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For Paid Search, Feedback is Essential

BOSTON -- Companies running paid listing campaigns must employ return-on-investment analysis software if they hope to improve rankings and results, experts at the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo said this morning.

"Make sure you do it, either on your own, or buying a service, or hiring a specialist," Lance Loveday, president of Closed Loop Marketing, said in his morning presentation. "Until you do that you are going on gut feeling and it's hard to defend that."

A number of vendors are rolling out applications to give paid search participants feedback, Loveday said. Before selecting a product, potential buyers must be sure they can measure the metrics that matter most, be it cost-per-sale or cost-per-lead.

Other practical considerations include whether an ROI tool is Web-based or installed. The drawback of the latter is that it robs bandwidth.

Jessie Stricchiola, founder of AlchemistMedia.com, agrees that having control of your own data is essential.

"Overture and Google will give you reports, and generally they are good," Stricchiola said. "When you have your own data you can track your own clicks, fraud and conversion."

For tracking clicks only, Stricchiola said two offerings, The Webalizer and Urchin, are relatively inexpensive and effective.

But if the conversions being measured are sales transactions, it might make more sense to hire a programmer on a consultant basis to develop an in-house system using PHP or another scripting language.

In addition to click tracking, another useful tool is bid management applications, especially if a user is running several campaigns on several search engines. In addition to saving time by providing a single long-on and interface, the presentation allows for side-by-side comparisons. BidRank and GoToast are among the vendors in bid management.

They can also automate bid placement and position maintentance. For example, rules can be set for maximum bid allowed and preferred ranking postion. Bidding adjustments can also be made for higher demand times such as during lunch and after work or to keep ahead of competitors.

Most software available gives users a view of the top 10 bids, which can also help keep track of competitve issues. There are several vendors currently offerings these tools, including GoToast

Editor's note: Search Engine Strategies runs through March 6 and is produced by Jupitermedia.com, the parent of this Web site. For more information, please see the above link.