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Fishing As An Analogy For Understanding Search Engine Marketing

Fishing as an Analogy for Understanding Search Engine Marketing

A 3-Part Series on SEM

I’ll be writing a series of blog posts explaining how fishing is a great analogy for understanding SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Some of the areas I will cover in this series include setting up a campaign to optimize for budget and ongoing management, as well as selecting the right equipment (keywords and ad copy) to be successful. In the first post we’ll discuss why fishing is a good analogy with examples.

Throughout the years I have trained many people on SEM (aka Paid Search Advertising or PPC) from personalized training to webinars and seminars. Recently, I was training a colleague on the nuances of Paid Search Advertising. In previous classes, I had used the analogy of chemistry to explain SEM, since chemistry has multiple elements that go into a formula and changing one element will give you a different result.

When I was teaching the one-week course for my colleague, I decided to change the analogy from chemistry to fishing, as it seemed more relatable. Why fishing? The American Sportfishing Association published a report that states there are approximately 46 million active anglers, including myself, yearly which surpasses golf and tennis combined (21 million and 13 million respectively). With that many anglers, I’m bound to have a higher percentage of people who would relate to fishing.

At first I was skeptical in using fishing as an analogy for SEM, but the more I tried to discredit it, the more it made sense. The goal is to help people understand the dynamic cogs of Paid Search Advertising and how changing one component can truly affect your results. The key with fishing, and with SEM, is to narrow in and focus on key elements, as I have detailed in the chart below.

PPC vs Fishing v3

In looking at the table above you can see all the different components of SEM and fishing, let’s put that into a practical example.

When I first started fishing the pond by my house, I didn’t know what kind of fish were in there, what they would bite on or where they were located.  At first I would try different colored baits, walk around the pond and check different locations, jot down the time, water temperature and clarity of the water.  During this whole process I was collecting as much data as possible, but only getting a few nibbles and maybe one or two fish.  After I finished analyzing the data, I knew what bait to use, where to fish based on the weather, the time of day and with persistence I was finally able to pull an elusive 8lb Bass out of this small pond.

Similarly, when you first start a Paid Search campaign, you won’t know what keywords will work best, what your optimal bid is, or which ad copy will get the best Click Through Rates (CTR).  Once you have launched your campaign, you’ll start to collect data and analyze the clicks, impressions, CTR, CPC, as well as check your Google Analytics for additional data.  After 3 or 4 weeks of data collection, you should now have enough data to start optimizing, for instance “I know this keyword on exact match, with these negative keywords, coordinated with Ad Copy #2 and this landing page works best on Monday to Friday, but not on the weekends.”  Ultimately, you should start seeing conversions, some might be a lower Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), but sooner or later you’ll get the big fish.

Many companies have been uncertain about whether to run their SEM campaign in house or hire an agency.  As an example, on another day of fishing at the pond, a gentleman happened to walk up with his son and they both started fishing along side of me.  Within an hour I had caught 8 fish and they hadn’t caught any yet.  I went over and shared some tips on where the fish would be, what bait to use and what techniques to use.  At the end of 2 hours of fishing I had 12 fish and they each had 2.  Experience is a key factor in optimizing your Paid Search campaign, that is where a helping hand can make the difference between a positive ROAS vs a negative ROAS.  In part 2 and 3 of this series, we’ll explore the tools to use as well as what to do when the fish stop biting.