Plugged In: Honing Paid Search Engine Marketing

digital_marketing[Image: Getty Images]Ask yourself this: “How does the majority of my clientele discover my spa?” If the answer is “online search engines” and you aren’t employing Search Engine Marketing (SEM), you may effectively be putting money straight into your competitors’ bank accounts.

“Digital marketing allows any business to better position themselves in the marketplace,” says Laura Knapp, managing director of the SRAX social division of Social Reality, an internet advertising company. “It has the power to establish your brand’s personality,” she furthers.

Believe it or not, it’s relatively simple to start online advertising. Adding a few pay-per-click, stagnant ads that appear at the top of search engine results can easily drive customers to your site and spa. Read on for our guide to understanding the process of advertising on Google, Bing and Yelp.

The ubiquitous Google remains the go-to search engine, racking up around 100 billion searches each month. When a business owner purchases Google AdWords via Google’s advertising system, its ads appear next to Google search results, and the advertiser only incurs a charge when they’re clicked on. Those running a campaign can easily set a daily budget, however small, and their ad will run until that amount is reached. Reports detailing how well ads have performed can be delivered to users, who can make adjustments at any time.

RELATED: In the Know on SEO

“People browse the web and their mobile phones when they’re looking to pamper themselves, and small businesses hoping to succeed should ensure they can be found in those moments, across all devices,” says Soo Young Kim, group product marketing manager at Google. “Offerings like Google My Business and Google AdWords help small and medium businesses become discovered and connect with potential customers.”

Carillon Miami Beach Hotel & Spa runs quarterly advertising on Google, and its creative is updated after each segment. “The campaigns include text and graphics around search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click and re-marketing,” says Zachary Felter, the property’s director of sales and marketing. “Analytics tools can provide a relatively accurate return on ad spending, which helps the hotel and spa track last click or assisted revenue.” Felter notes that running ads on Google is cost effective because the search engine has such a large audience.

Jacob Leveton, senior campaign manager of ad operations at Social Reality, recommends performing A/B testing for Google AdWords. “Even 30 to 45 minutes a day can increase the number of visitors to your website by two to three times,” he reports.

If that still sounds like too great a time commitment, consider outsourcing to an experienced ad agency. “You’re paying for the expertise and experience of a team, meaning you’ll be getting the brainpower of more than one person,” explains Knapp.

Hanging out in the shadow of Google, the Bing Network still holds a powerful reach, with some 5.5 billion monthly searches. According to comScore, a major search behavior measurement company, Bing attracts 56 million users that Google doesn’t reach. Spas will find less competition for pay-per-click ads on Bing than Google: On Google, only the highest-ranking ads (determined by expected click-through rate, how much is spent and ad relevance) show up at the top of the page, whereas on Bing, businesses have more potential opportunity to gain more prominent positions for less cost.

“We see good enough results on Bing that we continue to make it a part of our strategy,” explains Rob Sgarlata, director of sales and marketing for The Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs, New York, which houses the Roosevelt Baths & Spa. “We analyze those results on a monthly and annual basis. If the results ever warrant a shift in strategy, we always make that shift.”

Yelp: Targeted Advertising

Ads on Yelp appear in a several places, including above the natural search results and on pages for similar businesses. All are cost-per-click and are clearly marked with a small yellow “Ad” logo. Yelp’s ad packages include:

Self-serve program: This option allows owners to purchase à-la-carte ads and enhanced profile features through their Yelp business accounts. It may be ideal for spas that can’t handle a significant uptick in clients but have specific needs, for instance, a spa that is fully booked for an entire month aside from one day or weekend.

Full-serve program: A more robust offering, this package includes targeted Yelp ads, upgraded business page features and dedicated account support. Once setup is complete, it’s relatively hands-off .

“Both programs are designed for busy business owners who don’t have a surplus of time to manage an ad campaign,” says Genna Gold, manager of local business outreach at Yelp. “Getting set up typically involves a 10- to 20-minute phone call with a Yelp Ads Specialist.”

RELATED: Yelp Help – Winning Back An Unhappy Client

Natasha Noel Prybyla, founder of SLOCO Massage & Wellness Spa in San Luis Obispo, California, hasn’t necessarily found that cost-per-click ads on Yelp generate more leads, but she is a fan of Yelp’s app for business owners. “I use it to get instant notifications when a client posts a review, which is especially helpful because I can make sure to respond within 24 hours to both positive and negative feedback,” she explains. “We love our enhanced Yelp listing because it allows guests to book appointments easily from our profile, and includes a slideshow that lets us show off images of our spa and services.”

To incentivize those who find her via Yelp, Angela Rosen, owner of Penelope & the Beauty Bar in Seattle, runs “special mention” ads on the site, which offer users 10% off . “This is an easy way to track who comes to our spa from Yelp and leverage our positive reviews,” she says.

Once you decide on the best advertising platform for your business, spending some time each day managing your SEM can convert leads to sales. You’ll be placing your business right in front of motivated customers ready to buy—and that’s an investment worth making.

–by Jennifer Purdie

More in Business