By Cedric Chambaz, Marketing Manager of Search & SMB at Microsoft Advertising.
Search marketing is a field that is growing exponentially, of that there is no doubt.
However, brands’ perception of how it is best used means that often it isn’t considered as being part of a brand campaign until the boat has sailed.
Search, rather than being a tool employed periodically to amplify existing brand marketing activity, is in its element when it is a central part of your marketing activity from the outset.
If marketers are to secure genuine insights into the behaviour and attitudes of consumers, an understanding of the semantics of messages they are attempting to communicate is key.
Consumer reaction to marketing messages can be measured through search analytics and tailored to optimise spend through tools such as the Microsoft Advertising Intelligence Tool .
This free add-on to Excel, downloadable at www.LetSearchMakeYouSmarter.com, gives you access to Bing search history and overlays information such as demographics, geographical and time profile of the users behind a keyword.
This article will highlight the ways in which search marketing can affect an overall marketing strategy, often for the better, if it is allowed to sit up front from the start of the brand’s journey.
The digital guru John Battelle once said that search engines are the “databases of intentions”. Rather than the rudimentary serving of content that was common in the early days of search, search engines and marketers are becoming increasingly reactionary, using tools to identify which campaign elements are triggering engagement and behavioural change in consumers
If search has been part of a campaign from the outset, consumer insights that can be gleaned from analytics and implemented in off-line and below the line activity like CRM or call centre scripts.
This highlights how search can be used by brands both to serve targeted messages to relevant audiences as well as providing a research repository that brands can analyse and use to inform their wider activity.
Take the example of gambling for instance. Using MAIT, an analysis highlights how female consumers prefer the semantics and connotations of the word “gambling” to “betting”, in direct contrast with their male counterparts.
This kind of consumer research can most quickly and economically sourced through search analytics. So compare the predicament of two fictional competing poker websites who have decided to both launches expensive multi-media campaigns, one a search evangelist, the other a total novice.
Poker Girls.com go out with an initial offline campaign, telling UK women that they need to get “betting”, employing traditional marketing tactics from banner ads through to offline promotion, only to find that their ROI isn’t what they expected.
Conversely, Poker Ladies.com begins its marketing activity by getting its search house in order, shrewdly buying up words that they believe will resonate with their target audience and constantly monitoring the performance of search terms in the back-end.
Once they realise that women would rather “gamble” than “bet” they begin to plan their overall marketing strategy armed with consumer insight that will hugely improve the tone of the tactics.
The initial negligible search spend has not only kicked off their search campaign, but allowed PokerLadies.com to go to market with a level of education about the attitudes of their target market at the fraction of the price of a traditional market research survey.
As brands shift increasing percentages of their marketing spend into online, and particularly to search, there is no excuse for brands not to be alive to the potential that search marketing offers.
With the market developed to the point where a multi-engine search channel is a pre-requisite, and engines like Bing delivering great relevancy to both the consumer and the advertiser, search needs to be present at campaign formulation, not to say at the core of your business.
The days of search marketing being a fabled skill limited to a handful of search marketers are clearly numbered, and the inclusive nature of search means that marketers can grow their presence in a manner that suits their business.
So in a future where search is going to be amongst the leading pack when it goes to digital spend amongst brands, it is key that the horse is leading the coaches as the marketing journey begins.
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