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You can win a short-term bidding battle on paid search networks like Google Adwords by being smarter than your competitor. But you may not be able to win the longer-term war – that may be out of your control.

Quality-based bidding systems help with bidding wars since there is less transparency on prices bid and they give alternative ways for you to win.

So for quality-based networks, your position will be boosted if you follow any or all of the following techniques...

1. Ad Creative & Copy Strategy
Optimise your ad creative to improve clickthrough rate and improve your quality score particularly through using Dynamic Ad Creative. Improving how you present your proposition and making it look better value or broader than the competitors is also key. Maybe you can even change your pricing for a short period to help win the war, but then you’re into pricing wars…

2. Keyword Matching Strategy
Make use of negative matches or adds phrase matches to increase your clickthrough rate and improve your quality score.

3. Destination Or Landing Page Strategy
Improve conversion rates on your site or increase the relavence of copy on your site to improve your quality score.

4. Dayparting Strategy
Only bid high when your clicks are most likely to convert.

5. Bid Management Tool Strategy
Use a bid management tool to change bids more frequently than competitors – this works particularly well for dayparting.

There are also the following broader approaches which are less easy to implement, but will enable you to reallocate your bidding funds:

6. Campaign Structure Strategy
Keyphrase analysis and selection strategy – there may be other keywords in your portfolio which you can reallocate funds too which the competitors are unwilling or unable to compete upon.

7. International Search Engine Networks
There are many search engines specific to countries, as a visit to Search Engine Colossus will show. So it is important for international brands to achieve visibility in local market search engines.

For example, the following search engines which have their own ad services are popular in these major markets:

• China – Baidu (40% of national Internet users)
• France – Voila (5% of national Internet users)
• Russia – Yandex (24 million unique visitors monthly)
• South Korea (58% of web site referrals)

For companies and brands seeking to achieve a global or regional reach it is important to target search engine ad networks which are popular within a country.

8. Content Network Strategy
Maybe you are burning budget on the content network and you can afford to pay more if you switch off the content network.
 
9. Search Ad Network Strategy
You may be able to switch budget to another network which is less competitive and offers better returns.

What If You Can’t Win The War?
Fundamentally, if a competitor can better monetise their visitors because their brand or proposition is superior, then they will always win in the end. This is particularly true for companies that can generate repeat sales at a higher value, i.e. they are paying for clicks which have a higher lifetime value than you.

For example, a bank that only offers savings products cannot afford to bid as much as a bank that offers a range of savings and investment products, since its customers will have a higher lifetime value – there is the potential to sell them more products in the future.

But remember that your competitors will only win if their people – internal or agency - and their tools are as good as yours.

So it comes down to brand, proposition, people, process and tools in the end. As a search engine marketer or an agency you may have limited control of these – so don’t take defeat too seriously – you will have good reasons why you can’t win the war.

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Adapted from our new and highly fantastic Paid Search Marketing (PPC) Best Practice Guide - 250+ pages of comprehensive insight into implementing and executing paid search strategies.

Chris Lake

Published 23 November, 2006 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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