Today’s Most Expensive Keywords in Search Engine Marketing

I’ve blogged before about the most expensive keywords in search engine marketing. Back in 2009, it was “mesothelioma.”

Of course, that was eight years and a lifetime ago in the world of cyberspace. In the meantime, asbestos poisoning has become a much less lucrative target of ambulance-chasing attorneys looking for multi-million dollar court settlements.

Today, we have a different set of “super-competitive” keyword terms vying for the notoriety of being the “most expensive” ones out there.  And while none of them are flirting with the $100 per-click pricing that mesothelioma once commanded, the pricing is still pretty stratospheric.

According to recent research conducted by online advertising software services provider WordStream, the most expensive keyword categories in Google AdWords today are these:

  • “Business services”: $58.64 average cost-per-click
  • “Bail bonds”: $58.48
  • “Casino”: $55.48
  • “Lawyer”: $54.86
  • “Asset management”: $49.86

Generally, the reasons behind these terms and other terms being so expensive is the dynamic of the “immediacy” of the needs or challenges people are looking to solve.

Indeed, other terms that have high-end pricing include such ones as “plumber,” “termites,” and “emergency room near me.”

Amusingly, one of the most expensive keywords on Google AdWords is … “Google” itself.  That term ranks 25th on the list of the most expensive keywords.

[To see the complete listing of the 25 most expensive keywords found in WordStream’s research, click here.]

WordStream also conducted some interesting ancillary research during the same study. It analyzed the best-performing ads copy/content associated with the most expensive key words to determine which words were the most successful in driving clickthroughs.

Running this textual analysis found that the most lucrative calls-to-action included ad copy that contained the following terms:

    • Build
    • Buy
    • Click
    • Discover
    • Get
    • Learn
    • Show
    • Sign up
    • Try

Are there keyword terms in your own business category or industry that you feel are way overpriced in relation to their value they deliver for the promotional dollar? If so, which ones?

CPR for Marketers? Marketing principles expand well beyond the 4 Ps.

4PsIn the world of business, we do like our checklists and bullet points.

It’s part of an impulse to distill ideas and principles down to their essence … and to promote efficiency in whatever we do.

It’s no different in the MarComm discipline.  Nearly everyone knows about the “4 Ps” of marketing: Product, Place, Price and Promotion.  The principle has been with us for nearly a century.

5CsThese days, however, the 4Ps of marketing seem inadequate. Stepping in to fill the void are additional attributes and angles that have been put out there by marketing specialists.

Several of these newer paradigms — one coined by Robert Lauterborn, a professor of advertising at the University of North Carolina, and another from technology marketing specialist Paul Dunay — consist of a group of marketing “Cs” ranging from five to seven in number: Consumer, Cost, Convenience, Content, Connection, Communication and Conversion.

Űber-marketing specialist Jennifer Howard has taken a different approach; she’s added to the original “4 Ps” by tacking on five new “Ps” covering the sphere of digital marketing.

Those new digital marketing attributes are Pulse, Pace, Precision, Performance and Participation.  They go a long way toward filling in the yawning gaps in the original list of attributes.

Beyond the notion that anyone who can manage to come up with five additional attributes that begin with the letter “P” deserves a medal of sorts, Howard’s new terms happen to be worthwhile additions that help bring the principles into the interactive era:

  • Pulse – active listening and attention to customer, brand and competitor insights.
  • Pace – the speed at which marketing campaigns are carried out.
  • Precision – assuring that marketing messages are delivered correctly.
  • Participation – creating conversations with customers that enable them to “join the conversation.”
  • Performance – meeting expectations for results via measurable and accountable MarComm tactics.

If you’re thinking now that we can’t go much further than the “Ps” or “Cs” of marketing … not so fast!

In fact, we now have yet another set of marketing attributes being brought to the table – this time by database marketing specialist Nick Necsulescu.

4 RsNecsulescu focuses his approach on customer segmentation – namely, interpreting data and converting insights into customer-centric solutions.  Recently, he’s been talking up the “4 Rs” of Marketing at various marketing trade events.  For the record, the “4 Rs” of are these:

  • Right Customer
  • Right Message
  • Right Channel
  • Right Time

More broadly, Necsulescu sees the “4 Rs” as “personalization redefined.”  He contends, “Of all the potential, new-age replacements for the four Ps of marketing, this set of ‘rights,’ in my opinion, is the most accurate.”

Necsulescu is particularly keen on three major customer expectations:

  • Customers expect instant gratification
  • Customers want to feel empowered
  • Customers are interested in self-service

In order to meet these new kinds of expectations, Necsulescu figures that marketers need to learn as many insights as possible on individual needs – the kind of information that determines what type of an offer should be presented and the message surrounding that offer. Also, to make sure the timing of the offer is well-targeted and that the offer is being presented through the most preferred channel.

