If you have ever taken a marketing course, you have probably learned (and maybe forgotten) this acronym: AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action. If you are heavily focused on direct response efforts like search engine marketing, AIDA may not seem directly relevant to your job where your goal is to drive action. Furthermore, having been around for more than 100 years, AIDA may seem archaic. But this week for Throwback Thursday, we ask you to reconsider making friends with AIDA with these 5 new SEM creative insights, a marketing framework for understanding the customer journey.


1. Awareness = Non-Branded Impression Volume.

Every SEM program has at least a handful of high impression-generating ad groups that sustain a very low CTR and conversion volume. We might consider these ad groups to be failures. However, especially on highly competitive queries, there is much value simply in ranking above the fold of the SERP. Doing so puts your brand name in front of customers at a time when they are actively seeking out your products, helping you to build brand awareness in a context that other channels simply cannot do.

Develop SEM ad creative that drives brand Awareness. At this stage, creative must grab the customers attention and engage them emotionally. Since customers don’t yet know or care about your brand (sorry, we know that’s harsh), the ad copy should sell the brand over the product. Customers simply aren’t yet paying enough attention to read about product features. This is especially important in high impression, low CTR ad groups. For example, instead of saying “Baby clothes in hundreds of colors,” you may want to say, “Clothing to keep your baby comfortable and warm this winter.”

Measure brand Awareness impact from SEM by non-branded SEM impression volume.


2. Interest = Non-Branded CTR.

If users are clicking on non-branded ads, they are interested in your brand, but not actively seeking out or “desiring” your brand. The interest may have been generated from outside the search results page. Nevertheless, this information is still relevant to how we develop SEM ad creative.

Develop SEM ad creative that drives product Interest. At the point where customers are clicking on non-branded ads but not converting, they are probably still shopping around with competitors. Thus, your non-branded ad creative should emphasize your competitive differentiation and sell the product over the brand. You cannot segment searchers by Awareness verses Interest until after they have either clicked or not. So it’s best to include one ad creative geared towards building brand Awareness and one towards generating product Interest.

Measure Interest by the non-branded CTR. It a good proxy for segmenting customers between the Awareness and Interest stages.


3. Desire = Branded Search Volume & CTR.

Branded search volume and CTR provide a strong directional sense of consumer desire for your brand. At this stage, customers are actively seeking you out. The desire may or may not have been generated from search marketing. But regardless of where or why a customer reached the Desire stage, your ad creative should push customers from Desire to Action.

Develop ad creative that drives customers from Desire to Action. Marketers often quote Leo McGinneva’s famous quote, “People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” This is applicable to the Desire stage. Searchers already want your brand and product, they likely are already familiar with product features and benefits. They just need a little reassurance that, their underlying problem driving the purchase decision will be solved.

Measure Desire by brand search volume and CTR.


4. Action = Conversion Rate.

As direct response marketers, conversions and revenue are the only metrics that matter. But to fuel our conversion pipelines and ultimately improve our conversion rate of those who see our ads to those who convert, we need to be aware of and message to all stages of the customer journey in the appropriate context. AIDA is a good model for this.

Use creative that closes the deal, driving Action. Write branded ad copy and drive branded clicks to landing page copy that closes the deal. At this stage, it is appropriate to overcome hesitations with offers of free returns, provide deal sweeteners such as free expedited shipping, develop a sense of urgency with temporary discounts, and of course to ask for the sale with a strong call-to-action. Too often, marketers write deal-closing copy in SEM ads regardless of the context or customer phase within the AIDA process. Use action copy when appropriate at the action stage, but don’t overuse it.

Measure Action using your conversion rate or the KPI that matters to your brand.


5. Putting it altogether = AIDA for the modern SEM marketer.

Most of the time, it’s not effective to use deal-closing messaging for customers who have never heard of you. Similarly, overloading customers with feature-focused copy may cause confusion when presented after the customer has already made up their mind to make a purchase. Now, more than ever, it is important to befriend AIDA as your guide to creative messaging throughout the customer journey, even on the SERP.