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As one of the core toolkits of digital marketers, paid search has been rapidly changing. From constant tweaks and updates to the search engine results page, through to consumers changing their habits by using mobile devices, professionals working in this field are constantly trying to stay ahead of the game in order to generate the greatest return on investment.

The recent changes that Google brought out with AdWords through ‘Enhanced Campaigns’ highlighted the need for new, up-to-date material for this critical area of digital marketing. To that end, we have recently updated our PaidSearch (PPC) Best Practice Guide.

Ecommerce and digital marketing consultant James Gurd is the lead author of our updated guide. James worked with leading practitioners from the field of paid search to make sure that the guide (which stands at over 300 pages in length and close to 120,000 words long) was as relevant as possible for all people interested in learning about and improving their paid search skills.

We spoke to James to find out more about the report and discuss how this will be useful for digital marketers today.

What is the purpose of this report and who is it aimed at?  

The mammoth task behind this report was to distil the myriad of tools, techniques and knowledge that are required to manage paid search marketing in to a central reference source that people can use to help them evolve their skill set. It’s intended as a companion on the continuous journey of paid search knowledge gathering.

As the search market evolves and changes, there are core principles you shouldn’t lose sight of – this report anchors its insight around these core principles whilst also tapping into the latest developments to provide sensible advice to digital teams. The reality is, this report will not be left to gather dust; it will be updated regularly to reflect good practice.

How can marketers benefit and get the most from this guide?

As with any guide, I think it’s important to think about what you know and don’t know and then what you need to find out. That way you can drill into the most relevant sections. When I read industry guides, I like to start with a series of questions I want to answer. Then I’ll read the relevant sections and if some questions remain unanswered, I’ll try and contact the authors. I find this a useful way of networking as well, building up contacts in specific digital disciplines.

After reading a report, I’ll then take my research online and go into more detailed reading on important topics – it’s impossible to cover every single angle and opinion in a report, so wider reading is really useful as you can take on board different perspectives. So after this report, make sure you tuck into websites like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, Inside AdWords blog etc + give the websites of the key contributors a visit.

How is the report structured?

It’s broken down into the core components of search, walking you through the typical learning path from understanding paid search and planning campaigns to optimising campaigns and enhancing your strategy via more advanced options like mobile and international search. The sections are:

Introduction & overview

  • Understanding the basics
  • Paid search planning
  • Paid search optimisation
  • Mobile paid search
  • Internationalisation
  • Integration with other channels

The report is modular, so people can dip in and out according the skills they want to build. That means search marketing beginners can work from the bottom-up and experienced practitioners can dip into advanced topics like international search.

What do you regard as the most important recent developments in paid search?

Ironically, as we were about to launch the report, the mighty Google monster threw Enhanced Campaigns into the fire. It’s too soon to understand the full implications, including pros and cons, but it’s likely that this will be a big impact for 2013 and beyond, especially as it’s going back on the earlier guidance to treat mobile separately to desktop. How it affects CPC will be the question in most people’s minds.

Beyond this recent announcement, the impact of mobile and retargeting are the two areas that I think are essential for digital marketers to understand. Mobile search intent is different to desktop and when you overlay contextual signals like time of day, you can see behavioural patterns emerge.

It’s important search marketers learn how mobile search affects ecommerce performance – it’s more than just driving sales, it can play a vital brand awareness role as well as supporting multi-channel via local targeting.

Retargeting is important because it helps close the circle for the user journey. If you treat paid search as a last click channel, you miss the big picture. Given conversion rates are usually single figures, you have a large paid search audience that isn’t converting on that click. Retargeting is a logical means to encourage people who have already shown an interest to come back via relevant content and offers.

Is this report essentially a Google paid search guide?

I don’t think so, though the references to search engines are predominantly Google due its market dominance. Let’s not kid ourselves – Google has approximately 90% share in the UK and is the global leader.

However, the report is more about setting the context for what paid search is and providing good practice guidance to help people understand how to plan, implement and improve campaigns.

How have you ensured that the report incorporates market leading best practice across a range of paid search sub-disciplines?

I’d love to say that it’s all down to me to fuel my megalomania but the real reason is that we partnered with some of the most experienced and well respected UK search marketing agencies who are specialists in paid search.

Their teams are planning, building and optimising complex search campaigns every day, so they have a thorough understanding of the tools of the trade and are on top of the latest developments. Our audience can tap into search insights from Search Laboratory, Net Media Planet, SMV, The Digital House, Adobe, LBi, DC Storm and Make It Rain. I’ve learned a lot from working with them.

Ryan Sommer

Published 5 March, 2013 by Ryan Sommer

Ryan Sommer is web veteran and recovering expat who contributes to Econsultancy on startups, content marketing and new media. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your circles on Google+

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