jump to navigation

Push Search Marketing Into Marketing July 25, 2006

Posted by Bill in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Within the SEM field, the standard explanation of why search works is that search, at its very core, is a way to let people know that you’ve got what they’re looking to buy. Since searchers are already looking to buy what you sell, they’re easy conversions.

While that’s certainly true, it’s only part of the picture. To see the whole picture, I think that the search industry needs to start distinguishing between search engine marketing–which is more branding-focused–and search engine sales, which is about the final conversion. The two concepts are different.

Marketing, to my mind, is about introducing new modes of thinking. It’s about convincing people that you’re able to enhance people’s lives in ways they might not have considered. And since it’s about changing people’s modes of thought, marketing works best at earlier buy-cycle stages, before people have made up their minds about what they’re looking for.

Sales, more than dealing with influencing thought patterns, is about reeling in customers and driving purchases. It’s about the very end of the buy-cycle, when a customer actually decides to buy.

And so when people point to the effectiveness search in terms of capturing the easiest buyers, they’re not talking about marketing at all. They’re talking about sales.

To a large extent, advertisers have already grasped this point. Last year’s State of Search Engine Marketing–an annual report released by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization–states that 62 percent of marketers value branding, and not just immediate conversion capture, as a primary SEM goal. But it’s possible that these advertisers still don’t grasp the full capability that search marketing offers.

That’s because search marketing, I think, is about much more than standard branding. While search might offer more targeted branding than other ad media–keywords, after all, allow you to pre-screen who sees your message–it’s possible to manage search branding along very traditional lines. Inasmuch as branding is about maximizing visibility, there’s no fundamental difference between search branding and branding through TV, radio, or print: at base, it’s all a matter of maximizing impressions.

To my mind, what makes search marketing different and powerful goes to the core of what search actually is. Effective search marketing means leveraging the fact that search is a research medium.

Typically, searchers conduct between three and five searches between initial interest and final conversion. As searchers research their purchasing decisions, they’re doing more than just learning about your industry’s products and services: They’re learning which brand names are the industry standards, and what kinds of quality and pricing they can expect. By achieving a presence throughout the buy-cycle–both through well-positioned ads that heighten name recognition, and even through ads that can alter customer expectations–you have an enormous capability to guide each potential customer’s thinking about your entire industry. Which means that search branding, done right, can be used to shape yourself into a true industry leader.

The search research cycle, in other words, works through the same forces that made household names out of brands like Google, Band-Aid and Xerox. When the people learn about a new product and a brand name in tandem, the brand name goes straight to top-of-mind. That’s just as true for a new customer learning about an industry through search, as it’s true in any other consumer-learning arena. And it explains the unique power of being in search at every phase of the buy-cycle, from marketing to sales.

The importance of search engine marketing–beyond just search engine sales–means that advertisers need to look at early buy-cycle keywords a lot more seriously than they might be doing now. It also means advertisers need to look into crafting ad copy and landing pages that are uniquely developed for research-phase searchers, just as they’re currently doing for later buy-cycle searchers. For a lot of players in search, that might also mean taking a new look at what search engine marketing (and not just sales) really means. And if you’re an advertiser, it means considering your marketing options through search–beyond your sales options through search–before your competitors beat you to the punch.

Advertisements

Efficiency Levels, Not Spend Levels July 21, 2006

Posted by Bill in Search Marketing.
add a comment

At the MediaPost Search Insider Summit last week, my colleagues had the opportunity to sit on in the Insider’s panel. At the end of the talk, the floor was opened up for the crowd to request future articles they’d like to see. I hope to get to all of the topics that came up; for today, I’d like to tackle just one: the issue of how to know how much to spend in search.

It’s an entirely reasonable issue for marketers to look to understand. Since search is relatively new, it’s a new item for marketing budgets, as well–so there’s little precedent against which marketing managers can set the bar. Meanwhile, search metrics are phenomenally precise, placing a level of accountability into marketing that’s never been present in the traditional sphere. With that greater accountability comes more responsibility, at every stage of the campaign–including at the initial stages of spend allocation.

But as reasonable as it is to want to know how much you ought to be spending in search, the question happens to be largely irrelevant. After all, your goal in any business venture–search included–isn’t to hit a particular level of spend; your goal is to get the right level of return. If spending a million search dollars a day would bring in three million dollars an hour, you’d spend it, no questions asked; and if spending 10 cents a day brought in only 5 cents, then even 3 cents would be overpaying. It’s the profits you make, not the amount you’ve spent, that make a difference.

