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Case Study: Adding Business Expertise to SEM Bid Rules

Driving Maximum SEM Campaign Performance through Advanced Automation

Use of technology platforms like Marin, Kenshoo, and SearchCenter have become a ubiquitous aspect of search campaign management in the past 12-16 months. The benefits of these platforms are clear with tools streamlining bulk campaign changes, reporting, and bid management; all of which translates to more efficient workflow and back-end results for performance marketers.

That said these platforms are not stand-alone solutions; the human-element of search management continues to play a critical role in effective management of campaigns. Search specialist expertise ensures that the deeper, business context of decision-making is overlaid on the data-centric view of the technology platform.

A case study for AMP client, Blue Shield of California underscores this value ' the integrated approach of expertise and technology to amplify SEM success.

In this example, Blue Shield sought to scale the campaign to drive maximum lead volume at target Cost Per Lead (CPL) efficiency goals. The challenges facing this goal were two fold; 1) Identifying this volume/efficiency equilibrium; 2) Doing so in an extremely competitive bid landscape marked by rising Cost Per Click (CPC) rates. Being that the campaign was already manually optimized around CPL vs volume, automated bid rules were implemented within AMP's SEM platform based on CPL goals. Immediately the campaign hit efficiency goals, but this came at the expense of conversion and click volume. Click volume alone dropped almost 10% in one week.

Campaign Performance: Implementation of Initial Bid Rule

Campaign Performance: Implementation of Initial Bid Rule


Though the new CPL bid rules acquired volume at a CPL under goal, the volume was too small to hit overall volume goals. To solve for the restricted volume, AMP opened the CPL parameters to levels higher than goal in attempts to offset the first weeks dip in volume. Even when the allowable CPL was doubled, the SEM platform still defaulted to acquiring the most efficient leads regardless of volume.

Campaign Performance: Raising CPL Automated Goals


In light of this volume challenge, a solution needed to be applied in order to drive toward not only efficiency but maximum volume at efficiency. The SEM platform's bid management solution needed to be supplemented by additional business rules. The platform alone was backing itself into a volume corner by optimizing strictly toward only the most efficient performing placements.

Mondays and Tuesdays were high opportunity days in terms of both search volume and lead activity. SEM platforms however tend to view all historical data as flat meaning, while they are exceptional at optimizing based on direct click to conversion data, they are not built to recognize non-standard variables such as seasonality, day of week and other industry specific market fluctuations. Low volume and performance data from Sunday was therefore inhibiting the campaign's ability to capitalize on opportunity early in the week. The technology alone was not adapting for future opportunity, a new approach was needed.

To hit volume goals, the initial bid rules were re-set with two additional components, time of day (TOD) and bid to position.

As a result, AMP was able to increase lead volume by 78% and cut lead costs by 16%.

Campaign Performance: Multiple Bid Rule Approach

Campaign Performance: Multiple Bid Rule Approach


While the automated options that are available within the search engines and third party SEM platforms are crucial to keeping up with a rapidly changing environment, they are only as powerful as the expertise behind them. There are no 'set it and forget it' tools available, though with the appropriate specialists driving tactics there are a host of options to Solve just about any SEM challenge.



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Console wars were back in late 2020 with the release of the next gen systems. Although one console was the clear winner, both Xbox Series X and PS5 saw record numbers for units sold. We looked to Google search trends to see which console would come out on top. As we continuously look at search trends throughout the year, we noticed that one console stood out over the other. We wanted to see if we could use this data to predict which console would sell more units. Major Date Announcements On September 9th, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Series X would release November 10th. Microsoft also announced the price of both editions, $499 for the Xbox Series X and $299 for the all-digital Xbox Series S. Pre-orders were announced to go live September 22nd. Sony did not release their pre-order or release date info for another week. During the PlayStation Showcase on September 16th, Sony announced the PS5 would release November 12th and would cost $499 ($399 for the all-digital). Sony then ended the event with a surprise announcement that pre orders would go live the following day, September 17th. Pre Orders Google searches for both Xbox Series X and PS5 skyrocketed after the announcements. The search queries with the highest increase in volume were queries related pre orders, price, release date, and retailer availability. Comparing exact match queries, PS5 had almost 4 times as many searches as Xbox Series X for pre orders, price, and release date. According to search trends, the most popular retailer to pre-order an Xbox from was Amazon, and for PS5 was Walmart. Xbox searches September 2020: Xbox series x pre order – 1,800,000+ queries    Xbox series x price – 550,000+ queries    Xbox series x release date – 370,000+ queries Xbox series x pre order amazon – 110,000+ queries PS5 searches September 2020: PS5 pre order – 7,500,000+ queries PS5 price – 1,800,000+ queries PS5 release date – 1,500,000+ queries PS5 pre order Walmart – 300,000+ queries Post Launch According to Google trends, search interest for the PS5 pre orders was double that of Xbox Series X pre orders. The sales numbers confirmed these trends. Through the first 4 weeks of sales, the PS5 sold 1.5 times more units than the Xbox, both globally and in the US. Consoles sold globally through first 4 weeks: PS5 Global sales – 3,368,098 units Xbox Series X global sales – 1,817,303 units Consoles sold domestically through first 4 weeks: PS5 US sales: 1,389,963 units Xbox Series X US sales: 988,641 units After launch, we saw “restock” queries skyrocket as retailers everywhere were completely sold out. We saw similar trends here as we did with pre order queries, with PS5 restock queries outnumbering Xbox Series X queries almost 4 to 1. “Restock” searches November 2020: PS5 restock – 2,200,000+ queries Xbox series x restock – 500,000+ queries “Restock” searches December 2020: PS5 restock – 5,000,000+ queries Xbox series x restock – 800,000+ queries Overwhelming Demand Crashes Retailer Websites Both consoles saw an unprecedented demand online due to COVID-19 restrictions at physical retail locations. This caused retail websites to struggle to keep up with the demand. In some cases, the demand was too much, and the websites went down temporarily. When these sites were down, consumers turned to Google search for answers. During the month of September, the Best Buy website went down multiple times. The queries “is best buy website down” and “best buy site down” had the most volume during that time. “is best buy website down – 5,400+ queries “best buy site down – 2,400+ queries During November, the Walmart website went down on multiple occasions. The queries “Walmart website down” and “Walmart site crash” had the most volume during that time. “Walmart website down” – 6,600+ queries “Walmart site crash” - 5,400+ queries As we continued to track search interest daily, we found there was more buzz for the PS5 over the Xbox Series X. When we compared the most popular keywords for each, PS5 queries had over twice as much volume as Xbox queries. We were able to accurately predict that PS5 would outsell the Xbox Series X, as the search trend data directly correlated to sales. All brands should be paying attention to search trends in order to have a better understanding of the marketplace, their own brand health, and the search interest in their competition. If you liked this article, we invite you to learn more about our SEO services.

AMPlifier - Social Media Industry Update - Week of March 1, 2021

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AMP Agency Wins 4 Hatch Awards

AMP Agency took home 4 awards last night at the 60th annual Hatch awards that celebrates creative excellence in New England. AMP won bronze awards for the below work: “Eastern Bank’s Color & Capital for Good closing Boston’s wealth Gap” Work for Good Category “Facebook’s Gaming Just Like Us” Film Category “Stop & Shop’s On Your Terms”Design Category AMP also won a Merit award for work done with RXBAR.  Be sure to check out AMP’s article featured in the Boston Globe that looks at the virtual realities of advertising and how flexibility led to a creative growth spurt in marketing in 2020.