Alexander Conroy

SEM Redefined, PPC evolves into Real Time Bidding (RTB)

 Early internet advertising was primarily paid keyword advertising on Yahoo and later Google search results ads which are now commonly referred to as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising.  The first  PPC ads date back to 1996 and led to Google’s first paid ads in 1999.  

SEM was initially very simple PPC ads, a user typed in a short keyword that a company wanted to target and their text ad appeared at the top or right hand side of the search results if they were the highest bidder.  While PPC ads are still the most familiar form of internet advertising, it is no longer the most effective and losing ground quickly to RTB (Real Time Bidding), advertising on social networks, and retargeting.  

Today’s Digital Marketing Landscape

Digital Marketing Venn SEO, PPC, RTB SMO relationships

Digital marketing has evolved and expanded from just paid search advertising to include SEO, social media and now real time bidding.  

  • SEM: Search Engine Marketing includes paid ads on search results such as Google and Bing also commonly referred to as PPC. These ads typically appear on the top of search results, in the right hand column and in some cases at the bottom of the page.  SEM campaigns range from very simple small budget campaigns to elaborate and complex mega brand campaigns.  
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimization is the complimentary practice or strategy of SEM.  The goal of SEO is to have relevant keywords rank in the organic or natural search results.  There are two aspects of SEO, On-Site and Off-Site optimization.  On-Site optimization involves working on the website to create the best user experience and content as well as optimizing design of the site for search engines.  Off-Site SEO involves creating external content such as articles and blogs that link back the site.  
  • SMO: Social Media Optimization is still emerging in digital marketing and can mean different things and have very different implementations. In general it involves building the social community, engaging the community, and creating content. Paid advertising is sometimes part of an SMO campaign.
  • RTB: Real Time Bidding is the newest entry to digital marketing.  Since its inception in 2010 RTB has exploded to over $2 Billion in annual ad spending  representing 13% of display advertising making it the fastest growing ad media in history.  RTB gives advertisers the ability to place ads directly on websites and blogs that match the criteria they set.  RTB also gives advertisers the ability to re-target past visitors and place specific ads in front of these users again.  



How RTB Works

 Real Time Bidding is similar to a stock exchange in that buyers (those wanting to place ads) and sellers (website and blog owners selling ad space) are connected in real time via a media exchange called a DSP (Demand Side Platform).  The DSP matches the right ads, with the right sites, at a price set by the buyer or in some cases a price that is set automatically by the DSP.  This all happens in just a few milliseconds and then the ad appears on the users browser seemingly instantly.  

DSP platforms offer advertisers advanced audience targeting that is not available on old school keyword PPC ads.  This advanced targeting allows advertisers to place ads more efficiently and often at a much lower cost than that of a highly competitive broad search term. 

Ad network funnel-Esotech Demand Side Platform DSP


What Does a Comprehensive RTB-PPC Advertising Campaign Look Like?

 Placing ads is just the one step in creating an effective internet marketing campaign.  An effective campaign delivers more than clicks or visits, it should deliver conversions, e.g. sales, inquiries, or what ever the goal is.  A comprehensive campaign is shown in the diagram below: 

Lead conversions flow RTB re-targeting

 Key Elements of a Comprehensive Internet Marketing Campaign

  1. Well Defined Target Audience: to begin you need to know exactly who you want to reach, but this is just the beginning.  For effective targeting you need to understand the buyers motivation, interests, and resistance to buying (concerns).  
  2. Campaign Goals: to measure the progress of your campaign you need specific and measurable goals.  Surprisingly the goals for some campaigns are “generate website visits” or “get more leads”.  Broad goals like these are useless as there is no specific metric associated with them.  How many more visits, how many leads?  While these are specific, these figures alone would not determine if the campaign is achieving your real goal.  You should have additional metrics such as sales or inquiries and conversions.  Without specific campaign goals it is impossible to set a budget and more importantly impossible to determine if the campaign is delivering what you want.    
  3. Campaign Budget: set an overall budget and a daily budget based on your sales goals.  Work backwards from your goal through conversions, then clicks required, CTR and then finally the required spend. 
  4. Excellent Amazing Creative:  the creative (your banner ads) is the single factor that determines if a user clicks or not and this determines your CTR (click thur rate) and ultimately the CPC (cost per click) for your campaign.  Engaging ads with a great CTA (call to action) have excellent CTRs.  Boring and generic ads with a weak CTA have very poor CTRs and get very, very few clicks while you are burning ad spend money.  
  5. Metrics and Tracking: track your campaign metrics and early on check the numbers daily.  Adjust the campaign as necessary to achieve your goals.  This may involve changing the creative (banner ads), changing the targeting, or changing your budget.  
  6. Sales Process: it is vital that you firstly have a sales process and that it will track results tied to the campaign, secondly the sales staff must track results and enter the data into your CRM so you will know what the results are.  
  7. Trained Sales Staff:  your sales staff must be aware of the campaign and familiar with your campaign goals.  Is there a special being offered? They better know about it?  Is there a new product? They better know all about it.