How to Select an Effective Keyword Phrase for a Marketing Campaign

Integrating search, especially search engine marketing, with offline media has become an increasingly popular topic. Nearly every print ad in newspapers and magazines, as well as subway and outdoor billboards, shows a ‘search box’ that includes a keyword phrase.

This technique is not new to Asia Pacific. Japanese, Korean, and even mainland Chinese advertisers have been putting a search box with a keyword phrase in offline advertising materials for several years. It now seems to be a must-do. It is a statement to show that you have thought about search and have integrated it with your overall media strategies.

As an industry practitioner, I have come across many instances at conferences and prospective client meetings that advertisers are wondering why they are not seeing conversion figures they would like, even if they have a specific search box keyword phrase in all offline advertising materials. Because of it, they face challenges internally to allocate more money to search and include a search box in future advertising campaigns.

Putting a search box in offline advertising materials is not a magic bullet to drive people to search for your site using the target keyword phrase. Before you decide to do so, you must consider how your search plan is integrated into the overall media plan, your choice of keyword phrase, as well as the prominence of your search box in your creative.

In part one of this series of articles, let’s focus on selecting search box keyword phrase.

Picking the Right Keyword Phrase

Back in the days when I was working in ad research projects, some of the key questions asked were around aided and unaided ad recall and brand recall. Depending on the creative design and media channel, respondents usually come up with numerous phrases to describe what they see and remember from each ad. Market researchers will group similar open-ended answers together before reporting back to their clients. This also holds true for brand recall. For some ads, it is not surprising that more than half of the respondents cannot recall the brand being advertised.

What does this mean? Your target audience will only see your ad for less than a minute. You need to select a keyword phrase that is easy to recall when they get on their computers and perform search later. This is especially true if you do not have a media budget that can dominate a particular media channel that your audience will be exposed to your ad repeatedly.

Before you select a keyword to put in the search box on your offline ad, you should consider the following:

1. What is the search volume of my search box keyword phrase prior to an ad campaign?
If the search volume is non-existent or minimal, you need to check whether your media placement is strong enough to create “ad dominance” with repeated exposures. You should not expect an increase in search for your search box keyword if you are only running a few offline ads here and there. Search is only a demand capture channel unless you run search extensively as both a branding and demand capture tool, like what most online travel agents such as Zuji or AsiaRooms do.

2. What is the length of your search box keyword phrase?
Most people search with two to three keyword phrases without any prompt. Think twice if your keyword phrase has more than two to three keyword phrases. One way to generate idea for search box keyword phrase is to run a small-scale ad test before launch. Ask your friends or colleagues who are not working on the campaign to give you some keyword phrases after viewing the offline ads. Do not create a search box keyword phrase if no one from your sample can easily recall or associate it with your ad.

3. How easy is it for people to remember the keyword phrase?
A keyword phrase for a search box should be easy to remember and easy to type in. If your keyword phrase contains symbols, special spacing, acronyms, industry jargons, or is difficult to enter using various Chinese input methods (if your selected phrase is in Chinese), you should reconsider it. Ideally, the keyword phrase should be short, concise, and highly relevant to your creative. I have seen ads that the search box contains the entire website address. Putting your entire website address in a search box will not make it easier for people to remember than the traditional method of printing the URL in the ad.
An example will be a combination of your brand name (if your brand is well known) and a generic term such as “Sony 3D”, “Samsung TV” etc. You also need to structure your search campaign properly to ensure you have enough budget to have the search box keyword phrase on 24/7 during the campaign. However, there is no single answer to search box keyword phrase selection, it should be chosen and selected carefully for each campaign.

Creative Design

Putting a search box on an offline ad is not true integration and does not mean that it will help attract website traffic and drive conversions. Selection of search box keyword phrase plays a vital role in its success. In addition, similar to any other creative elements of an offline ad, the placement of a search box affects search performance greatly. If your search box is not in a prominent position in your ad, chances are your keyword phrase won’t be noticed and recalled.

In Asia Pacific, many advertises tend to include a lot of factual and promotions details of their products in a single ad space, making it hard for any particular information to stand out. Lately, I have seen a lot of advertisers add a tiny search box at the bottom of its ads, which ends up driving only an insignificant increase in search for the target keyword phrase.

In short, integrating search with your offline ads and media plan is not as easy as it seems. It requires some research, planning, and discussions with creative designers to get the most out of it.
In the next column, I will talk about how to properly integrate search into your overall media plan and a proper campaign structure that goes with it.

This column was originally published on Oct. 11, 2010 on ClickZ.Asia.

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