Digital Marketing “Best Practices” You Should Reconsider
If you search for digital marketing how-to, you’ll find thousands of websites pitching “best practices” that promise to help you improve ROI or scale your business in days. In truth, best practices can be misleading. Just because something works for many businesses does not mean it will work for yours. And just because a certain strategy was a best practice last year does not mean it’s a great idea this year. That’s why it’s so important to customize your marketing strategy to your specific goals. Here are a couple best practices that work in some cases but may not be best for you.
Exact Match Campaign Strategy
Using exact match campaigns has been a best practice among many in the PPC industry for over a decade. It entails splitting your keywords into separate campaigns by match type. One campaign houses exact match keywords, where you maximize budgets to drive as much relevant traffic as possible. A second campaign houses those same keywords in modified broad and/or phrase match types with lower bids to capture additional traffic.
This strategy is designed to allow you to maximize traffic to your most relevant searches via the exact match campaigns, while using the broader match type campaigns to increase or decrease additional traffic as necessary. And it often does work – plenty of SEM advertisers have seen this campaign structure increase relevant traffic and improve CTRs and quality score.
When to Question It
Exact match campaign strategies were highly relevant when keywords and match types were the foundation of every SEM campaign. However, this is no longer the case, and there are now plenty of instances to question this strategy:
- Exact Match: Exact match isn’t really exact match anymore. Ever since Google rolled out expanded close variants for exact match, your exact match keywords are eligible to show for queries that are not even close to the actual keyword. Sure, you could use Google scripts or spend time adding negative keywords to filter out the close variants, but this increases the time investment needed to keep your campaigns running.
- DSA: Google’s DSA campaigns are now a powerful marketing tool. Many ecommerce retailers see a significant portion of their traffic come from DSA and shopping campaigns at a stronger ROAS than standard search campaigns.
- Broad Match: When I started my digital marketing career in 2014, each new account that came my way was packed with broad match keywords spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on irrelevant search queries. That’s generally not the case today – Google’s broad match algorithm has improved so that most queries coming through broad match are at least relevant, if not perfectly targeted. And because broad match tends to match to longer-tail and less competitive queries, I’ve seen several accounts where properly managed broad match campaigns outperform standard keyword search campaigns for ROAS or CPL with similar sale or lead quality performance.
- Audiences: Google has made a major effort to introduce more audiences over the past year or two, so much so that audience strategy is now nearly as important as keyword strategy. Instead of segmenting your campaigns by keyword match type, you may be better off limiting your campaigns to core target audiences and combining your match types.
- Algorithmic Bidding: As predictive bidding models get better and better, every advertiser risks losing out by not leveraging them. However, algorithmic bidding models function best with plenty of data to guide bidding. If you disaggregate your performance data by splitting keywords across separate campaigns, you may find the performance of auto-bidding models questionable at best, while aggregating data into larger campaigns will provide a better opportunity for the algorithms to perform.
- Lead Quality Evaluation: This only applies to lead generation advertisers evaluating down-funnel conversion events. If you’re optimizing off SQLs, opportunities, or closed deals, you’re likely going to have a relatively small data set. Even large advertisers typically see only 100 to 200 opportunities each month. If those 100 to 200 opportunities are split across 50 different campaigns, you’ll have to wait months for enough data to aggregate to allow you to draw a statistically significant conclusion. In this case, aggregating keywords by theme can allow you to aggregate sales data faster and make better decisions about spend allocation sooner. And provided you’re still collecting keyword data, you can always evaluate high spend keywords separately to ensure you’re not overinvesting in weak performing areas.
Does the above mean you should immediately delete your exact match campaigns and re-launch a bunch of audience-targeted broad match campaigns running on predictive bidding? Of course not. But it does mean you should at least consider if a large number of exact match campaigns is really the best way to meet your goals. And if you’re not leveraging the tools listed above, you should at least consider testing them in addition to your current efforts.
Minimalist Landing Pages
You know what I’m talking about here: landing pages with a headline, two bullet points of text, and a conversion form. No extra information, and no navigation to the rest of the site. This was a best practice for conversion rate improvement years ago, but it is now sadly out of date in most cases.
The idea here is that you’ve already paid for a click, and you want to maximize the possibility of driving a conversion. The best way to accomplish this is to give your visitors one option – a conversion form. Including extra information, or even a button to navigate to your homepage, might hopelessly confuse your poor visitors and (gasp!) lower your conversion rate.
When to Question It
This strategy may have been effective years ago, but as digital shoppers become more sophisticated, they are demanding a better experience before committing their time or money. Plus, was it really ever a bad thing to have a visitor spend several minutes browsing your site vs completing a conversion form without really understanding what your company does?
Provide an Experience
Assuming this isn’t your first time using the internet (if it is, welcome! I’m afraid it’s going to get a lot worse from here), you’ve probably noticed there are a lot of ads out there today. So many that consumers have gotten much better at ignoring them. This is why brands pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an Instagram endorsement from a satellite Kardashian instead of buying millions of ad impressions. It’s a safe bet that plenty more people will read Kylie’s full post than will even notice a traditional banner ad. Fortunately, you don’t need a celebrity to provide a great user experience for demand generation campaigns, but you do need an engaging landing page to make visitors excited about your product. Here are some things to try:
- Hero image: This helps people connect with your brand. Plus, blank white pages look borderline fraudulent
Clear product benefits: Make clear from the get-go what your product does and why visitors should be excited about it
- Images: Clear compelling images of your product will help visitors understand the benefits of working with you; consider images of the product in use or even just lifestyle images of the type of people who would use your product
- Video: People love watching videos, and video is much more effective at communicating your product’s benefits than text
Providing a solid customer journey is especially important if you’re running prospecting campaigns, as visitors at the beginning of the purchase process will typically require much more education before committing to a purchase or demo.
“But won’t this hurt my conversion rate?” It might cause a drop in your conversion rate, as defined by the number of visitors who immediately convert following an ad click. But a robust nurture campaign that includes email follow up and remarketing will keep your visitors coming back, and ultimately you’ll build a much stronger pipeline of potential customers who are excited about your product. In the long-term, this should result in more sales and faster brand growth.
Digital marketing is a data-focused industry, so you should not hesitate to question your assumptions and best practices if you think there’s a better option available. At worst, you might confirm what you already believed to be true, but you might also discover something that helps you grow faster than you had previously projected.