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What can Paid Search learn from ice hockey?

The NHL season is well under way and the players are ripping it on the ice with big hits and awesome goals. Just like paid search, ice hockey is a fast paced game. You need to keep your head up, and maybe even throw your gloves on the ice and do the dirty work. If you don’t pay attention to what’s happening around you, you might get hurt.

In this article I want to give you a few tricks and tips that you as a paid search professional can learn from the hockey goons. Whether you are new to the game or you are a pro at search engine marketing - when working on your Google Adwords account, Bing Ads account or other paid search platforms – it’s always good to keep these pointers in the back of your head.

Understand the game
You need to understand the game before you tie your skates, put on your pads, helmet and gloves. The whole organization - players, coaches, GMs and owners - has to know how the game is played and what the rules are. If not, there will be a lot of confusion and the results could be terrible.

The same applies to search engine marketing. It doesn’t matter whether you are the PPC specialist, the CMO or the CEO – in order to make sound decisions and have the ability to evaluate your company’s marketing activities on Google, and other search engines, you need to know how the game is played.

Get the whole team on board so that they understand the dynamic of paid search versus other marketing channels. Search is not about traditional push marketing. It’s about attracting the right customers at the right time when they are in the right mindset.

Do you and your team understand how the Google Adwords auction process works? Does everybody understand the importance of Quality Score? Does everybody know how you pay for your advertisement? I’m not going to explain every aspect of the dynamic in this article, but I will provide you with a useful link so that you can read up on exactly how Google Adwords work.

Have a clear strategy
You have learned the rules of the game, now you are ready to put together a strategy that will win you the Stanley Cup and apply tactics that will win you the battles throughout the long season. You as a player, coach and/or GM have to take responsibility to create and implement the best strategy and adjust accordingly.

If you don’t have a clear vision of how you want to play, and if all the players could do whatever they wanted on the ice, you won’t win any games. The same applies to paid search.

Before you start your first campaign, or if you are already running several search activities, you should always be aware of the following:

- What is the goal of your paid search marketing? Generating more traffic? Boost sales in your online store? Increasing email-signups or quite simply increasing your ROI? The goals of your activities can be numerous, just remember to have a clear plan.

- What are your KPIs? Define your key performance indicators (KPI) so you know whether or not your activities are a successful. Are you measuring growth, cost per conversion, ROI?

- Preform keyword research in order to know what consumers are searching for and what kinds of keywords you want to bid on.

- Structure your account for success. A good account structure will make your work more efficient, give you better quality and more bang for your buck.

- Get your web analysis implemented correctly. If you don’t, you won’t know how your campaigns are performing.

It’s good to know which goal you should put the puck in. Own goals will make you look stupid.



Know your competition
Before every game a hockey team will know who is on the opposite bench and who they will face of on the ice. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? How can they threaten your defense? What are the opportunities you can to exploit?

This mindset should also apply for your PPC strategy. What are your competitors doing right? Is there anything you can learn from them? How can your business stand out from the competition? Are you utilizing your unique selling points in your ad copy?

You don’t have to focus all your energy on the opposition, but in order to give you the upper hand in the game it has to be taken into consideration. Who knows, maybe you will strike gold and become the unique advertiser you should be!

Know your teammates
Hockey players spend an awful lot of time with their teammates. In order to play well they also have to really get to know the guys they play in the same line as. They all need to know how they move, think and where they want the puck. The better they know one another, the more automated the plays between them will be and the better they will preform on the ice.

As a paid search specialist, you will have a bunch of tools that will come in handy, and it is your responsibility to know how to use them in the best possible way. There are tools to help you automate bidding strategies, help you with your reporting and many more options to create a more effective paid search account. What if there were tools out there that could build your PPC account structure automatically, create keywords, and write your ad copy based on templates? Here’s the good news: they already exist!

There are several third party tools that you can buy a license for. If you want to become a hard hitting paid search player you need to learn a thing or two about the Adwords API. How to set up automated rules in the system, how you can create and use scripts to help you with the day-to-day tasks of optimization, and how product feeds can become your best buddy.

Yes, I know… This might sound overwhelming, but the truth is that the more tech-savvy you become, the better a player you will be in the long run.

Start counting Assists
The game of ice hockey has really understood the value of attribution. It’s not only the player who gets the puck behind the goalie who receives a goal point. Up to two players will be credited with an assist on the goal. Without those passes the goal would never have happened.

Attribution can be explained as; a process of identifying a set of actions (the path) by a user or customer that contribute to a desired outcome or conversion. Each event or touch point of the customer journey is then assigned a value. This provides a new understanding of what channels and events that influences individuals to convert.

The focus on last-click-conversions is getting old. It’s outdated and should be replaced by other attribution models. Every digital marketing professional should start counting assists. What other search terms or marketing channels are delivering assists to your conversions? Does your Adwords or Bing account get the full credit it deserves in the customer journey?

Be a mobile player
“The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky, once stated; “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
Hockey players need to be extremely mobile and always keep on skating when they are on the ice. I’m not saying you need to be in great physical shape to work with paid search, however you should have a clear mobile strategy.

Google has already confirmed that more searches come from mobile phones than desktops. Logic indicates that you need a web page that is handling your customers increasing mobile usage. How will you adapt your paid advertising strategy? Do you have a separate set of KPIs for dealing with this kind of traffic? If you do not have a clear vision of this – you should get to work, now!

Practice hard
My last tip for you is to practice. Yes, good old fashion practice. Just like a hockey player who will go out on the pond with skates on to perfect his technique. No matter how great your tools or teammates are, you need to invest time, test, learn, measure and refine your PPC game.

Now, go out there, sharpen your search skates, and hit the ice. Remember, keep your head up, hustle hard and hit your competitors harder then they hit you!