Brand marketers must look at search and other online media in new ways, based on how consumers have changed media consumption behavior. Traditional media metrics don't always fit a brand marketing strategy for search. Given some recent data from Nielsen//NetRatings, traditional media metrics may be losing their applicability across all media. Brand marketers are used to metrics that reflect not only campaign objectives but also the way media are sold. Both evolved hand in hand.
The Internet and search engine new-user tide has virtually dried up in the U.S., according to a Nielsen report, which states the unique visitor growth rate is nearing zero. Yet the number of pages viewed per person is growing rapidly in certain verticals, indicating a shift in online media consumption. Clearly, as the percentage of time spent online grows and the percentage of time spent with other media drops, traditional marketers will follow direct marketers online (including to search marketing).
Which metric is right for search, once a marketer extends a campaign beyond obvious keywords that relate to the brand?
Let's take a look back before discussing how brand marketers should approach search.
When sellers understood the way marketers wanted to buy advertising, they bucketed media together to make it look good to media buyers. Other than direct marketing, media targeting levels were usually lifestyle psycho- or demographic, not microtargeting media models. All buyers knew there would be some waste in a media plan (people who saw the ad but weren't in the target audience). If the price was cheap enough, waste was OK. The CPM (define) against a given target audience could still be in range and all other impressions were "free" (this is why I must endure TV ads for denture cream and cars).
Online advertising initially positioned itself as media sold the same way as offline media: demographically, psychographically, even contextually. Marketers were offered a better way to buy media, targeted by site or network in a very similar, familiar method as they did for TV, radio, or print.
One reason brand marketers have been slow to move into search marketing is their unfamiliarity with the primary methods of targeting: keywords. Moreover, keywords such as brand names and searches associated with a brand marketer's specific product category are in short supply.
Brand marketers should consider search part of their integrated media plans now. Off- and online media purchases drive brand awareness and even drive search behavior on core keywords. But the true value to keyword advertisers may come from promotion tie-ins and product placement sponsorships. The soap opera era is returning.
American Idol is a top-10 search term week after week during the season (along with the contestants' names); NASCAR and its drivers also are heavily searched. Tiger Woods and other celebrity spokespersons are top search terms. Look no further than Carl's Jr. Hamburgers and Paris Hilton to see where search plays into an integrated marketing plan.
The key is the search ad isn't the complete ad message. It's only the beginning of the ad experience, even if the ad isn't clicked. When the ad is clicked, the experience continues at the marketer's site. If you're a brand or integrated marketer building media models that measure the true value of advertising and even predict the success of ads used in conjunction, consider measures of brand engagement. Audiences and consumers often regard advertising as content, your content.
This holistic view takes the idea of media beyond ad delivery to ad and branding message consumption. Consumption of marketing messages over time is more likely to generate emotional response. As marketers, that's what we want. When messages are restimulated in a retain environment or any environment correlated with the purchase event, we want emotional triggers in place that cause consumers to favor our brand. The whole idea of branding is you communicated to customers your brand is a better fit.
Even direct marketers can learn how to apply holistic media models to their campaigns and look beyond immediate conversion to a more realistic picture. Consumers build purchase preferences over time for many products and services, not merely at the last search touch point before purchase.
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Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.
Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.