To take some fairly extreme examples, let’s look at how an SEM ad compares to a targeted ad in a trade publication. For the trade publication, assume that it’s a monthly publication, and that the deadline for ads is the 15th of the month prior to publication. The process might look something like this:
- Have the ad designed (2 weeks)
- Place the ad by the deadline (2 weeks before publication)
- Wait for responses after publication (at least until the next issue, so, one month)
- While you’re waiting, design and place a different ad, to see which is more effective (no time, as it’s concurrent)
- Wait for response to new ad after publication (one month)
With an SEM ad, the timeline might look like this:
- Design your landing page and write your initial ad copy (2 weeks)
- Run the ad (24 hours)
- Modify the ad copy (1 hour)
- Test the second ad (24 hours)
Now, I grant you, this was a fairly extreme example, but even if it took you longer than 24 hours of running an ad to get enough data to compare to the next ad, you see the point. This is the significant advantage of on-line advertising — the speed with which you can react to responses. With that in mind, it’s critical that you set goals, but it’s equally critical that you not get too hung up on the first one. You can change it. Quickly.
Before you embark on any on-line advertising campaign, it’s important that you have the foundation of your on-line marketing efforts — your web-site — prepared. When a prospect clicks on an ad, or on your listing in a search engine, it’s because something in that ad or search summary has intrigued them. Your job is to ensure that when they click through, whatever they see doesn’t disappoint them. They have to come to a web page that both meets the expectations that were set before they clicked through, and encourages them to “convert” as opposed to “bounce”. I’ll explain these concepts a little more in the next section, but first I want to finish this discussion on getting your house in order.
Having a good web page will be critical to the success of your on-line campaign, but it may not be sufficient. Depending on the goal you set, there may be additional (and perhaps on-going) work to do. Take the “sign up for our newsletter” example. When you start down that path, you’re committing to writing a newsletter. Now, I’m not saying you have to have a six month publication schedule all laid out. However, part of having your house in order is being ready to react when prospects do what you want them to do. If you are going to write a newsletter, maybe you should have at least one written before you start your ads. If you’re going to give out a discount coupon, make sure your staff knows about it, and how to react to it (e.g., what happens if someone comes in and says, “hey, I got a 10% discount on your web-site, but I forgot to bring in the code”).
There’s no point in running an on-line campaign if you’re not going to be prepared for it to be a success.