Online media strategy can be as easy or as difficult as the planner and buyer choose to make it…but not without consequences. You could do a simple ad network buy, which makes things easy but doesn't come with as much control, transparency, or targeting as the strategy might require. The much-hyped, real-time bidding (RTB) route of online media buying - which is generally for large-scale, audience-profile-driven branded buys and currently predominated by remnant (unsold) ad space - isn't the right fit for all kinds or sizes of advertisers. In the "old school" approach, the fulfillment of the online media strategy gets dictated by the media plan, and to develop that plan you’re still likely to want to conduct some media research. Though there are plenty of media research tools out there, let's now focus on how search can inform the media plan.
Datamine Web Analytics and On-Site Search
If at all possible, get access to the advertiser's Web analytics and any other marketing software tools they have implemented on their site. They are a treasure trove of little information nuggets that can aid in your research. Web analytics can reveal:
If the advertiser's site has a built-in search function, you should also datamine these internal search queries to find out which content visitors seek the most and what keywords they’re using to find it. Use this information as you would the above.
Unless you know clearly where you want to place all your ad dollars, your online media research may begin at the humble search bar. Use the keyword list you've developed from your previous datamining efforts. Mere search engine query results can not only yield concrete ad buying opportunities, but scanning these results can also give us other subtle insights - discussion topics or product reviews on blogs or social sites, pages with links to other relevant sites, content ideas for sponsorships - these all can be revealed through simple searches.
Most SEMers are already familiar with many of the tools Google offers, but don't think of them in terms of online media. Here’s how you can connect the dots:
Crowdsourcing Your Research
Google's own research has revealed that 20 to 25 percent of search queries are unique ones that have never been searched before. This means that search tools like Google's are only as smart as the keywords people are commonly using. But what about those less common and long tail search phrases that might otherwise be considered uncharted territory? New concepts, products, and ideas are likely too "young" for search tools to give you much valuable data about them. Don't despair - you can also datamine crowdsourcing and social networking media to gather media planning insights:
Of course, it's certainly not necessary to go through all of these possibilities every time you want to build a media plan and buy online advertising. Use the other media planning tools at your disposal when you can. Know, too, that if you have an odd type of product to market or tough-to-define audience end user, a little research ingenuity can go a long way to helping you build a rational plan!
This column was originally published in SES Magazine, March 2011.
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
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