I find that the more I learn about SEM, the more I realize I don’t know. There are many layers of sophistication that we can build into our campaigns and targeting to increase performance. The days of matching a relevant keyword with a relevant add and landing page and thinking you are done are behind us. It’s time to get more sophisticated about our targeting and audience segmentations.

We are going to dig deeper into understanding our audience and their behavior. Keyword intent and other audience segmentations can help us ascertain answers to questions like:

  • How engaged and interested is my audience at this stage?
  • Do they know which product they want? Are they familiar with my brand?
  • Are they ready to purchase?

If we know the answer to these questions we can serve our audience a better and more relevant message and better achieve our goals.

The Purchase Funnel

The purchase funnel is an old concept that describes the customer journey from the awareness stages down to the actual purchase. The funnel allows us to categorize our audience by intent. Once we know the intent of our customer then we can create a strategy to best market to them. A quick overview:

High Funnel: The top of the funnel. These are customers that are unaware of the product or unaware there is a need for the product. These customers require education & awareness.

Mid Funnel: These customers are aware of the problem / need. They also may be somewhat aware of the solution / product, but want to learn more about it. They are shopping around for information.

Low Funnel: This audience knows what they want and are at the purchase stage. They may be stuck in the cart or may require a demo or trial for evaluation.

Every business will have a certain goal or set of goals. Based on these goals the business should decide which area of the funnel to target.

Utilizing The Funnel

A full funnel marketing strategy will allow a business to tailor their marketing to audiences at different levels of the funnel that are the most advantageous to them.

The world of online marketing is vast. Different platforms can be used to market to different levels of the funnel. For example, targeting the top of the funnel can be effectively done through social media, blogging, viral video campaigns and also offline promotions like TV and radio.

The middle of the funnel would utilize tools like email marketing, SEO, SEM, content marketing etc.

The bottom would focus on SEM, remarketing, Product listing ads, and other forms of direct marketing.

Full Funnel Targeting From Within One Console – AdWords

Using different strategies and different tools is important but can become overwhelming and require large amounts of resources to manage. One of the biggest advantages of paid search and especially single platforms like AdWords is that they allow you to target all levels of the funnel from within the same console. AdWords has an array of products that can be utilized. Here I’ve broken down the funnel levels, to show which AdWords products can be used to target different levels of the customer journey within the funnel.

Funnel LevelProduct Type DescriptionGoalMessage
TopGDN Engagement FormatsAd formats on the GDN include: Pop out catalogues, Video & static pop out ads. Rich media formats create strong exposure around the product – read moreCreate awareness around a product needCatalogues, video’s, and pop-out banners strongly branded
TopGDNDisplay regular static & Gif’s on the GDN with loose keyword and topical targetingCreate awarenessBranded banners
TopFacebook & Twitter Paid AdsUse demographical targeting to target branded advertising to your customer segmentCreate brand awareness & education for a certain audience segmentBranded and product focused
TopRemarketingRemarket to visitors that have only reached the homepage and have not gone further into the siteEducate audience more about your productsBranded
TopSearch CampaignsThis is usually not recommended since bidding on search terms can be expensive and does not generate the required ROI at this level of the funnel. Eg – ‘Is Thailand affordable’ This searcher needs education on ticket prices and why it is affordableCreate awareness and educate the audienceBranded, pricing education
MidRemarketing / dynamic Remarketing – Product ViewersRemarket similar products to visitors that have previously viewed productsRe-interest previous product viewersProduct specific, based on previously viewed products
MidRemarketing – Previous purchasesThose that have already purchased one product type, interest can be created in other product types or accessories – eg marketing laptop bags after a laptop purchaseRe-interest previous product purchases in new productsSimilar to previous purchased products or accessories
MidRemarketing – Highly EngagedI usually set this up as time on site > 2 mins, viewed > 2 pages. These are customers that are highly engaged in your products or have found your content informative. It’s important to re-engage them againRe-engage previous high interest product viewersProduct based
MidSearch CampaignsKeyword targeting to searchers interested in learning more about the product, e.g. ‘reviews’, ‘comparison’, ‘best laptop bag’, top rated’ or ‘dell laptop bags’ etc..Convince customers already interested as to why your product is the right oneProduct focused with promotional messaging
LowSearch CampaignsBid only on keywords with purchase intent, e.g… ‘Buy ray ban sunglasses’, ‘laptop on sale’Target customers looking to make a purchaseStrong promotional
LowGoogle Shopping CampaignsThese run on the Google Shopping Search vertical. These are people specifically shopping for productsTarget customers already in shopping modeImage & promotion based – generated from product feed
LowRemarketing – Cart abandonersTarget customers that have already placed products in their cart but abandoned the cart.It’s assumed these are customers ready to purchase but something is holding them back. Need to address thisOffer them a deal. Present promotions/discounts, or alternative payment methods, based on where they got stuck

