Kevin Lee is no doubt one of the thought leaders in Search Engine Marketing. He is co-founder of Did-it.com, Chairman of SEMPO, a weekly columnist for ClickZ; and he is a regular speaker at all the Search Engine Strategies conferences. Additionally, Kevin sits on the Search Council for the Association for Interactive Marketing and the IAB Search Committee. Considering his busy schedule, he graciously agreed to answer a some questions about the current state of Search Marketing.
1. How would you describe the state of Search Engine Marketing today?
Marketers are trying to decide where the functions of organic and paid search engine marketing belong within an organizational structure as well as how to integrate search into an overall marketing and media plan. While paid and organic SEO share keywords and a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), they are very different disciplines and require different technology as well as different expertise.
2. How important is the golden triangle in Paid Search vs. SEO?
As the paid listings get more relevant and the search engines get more and more SEO spam, I predict that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will allocate increasing screen real estate to paid listings. As the relevance of the paid listings approach or surpass organic results itâ€™s actually in everyoneâ€™s best interest to show paid listings.
3. What percentage of budget would you recommend an advertiser allocate for Paid Search vs SEO?
Budget allocation between SEO and Paid Search is an individual decision. However factors that influence the ratio are competitiveness in each, breadth of content, base pagerank (or how well the domain is already doing from a linking perspective), CPC prices across the keyword universe for that marketer, in-house vs external resources, technology infrastructure for current site.
4. How would you differentiate Maestro from other bid mgmt & conversion tracking software?
Maestro has evolved t be much more than a bid management and conversion tracking platform. What you do with the click once you buy it is as important as making the decision which clicks to buy at which price in which engine at what time of day, etc. Currently, except for a few agency relationships, Maestro is used exclusively by internal Did-it teams. We invest a significant amount of time and energy training and re-training our teams on how best to use Maestro, including the testing and advance click-routing features.
One way to think about why we evolved beyond bid management is a comparison to traditional media. Itâ€™s not just where you put the advertising (the media buy), itâ€™s the creative, the offer and the follow-up that makes a campaign successful.
5. What’s your opinion on Portfolio mgmt vs. Keyword bid mgmt?
By end of the first Quarter of 2007, all the engines will have a hybrid, opaque auction that uses predicted CTR and other relevance factors as well as bid to determine position. In that kind of ecosystem, it is all about the math. The systems in the best position to effectively manage bids are those that have the best formulas able to both predict the value of a click to a specific advertiser, and the likely responses to a marketplace of bid changes. Portfolio is a word used by some to describe a specific set of formulas. The right way to manage keywords differs by client just like the best way to manage a basket of stocks differs based on the investor and their appetite for risk or volatility.
6. In a branding campaign, do you see any value in Impressions?
Impressions at the top of the SERP clearly have a far greater chance of being seen. But impressions are not created equal. Like banner placement, listing placement on a page is even more critical. However, given the new bid landscape formulas any listing that achieves high position will likely be a combination of relevant creative (high predicted CTR) and a reasonable bid.
Not without an NDA in place. Suffice it to say that the best campaign management systems bind a balance between prediction (proactive action) and reaction (using very recent data to respond to changes and opportunities in the marketplace).
8. How would you describe the performance of MSN Search since they terminated their agreement with Yahoo?
Performance has been stellar because most advertisers arenâ€™t live there yet (no pun intended). Sure there is room for improvement in the front end, but performance is very good.
9. What tactics does Did-it use to manage Click Fraud for their clients?
If I said too much, then those tactics wouldnâ€™t work anymore. Careful analysis of trends and knowing what earlier data will predict helps ferret out the material instances of click fraud or the introduction of a large poor quality syndication partner by and engine. Additional analytics help identify if there are specific problems from a source of clicks.
10. Paid Search spending is forecasted for double-digit growth, year after year for the next several years. With the huge influx of advertisers, do you think there is a future for PPC arbitrage?
Pure click arbitrage will be increasingly challenging. However, the lead-gen arbitrageurs who sell the same lead miultiple times will still have significant success in the market due to the economics of selling a lead multiple times.
