Online marketing and advertising are moving in opposite directions. Rich media ads and other graphical animated advertising appear more frequently on sites and in email. Much online image-based advertising is primarily used to communicate branding and educational messages first, then to drive traffic to the advertiser’s site. As average consumer bandwidth increases, so do the use of animated, audio, video, and large-format image ads. Ad agencies and marketing departments are set to communicate branding objectives online as they do offline.
Search engine marketers, on the other hand, use the text links in search results to drive traffic to Web sites. Paid listings, while subject to editorial guidelines, are very controllable. Organic listings provide marketers with partial control. Nearly every search campaign’s primary objective is to drive site traffic. A secondary (often ignored) objective is the text ad’s branding impact.
The destination Web site often contains a wealth of content on dozens, hundreds, even thousands of pages. Searchers are on a mission and in a very impressionable state of mind when they engage in search behavior. What better time to present educational brand messages? Given the limited copy space in a search ad, marketers can’t educate or persuade much in the ad itself. Both brand and direct-response marketers should consider the branding and communication impact of the landing page, as well as the site as a whole.
For each and every paid ad event (the click), a searcher is exposed to at least one page of your site: the landing page. The site becomes an extension of the ad. It’s the element with the most effect on a potential customer. To ignore the site’s value as a brand communications vehicle is to ignore search most powerful aspect for the brand marketer.
Traditional retailers know signage inside and outside the store, as well as displays, are part of a branded shopping experience. Airlines, shipping companies, and fast-food outlets all use heavy branding messages on vehicles and uniforms and within their facilities. Don’t ignore the importance and power of the Web site as part of your ad campaign.
There are several ways a brand marketer can measure search campaign results when the site itself serves a critical ad element. Web and campaign analytics are more than a reporting method; they’re a means to more effectively manage ad campaigns.
Factors to use when measuring campaign success through experiential branding:
- Time on site. The longer a visitor stays on the site after arriving via a search ad, the better you’ve done as a marketer.
- Page views. The greater the number of pages with which the visitor interacts, the greater the likelihood she’s absorbed your marketing message. That’s a lift in branding metrics (awareness, purchase intent, etc.).
- Registrations. Registration means the visitor gives your brand permission to engage in a dialogue. The ongoing conversation provides the opportunity to further build your brand and move the customer closer to purchase.
- Download/view. If your brand has a reputation for highly informative (e.g., movie or political ads) or highly entertaining (e.g., GEICO or Carl’s Jr.) advertising, visitors may actually choose to play your video or audio advertising.
- Configuration or comparison. If your brand stacks up favorably against the competition and you provide a comparison page, it can have significant value. Product configurators are also brand immersive (e.g., automotive, washing machines, computer, appliances, furniture).
- Targeted link to retailers. Many marketers don’t directly sell products, but their sites support retailers by linking to them. If search listings ultimately result in a link to a retailer, that’s enhanced purchase intent. No branding metric is better than purchase intent.
By closing the data loop and adjusting a search campaign based on site-side factors that correlate with branding, you can take the mystery out of search marketing for branding. You can allocate a branding budget efficiently. You’ll pay less attention to ad position and more attention to the post-click part of your ad — your site.
Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.
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