Stimulate Your 2009 Strategy With Questions

Unlike traditional media, search marketing campaign planning is an ongoing process. Just because 2009 is well underway doesn’t mean your search marketing planning is complete.

Search marketing plans are living documents. It’s not unusual to revisit tactical and strategic plans weekly. Campaign tactics, and the results of those tactics, influence daily or hourly decisions.

Some of the best strategies evolve from asking yourself questions and evaluating what the competitive ecosystem might look like in the future. If-then scenario planning isn’t often used at the macro-level for campaign planning, even if it’s used more heavily in bid-management algorithms.

One great way to ask yourself questions to assist in planning for a successful 2009 PPC (define) search ad campaign is by taking the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization’s annual “State of the Market” survey, live through January 15. Many of the questions will make you think strategically about budgeting, resource allocation, and your response to changes in the paid and organic SEO (define) ecosystem (emerging from competitors or search engine changes).

If you don’t plan on taking the survey, as a SEMPO board member, I’d be interested in knowing why (other than you’re too busy). You’d get early access to the results, which is valuable given that this year’s survey results are likely to be materially different than prior years due to the economic climate.

The survey is filled with many questions that will make you think twice before answering. Because the survey happened during the transition from 2008 to 2009, it asks questions about spending levels and strategies for both years. Agencies and search advertisers are encouraged to take the survey, which covers organic and paid search.

One of my favorite (and one of the newest) sections of survey questions relates to a particularly important area: the intersection of behavioral and search data within the ecosystem. With consumer confidence and disposable income at reduced levels, there may not be as many searchers in Google and the other engines as last year.

As a result, it’s more important to extend the search marketing umbrella to include behavioral targeting. You’ll need to decide whether you’re going to venture into retargeting of your search visitors (paid and organic), and the search engines need to decide when and how to package up access to the searchers who didn’t click on your links during the search but who may still be interested in your offer while reading their Web-based e-mail.

One question in the survey that addresses this evolution asks, “How much more or less would you be willing to pay for clicks delivered as a result of behavioral search targeting solutions than traditional paid placement search marketing?” That may seem like a mouthful, but the question cuts to the heart of the relative value of a click that comes as a result of targeting against a recent search behavior but not on a SERP (define).

The SEMPO research committee also worked with the search engines to develop questions that relate to future product enhancements. For example:

How interested are you in the following?

  • Text-based advertising delivered to video search users

  • Video-based advertising delivered to video search users

Or:

What is your interest level in contextually/geographically targeted advertising delivered to mobile search users?

With hundreds of respondents to the survey, including search agencies representing hundreds of millions of dollars in online budgets each, the search engines will be paying attention to marketer and agency preferences when prioritizing new features. In addition to taking this survey, share with your search engine rep (if you have one) what you’d like to see from the search engines within the next year.

SEMPO and the search engines also will use the answers to questions relating to industry standards (organic and paid). So, if that’s a hot button for you, take the survey and make your opinion known. Since the founding of SEMPO, the standards issue has been a regular topic of discussion in our industry.

Metrics will matter more this year than ever (which ones you use and how well you perform against them). Are you using the right metrics and how do your metrics compare with the industry?

Reading the comprehensive metrics questions in the survey may prompt you to think about metrics in a new way. A question specific to branding metrics gets at the heart of an issue that repeats itself year-after-year, which is that advertisers claim branding is important and a reason they engage in search, but rarely measure the brand lift of search campaigns. Similarly, there are questions that may make you think about how engagement metrics might fit into your campaign this year.

So, if you’re reading this before January 15, take the SEMPO survey. If you’re reading this column after that, visit SEMPO to get access to the latest survey results. Survey-takers and SEMPO members get priority access.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies London February 17-20 at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Don’t miss the definitive event for U.K. and European marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search marketing specialists!

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