Search engine marketing has become an essential part of online marketing campaigns in the past year. You could say that search has leaped out of its shell continuing to provide unique marketing opportunities in various sectors.
And search isn't just for direct marketers anymore. It has branched out into other non-DR-based industries like entertainment and packaged goods-- all contributing to its tremendous growth in the past few years. Currently, search spending is predicted to reach approximately 11 billion dollars in just four more years.
With all that said, search marketing isn't for everyone. However, everyone seems to want and feel the need to be there. There are a variety of ways to use search strategically even if objectives don't call for traffic volume. Marketers are putting more stock in using search beyond direct marketing and are investigating ways to use the medium for brand objectives.
Why is this happening? Some advertisers are assigning more value in the search "impression" and are less concerned if a user clicks on the paid listing. Below are some ways that search marketing can be used strategically to help achieve non-direct response campaign objectives.
Search enables testing of multiple text creative that most marketers use to gauge response to a particular piece of creative copy. In a direct response campaign, this is useful in identifying which copy is driving a user to respond, which can help drive sales volume faster. Using search marketing for branding makes search all about the message, literally. Put your message upfront in a paid listing. You can accomplish the branding goals without a user having to click through to get your message.
Another example is SEM supporting the branding of a product or service if running congruently with other media. For example, executing this strategy successfully can help an advertiser intersect specific competitors letting a user know that aside from Widget X they were originally searching for, there are also Widget A, Widget B and Widget C to choose from as well. Get creative with the copy and test, test, test to improve conversions on the backend!
Best practices suggest that it's a good idea to include a URL in as many pieces of marketing collateral as possible. This assumes there is a reason to drive users to a landing page for a particular product. The phrase "Google It" has become a household term like Kleenex has become for tissues. Using that term in a print or outdoor campaign, for example, can take the difficulty a consumer might experience remembering a URL and instead, drive them to type in a specific keyword. This concept is similar to AOL's keyword function in its paid service.
Gauge offline media response with search
Believe it or not, search can be used as an offline media engagement barometer. By using different keywords in offline media, i.e. www.widget.com/radio or www.widget.com/television, each medium can be gauged and measured to a certain extent. This entirely depends on messaging in the offline advertisement, but if done the right way you'll start to see the spikes in search traffic. While this isn't a scientific way of measuring consumer engagement offline to a media campaign, it certainly is interesting to see the spikes in comparison to the media schedule.
Drive to content
Let's face it. The digital landscape is severely fragmented. Using sites like MySpace and YouTube as campaign landing pages has become increasingly more popular. And you can imagine why. These environments offer the potential for content to grow legs and live on its own well after a campaign is complete. This can mean increased interaction with a brand that can lead to a lift in sales or conversion.
A few weeks back, I was exposed to this strategy having viewed TV advertisements for a new film. Both end frames on the TV spot included a MySpace URL driving to the films marketing profile that housed the trailer among other content from the film. Out of curiosity, instead of typing in the MySpace link, I went to Google and typed in the film's title. I found that all paid and organic listings pushed to the MySpace profile. Needless to say, there are endless possibilities there.
Using search to drive to viral communities where there is compelling content is one strategy that has delivered tremendous success for our clients. This strategy may be better suited within certain industry sectors like entertainment; however you can get creative with your own strategy depending on objectives. Using different creative copy variations allows the campaign to be optimized in real time resulting in increased brand visibility and the potential to drive more campaign efficiencies.
As the media landscape continues to change and new technology is introduced, we may experience SEM as a larger staple in more campaigns. Advanced media fragmentation and the profound interest in new technology will drive consumers to gravitate to a place they feel most comfortable to find things on the web. Search engine marketing continues to spark new curiosity within the online space. While the strategies recommended above certainly aren't rocket science, they are very effective and offer a level of creativity that will hopefully bring some new life to your campaign.
Joseph Weaver is associate director of interactive media at Media Storm, LLC. .