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Search Ascending: The New Brand Strategy
Advertisers have long used paid search as a direct response tool to reach consumers who are ready to make a purchase, but columnist John Cosley asserts that it's coming into its own as a branding tool as well.
As part of the overall marketing mix, search has functioned largely as a direct response utility for marketers, complete with a monthly bill and less-than-sexy creative cred.
Like any utility, search has proven to be a powerful tool for a specific task — in this case, pushing consumers through the purchase funnel.
But as the consumer experience becomes increasingly mobile, search is playing a far more critical role in marketing strategy.
With search happening on multiple screens, anytime and anywhere, with different inputs across new form factors, this former red-headed stepchild of the marketing family is gaining new respect.
Search Spans The Funnel
Today’s advertisers know that search spans to the top of the marketing funnel — the perfect place to forge a lasting connection with target audiences.
Category and generic queries, experiences as a result of new forms of input and more impactful results (visually and informative) help marketers both connect with consumers and build their brands. In fact, according to a recent Bing Ads survey, over 50 percent of advertisers used paid search to achieve branding goals.
We’ve always known the reverse to be true, as well, only windows are collapsing as consumers work across devices in real time. When combined with mass media like television, search can be particularly powerful.
During the 2014 Winter Olympics, we discovered that 70 percent of TV commercials caused a spike in search activity within one minute of airing, and that nearly all TV commercials — 99 percent — spiked search activity within two minutes (according to Microsoft internal research).
A recent Harvard Business School study on display ads and search indicated that exposure to a display ad increases the number of relevant search queries by as much as 25 percent.
The reason search works so well for brand marketers is that it works well for consumers. Brands are always striving to create interest, and that’s where search shines. Combined with other marketing strategies, search is an unstoppable, brand-building force.
It’s All About Audiences
As new signals and new inputs to search create richer audience profiles, search marketers will need to think beyond keywords.
At Bing Ads, we believe the future of search is moving beyond keywords to deliver audience-based solutions — all while continuing to build off of rich data that translates to better campaign results. These audience-based solutions available within search platforms will enable marketers to use search not only as a direct response tool but a branding tool.
What’s changed? New ways of leveraging data to find and grow audiences are gaining momentum — tools like Universal Event Tracking (UET) tags, which help businesses capture and build audiences based on activities and behavior on their site.
With UET, advertisers can use Remarketing in Paid Search (also known as RLSA in AdWords) to re-engage with searchers who have previously visited their site.
Customers currently using Remarketing in Paid Search have experienced improved click-through and conversion rates, some seeing as much as a 7x bump in both measures. And customer data is protected with strict remarketing policies that help to build and maintain trust, a marketer’s most valuable asset.
Further investments in improved demographic targeting, greater capabilities with first- and third-party cookies, and more — all layering intent signals with rich audience data — will create more powerful audience-based solutions.
In addition, new innovation through ad formats that make use of a broad range of intent signals like search history, site behavior, experience context, demographic signals, and more to serve relevant ads across new surface areas are delivering impressive results for advertisers.
From Links To A Platform And Rich Canvas Of Information
Search ad formats have evolved beyond just a title and description. As new formats that deliver relevant and powerful information to consumers come to the fore, advertisers are benefitting with more engaged audiences.
These are just a few tools that are transforming search from a list of links to a rich canvas of information:
- Shopping Campaigns are a feed-based ad format that features attributes like product image, price and promotional messages, making it easier and faster to get ads up and running.
- Ad Extensions help your ads stand out by adding an additional advertiser-defined information to a search ad, helping them be more informative and provide more utility to searchers. Example extensions include image, app, call, location, call-out, site-link, form, reservation and review, just to name a few.
- Annotations represent additional information added to a search ad that is not advertiser controlled, but helps to increase ad performance through rigorous testing and optimization. Examples include top ads, long-ad titles, Twitter, previous visit and smart annotations, to name a few.
Data isn’t just transforming search, it’s remaking the entire marketing toolbox. Advertisers can now take the rich signals and information found in search platforms to inform their other channels. And — very importantly — they can uncover key search trends related to their industry, competition, and brand by using tools like Bing Ads Intelligence Tool and Campaign Planner.
Advertisers: Don’t Underestimate Search
If you’re still looking at search as an uninspiring — if effective — utility, think again. Search advertising has rapidly moved from tactic to strategy, taking its rightful place along the entire continuum of the marketing funnel.
Understanding the data search provides, how search interacts with other marketing channels, and the role it plays in building brands is the best way to ensure that search is working for your business.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.