Digital marketing requires immediate, specific knowledge of consumers' habits and expectations. Forrester Research estimates that over 80 percent of these consumers' online journeys begin with search. They ignore ads and do their own online research when they need information, to the tune of some 8 billion searches per month. When people search, they express their interests and their needs at that moment. Search, then, can and should impact all aspects and phases of marketing. In other words, search is much more than just an opportunity for marketers to push out another message, albeit targeted and timely.
Search as Research
If you research keywords, you may find that "notebook computer" is used more often than "laptop computer." It would make sense, then, to focus media buys on "notebook computer." Further, if the content on your site contains "laptop computer," it's unlikely to appear near the top of the more frequent searches on "notebook computer." Site content, then, should also be optimized to contain the more frequently searched terms. These keywords can also be infused into the ad copy of banner ads and text ads.Search queries that include phrases, rather than single words, can be mined to learn what questions customers have that may pose hurdles to making a purchase. In a recent case, search queries involving a client included: how to change motor oil; where to change motor oil; what is motor oil made of. If visitors cannot get answers to questions, they are less likely to buy. If marketers are aware of these customer questions, they'd know what content to create and could tip Web site visitors further down the purchase funnel.
Search Informs Campaigns and Campaign Process
When different parts of a marketing campaign aren't in synch, you incur inefficiencies and extra costs. For example, if a site already appears first or very high in natural search results, it would be redundant to pay for an ad next to it. Consider natural and paid search holistically, as opposed to separately. You'll reduce inefficiencies and costs.
Search analysis can also identify redundant and competitive bidding on the same keyword, which drives up the cost for all parties, especially partner companies. For example, if a motor oil manufacturer and a chain of oil-change stories bid on the term "motor oil," they will end up paying more because the ad networks are based on a free-market auction model. However, if the marketers considered an ecosystem approach, in which the manufacturer bids on terms like "what is motor oil" and the retail chain bids on terms like "where to change motor oil," redundancies will be eliminated and costs will be lowered for both partners.
Finally, because search engines must crawl Web sites to index its contents, marketers can impact Web page design and coding by specifying, for example, that Flash should be used sparingly. Search engine spiders can't read content within a Flash object, so a Flash-heavy site won't be properly indexed. The result? The site has no chance of appearing in natural search results. Text content should remain text, not be made into a graphic or embedded in Flash, so it comes up as a pertinent result when a customer does a search.
Search Impacts Organizational Structure
Search has historically been a bolt-on capability for clients and their agencies. As such, it usually isn't well integrated with other disciplines, such as Web site analytics, content development, and Web site design. This is potentially a costly problem. For example, search analytics may report that a particular campaign had a large number of visitors to the site, implying the campaign was successful. However, Web site analytics might show that almost every visitor from that campaign "bounced," or left the page immediately after arriving. This implies failure rather than success.
To properly judge whether a campaign is successful requires both search analytics and Web site analytics to tell a complete, accurate picture. If two groups or agencies handle these disciplines, consider putting them together organizationally for greater efficiency and accuracy in interpreting campaign results.
Search can impact all stages of a marketing campaign. As a result:
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Dr. Augustine Fou is the senior digital strategy advisor to CMOs, marketing executives, and global brands. Dr. Fou has over 15 years of Internet strategy consulting experience and is an expert in social media marketing strategy, data/analytics, and consumer insights, with specific knowledge in the consumer packaged goods, financial services/credit cards, food/beverage, retail/apparel, and pharmaceutical/healthcare sectors.
He is a frequent panelist, moderator, and keynote speaker at industry conferences. Dr. Fou is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU in the School for Continuing and Professional Studies and at Rutgers University at the Center for Management Development, where he teaches executive courses on digital strategy and integrated marketing.
Dr. Fou completed his PhD at MIT at the age of 23. He started his career with McKinsey & Company and previously served as SVP, digital strategy lead, McCann/MRM Worldwide and group chief digital officer of Omnicom's Healthcare Consultancy Group (HCG). He writes a blog "Rants, Raves about Digital Marketing" and can be found on Twitter at @acfou.
March 19, 2014