If you're not factoring in SEM's ability to generate awareness and influence eventual purchase behavior, your chances of gaining access to branding budgets is slim.
Admit it. You are a slave to your SEM direct response metrics, even when you use attribution models or assign an "assist" value within search - or across search and other digital media. However, an exclusive focus on direct response metrics may cause you to miss out on opportunities to invest in your business for the long term. As a savvy search engine marketer, you likely deserve access to branding budgets - not just direct response money. But if you're not factoring in SEM's ability to generate awareness and influence eventual purchase behavior, your chances of gaining access to these budgets is slim.
Most advertising dollars outside of search engine advertising are used to generate awareness and change brand preference at the product, retailer, or service provider level. Many folks call the metrics used to drive awareness and preference "branding metrics." In the old-school way of thinking about the buying funnel we have:
Google Analytics even has a "Goal Funnel Visualization" tool that assists you in understanding the portions of behavior that occur on your site. However, we know that lots of touch points the consumer has with your company and brand occur outside of your site, including the web, social media, the regular press, the online press/blogosphere, retail stores, the SERP, and any other place where your brand could be mentioned.
Clearly, the old-school marketing funnel has evolved over time. Recent changes have included the addition of feedback loops to illustrate any repeat purchase behavior that might occur at the brand, retailer, or service provider level. For example, McKinsey published a report titled, "The consumer decision journey," in which the company used an illustration of the consumer decision-making process as a "circular journey with four phases." The reality is that when one thinks about search engine marketing, online marketing, and marketing more broadly, one can still use the existing funnel but add the concepts of trigger events and the concepts of influencers. Sometimes the two can be one and the same. Triggers are critical because they are the catalyst that gets consumers off their butts and into buying mode.
The explosion of social media that has made more visible the phenomenon of influencers is causing a wave of research, testing, and strategy around the value and role of influencers in the purchase decision process. Searchers don't search in a vacuum: something triggers that search and that's why the search behavior lines up really well with the trigger event used in the newfangled marketing funnels and marketing ovals.
To succeed long term in search, it's helpful to not only use the new way of thinking about the purchase decision process and a more advanced funnel paradigm, but also to add success metrics to our SEM campaigns that reflect the reality of how consumers buy and make purchase decisions.
Even for the best performing sites, the vast majority of visitors don't convert using your sales or lead-gen metrics and KPIs. This means you need to serve the needs of the early stage researcher and visitor. Since you've set yourself up to do that, it makes perfect sense to allocate some branding dollars to the SEM campaigns.
Consider these four metrics:
If you are only managing search to direct response metrics but have long-term P&L responsibility - and even if you don't - perhaps it's time to help your customers move down the funnel, regardless of what shape it is.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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.
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