In other words, the focus on spend needs to be replaced with a focus on efficiency. Efficiency means getting the most powerful outreach you can, at whatever level of spend you’re working at; it also means being able to drive a greater portion of the traffic you collect into conversions. Efficiency means, for example, creating optimized ad copy that attracts the searchers you want to attract, and that sends away the ones who probably won’t convert. It also means delivering landing pages that are sticky and usable enough to drive visitors towards your shopping cart, registration page, or display ads that you’re siring on your content site. It also might mean applying behavioral retargeting, to deliver ads to the searchers who have come to your site and left–so you can pull them back in and drive them to a conversion.

The more efficient your campaign, the less relevant the question of spend level becomes. That’s because greater efficiency means greater net profit–which both improves your bottom line (the ultimate goal of your campaign), and gives you more money to reinvest on more advertising. Which means that $1 of efficient spend might be worth $3 of inefficient spend, and vice versa. The question of efficiency, in other words, changes the focal spend question from: How much should I spend? to How much is my spend worth?

Building your efficiency requires understanding your customers. The better grasp you have of issues like where your core market lives, what times of day they search, what kinds of messages they like to see, and what kinds of sites they go to, the better you’ll be able to reach out to them and build the architecture that drives conversions. Developing that understanding requires that your search management has the best client services possible, and the best analytics possible–both are necessary for building an accurate picture of your core market’s identity and behavior.
So back to the original question: How much should you be spending in search? The answer is that you should be spending however much it takes to make you efficient. Once you’ve hit the right level of efficiency, the search dollars you invest will justify themselves.

Why Google Print Ads Didn’t Work… And Why Its Radio Ads Will! July 17, 2006

Posted by Bill in Google, Online Auction Tips, Search Marketing.
add a comment

I have one word to say about why auctions work. That word is “scarcity.” Scarcity’s the only reason anyone would enter an auction, and scarcity’s the only thing that keeps people in auctions, even after bid prices keep moving up. And scarcity explains why Google Publication ads–its auction-based print ad network–hasn’t worked; and why its entrée into radio advertising will be a hit.
Auctions, after all, aren’t always so fun. In non-auction place markets, sellers deliberate meticulously before the slightest price change; they also need to keep their pricing competitive–and so sellers provide a dual reason why truly runaway price growth is uncommon.
But sellers are behind the scenes in auctions. And so auction prices typically skyrocket in a very short time. That’s never an enjoyable scenario for buyers; and so, if they can avoid it, rational shoppers choose not to play whenever they can. To enter into an auction, buyers need to have a real incentive.
That incentive is scarcity. If there’s something that people really want, and there’s no other way to get it than through an auction, then they’ll roll up their sleeves and bid. That’s why Sotheby’s–which has a monopoly or near-monopoly on everything it sells–is able to sell all of its merchandise via auction. It’s also why eBay positions itself as a place to find hard-to-find items, or hard-to-find deals: if you could find what you’re looking for just anywhere, you wouldn’t be sitting through an auction for it on eBay.
Based on the scarcity principle, it’s surprising that Google didn’t foresee the less-than-stellar performance of Google Publication Ads. Print ad space, after all, is quite plentiful; what’s more, print pubs can always add pages to meet increased advertising demand. In other words, more advertisers means less scarcity, not more. And since there’s no scarcity principle at play in the world of print, advertisers were bound to steer clear of print ad space auctions. (Based on the scarcity principle, Google could have created a highly successful auction marketplace for print, if it had stuck to auctioning off truly coveted real estate–like the inside back cover of magazines.)
The fact that Google overlooked the scarcity principle is particularly surprising when you consider the fact that its search auctions–its flagship enterprise–drive increased yield (CPC and effective CPM’s) because of the lack of supply. Searchers looking to buy the things people sell are highly valuable; and, since there’s a limited number of them in any case, they’re also scarce. Marketers understand this, and willingly pay high search-click costs to participate in Google’s search auction. If they want the high-quality search traffic, there’s no other choice.
But even Google’s entitled to an occasional mistake, and Google’s purchase of dMarc–one of the most venerated ad networks around–proves that they’re still the top pros. Radio ad units, after all, are highly limited stuff: there are only so many radio channels; there are only so many hours in the day; and there are even fewer hours during which radios air ads (the rest of the time they’re airing programming). Plus, the most valuable advertising times only happen twice daily–during morning and evening rush hour. Since radio advertising is rife with scarce, valuable opportunity, it’s a great framework for auction media–making it the perfect next arena for Google. (That same argument, by the way, also applies to television–and it will be interesting to see how long it takes before Google enters that business.)
And so with its new radio enterprise, Google’s found its new source of scarcity. Which is why I predict big things for Google radio advertising. And, to put my firm’s money where my mouth is, I’ve had Did-it set up its search auction management systems to manage radio ad auctions, as well.
For the record, there are those in the industry who aren’t so confident just yet. In an e-mail he sent me on the topic, Matt Spiegel, managing director of Resolution Media (an Omnicom Company) wrote: “Looking forward, I think this makes sense for Google and the industry. [But] my immediate question is whether the industry is really ready for this… almost all of Google’s relationships are with online/interactive departments–and these are not the same people who are responsible for, or know anything about, buying radio.” So depending on who you ask, it’s a great idea that’s before its time (Spiegel’s take), or just a great idea (my approach).
We’ll have to wait and see who’s right. In further columns within this space, I hope to share insights on how Google’s radio advertising is going for us–to see if the industry is, or is not, in fact ready for this…

