returns on investment (ROI) when done right. However, it’s not as simple as throwing money at Google and Facebook ads and watching sales roll in. To truly maximize your SEM ROI, you need a scientific, data-driven approach.
Start with Thorough Keyword Research
The foundation of cost-effective SEM services is choosing the right keywords to target. You want search terms that have sufficient traffic volume but low competition from other advertisers bidding on them. This allows you to snap up clicks for cheap while still getting your ads in front of interested searchers.
Begin keyword research by brainstorming semantics related to your products or services.
Use Google’s Keyword Planner and other tools to identify monthly search volumes and competitor bidding history for these terms.
Look for “goldilocks” keywords – not too hot and not too cold on traffic and competition.
As you run campaigns, continue adding to your list of profitable keywords.
Watch your search terms report to find low-cost searches that result in conversions. These are prime targets for future bids.
Always Be Testing Ad Copy
You can have the perfect lineup of keywords, but that means nothing if your ads themselves fail to convert visitors once clicked. That’s why obsessive split testing of ad creative is crucial for SEM success.
For starters, test headlines. Write 2-3 different titles for each ad group and rotate them evenly to determine which garners the most clicks at the lowest CPC. Choose a clear winner before moving on to the next element – the description.
Follow the same process for descriptions, emphasizing unique selling propositions focused on relevancy for each keyword.
Next test the call-to-action copy, then landing pages. Never get complacent with any aspect of your ads – there’s always room for more optimization.
Leverage Match Types for Greater Exposure
Beyond keywords, also pay attention to match types in your account. Focus firstly on phrase match to capture relevant searches including your keywords in any order.
Once you identify winning ads and landing pages, expand exposure with broad match modified.
BMM allows Google to show your ads for synonymous searches while still keeping tight control of relevance thanks to that “modified” component. As you reach the top end of your budget, layer in the broad match to maximize traffic.
Monitor and Adjust Bids Frequently
Managing cost-per-click bids is an art as much as a science. While third-party bid strategies promise the world, the best way to optimize CPC is still manual checking and tweaking.
Set up custom bid strategies for the search terms that drive the most ROI. Analyze their conversion rates and set specific bids for these moneymakers. Also lower bids for underperformers dragging down account metrics.
Check your search terms report weekly for new winners and losers deserving updated bids. With such hands-on oversight, you prevent profit leaks while directing the budget to your best keywords.
Target In-Market Audiences
While targeting keywords directly is crucial for SEM success, you can multiply results further by also going after in-market and similar audiences through Google and Facebook. These platforms allow you to display ads to users already searching for products like yours.
For example, someone browsing luxury watches may see your jewelry store ads thanks to the precision of in-market targeting. You catch high-intent shoppers earlier in their journey before they even start entering keywords.
Combined with your ongoing keyword efforts, audience targeting leads to greater exposure and significantly improved conversion rates from those who see your ads. Just monitor cost per conversion rather than CPC alone to ensure such audiences meet ROI benchmarks.
Crunch Campaign Numbers Obsessively
At the end of the day, scientific SEO requires scrutinizing your analytics to discern what’s working and what’s not. Compile campaign data to identify your MVPs – most valuable keywords, ads, landing pages, and audiences driving conversions and revenue.
Watch for breakout stars you should double down on as well as underperformers you need to stop wasting money on.
Carefully monitor cost metrics like CPC and CPA to catch any creeping upward trends threatening ROI.
If you only look at your campaign dashboard once a week or even once a month, you’re leaving easy optimization gains on the table. Make daily analysis a habit to catch issues faster and stay atop changing search trends.
Move Fast But Carefully
The world of SEM moves rapidly, so you need to iterate and optimize aggressively to stay ahead. But that doesn’t mean making reckless changes without sufficient testing.
When trying new keywords, ad copy, landing pages, bids, and targeting methods, always A/B test before fully committing the budget.
You should feel comfortable pausing poor performers after just days or weeks if the data demands it. But only amplify what’s working after a proper trial period to confirm results are no fluke. This balanced approach allows responding quickly to feedback without jumping the gun on potentially bad decisions.