That’s where robust CRM systems and databases come into play, with true 1-to-1 marketing tactics employed.  The challenge is daunting … but in Necsulescu’s view, he doesn’t think companies have much choice in the matter.

So there we have it:  We’re now dealing with Marketing Cs, Ps and Rs.  A veritable alphabet soup of attributes — and all the implementation challenges that come along for the ride.

We may need a little CPR for marketing professionals, too!

Marketers Give Themselves Only Middling Grades on Understanding ROI

Marketing frustrationIt turns out that even the practitioners in the marketing field don’t think they’re doing a very good job of understanding the return on investment on key marketing tactics.

That’s a major takeaway fnding from the most recent State of Search Marketing survey conducted by digital marketing information clearinghouse Econsultancy in conjunction with the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO).

This survey of industry professionals is conducted annually.  The 2013 research cycle queried ~400 industry and marketing/communications agency professionals.

One would think that in an evolving field like digital marketing, the degree of collective skill in the discipline would be rising over time.  But the opposite appears to be the case – at least in terms of the professionals’ own self-assessment of their skills.

The SEMPO research report presents how marketers consider their level of understanding to be in terms of ROI factors.

What the research reveals is a pretty stark decline in self-assessment grades between the 2012 and 2013 surveys:

  • Understanding of paid search ROI:  ~47% consider their understanding to be “good” (down from ~79%)
  • Email communications ROI:  ~41% consider good (down from ~57%)
  • Digital display media ROI:  ~28% consider good (down from ~37%)
  • Social media ROI:  ~11% consider good (down from ~15%)

What’s the reason for the decline in these self-assessment ratings?

It could be ever-changing definitions of what each of these marketing tactics actually encompass.

… It may be that there is an actual decline in overall proficiency as more people are assigned these marketing tasks who have little or no relevant knowledge or prior training.

… Or if could be the rapid speed in which technology is evolving in the marketing sphere.  (Big data isn’t the half of it.)

Of the major marketing tactics addressed by the Econsultancy/SEMPO research, it’s clear that social media and mobile are the most mystifying to practitioners, judging from the percentage of survey respondents that profess to have a “poor” understanding of their ROI:

  • Social media ROI:  ~51% report having a “poor” understanding
  • Mobile marketing ROI:  ~35%
  • Search engine optimization ROI:  ~28%
  • Digital display advertising ROI:  ~26%
  • Paid search ROI:  ~19%
  • Email marketing ROI:  ~14%

Underscoring the admitted lack of understanding about ROI in social and mobile channels, the survey respondents reported that only ~11% of the digital marketing dollars in 2014 will be allocated to social media.

For mobile marketing, it’s even lower (~3% of the marketing budget).

This isn’t to imply that marketers don’t recognize the importance of these tactics.  For instance, more than eight of ten respondents consider mobile marketing to be a significant development in the field.

It’s just that many of them are having great difficulty going from Point A to Point B when it comes to quantifying the marketing payback.

[For access to the full report, which also provides interesting insights on the most popular marketing metrics, go to this page on the SEMPO website.]

(Still) Seeking the Sweet Spot with QR Codes

QR codesI’ve blogged before about how QR codes – those splotchy icons at which someone can point their mobile device and be taken to a website for product information, a coupon or some other type of content – seem to be having difficulty becoming accepted by the mainstream of U.S. consumers.

And now we have yet more evidence to suggest that QR codes may never achieve the level of potential that marketers have hoped for them.

Youth marketing and esearch firm Archrival give us the latest clues as to the lack of adoption we’re seeing when it comes to QR codes. Here are two key findings from a survey it conducted among 500+ students at 24 American college campuses in late 2011:

 Although ~80% of respondents owned a smartphone and claimed to have come in contact with QR codes, only ~21% were actually able to successfully scan the QR code example that was presented in the Archrival’s survey.

 Three out of four respondents reported that they’d be “unlikely” to scan even one QR code in the future.

What’s the problem? Archrival uncovered a number of hurdles when it comes to QR codes. Several of them could be classified as “deal breakers” in the overall scope of things:

 Many survey respondents did not realize that a third-party app needs to be activated in order to scan a QR code. They mistakenly assume that it can be activated with their camera.

 Other respondents believe that the QR code-reading process is too lengthy and cumbersome.

And on a more fundamental level, doubts are being expressed about the value or usefulness of the web landing pages that are promoted via the QR codes.

What we may be witnessing is a dynamic that’s similar in some respects to what happened with CD-ROMs about a decade ago. There was once a boomlet of CD-ROMs being sent via mail to consumer and B-to-B customers. CDs were viewed as a great way to provide extensive rich content that was difficult to download and expensive to print traditionally.

But because the tool was “one step removed” (it needed to be loaded into a desktop computer in order to be viewed), the rate of interaction with these CDs turned out to be abysmal.

