One of the most common goals of small to medium-sized businesses are leads, and they come in many forms. Whether a lead for your business is an ecommerce purchase, a phone call or form submission, there are programs that can increase and track all online activities that contribute to each of these goals.

Throughout our 25 years of developing strategies to increase both the quantity and quality of leads we’ve learned a great deal about what works and what doesn’t. Simply put, there are media types that work very well to generate leads and there are others that do not, depending on your industry. The first step to success should thus involve a strategic assessment of successful lead driving strategies in your particular industry.  Your team’s research should aim to align business objectives with correlating strategies that have historically produced sustainable outcomes. Then, consider emerging strategies that could be promising. Holistically evaluate your findings and partner with experts that you can trust for their opinions. At this stage it is important to always ask which methods will support your company’s most important goals, most likely impacting your bottom line revenue and continuously increasing ROI. The first arena we’ll discuss in this series is Paid Search. Paid Search, also called pay-per-click (PPC), can deliver impact results without delay for many industries.

When a consumer enters a query on a search engine, they have specific search intent. Some of these consumers have evolved past the conceptual phase of purchasing and are now considered to be an active buyer in the decision funnel. Your business or agency can ascertain these valuable consumers by crafting a sophisticated keyword and bidding plan. Whether the searcher is seeking a product or a service, the goal of any business should be to show up as close to the top of the first page as possible. One of the benefits of paid search is that when you purchase ads through Google AdWords, the top ad positions are at the very top of the page—within the first three search results. Nearly half of online users click into the paid search ads and that number is growing due to mobile search increases and more relevant paid search ads.

Relevance is a crucial element to the success of your search engine marketing, as it will help your ad’s quality score (one of the factors that Google considers in your ad rank) and will increase the quality of clicks and leads you receive.

This brings us to our next and very critical point. Data. Paid Search is an art of analyzing data and producing creative ads capitalizing on data as it is gathered. Best practices involve testing different creative advertisements against each other, looking at data to find a “winner,” then making variations on that winner to further optimize, and so on. Periodically testing new creative while continuing that method will ensure you are constantly improving for years to come.

We advise all business owners to educate themselves on this process and to be involved in the strategy behind their Paid Search campaigns because as we consult for companies we unfortunately come across agencies that are not putting in the time to optimize their clients’ accounts like they should be. This results in dual waste of both agency fees and ad spend.

Next, we’ll discuss how to seamlessly integrate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and how each program can be used to support the other. Stay tuned!