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Search Shouldn’t Live in a Vacuum: How to Align It With Other Channels

  |  February 10, 2014   |  Comments

Here is a list of easy-to-implement opportunities to connect strategies from other channels to search marketing initiatives, and vice versa.

Regardless of vertical or brand, the path to purchase is complex. Your target audience doesn't see channels - they perceive your brand across the entire digital and offline spectrum as a continuous experience. In order to get the most out of each point of interaction, it's vital to ensure learnings and strategies from one channel are brought into others, and search is a fantastic place to start.

Search is the first point of convergence between brand perception and action. It's a user-initiated opportunity to reinforce messaging from other channels, yet search marketers all too often operate in a vacuum, focused on optimizing this channel but without information on what initiatives are happening in other channels. Below is a list of easy-to-implement opportunities to connect strategies from other channels to search marketing initiatives, and vice versa.

Paid Search + Natural Search
Hopefully you're already taking advantage of the opportunities to align paid and natural search. If not, this is a great place to begin.

As just one example, you should use paid search as your testing platform for ad copy. See which messages drive the highest user response in paid search, and then use that information to fuel your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. SEO meta descriptions have a much longer turnaround time to manage and measure, and the near-real-time testing opportunities in paid search can help you iterate more quickly and get more out of each code push on your site.

You should also take a careful look at your brand language philosophy through the lens of search, using paid search results to identify opportunity and drive action. Some brands sacrifice clarity for the sake of differentiation, which leads to huge missed opportunities. For example, several years ago I worked on a campaign for a major shoe retailer. We did an SEO audit and discovered that the word "shoe" was nowhere to be found on the entire site. When we asked the client why, they responded that they did not sell "shoes," they sold "footwear," and all of their site assets reflected that strategic brand identity. Luckily we were able to show them the huge paid search volume and revenue from the keywords "shoe" as opposed to the tiny search volume for "footwear" and give them a clear, tangible example of the opportunity in a format that spurred a change in SEO strategy - one that had massive impact. This is definitely a balancing act, but if you don't listen to how your audience searches you're missing out on a major opportunity to connect with customers.

Search + Display
Aligning messaging across channels helps reinforce the brand image you're trying to present.

Make sure your paid search team sees all banners you run so they can craft ad copy to complement the messaging. If you're using a specific tagline, try buying that tagline as a keyword in search - several studies have shown that almost as many people perform a search after seeing a banner as click on the banner itself.

Search is also a great source to fuel display remarketing. Non-brand keywords and new SEO rankings bring first-time visitors to the site, and display remarketing allows you to follow up and continue the conversation. Yet all too often, budgets for these two initiatives aren't aligned. Make sure your display remarketing plan takes into account paid search non-brand pushes and site optimizations so you don't miss opportunity when an influx of new users are added to your remarketing cookie pool.

Search + PLAs
The obvious first opportunity between these two channels is to use results from ad testing in paid search to inform product listing ad (PLA) promotional text. While you should test different types of promotional text in PLAs, begin by drawing upon past results in paid search in order to drive results more quickly.

You should also look at query overlap between PLAs and paid search. Pull an AdWords search query report for each and compare the queries, noting the instances of overlap. Then review performance for these overlapping segments and use this data to inform your strategy. While you could reduce bids and reduce overlap, often it's better to keep the real-estate of both listings on the search engine results page (SERP) and adjust the paid search ad copy to provide a different call to action in order to capture a wider number of searchers.

PLA results also provide great paid search sitelink suggestions. See which products are the top traffic drivers and top sellers in PLA, and then create sitelinks for these products in your paid search campaign. Refresh this list often to ensure you're always surfacing what's hot in your sitelinks.

Search + Offline
For many years this was a huge missed opportunity. If your online and offline team aren't yet sharing plans, make this a priority for 2014. Align ad copy and keywords around offline marketing initiatives, and make sure you align budgets as well - a major TV push results in increased search volume, and if you're not prepared to take advantage of the influx of searchers that's a huge missed opportunity!

Search is both the catalyst of the consumer-initiated conversation and the conduit of consumer intent. Across the entire brand experience, search is the tool that helps consumers close the gap between intent and transaction. The more closely aligned your search strategy is with all other channels, the better results you'll realize from all of your marketing efforts.

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Jeremy Hull

A recognized leader in the digital marketing space, Jeremy Hull keeps iProspect's bought media teams on the forefront of new technology and industry developments.

A passionate champion for digital advertisers, he strategically gains clients placement in many alpha and beta tests with search, display media, and tracking partners. The search engines rely on Hull's insightful analysis and feedback to improve developments like Google's Enhanced Campaigns and Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA). Hull provides paid search strategy for all iProspect teams in the United States, and also collaborates with iProspect offices around the globe. A regular speaker at tradeshows such as SES, SMX, and Advertising Week, he has also written articles for Search Engine Watch, ClickZ, Wired Innovation Insights, MediaPost, SES Magazine, the annual Internet Retailer Search Marketing Guide, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal. In 2013 Hull was inducted into the ClickZ Digital Marketing Hall of Fame.

Over the past nine years, Hull has provided campaign analysis and strategic direction to iProspect clients including General Motors, adidas, Neiman Marcus, The Gap, Hilton Worldwide, Cole Haan, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Timberland, and many other leading brands. He was instrumental in taking Nike's successful domestic online marketing campaigns international with Nike EMEA. One would be hard-pressed to find an iProspect client that Hull has not worked with.

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