Remarketing Only?

You’ll notice that it’s possible to target most of the length of the funnel just with remarketing. You can target those vaguely interested in your brand that have just touched your site’s homepage. You can target the mid funnel with previous product viewers, while you can also target the low end of the funnel for those that are cart abandoners.

You can almost create a full funnel strategy with remarketing. The downside is that you’re not marketing to new customers who are unaware of your site. Potentially you are missing out on a large portion of the lower funnel, those with high intent to purchase, but have never been to your site (yet may know your brand). An example search term may be ‘buy a dell laptop now.’

The Best Of Both Worlds – Search Remarketing (RLSA)

This is where you take your search campaigns to the next level. Search remarketing ‘Remarketing lists for search’ (RLSA) allows you to apply remarketing lists to search campaigns. This strategy allows you to target users based on both keyword intent and also on previous behavior on the site. We can increase our message accuracy. Some examples of how I use this strategy with my campaigns:

  • Expensive generic keywords like ‘laptops’. It’s unclear the intent behind this keyword and also this is going to be an expensive click because it’s generic. But if I know the searcher already visited my site, even just a general home page view, then I know there is more opportunity and I will bid on it.
  • Furthermore in the case of a generic keyword search like ‘laptop’ I may also know which product the searcher previously viewed on my site, so I can serve them a specific ad for ‘acer laptops’ if that’s where the searcher previously showed interest.
  • Bid higher on everything! It’s also possible to add a remarketing list into an existing search campaign, run the regular campaign as usual but if a searcher is also found to be on the remarketing list then I will bid higher 20% to get that click. I’m willing to spend more if I know they were previously on my site.
  • Competitor terms. I often don’t really want to bid on competitor terms due to low conversion rates. But if it is a searcher that has previously been on my site, or a cart abandoner from my site, I’d like to do what I can to get them back.

An Inter-Device Funnel

There is also another level of sophistication that we can add here, that is becoming more and more important. You’ve heard it before, but we do live in a multi-device world, where the path to purchase often does not all happen on one single device. We need to look at where the different devices sit within the funnel. Consider the below scenario:

Image of inter-device funnel

If we know that people on their way home from work on the train are researching products on their phones, then we can fine tune the:

  • Message
  • Creative type
  • Targeting at this hour
  • Targeting for this device

This type of targeting will also be highly industry specific.

Measuring It All

Getting serious about the funnel means that we also need to get more serious about our reporting methods. Our current analytics reporting is not going to be an effective way to assess the levels of the purchase funnel.

Current reporting methods use last click attribution as standard. Unfortunately this means that only the source of the last click before a conversion is attributed to the conversion. This isn’t going to work here, because we need to understand what parts of the purchase funnel are driving value at what stages before the last click.

For example, refer back to the businessman travelling on the train in the picture above. The earlier stages while he is at work are usually first click stages, however the conversion is going to be attributed later on from the iPad while he is at home. We need to consider the value of the branding at the earlier stage of the funnel, which is an earlier click.

The good news is that there are other attribution reporting models available through interfaces like Google Analytics which can give you a different perspective. View through conversions can also be helpful to an extent. Avinash Kaushik talks about how we need to be less wrong in our reporting. Using a different model will give us a better picture of the truth around the higher levels of the funnel.