As evidence mounts that offline ads and other information sources contribute significantly to search clicks and conversions, some agencies and advertisers are changing how they use both search and the other channels that lead people to it.
A study by Jupiter Research and search marketing agency iProspect, announced at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose this week, found two-thirds of search users are led to query a given keyword as a result of offline marketing. A separate study, also released at SES San Jose by The Atlas Institute and titled "Paying for Navigation: The Impact of Navigational Behavior on Paid Search," called into question the importance of branded search terms in the conversion process.
"We found that 71 percent of paid search clicks were going to either repeated visits or branded search terms or both. People already knew about the advertiser and had already been to the advertiser's Web site," said Nico Brooks, director of search strategy for Atlas. "That's not good or bad, but those are very different visitors from the 29 percent who are coming for the first time and are arriving at an advertiser's Web site through a non-branded search term."
Based on these and earlier findings, search agencies and their clients are giving more thought to the interplay of search with other media when planning their campaigns.
"[Consumers] may remember your product name, what it does, the solution that the product solves for," said Kevin Lee, executive chairman for search marketing firm Did-it and aClickZ columnist, who added search behavior can also be stimulated by PR or other marketing initiatives. "So you have to be ready in search whenever you do any kind of marketing. Otherwise you waste... your online marketing dollar."
For instance, as consumers are unlikely to type a complex URL into a Web browser immediately after seeing or hearing an offline ad, advertisers are purchasing other keywords in conjunction with their branded terms.
"We remind our clients that if someone hears a radio ad, it's unlikely they're going to reach over to a computer in the front seat to type in a URL," said Arnold Sandoval from advertising agency Intermedia Interactive. "They're going to get back home or to the office and then search on what they remember."
Purchasing keywords intrinsic to a certain campaign can help strengthen marketing activities in other channels, said Eduardo Llach, CRO, CMO and co-founder of SearchRev, a search engine marketing company recently purchased by AKQA.
"MyCokeRewards.com is too long, so you go into the search line and type in... 'Coke' and 'Rewards,' and bing," he said of SearchRev's campaign for Coca-Cola. By buying those keywords and linking them to the campaign landing page, he said SearchRev was able to improve the results of the TV ads, the movie ads and the banners. "[With search], we were not generating new customers. We were capturing them."
Another question raised by the research is whether marketers generally over-credit the search click given the various other brand encounters that lead up to it. Yet there was less evidence on display at SES that search marketers have sought to cast a wider net in attributing credit for a sale.
"Did this person see a print ad, a television ad, some other ad media online? We can assume that in many situations the answer is yes," said Atlas' Brooks. "One of the things that we're recommending is that people start to invest more time and energy into what happens before that last click [and] start attributing more value to other ad interactions that precede the last click."
Brooks recommends testing the importance of branded keywords by temporarily suspending bidding and assessing the results, similar to eBay's 10-day moratorium on Google keyword buys, which is referenced in the report.
"You can't really know the value you are getting from that advertisement without removing it and seeing what happens," said Brooks.
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