Getting More With Less – Planning Your ’09 PPC Strategy

Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that your business has been directly or indirectly affected by the recessionary economy.

Given the economic downturn, digital marketing tactics are shifting and businesses are being forced to take a hard look at which channels should be a part of their 2009 marketing plan, and to what extent.

According to a study put out by Marketing Sherpa last month, only Web 2.0 (social network marketing) and email marketing are expected to become a larger part of digital marketing plans moving into ’09, while paid search marketing (PPC), display advertising, mobile marketing, and other forms of digital advertising will be phased out to a certain extent.

Marketing Sherpa goes on to explain that various channels may still experience overall growth as the study accounts for those that will receive more or less attention, but NOT the budget which will be allocated toward or away from that channel.

For example, about 1/3 of companies are expected to reduce PPC spending; however, it is estimated that their reduction in spend will be trumped by the amount of increased spend of the 27% of companies that plan to ramp up their PPC efforts in ’09.

Regardless, though, of whether your marketing budget is increasing, being slashed or remaining static, given the times, every dollar spent in the coming year will likely come under much more scrutiny. While tactics may be shifted across the board, I want to talk briefly about paid search marketing given the inherent flexibility of this channel.

If you’re a part of one of the 33% of companies planning to cut your PPC budget, you or your agency may be in the midst of some serious analysis. What’s working? What’s not working? How do we best shift budget?

Many companies will no longer have the luxury of prospecting as much in this channel. Strategies will need to be more targeted to reduce wasted spend. If brand awareness was previously at the forefront, it may take a back seat to ROI moving forward. And while trial and error will still represent the foundation for campaign performance and efficiency, there may be fewer trials and less room for error.

More than ever, it’s going to be important to take a close look at every keyword and every ad, figure out what deserves the most attention, and how best to reach your audience.

For some, long tail will become a bigger part of their overall keyword strategy. For others, top-level keywords will still be an important part of their branding efforts. Rather than reaching your audience in all phases of their shopping experience, maybe you can only afford to try and capture those that have done the research and are ready to purchase.

The extent to which strategies need to be refined will vary from company to company; however, a commonality between all PPC marketers will be the need to adjust performance metrics on the fly. Despite whether or not your budget is changing, the factors driving the purchasing decisions of your target market likely are changing, and they need to be taken into account when formulating strategy and setting expectations.

Paid search represents an ideal marketing channel to exploit in order to prove much-needed value in today’s economy. The challenge moving forward, however, is figuring out how to get more with less.