Why Google Print Ads Didn’t Work… And Why Its Radio Ads Will! July 17, 2006

Posted by Bill in Google, Online Auction Tips, Search Marketing.
add a comment

I have one word to say about why auctions work. That word is “scarcity.” Scarcity’s the only reason anyone would enter an auction, and scarcity’s the only thing that keeps people in auctions, even after bid prices keep moving up. And scarcity explains why Google Publication ads–its auction-based print ad network–hasn’t worked; and why its entrée into radio advertising will be a hit.
Auctions, after all, aren’t always so fun. In non-auction place markets, sellers deliberate meticulously before the slightest price change; they also need to keep their pricing competitive–and so sellers provide a dual reason why truly runaway price growth is uncommon.
But sellers are behind the scenes in auctions. And so auction prices typically skyrocket in a very short time. That’s never an enjoyable scenario for buyers; and so, if they can avoid it, rational shoppers choose not to play whenever they can. To enter into an auction, buyers need to have a real incentive.
That incentive is scarcity. If there’s something that people really want, and there’s no other way to get it than through an auction, then they’ll roll up their sleeves and bid. That’s why Sotheby’s–which has a monopoly or near-monopoly on everything it sells–is able to sell all of its merchandise via auction. It’s also why eBay positions itself as a place to find hard-to-find items, or hard-to-find deals: if you could find what you’re looking for just anywhere, you wouldn’t be sitting through an auction for it on eBay.
Based on the scarcity principle, it’s surprising that Google didn’t foresee the less-than-stellar performance of Google Publication Ads. Print ad space, after all, is quite plentiful; what’s more, print pubs can always add pages to meet increased advertising demand. In other words, more advertisers means less scarcity, not more. And since there’s no scarcity principle at play in the world of print, advertisers were bound to steer clear of print ad space auctions. (Based on the scarcity principle, Google could have created a highly successful auction marketplace for print, if it had stuck to auctioning off truly coveted real estate–like the inside back cover of magazines.)
The fact that Google overlooked the scarcity principle is particularly surprising when you consider the fact that its search auctions–its flagship enterprise–drive increased yield (CPC and effective CPM’s) because of the lack of supply. Searchers looking to buy the things people sell are highly valuable; and, since there’s a limited number of them in any case, they’re also scarce. Marketers understand this, and willingly pay high search-click costs to participate in Google’s search auction. If they want the high-quality search traffic, there’s no other choice.
But even Google’s entitled to an occasional mistake, and Google’s purchase of dMarc–one of the most venerated ad networks around–proves that they’re still the top pros. Radio ad units, after all, are highly limited stuff: there are only so many radio channels; there are only so many hours in the day; and there are even fewer hours during which radios air ads (the rest of the time they’re airing programming). Plus, the most valuable advertising times only happen twice daily–during morning and evening rush hour. Since radio advertising is rife with scarce, valuable opportunity, it’s a great framework for auction media–making it the perfect next arena for Google. (That same argument, by the way, also applies to television–and it will be interesting to see how long it takes before Google enters that business.)
And so with its new radio enterprise, Google’s found its new source of scarcity. Which is why I predict big things for Google radio advertising. And, to put my firm’s money where my mouth is, I’ve had Did-it set up its search auction management systems to manage radio ad auctions, as well.
For the record, there are those in the industry who aren’t so confident just yet. In an e-mail he sent me on the topic, Matt Spiegel, managing director of Resolution Media (an Omnicom Company) wrote: “Looking forward, I think this makes sense for Google and the industry. [But] my immediate question is whether the industry is really ready for this… almost all of Google’s relationships are with online/interactive departments–and these are not the same people who are responsible for, or know anything about, buying radio.” So depending on who you ask, it’s a great idea that’s before its time (Spiegel’s take), or just a great idea (my approach).
We’ll have to wait and see who’s right. In further columns within this space, I hope to share insights on how Google’s radio advertising is going for us–to see if the industry is, or is not, in fact ready for this…