Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 3: Search Engine Advertising

Many of you are familiar with search engine ads, and may even have engaged in an online advertising campaign through one of Google’s ad programs or through Microsoft’s AdCenter. If so, many of you may have spent an awful lot of money without garnering the kind of results you were expecting.

In my series Online Advertising and User Intent (see Part 1: Intro and Part 2: Social Media Advertising) I have been discussing how to develop effective online advertising campaigns and messages through the understanding of user intent.  To recap, user intent refers to the reason the user went to that particular platform, such as a search engine, in the first place. So let’s take a look now at search engine advertising.

Search Engine Advertising

Unlike Facebook where users display their intent in their profile or in their posts, search engine users type their intent in the search query box by posing a search term that is in some way addresses a current need or “pain”.  Because it is not possible to witness a search as it is taking place, it is only through historical data that an advertiser learns of user intent. Through an analysis of this historical data you can learn the ways in which to tactically target your audience groups as they search for what you offer.

The first place to look is at keywords. User intent can be identified to some extent by the terms they use to search for what you offer. Unfortunately it is difficult to know for sure what their intent is because users typically don’t specify ‘why’ they are looking for what you offer so you will have to make some assumptions. For example, if users typically type “mold removal long island” you can assume that a mold problem exists in homes in Long Island and users are looking for remediation. The point is to make an appropriate assumption that allows you to develop an ad that taps into:

  1. Users need or perceived interest
  2. What users are trying to accomplish ultimately
  3. What users may feel concerning their need or interest
  4. Their sense of urgency

Using the above example, it is easy to identify users’ ‘need or interest’ as ‘mold removal.’ Based on what you already know about your own business, you can also safely assume they are trying to accomplish getting rid of the mold, as well as the problem that is causing the mold. So the assumed scenario you are addressing is home owners in Long Island have a water problem that is causing their homes to develop mold. They are probably feeling pretty stressed about the situation so their sense of urgency is to find a way to get rid of it as quickly as possible without spending more than they can afford and to prevent it from ever happening again.

Now you have the information you need to develop a powerful text ad that speaks to the intent of the users who typed in ‘mold removal long island.’ It may look something like this:

Mold Removal Long Island
Stop wet basement problems now.
Free estimate. Call 1-800-000-0000.

If we analyze this ad you can see how it satisfies the assumed user intent, namely, to find a solution to their mold problem in Long Island.  The opening line addresses the problem by indicating the solution, mold removal, as well as the service location, Long Island. The second line addresses the assumed feeling and sense of urgency of users, which is to just get rid of the problem now and make sure it never comes back. The third line addresses the assumed need to manage costs. It also provides users with a quick way to get started on the solution: call the number. The fourth line is the link to your mold removal web page.

Effective search engine advertising requires you do some preliminary research to identify the search terms and phrases used to search for what you offer. Using these terms, you would then:

  1. Identify the intent of users, which may be to solve a problem, learn about something, find a course to take, buy a product online, or some other reason
  2. Make assumptions based on what you know about your own business that allow you to develop a scenario that enhances your understanding of the users’ intent
  3. Develop  highly focused ads that address the assumptions you made
  4. Tell users what they need to do to fulfill their intent

The users intent must be effectively addressed on the corresponding landing page that the ad is tied to.  A common mistake is to tie your ads to your company’s Home Page.  In my example above, the mold company may also offer other services such as basement renovations.  It is a waste of ad dollars, and time, to frustrate a user that clicks on an ad specifically speaking to their mold remediation need that dumps them on a home page forcing them to find the info they are looking for.

By creating a user path and tracking the conversions in your site analytics tools you can refine, A/B test and optimize your assumptions over time until you have a working formula you can count on.

In Part 4 of this series I will discuss how to apply the concept of user intent to online advertising on third party websites.

Read posts in this Series:

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 1: Intro

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 2: Social Media Advertising

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 3: Search Engine Advertising

Online Advertising and User Intent: Part 4: 3rd-Party Website Advertising