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Why has paid search been pigeonholed to the bottom of the funnel?



No one can argue that paid search isn’t a fantastic bottom-funnel tactic. The rest of your marketing drives interest in your products or services which then drives consumers to search engines where your SEM acts as an always-on net to capture engagement.

But, if every click really is a consumer on a purchase journey, then shouldn’t search be used as a full-funnel vehicle?

Under constant pressure to drive better and better results, search marketing has evolved – and has been somewhat relegated – to a bottom funnel channel.

How did this happen?

The great recession’s impact

From a historical perspective, much of the “must convert now,” short-term thinking of marketing performance evaluation was in direct response to the global economic recession between 2007 and 2009.

During this time, consumer spending took a major downturn so marketing budgets were cut accordingly. Offline channels less measurable than digital ones took major blows and many – such as print – never fully recovered. Even though paid search was actually one of the few advertising tactics that grew at this time, there was increased scrutiny over how budgets were spent and the aftershocks of that mindset still exist today.

Every search marketer on the planet has had a boss or a client point to the upper funnel campaigns and ad groups on the monthly paid search report (that often cost more and have a lower return on investment than bottom funnel ones) and ask them: “Why are we running on these?” For non-search marketers, this line of thinking is completely understandable and logical. After all, the goal of a marketing organization is to spend the budget as efficiently as possible, and it would seem to be a bad idea to keep funding efforts that seem to cost more and return less.

Of course, if your brand does a great job of filling the funnel organically, and if your entire marketing budget can barely cover the long tail (specific keywords a consumer uses when they are ready to buy), then by all means just target the bottom of the funnel with your SEM.

However, most advertisers are not in that position.

Just a portion of the budget is needed to cover the cost of the bottom funnel search activity and then comes the hard decision of where to allocate the rest of the marketing budget. Don’t keep cranking up bids on your bottom-funnel terms because you can afford to be just a little less efficient with those high performing terms. Invest in the top!

Even for the experienced search marketer, it can be hard to make the case for funding upper funnel spending because marketing measurement is inherently flawed and it is virtually impossible to track every brand interaction back to purchase behavior. So, even if you know that participating at the beginning and middle of the consumer purchase path is philosophically the right thing to do and will lead to more sales or leads, the numbers won’t always back you up.

And if the numbers don’t back you up, then bosses and clients might have a hard time being convinced that they should support upper funnel spending.

Stuck at the bottom

Let’s face it. Digital marketing and its wealth of data can make even the savviest marketer become myopically focused on bottom line KPIs. Not a bad thing, you say? Maybe not. After all, ROI is why we’re investing in paid search in the first place.

But consider this: When you hyper-optimize every channel to get the best possible Return on Ad Spend, you may miss opportunities to influence the consumer buying process earlier in the cycle. You’re only reaching those consumers who were likely already considering and might have purchased your product anyway. In effect, you are creating a narrower funnel and limiting your overall volume.

There can even be a case made that a lot of bottom-funnel paid search might be just navigational and questionably incremental. Many buyers at this step of the funnel have already made up their minds and are simply searching and then clicking ads to get back to a website in order to take action. They might not have needed a paid search ad at all and would have clicked an organic search listing if there wasn’t ad displayed more prominently above the natural results to take them where they already wanted to go.

Of course, not all bottom-funnel search is navigational, but certainly, there’s less of this behavior on top and middle funnel searches where it can be safely assumed that the ads had more of an effect on the final conversion.

One thing is for sure: if you want to grow your search programs, it’s not about grinding conversions at the bottom but rather filling your funnel at the top and middle because your bottom-funnel search is going to work really well. It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to work hard and optimizing at the bottom—you most certainly should.

The only way you’re really going to grow your total business impact from SEM is by investing in upper funnel tactics to drive more consumers into your funnel. Believe me, your bottom funnel search will always be there to convert them.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Josh Dreller has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. Josh is currently the Director of Content Marketing at Kenshoo.

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LinkedIn Users Can View All Sponsored Content From the Past 6 Months



LinkedIn pages will soon feature an ‘Ads’ tab showing all sponsored content an advertiser has run in the past six months.

The company says this change is being made in an effort to bring even greater transparency to ads on LinkedIn.

“At LinkedIn, we are committed to providing a safe, trusted, and professional environment where members can connect with each other, engage with relevant content, and grow their careers. Increased transparency to both our customers and members is critical to creating this trusted environment.”

While viewing ads in the new tab, users can click on the ads but the advertiser will not be charged.

Ad clicks from within the ‘Ads’ tab will not impact campaign reporting either.

From a marketing perspective, I see this as being an opportunity for competitor research.

Do you know a company who is killing it with LinkedIn advertising? View their ads tab to see if you can learn from what they’re doing.

Of course, the Ads tab will only show you what their ads look like.

It won’t reveal anything about how those ads are targeted or what the company’s daily budget is. But hey, it’s something.

LinkedIn says this is the first of many updates to come as the company furthers its effort to provide users with useful information about the ads they see.

The new Ads tab is rolling out globally over the next few weeks

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SEMrush expands to Amazon with Sellerly for product page testing



SEMrush is a popular competitive intelligence platform used by search marketers. The company, recently infused with $40 million in funding to expand beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo insights, has launched a new product called Sellerly specifically for Amazon sellers.

What is Sellerly? Announced Monday, Sellerly designed to give Amazon sellers the ability to split test product detail pages.

“By introducing Sellerly as a seller’s buddy in Amazon marketing, we hope to improve hundreds of existing Amazon sellers’ strategies,” said SEMrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin in a statement. “Sellerly split testing is only the first step here. We’ve already started to build a community around the new product, which is very important to us. We believe that by combining feedback from users with our leading technology and 10 years of SEO software experience, we will be able to build something truly exceptional for Amazon sellers.”

How does it work? Sellerly is currently free to use. Amazon sellers connect their Amazon accounts to the tool in order to manage their product pages. Sellers can make changes to product detail pages to test against the controls. Sellerly collects data in real time and sellers can then choose winners based on views and conversions.

Sellers can run an unlimited number of tests.

Why we should care. Optimized product detail pages on Amazon is a critical aspect of success on the platform. As Amazon continues to generate an increasing share of e-commerce sales for merchants big and small, and competition only increases, product page optimization becomes even more critical. Amazon does not support AB testing natively. Sellerly is not the first split test product for Amazon product pages to market. Splitly (paid), Listing Dojo (free) are two others that offer similar split testing services.

About The Author

Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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