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3 Ways To Connect The Dots With Search Marketing
At a conference last month, I had the privilege of speaking on a really fun panel with some of the brightest minds in Search, where we told some stories about integrating search into larger marketing efforts. We called it ‘Connecting The Dots’.
I love these kinds of tales because they nod to the promise of search marketing – leveraging the comparatively precise nature of search data to inform other marketing channels in ways that only search can. And because I’m a search geek at heart, I get really excited when I think about ways to use search marketing for something other than just driving clicks and conversions.
Do The Easy Stuff First
When thinking about all the stories I could tell that pointed to integrated search campaigns, I decided to first take a tiny step back and think about my audience.
- What if some of these marketers hadn’t integrated search into their marketing efforts at all?
- What if search was sitting over in the corner all by itself, the wallflower of the media channels?
- What one thing could I tell everyone to do that they could take back to the office and actually implement?
Ah, yes…Search Retargeting! Search retargeting is something that marketers can buy from their search engine representatives fairly easily. You basically take your top keywords, hand them to your rep along with any display creative you’re either running or want to run, and off you go!
Users who have searched for your top keywords are then targeted out on the broader network with your display ads. Here’s the example I used. Suppose a user searched for “ncaa hockey championship” as in below:
If we were running a retargeting campaign using this keyword, then a user elsewhere on our site might see an ad such as this:
I’ve exploded the ad so you can see it better — it’s an ad for NCAA Hockey Championship gear at the Yahoo! Sports Shop. You can then track these users back to your site, using your analytics platform, where they normally perform much better than untargeted consumers of display media. This is the easiest way to ‘connect the dots’ with Search, especially if you’re already buying display media. Try it — you’ll like it!
Wagging The Dog
Once you’ve gotten a taste of integrated search marketing, you’ll be instantly hooked. So where will you get your next dose? Some time ago, we conducted offer testing using paid search, and it’s a story that I enjoy telling even now because most marketers still aren’t harnessing the power of search marketing in this way.
The story goes like this: I was working at an agency and we were trying to help a client determine the best offer to use for the holiday season that year. Should they use ‘free shipping’ or ‘we pay the sales tax’? We had tried to test the offers through our email channel but something had gone horribly wrong, either with the email list or the drop itself.
There was a sense of panic in the room as we looked at our inconclusive results and our seemingly limited options. I quietly smiled to myself and raised my hand. “Give me a week and I can tell you which offer will work better”, I said with confidence.
As the collective eyebrows raised, someone finally asked the question I was eagerly awaiting: “How are you going to do that?”. I explained that with paid search we could quickly build out these offers (and a control offer) and we could do some crude but fast testing to see which offer converted best to sale. We all agreed that conversion rate was the metric that mattered, and I ran off to put my plan into action.
A week later, we were sitting in the same conference room reviewing our test results. Sure enough, ‘Free Shipping’ was the hands-down winner as far as conversion rate went. But here’s the really cool part: We not only went with “Free Shipping” for our PPC campaigns that holiday season, we went with it for all media channels AND the site as a whole for the ENTIRE holiday season.
Paid & Organic, So Happy Together
I wrote a previous column about this a while ago, but I love this story so much I’m going to tell it again (and again), only this time much more concisely. This anecdote begins with the common question: “We already rank #1 organically for our brand keyword. Why would we ever buy it on PPC?”. While the answer can be different for everyone, we should be able to agree on how to find the solution.
Here’s how we did it.
Our goal was to track the clickthrough rates (CTRs) of both the organic listing and the paid link to see how the two links interact (looking at CTRs will tell you if you’re cannibalizing your organic traffic). We did this by estimating daily search volume for the keyword and tracking the click volume on both the organic and paid listings.
Once we were set up to measure this, we alternated periods of buying paid ads and then pausing them. Then we plotted these effective CTRs on a scatter graph by day and did a linear regression to see what the trend was.
Here’s what it looked like:
(Note: One of the key best practices that came out of this analysis was to make sure and differentiate your ad copy from your organic listing).
In our case, the paid ad actually drove more traffic to the organic listing! Who knew?! Depending on your business this may or may not be the case, but if you at least know how to find the answer, you can wrestle control of the conversation and guide it in a rational way.
There are many more examples of innovative ways to ‘connect the dots’ with search marketing by integrating it into your larger marketing initiatives, and we’ll continue to discover more exciting ways to leverage search data to make our marketing worlds better in the coming months and years. Until then, Happy Searching!
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