Search & Email Marketing Part 2: Dynamic Email

Reprinted with permission from the blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

In my previous post I described a method for using information gathered from your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns to target follow-up email marketing sent to the leads captured. The basic idea is that the keyword the visitor searched on, the ad they clicked, and the PPC campaign and ad group with which the keyword and ad are associated all tell you something about the visitors’ interests.

The key is to structure your PPC campaigns clearly according to key concepts, and to pass all that data from the search ad to the landing page, and from there to your email marketing application.

In Part 1 I focused on how to set up the PPC campaign data to be captured and used for list segmentation, and just mentioned briefly how that data could be leveraged in your email marketing campaigns. In Part 2, I’ll expand on the payoff – sending targeted, dynamic email.

Start with Email List Segmentation

As mentioned in the previous article, you’ll want to start by creating segmented email lists based on campaign and/or ad group data passed from the search ad. Using our Top Five Flicks Web site as an example, you could set up the PPC campaign to represent movie genres and then create segmented email lists based on those genres. You could go even further and make separate lists for ad groups, but you may get into a diminishing return on investment. The level of granularity you go to in refining your email list segments will depend on your business. But rest assured that you can get as targeted as you like using this method.

With your segmented email lists in place, you can now proceed to send targeted email marketing using any of the four following methods:

1) Customize your email template design, offers, content, or other elements based on the segment.

You may want to customize your email message to match the segment, which you could do in a variety of ways. For example, the email template sent to the “action movie” segment may feature an image of a popular action/adventure movie and other exciting visual elements, references to action/adventure movies in the content, or even a special offer specifically on action movies. Meanwhile, the message sent to the “romance” segment has a picture of a popular romantic comedy with a softer background image and the special offer referring specifically to romance movies.

2) Incorporate the PPC campaign or ad group into the body of the email.


You could also take it a step further and dynamically insert words into the email body content based on the PPC campaign and ad group data. For example, your headline could read:

“Is {actor} the greatest {genre} star of all time?”

In this case {actor} is populated by the ad group while {genre} is populated by the PPC campaign. Of course, if you do this you’ll need to take care to format the campaign and ad group names passed in your URL parameters to ensure that it sounds literate. For example, it would sound a little funny if it read: “Is Sandra Bullock the greatest romantic star of all time?”

Also, you’ll need to pay attention to capitalization as well. If you want a PPC campaign or ad group to appear as “CamelCase“, you’ll need to set it up that way in the destination URL.

3) Incorporate the search keyword or other data into the email.


If you’re even more ambitious, you can include the search keyword in the body of the email. This technique requires more care still, because while you define relatively few PPC campaigns and ad groups, there are typically hundreds, thousands or more search keywords used in a single account. It becomes much more difficult to work this wide range of words and phrases into your message coherently. Probably the best technique here is to just use the search term in the subject line, like so:

“Looking for {KeyWord}? You’ll Find It At Top 5 Flicks”

This subject line will make sense under almost any circumstances. Notice that this line uses camel case. Google and other search engines allow you to control the case of parameters you pass in the URL as follows:

Case type
URL Variable
action movies starring russell crowe
Action Movies Starring Russell Crowe

Since camel case is a standard format for email subject lines you can usually get your capitalization right for proper names.

4) Incorporate the visitor’s original search query into the email.


The final method is the trickiest one, but is possibly the most targeted. First, this one requires a different method of acquiring the data. The original search query (OSQ), that is, the words the visitor actually typed into the search form (which may be different than the keywords on which you bid) can’t be passed in the destination URL, so you’ll need to have your Web developer acquire the OSQ via the scripting language on your Web site. Once acquired, you must be very careful about how you incorporate this set of words into the message because it is very common for people to enter text that sound very inarticulate. Your best bet is to include something like this:

“A while ago you visited our Web site after searching for “{original_search_query}”. Did you find what you’re looking for? If not, you might want to try….”

This way, if they typed some nonsensical string into the search form they’ll realize it was them and not you who sound illiterate.

Of course, this method also has a kind of “big brother” feel to it, so use your judgment about whether it works for your audience or not.

So there you have four ways to customize email messages based on a first-time PPC visitor’s specific interests. In the final part of this series, we’ll cover how to close the loop between search and email marketing.