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Finding Searchers on Their Terms

Kevin M. Ryan
Finding Searchers on Their Terms Kevin M. Ryan

The defining characteristics of a complex search marketing initiative include hundreds, thousands or perhaps hundreds of thousands of terms that people use to connect with our products and services. 

Complex doesn't have to mean difficult, impossible or worrisome. In today's need it now instant gratification world, we invest a great deal in learning about those we would call customers. We interview, survey, study and build profiles-- all in an attempt to get to know our audience.

We attempt to anticipate their deepest needs and wishes, and try to understand future wants so we can be there when they need us. Our creatives construct compelling advertisements, while our media departments find the right places to deliver the message.

Our audience is sometimes left behind as we hope potential customers can find us using our language instead of their own. If history is the best teacher and the user-controlled environment is the new standard of the web, it might help to take a step back before going forward.

EnCAGEment should be the new buzzword
On the heels of few particularly difficult weeks, I headed off to the Caribbean for a few days in the sun. If the intention of some time away from it all is clearing the mind, I certainly accomplished my mission.

Dutch Saint Maarten is a popular tourist destination, but it is not what I would refer to as the most wired hot spot in the universe. My wireless phone didn't even work. Correction, it DID work but only after I entered about 5,000 characters of credit card numbers and various other codes and passwords. The notion of wireless web is bit of a stretch though popular brochures promise connectivity on the new Great Bay boardwalk.

Going without the web is certainly an interesting way to reconnect with the idea of consumer engagement. The thought of brand and product love is a wonderful thing but as I discovered, searching without the web can be a fruitful mission. We have been programmed to live inside the internet cage and without a connection to the wired world we are forced to venture out into the unknown.

Find the Frog Game
Case in point: my love affair with the Bull Frog. We of the fair-skinned Caucasoid persuasion have to take our sun care quite seriously. I am happy to endorse the Bull Frog Quick Gel Spray though I forgot to pack some.

In my world without web, I have to admit that I was pretty lost. I wandered aimlessly on the streets of Phillipsburg among the many tourists in the hopes that I might find some sun protection. For the unindoctrinated, both the French and Dutch sides of the island are entirely duty free. What I found were hundreds of jewelry outlets along with many options to buy cigars and alcohol.

Among the quaint little shoppes and boutiques of all sorts I discovered some of the most bizarre associations of product offerings I have ever seen. For example, in the same location one could purchase a bottle of high end vodka, a turkey sandwich and a gold watch. Other options included beer and apparel or cigars and fine table linens but there was no Bull Frog to be had.

At the end of the day, the seemingly hapless associations of products and services (loosely organized by the fact that tourists will buy almost anything if they think they are getting a deal on it) provided a foundation for how many searchers find themselves in possession of things they really don't need.

When in doubt, ask a Jedi Master
While I searched the island for the frog, I stumbled upon Yoda. That is to say, moments after purchasing a ham on rye with a side of Rolex, I heard the familiar Star Wars theme song calling out to me. 

Nick Maley, one of the creators of the famous Star Wars character, opened a little studio on Front Street in St Maarten. Inside the studio I found a life-size Yoda and the man who created him staring me in the face.

Minutes later I had forgotten why I had left the hotel that morning and I was hip deep in discussion about how few people can identify with the sorrow Darth Vader must have faced as a young man and though Yoda was a very bright Jedi, he failed miserably as a mentor.

Nick wasn't selling any sun block and he had never heard of Bull Frog. He was, however, an expert at capturing potential customers at a time when they had no idea what they wanted by using simple tactics like drawing on emotion.

The Bull Frog strikes back
Sometimes you just have to take a step back from the daily routine of keyword selection, creative and hardcore bid management. You can reach an audience that is currently not aware of your existence without completely sacrificing relevance.

It is possible to find opportunity in understanding emotional response and the raw random nature of the human brain. As a rule, more specific and underused terms can be found at a much lower cost per click or acquisition but this process of selecting keywords is not to be confused with selecting lower volume or "tail" references or targeting by behavior.

You can create associations between your brand, product and services that will lead to finding potential customers in their discovery phase. Bizarre combinations for keywords can be found in site analytics reports but will most often be found inside the experience loop.

All too often the great expanse that exists in our undiscovered mindset is lost because we narrowly focus on high traffic categories. Perhaps a new customer acquisition is merely an odd association away.

Kevin Ryan is iMedia's search editor and the chief executive officer of Kinetic Results. Read full bio here.


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