SmartSearch Combines Pre- and Post-Click Marketing

Search marketing firm SmartSearch Marketing today unveiled a new Search Lifecycle Management service for business-to-business customers.

While many SEMs try to wring the last drop of traffic out of their paid search programs, more sophisticated marketers are increasingly turning their attention to what happens once that traffic arrives on a Web site, according to Patricia Hursh, founder and president of SmartSearch Marketing.

“Everybody’s in a hurry to drive traffic to their site, but we’ve noticed that the savvy marketers, especially the B-to-B ones, will come to us with a focus on conversions,” Hursh told ClickZ. “You can tweak a PPC campaign all day trying to drive a bit more traffic, but if you can move your conversion rate by half a percentage point, it will make a huge difference in bottom-line results.”

SmartSearch’s Search Lifecycle Management service attempts to improve conversion rates by improving the post-click experience of visitors that come through paid search links. Site design and usability, improving landing pages, and writing compelling content on those pages are all important elements of search marketing that are too often overlooked, said Dale Hursh, CEO of SmartSearch.

Pre-click campaign management, focusing on finding prospects and driving traffic to a marketer’s Web site, is only half the battle, Hursh said. Once the prospect arrives at the marketer’s site, it’s just as important to drive them toward a conversion, whether that’s making an immediate purchase, filling out a lead form, or downloading a white paper, he said.

Besides that, most marketers are not using their Web analytics applications correctly, or integrating it with their sales management system, he said. “Usually there’s so much data being generated by a Web analytics program, the marketer is overwhelmed and doesn’t use it. We help them analyze and distill the data to key metrics, and turn that data into wisdom.”

As a result of this disconnect, many marketers, especially B-to-B marketers with longer sales cycles or offline sales channels, are optimizing their search campaigns against the wrong metrics, he said.

“The ultimate measurement you want to use is cost-per-sale. You can’t assume that the keywords that are creating the most leads are also creating the most sales. It doesn’t always match up,” Hursh said.

SmartSearch has been advocating this kind of focus on improving conversion rates for years, but often clients were unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes to their site. Push-back from IT or other areas of the business prevented search marketers from benefiting from SmartSearch’s recommendations, Patricia Hursh said.

“We’ve had so many case studies where we’re finding leads, driving prospects — but they had major issues with conversion,” she said. “Either the changes we recommended were not at the top of their lists, or their resources were constrained.”

To prevent that from happening, SmartSearch has taken those responsibilities in-house, and is offering the full service to clients, rather than making recommendations that might not get done. The 15-person company still has experts in pre-click marketing functions, such as PPC bidding, copywriting and positioning. Recently added staff include experts in analytics, landing page optimization, user behavior, and Web design from a marketer’s point of view.

In addition, the company is often building micro-sites, controlled by SmartSearch, as landing pages for paid search campaigns. That way, the bottlenecks of client-side politics are removed, and SmartSearch can ensure that necessary changes are made in a timely manner. Once a client sees the results of these campaigns, it often becomes easier to get buy-in from other departments, and campaigns that follow can be done with a client’s existing site, if resources allow.

Many of the same features have been introduced from the Web analytics side by providers like WebSideStory and Omniture. Patricia Hursh said that one thing SmartSearch’s clients find appealing about their Search Lifecycle Management offering is having one point of contact, one responsible party, and no need to coordinate activities between vendors.

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