Advertising Technology

3Q Digital’s Joseph Kerschbaum on Optimizing SEM

Joseph KerschbaumJoseph Kerschbaum is currently the Account Director for 3Q Digital, a leading digital marketing agency that offers excellent digital marketing and display advertising services. As Account Director, Kerschbaum has worked with hundreds of clients. He also speaks frequently at search and advertising conferences, and is a regular contributor to several SEM magazines. The Makegood recently spoke with Kerschbaum about the opportunities in mobile and PC, and how to optimize SEM.

The Makegood: As account director at 3Q Digital, you have quite a bit of knowledge on Search Engine Marketing and its results. Knowing that CPC is more expensive, but clicks are more valuable on desktops than tablets, how do you advise companies to use SEM for mobile?

Before a company pays for one mobile click via SEM there are three things they must do.

First, you need to understand the user intention of your mobile website visitors. Remember, not all traffic across devices has the same goals or desires the same experience. SEM mobile visitors tend to be in a browsing state-of-mind with a lower propensity to make a purchase or become a lead. Numerous case studies show that many people will initiate their consideration process on their mobile device when they have some down time, but they will continue and possibly end their journey on a PC.

This leads to my second point: you need to have a website experience optimized specifically for mobile visitors. Of course, this means that your website needs to render properly on each device, but you should also optimize your mobile website for user intention too. How can you provide an awesome experience for the user, while gaining as much value from this traffic?  If possible, allow users to take a quick, easy action on your mobile site; possibly save a product for later or complete a super-simple contact form.

My third and last point is having a specific mobile SEM strategy. This strategy includes making adjustments for these user-specific attributes: geographic location, time-of-day and week, and bid modifiers (how much you want to pay per-click). Companies that have mobile SEM on their roadmap for 2014 need to follow these steps: understand the user intention of your mobile traffic, create a website experience geared toward this audience, and finally, determine an SEM strategy specific to mobile traffic.

The Makegood: Last year, Google released its Enhanced Campaigns, which brought about several changes from SEMs. Could you discuss what these changes are, and how they negatively and positively affected SEMs?

With Enhanced Campaigns, I liked some of the changes and disliked a few of them. I think Sitelinks received some good updates: ad group level Sitelinks, scheduling for these ad extensions, and individual Sitelink analysis. Bidding options received a significant overhaul which can make advertisers’ campaigns better targeted.

Where I think Enhanced Campaigns negatively impacted advertisers was device control. By this I mean that advertisers can’t segment specific devices (mobile, tablet, PC) into individual campaigns. As our recent study shows, performance is very different for each device and advertisers should have the control to manage these devices according to their ROI.

The Makegood: In what ways does the SEM data on tablets differ from desktops?

In many ways, tablets are the middle child of SEM. Our analysis shows that they consistently provide weaker ROI than PCs but on average they perform better than mobile devices. Within AdWords, advertisers can no longer separate tablets from PCs (they are lumped together) so unfortunately, currently there is no way to optimize bids specifically for tablets. Since there is little tablet traffic control in AdWords, advertisers still have control over the experience they deliver for their tablet visitors.

The Makegood: What do you predict will happen to SEM and its results in the future? Do you believe that there will be a greater consumer shift towards tablets, therefore shifting SEM results in favor of tablets and mobile?

Yes. Users are already using to their mobile devices and tablets more with each passing day. Our analysis finds that SEM traffic via PCs isn’t going down, but traffic via mobile devices is increasing. This means that PCs aren’t being abandoned and sitting on a dusty shelf in some IT department, but people are segmenting their user behavior – and probably spending more time in front of multiple screens.

The Makegood: What sort of challenges do you and the industry face with SEM?

I’ll put a positive spin on this and say that the challenges that face SEM managers in the coming year can all be turned into opportunities, if approached properly. There are a few opportunities (or challenges) that SEM advertisers need to seize in 2014 to improve their campaigns and stay ahead of the curve.

First, as we have been discussing, is mastering mobile. According to industry pundits, the “Year of Mobile” has been arriving for about the last three years – but I think we have finally arrived at the time when SEM advertisers have to address their mobile presence. In 2014, companies have to determine the best way to optimize a mobile experience customized to their audience’s needs. Mobile isn’t going away, so get with the program.

Another opportunity resides within performance attribution. Since mobile isn’t going away, SEM managers need to gain a deeper knowledge on how all of their channels AND devices interact with each during each phase of the purchase process. As I mentioned earlier, user behavior is engaging as folks are spending more time staring at screens but their patterns are becoming more fragmented. Your audience is hopping between search, social, display and they are doing so on numerous devices. There are some tools included within Google Analytics to help SEM advertisers begin to understand which channels/devices are assisting with sales and which are closing. And there is a wide array of third-party platforms that can provide tons of additional data about audience behavior and how advertisers can optimize their marketing efforts.

The last opportunity is timeless and not pinned to 2014. Advertisers need to continue focusing on conversion optimization on every version of their website (mobile, tablet, PC, app, etc.). The cool, new features and tools that roll out each year are helpful and can have serious impact on your campaigns – but don’t forget that all traffic sources eventually lead to your website (or possibly a mobile app). Advertisers still have to focus on making a connection with their audience and influencing them to become a customer. This tactic isn’t specific to 2014. Your website (copy, design, contact forms, shopping cart, etc.) should never be finished – it should always be a work in progress and getting better in the process.

The Makegood: Thank you, Joseph.