SEM for CMOs (and those who work with them)

I just submitted a rather hastily-written pitch for SMX East, the session title of which is ‘Search Engine Marketing for CMOs’. Here is the pitch!

SEM has grown very fast in terms of click spend and sophistication for several years running. The Google AdWords interface (both web and AE) continues to get more jam-packed with various bells and whistles (ways of looking at & controlling your click spend). 3rd-party technology for reporting, optimization, keyword discovery, ad optimization, etc., is as prevalent as ever.

CMOs need to know what’s important – what should their focus be, in order to get the best return on their time and effort. The answer gets back to the core of what search is all about, and it brings to mind the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

1) Focus on what your company brings to the table – what is the true value proposition, or need that your company fills?

2) What sorts of keywords might searchers use to seek out your products & services? Remember – the beauty of search is that users can find what they are looking for (rather than stumble across things they didn’t know they wanted! — that’s more for display!). Sure – go crazy with the long tail if that’s what makes you feel good – but don’t stray too far from your relevance curve.

3) Strive for a consistent thread in terms of user experience, starting with: a) bid on relevant keywords where user intent likely has to do with your value proposition; b) match keyword categories with ad text that is both relevant to your keywords and which encourage the click, but that also stays true to your value proposition; give the user a consistent post-click experience, with a landing page that messages benefits, additional info, and that includes the same offer/call-to-action mentioned in the ad, if possible.

4) Ask whether you are tracking and measuring the right things. It’s easiest to move SEM programs forward with a lot of daily conversion data. But at the end of the day we also need to measure actual revenue or lifetime value, or a suitable proxy for those. The trick is to be able to use a metric that gives the SEM manager enough data to do their job, but still (via an internal tracking system) be able to match that daily conversion data up with ‘harder’ metrics.

5) How good is the data? CMOs need to understand the data that they are looking at in order to gauge the accuracy of the data and the degree to which it’s telling them what it’s telling them. Google AdWords and Google Analytics often provide great data for making correct directional changes; but they are no substitute for a company’s internal database, which should be used to check against data discrepancies on a regular basis.

If the CMO stays focused on these big-picture items (where, actually, the details are all-imortant!) she will have the wind to her back.