11. How does Did-it track offline telephone orders that come from Search, down to the keyword level?
There are several ways we do that. Essentially we customize the process to the needs of specific marketers because some of them donâ€™t control their telemarketing operators and need complete automation, others are already asking customers for coupon codes or extensions for their other marketing activities and therefore donâ€™t necessarily need to provision huge blocks of inbound numbers or use more costly VoiceXML driven systems which incur a per-minute cost. In a predictable business, just knowing the percentage of phone orders, and the relative value of operator assisted orders is enough. However, for some businesses it makes total sense to use inbound toll-free redirection, perhaps even on a per-keyword level.
12. How comprehensive is Did-it’s process for developing and managing keyword lists for paid search?
As comprehensive as it needs to be. Keyword refinement is an ongoing process, not just something done at the initial stages of the campaign. Having some listings in broad or phrase match becomes a net by which additional keyword expansion can occur. Also, we have some internal tools built using fairly expensive third-party data that can be killer for keyword discovery.
13. How do you rate the comparison shopping engines vs. the SE’s in terms of performance? Do you happen to like any one better than the rest?
CSEs are a great part of an overall search mix. I have no particular preference because some work better than others for different clients, especially now that they have branched beyond traditional SKU-based retail into additional categores.
14. Any thoughts on why MSN stopped accepting submissions to their web directory?
Lets skip this question, since I have no strong opinion here.
15. How has Did-it enhanced it’s technology and/or services offering since last year?
An improved suite of testing tools has significantly improved our ability to run AB and Fractional Factorial design tests for those clients for whom it makes sense. We have been honing our AI (the bidding system) to factor in changes in Googleâ€™s AdRank calculations. I canâ€™t talk too much about the click-routing enhancements, those we talk about only under NDA.
16. What is the typical profile of a Did-It client?
Any serious search engine marketer who spends more than $30K a month on search, contextual and behavioral media. These marketers also understand that constant testing is critical to continued improvement. There are dozens of things to test and each successful test multiplies its efficiency gain against earlier successes. It also helps if marketers have a strong understanding of their own business and marketing objectives.
17. How much do the services of Did-it cost?
Typically it is a percentage of spend, but in some cases we have been willing to structure some other deals where we also participate in upside profit gain through our involvement in the campaign.
18. If you could give one piece of advice to somebody about optimizing their Search campaigns…what would it be?
Think beyond the keyword. Keywords are only one way of targeting, take advantage of the fact that different people search on the same keyword but your most valuable customer may be targetable though additional means beyond the keyword including but not limited to time of day, day of week, geography, and in Microsoft, Age/Gender. Combine additional targeting on a core campaign with search retargeting (following prior search visitors around the web with relevant advertising offers), and you have truly begun to optimize.
19. Does Did-It target any specific vertical industries? If so, what industry-specific resources, services, expertise, and/or client base does Did-It offer to this industry?
At this point, I think we have clients in nearly every industry. So far the CPG and brand marketers have not come calling, because I think they are a bit perplexed about how best to take advantage of search, contextual and behavioral media.
20. What’s your Executive Vision for Did-it? How will you execute this vision?
Did-it will continue to excel at helping clients unleashing the profit potential from their campaigns. We have hitched our cart to the major players building media marketplaces, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. We also continue to monitor other firms who are making media available through other automated or partially automated markets. We plan to apply our years of leadership in the auction-based-media space to the future advertising marketplaces. Iâ€™m even writing a book about the way search has been a catalyst that may change the way marketers buy media, and how that coincides with major shifts in the way consumers consume media online and offline.
21. Any predictions on the outlook for the Search industry, and how Search fits into the digital marketing mix?
Success in search is to a great extent a byproduct of all other media, marketing, PR, sales and advertising initiatives. People donâ€™t search spontaneously. They are driven to search by other media, word-of-mouth, PR, and even store experiences. An integrated marketing and advertising plan goes beyond even the digital marketing mix to understand media mix models and how consumers make buying decisions. Making search decisions in a vacuum results in the wrong decisions being made.
I gotta say, I love hearing you speak at the conferences, and this interview was just as fun…no, more fun. There is a lot for the readers to digest here. Speaking for everyone, we really appreciate the time you took to share this wealth of knowledge.