How to optimise your Search campaigns, with a little Belgian help

Niels McEvoy / January 2020

No matter how busy you are as an organisation, there's always time to consider how you can apply insights learned from one seasonal moment to your next campaign. This is particularly true when it comes to Search campaigns, an ever-changing part of the digital marketing landscape.

“There are more long-tail keywords appearing, that’s certain,” says Melissa Locus, Operations Lead with GroupM, Belgium. “Especially with voice search becoming more and more prominent.”

Long-tail keywords, such as ‘what are the best products for sensitive skin?’ (as opposed to terms that are specific to the core business), reveal how customers are searching for the products they need when they are close to the point of purchase.

But how has working with major brands in the cosmetics vertical, as well as tackling both global and local campaigns, helped Locus adopt key learnings like these over the past two years? And how has it changed the way she approaches seasonal campaigns?

Partners are often competitors

”One of the divisions we took over includes a number of different brands who sell a range of beauty products—everything you can buy in a pharmacy,” says Locus.

“These brands are Search Engine Advertising (SEA) focused, so the big question for us was how can we manage this competition? Because even though you're directing your clients towards a pharmacy online to buy your products, in the eyes of a search engine you are competitors because all of them want to appear on the results page.”

Locus admits this was a big challenge for her and her team at GroupM. ”In traditional SEA campaigns you have your branded keywords and branded campaigns, and all of your generic keywords split up per category or subcategory.”

So how did Locus and her team approach this issue? “We established an audience framework, where we excluded certain searchers from our campaigns in order to reach new users, and thus widen the net for e-retailers.

How to optimise your Search campaigns, with a little Belgian help

“We’ve noticed an increase in click-through rate (CTR) on almost all of the ad groups on which we applied the exclusion – in some cases, the CTR has doubled. In instances like this, sometimes you need to completely rethink your strategy.”

And asking clients to rethink their strategy is something Locus is quite familiar with, albeit in a very different vertical. “Take Batibouw,” says Locus. “It’s an annual construction fair in Brussels where, when it comes to Search, clients will say ‘just buy all the Batibouw-related keywords.’

“But people who type 'Batibouw' into Google aren't necessarily interested in your brand; they may just want to know when it will take place, the opening hours, or where to buy tickets. So it's important to understand the nature and intent of your audience and adapt your strategy to suit.”

Why it’s sometimes better to step away from branded keywords

It’s well known that keywords are essential to showing up when it matters most. But with the sheer volume of competitors, sometimes it’s not as straightforward as bidding on words related to a given season or holiday, or even on branded keywords.

Whether it’s Christmas or Valentine’s Day, as Locus explains, “if you're in a contest with a lot of e-retailers, and if you don't have your e-commerce set up well, it's better to step away from the branded keywords and go big on generic ones”

Locus admits that using generic terms won’t always be possible, or even the solution; it’s simply about determining whether or not your client’s online presence is strong enough to compete with their rivals, and if not, deciding on the best alternative.

How customers search and where to direct them

As Locus outlined, the nature of search terms is changing. This necessitates a different approach to keywords. “Sometimes it's easier to talk to your device instead of typing on Google, and what you say versus what you type can be very different, and very valuable. Because of this, we're completely rethinking the SEA strategy on campaigns.”

And even if your approach to keywords is effective, understanding where to direct consumers is vital. Locus continues: “What we’ve learned from recent campaigns, is that if the consumer is in a certain funnel, and if they already know a specific name of a product, then you run through the first phase of awareness. So you have to ask yourself if it's important to direct consumers towards a product website, or if it is more important to direct them towards an e-retailer, where they can actually buy the product.”

Picking your battles

Locus maintains that understanding when to pick your battles can be incredibly valuable for agencies, regardless of campaign. It’s a lesson that working with various cosmetics divisions has taught her.

“Sometimes we tend to forget that the partners are also competitors on the Google Search result page. And knowing who your competitors are and what you want to bid against is really important for any seasonal moment. It can basically lead to a loss of budget that you could have invested differently or more wisely. “Not picking your battles correctly — that's a big mistake.”


  • How people are searching is changing — optimise your campaigns for long-tail keywords
  • Sometimes it’s better to move away from branded keywords — there’s a time to be generic
  • Choosing your battles is vital — know who your competitors are and when to bid against them
How one of the world’s biggest marketers ripped up its playbook and learned to anticipate intent