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Guide to growth: Why SEM leaders are the ‘new normal’ marketing heroes

Once upon a time, search engine marketing (SEM) was a silo within agencies and for clients: immensely specialised, with laser-focused performance goals. SEM wizards thrived by mastering the art and science of surgical optimisations. “Test and learn” virtuosos, they became oracles of customer intent, crafting bids, keywords, targets, and messages to perfection.

Suddenly, Olympus has fallen. All the advertising industry divinities were forced to hit refresh and find new paths in a world hit by a plague. The crisis decimated resources and added urgency to doing more with less. The media mix became more fluid than quicksand, seeking frenetic adaptation to the abrupt motions in customer behaviour. How, when, and what people search for is now mutating at every move of the COVID-19 pendulum. Finally, if we add the privacy and political landscape to this Dantean picture, we know that change is the only thing we can call of new normal.

So now what? If constant change is the new normal, we all need to embrace the David Bowie in us and become chameleons. That’s true for the SEM Pros emerging as recovery leaders. They’re the ones with a high degree of adaptability and agility, with a pulse on changing consumer behaviour. And just like chess grandmasters learned to do, SEM grandmasters are leveraging AI (artificial intelligence) to crack new variables and potentialise their creativity and adaptability.

Let’s make it real and look at some successful examples:

The 'new normal' challenge
The solution
How do I track changes in the customer decision journey and avoid blinds spots in my strategy?
Combine the human expertise of audience targeting segments selection with the real-time agility of automated bidding and the flexibility of dynamic search ads (DSA). That is proving to uncover new keywords and audience behaviours while increasing conversion rates and improving CPAs.
I need to meet customers where they are but have no clicks to spare — efficiency is a must. To propel business recovery, I need to generate value for the business, not just clicks or front-end conversions.
Expand customer touchpoints with customers with the combo search partners + secondary conversions goals + auto-bidding. Engagement signals like time spent on site increase the chances of better business outcomes. Based on that, automated bidding’s flexibility and agility can prioritise in real-time what Microsoft properties or publishers will perform better for you, adding volume with higher ROI.
Market conditions are changing quickly, and I constantly need to adapt while educating my customers about new offers.
Educate customers upper in funnel with high-quality native ads and capture them quickly down the journey. By taking advantage of the strong synergy between native and search campaigns in the Microsoft ecosystem, you can capture customers earlier in the funnel and drive incremental search conversions with high agility and efficiency.

Examples like the above show how SEM can be the beacon of light for the whole media strategy in the middle of the pandemic mist. Search intent is a powerful radar to guide us through uncertainty, and SEM champs are using creative ways to use it not only to drive search conversions but to orient and maximise the return of all the media mix. This is increasing the strategic importance of SEM inside agencies and clients. SEM leaders who can connect the dots and find synergies with higher funnel tactics — while prioritising brand safety and high privacy standards — will emerge as the marketing heroes of the recovery.

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