Similarly with QR codes, first there’s the need to possess a smartphone with a barcode scanning app installed. Once properly equipped, people then need to take the time to find and launch the app on their mobile device before pointing the camera at the QR code.

For many in today’s “instant gratification” world, taking those extra steps, however simple, may be a bridge too far.

Where are Newspapers Now?

Newspaper ad revenues continue in the doldrums.John Barlow of Barlow Research Associates, Inc. reminds me that it’s been awhile since I blogged about the dire straits of America’s newspaper industry. The twin whammies of a major economic recession along with the rapidly changing ways Americans are getting their news have hammered advertising revenues and profits, leading to organizational restructuring, bankruptcies, and more.

But with the recession bottoming out (hopefully?), there was hope that the decline in newspaper ad revenues might be arrested as well.

Well, the latest industry survey doesn’t provide much cause for celebration. A poll of ~2,700 small and mid-size businesses conducted this summer by Portland, OR-based market research firm ITZBelden and the American Press Institute finds that ~23% of these businesses plan to cut back on newspaper advertising this year.

The kicker is that these revenues are being spent, but they’re being put to use in other advertising media.

The ITZBelden survey found that a similar ~23% of companies plan to up their 2010 digital ad spending anywhere from 10% to 30%. This compares to only about 10% planning to increase their print advertising by similar proportions.

Moreover, the survey findings reveal that small and mid-size U.S. businesses have moved into digital marketing in a significant way. Not only do more than 80% of them maintain web sites, they’re active in other areas, including:

 ~45% maintain a Facebook or MySpace page
 ~23% are engaged in online couponing
 ~13% are involved with Craigslist
 ~10% are listed on Yelp! or similar user-review sites

One area which is still just a relative blip on the screen is mobile advertising, in that fewer than 4% of the respondents reported activities in that advertising category.

Where are these advertisers planning to put their promotional funds going forward? While newspapers should continue to represent around one quarter of the expenditures, various digital media expenditures will account for ~13% of the activity, making this more important than direct mail, TV and Yellow Pages advertising.

There was one bright spot for newspapers in the survey, however. Respondents expressed a mixture of confusion and bewilderment about the constantly evolving array of digital marketing communications options opening up … and they’re looking for support from media experts to guide their plans and activities.

And where do they see this expert advice coming from? Newspaper ad reps.

Perhaps the Yellow Book’s “Beyond Yellow” small business advertising campaign – you know, the one that touts not only the Yellow Pages advertising but also web development, online advertising, search marketing and mobile advertising – is onto something.

How the B-to-B Sales Process is Changing

In my 20+ years in industrial, commercial and other non-consumer marketing communications, I’ve witnessed more than a few “big trends” affecting the nature of the selling process in the business realm.

One of the biggest of these is the approach that customers take when evaluating products and services they might be interested in purchasing. Recent research findings about these behaviors has been published that sheds more interesting light on where things are at the moment.

A survey of ~300 B-to-B managers was conducted in late 2009 by e-Research for Marketing (E-RM) for Colman Brohan Davis, a Chicago-based marketing organization. This survey, which was limited to respondents age 35 or younger, found that only a few of the 13 tools used to research products and services represented “traditional media” – print-based resources, trade shows, or consulting with industry colleagues by phone or in person.

Furthermore, the study found that even these four tactics are losing their importance compared to the use of online social networks, which were exploding in usage.

These survey results reminded me of a comment made by Adam Needles, director of B-to-B field marketing at Silverpop, an e-mail marketing company based in Atlanta. “Somewhere around age 30 to 35, you can draw a line in the sand between people who are used to calling around to get everything and [where it’s been] all about relationships face-to-face.”

In contrast, Needles has this to say about younger staffers who conduct a great deal of the buying cycle online: “You have people whose expectation is that companies should put everything on their web sites; they should be getting real-time feeds and information, and companies should be totally integrated into … the blogosphere.”

Younger staffers tend to be influencers more than decision-makers. But this is not to diminish their importance, as they are the ones charged with conducting the research and drafting investigative report summaries and preliminary recommendations. Ferreting out information through resources like webinars and social platforms such as Twitter and blog posts, while it may seem exotic and less consequential to older colleagues, is not at all foreign to these staffers.

And we shouldn’t forget that today’s “influencer” at a company is very likely tomorrow’s “decision-maker.”

Which gets us back to the ER-M study. One big takeaway from that research was that customers are looking into all the corners of offine and online communications to find the information they feel they need to make risk-averse and “CYA” decisions that are also the successful ones that pay off well – hence building their reputations inside their company.

Tactics like direct mail marketing may seem old-hat or even quaint, but they can still be quite effective, while e-mail marketing, while fast and cheap, elicits resistance from some because they feel inundated with marketing materials that are irrelevant to their needs.

I guess it’s yet more challenging news for already-fractured marketing communications program tactics that continue to be under tight budget constraints.