Search in the New Economy

  |  October 12, 2009   |  Comments

The economic downturn has changed consumer behavior and search marketing. Here's how.

Today's lean economy is changing the way we do business, the way we shop, and the way we live our lives. So it is not surprising that the economy is also changing the way we search -- and in turn, how search engines present us with information.

There have been some recent developments in the search space that very likely correlate with the collective shift in the consumer mindset towards savvy spending and saving money. Let's explore a few of those and discuss how they could and should impact your online marketing strategies.

Consumers: Seeking Out Value, Coupons

There has been an up swell in "value" type searches and an online coupon usage.

In fact, the Ask.com Blog reports in this post that the number of queries for value-related terms (such as savings, coupons, etc.) has risen by close to 50 percent. The blog also points out comScore's findings that nearly 60 percent of consumers now cite they are using coupons more often to reduce their shopping expenses. More than half get coupons from online services."

Opportunity for marketers: No matter what you're selling, ensure that your campaign includes value-oriented terms and messaging. Imagine someone searches for your brand name plus the term "buy now" -- you'd want to have a presence. Well those who are searching for value-based terms with your brand are of the same mindset -- they are ready to buy, provided they can find a deal. Try any and every combination of your brand and value keywords (e.g. free trial, coupon, voucher, discount, savings). Bottom line: when consumers search for your brand using these value-oriented terms, you must have a presence.

Price Comparison Sites: Targeting Niches

The use of and proliferation of product and price comparison engines has increased.

According to TrendWatching.com, the state of the economy is driving more consumers to online shopping comparison sites. Now in addition to the general shopping engines like Shopzilla and PriceGrabber, niche category comparison sites are springing up. Some examples cited included Liftopia, which focuses on ski lift tickets, Medtipster, an RX cost comparison engine, and Lensprice.com, an online contact lens retailer aggregator.

Opportunity for marketers: It's not just about regular search engines anymore. Hunt down sponsored opportunities on price comparison engines to ensure you have a presence. Many of the general and niche shopping engines have advertiser opportunities that go beyond search -- you can leverage your banner ads to appear when someone is searching for your brand, product, or category. For example, Medtipster recognizes the potential revenue opportunity of partnering with drug companies or pharmacies looking to have a presence when a buying decision is being made, and therefore offers advertising opportunities to facilitate this.

Ask: Offers 'Savings' Search Engine

Ask last week unveiled a new search engine, AskDeals, that scans the Internet for the best prices across the largest online retailer and coupon sites, and then presents the best offers within the results page. The one-stop destination for online deals means that consumers no longer have to scour multiple sites for savings.

Opportunity for marketers: It sounds as if Ask will serve up sponsored ads within its AskDeals results pages, however when I visited the AskDeals Web site, I didn't see any obvious "paid" or "sponsored" listings. These will likely be coming in the near future, so stay tuned for opportunities. In addition to paid listings, there will no doubt be lots of discussion in coming months over how to optimize retail and coupon sites for the AskDeals organic algorithm.

Yahoo: Cuts Costs of Paid Search Campaigns

Yahoo is actively lowering costs of paid search campaigns.

Yahoo has been undertaking means to lower the click costs for its paid search product, according to this MediaPost report. Yahoo senior executives have recognized that in this economy "advertisers don't want to pay the same price today for search campaigns that they did last year." They have therefore been working to identify means to reduce paid search costs, apparently lowering average click costs by between 10 to 15 percent, depending on the vertical. Yahoo anticipates this will better align with the value advertisers are seeing from their campaigns, but also recognizes they still have reach limitations when compared to Google. Yahoo is therefore seeking additional means to secure added reach within its network while keeping costs low for advertisers, including a partnership with a third-party ad syndication server.

Opportunity for marketers: With Yahoo's lowering of click costs, advertisers have an opportunity to maximize search budgets that may be tighter than in the past. And while advertisers may have struggled to capture the volume required on Yahoo previously, the network partnership presents an opportunity to cost efficiently expand reach and leverage contextual search placements moving forward. So if you haven't tested Yahoo in a while, now might be as good a time as any.

A Closing Thought...

Although all of these recent developments are a result of the economic downturn, the upside is that there are distinct opportunities for marketers. So, instead of complaining about the cloudy economic outlook, it pays to lookout for potential opportunities you can exploit to help weather the storm.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Batten

Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.

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