Are you benchmarking your SEM? You should be…

In the constantly evolving SEM landscape, benchmarking has become indispensable in the measurement of paid search programs. There is an increasing need for advertisers to fully understand their SEM data by comparing it to industry averages, their competition and their own key performance indicators (KPIs_.

Benchmarking’s increased importance is due to the always changing nature of the SEM landscape. In our current multi-screen reality peoples’ search behaviours are constantly evolving. Your competitors are becoming more aggressive with their search tactics and technologies are evolving with the advent of wearable devices which make search more conversational in nature. With SEM benchmarking we can ensure your campaigns adapt to this changing environment and stay ahead of the curve.

How can we confirm your search marketing campaigns are working? Are there any internal, industry or competitive benchmarks we can use, not only to contextualize, but also improve, their performance? How can we tell if you are winning in SEM? Benchmarking helps to answer these questions and provides clear targets to beat.

Media Experts focuses on three types of benchmarking to help ensure SEM success; Internal, External, and Cross-Channel benchmarking. While internal benchmarking helps in contextualizing performance, without external and cross-channel benchmarking, it is difficult to differentiate between true SEM success and the illusion of success. This is why we use a combination of internal, external and cross-channel benchmarking processes and tools in concert to help us properly contextualize and continually improve SEM performance.

In the first of three posts in our Benchmarking trio, we dive into the first of our top SEM priorities at Media Experts: Internal Benchmarking. It concerns itself with comparing SEM performance against your pre-established objectives and to previous SEM activity in order to identify specific targets to beat. This is where the process of maximizing perfornance begins. Those objectives must be realistic, measurable and based on historical data from a single platform while taking into account industry trends and consumer behaviour. Recent changes in consumer behaviour reveal an increase in search queries originating on mobile devices while the volume of queries from desktops and laptops is declining. This change in search behaviour must be considered when establishing SEM performance benchmarks.

Internal benchmarking, versus previous SEM activity, includes “soft” metrics like impressions, clicks, click through rate, cost per click and post click metrics such as leads, transactions, quotes, physical location searches, account sign ups, revenues, cost per acquisition, return on advertising spend, average order value, revenues per acquisition and conversion rates. These post click metrics will vary depending on your specific goals and are compared week over week, month over month, quarter over quarter and/or year over year. External factors including seasonality, weather patterns, media in market, consumer behaviour, industry changes and competitive activity are all taken into consideration to ensure performance is contextualized and clear objectives are set.

Media Experts also employs dimension analysis, as it applies to Google AdWords and BING Ads, in our benchmarking. Geographic, time of day, day of week, month of the year, destination URL, and device-specific performance benchmarking helps us to uncover and leverage areas of opportunity and strength.

For example, Google may say that overall impression share has dropped as compared to the peer set or industry averages however, in the process of dimension benchmarking, we gained efficiencies and drove more conversions via improved geo-targeting and time-of-day bidding.

Internal Benchmarking, the first in our trio of SEM Benchmarking tools, is key in determining the baseline set of key metrics from which to measure performance. Alone it cannot paint a full picture of your SEM performance. Without the added perspective that External and Cross-Channel benchmarking provide, it is impossible to fully gauge performance. And that is the subject of our next post.

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