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Metrics Shape Become.com’s Keyword Bidding Practices

By Feb 09, 2011

Within paid search, the Mark Twain quote “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug” is especially apt. Consider Become.com, a comparison shopping site which saw one word make a difference when bidding for a profitable paid search term.

“Everybody would like to rank [highly] for search terms that have a lot of volume,” says Arpana Tiwari, senior SEO manager at Become.com. “But you have to pick the keywords you can have an impact on in search.”

The right search term is essential for pulling desirable consumers to Become. The site aggregates product reviews and price comparisons, and funnels prospects to retailers who have listed their offerings with it. Become’s revenue is on a per-click basis, which means if participating retailers aren’t sent prospects who are ready to make a purchase, they won’t be participating members very long.

Become experienced this during late 2010, when it looked to capitalize on consumers searching for Black Friday bargains. The problem is that Black Friday—so named for the first Friday after Thanksgiving, when according to retail lore retailers become profitable, or “into the black” for the year—is a very desired, and therefore very expensive, search term.

It also wasn’t especially lucrative. Tiwari feels search engines tend to direct consumers to sites that have a fair amount of online history—say five or six years—while newer sites are ranked lower. As a result, fewer consumers were sent to Become—and those who did click through were browsing, and weren’t necessarily ready to pull the trigger on a specific purchase.

A better strategy, according to Tiwari, would have been to bid on more focused terms, such as “Black Friday electronics deals” and then direct searchers to pages deeper within its site. “We then would have optimized content to promote products in those areas,” she says.

So call holiday 2010 a learning experience for Become. “Going into it, we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare [the site] for some of those broader terms,” Tiwari says. “It met the costs, but we had high expectations and it didn’t meet those.”

Become has taken advantage of measurement offerings from Searchmetrics to aid in its evaluation. The analytics firm provided search term analysis capabilities, along with referring domain data, which has guided keyword selection and bids. Searchmetrics also allows Become to present its findings in dashboard formats with varying degrees of detail and information: Data seen by a CFO won’t necessarily be the same as that viewed by account executives who work with individual retailers.

Searchmetrics has additionally enabled Become to evaluate which terms are most likely to result in conversions to purchase. If the most desirable consumers get to its site using jargon, or terms that indicate needs not reflected in sales copy, Become will work with its client retailers to modify how their merchandise is presented on its site.

Using what it learned during the 2010 holiday season, Become has modified its tactics during the period leading up to Valentines’ Day. Become’s administrators examined historical data and chose a few specific categories attractive to consumers likely to convert to customers, rather than putting resources into generating tons of pages or content.

Part of this effort has involved working with merchants to determine their most desirable products and creating top 10 lists, or suggested gift idea features, or blog entries which reflect them. Become then incorporates search terms most likely to generate sales in its site – and bids on these highly focused search terms to send consumers to these pages.

And no, Become.com will not be in the bidding for the “Black Friday sales” search term in 2011.