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Your Customers Want More Than Just Keyword Bids October 12, 2006

Posted by Bill in Online Advertising, Search Marketing.
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logo_searchinsider_sm.gifLAST WEEK ALLURENT, A rich media provider for e-commerce, came out with a study finding that 83 percent of Web users would purchase more online, if online retailers just “added more interactive and interesting ways to display and purchase products.” In other words, it’s not enough to just drive customers to your site. If you want them to buy, you have to give customers the right experience once they’ve arrived, and to continue providing that excellent experience all the way to the point of conversion. And in a separate news item last week, a Harris Interactive study, conducted for mobile marketing firm Enpocket, found that 78 percent of mobile users would be “happy to receive” targeted mobile advertising. Sixty-four percent of those interested in targeted ads, the study continues, would volunteer personal information to enable that targeting.

Now put the two points together, and you come to a very powerful picture of today’s new-media customer. These are people who are seeking the perfect, perfectly targeted marketing; and the perfect, perfectly targeted customer experience. And they want to achieve those things from beginning to end of the buy-cycle.

That’s great news for search, because search is uniquely positioned to fulfill the demands of new-media customers. Search, after all, has unparalleled targeting, and it enables you to make use of that targeting at a very wide array of touchpoints. Keywords tell you a customer’s intent. Higher-level analytics tell you where your searchers are located, the time of day your best search prospects are out there, the browsers they’re using, and a lot more. And because of that level of targeting, you can know which keywords to buy, when to deliver ads, what ads to deliver, and what landing page experiences you need to create for each customer. Meanwhile, behavioral retargeting lets you use search data to pinpoint your best customers, and to follow them across the Internet with targeted display ads–which means that search targeting can make your multichannel efforts more powerful, too.

Given that search enables such a powerful end-to-end customer experience–the very kind of experience that customers want–I’m left with a very basic question about a common decision in marketing departments. My question is this: Why, I’d like to know, are so many marketers fixated on keyword bid management?

I’m referring to the wide array of search methodologies, ranging from the very simple to the complex, that view search as a process of building the right keywords list, and then managing bids on those keywords to meet a budget. That’s certainly an absolutely crucial part of winning in search, but it doesn’t provide the targeting and touchpoint management that, as I’ve already argued, is also absolutely crucial to winning.

To be fair, some marketers are fixated on keyword bid management because it’s all that they can only afford, because it’s what the simpler search management tools and less sophisticated search management agencies have to offer. But that doesn’t explain why many otherwise savvy marketers from blue-chip organizations are stuck on keyword bid management, too.

For those otherwise-savvy marketers, my only explanation is that they’re either unaware of the full array of what search has to offer; or that they don’t realize the degree to which customers are seeking far more than just a well-positioned search ad. And because of that lack of awareness, they’re stuck in a search methodology that’s years behind the times. And so some very major organizations are leaving a lot on the table in search.

That’s a huge potential loss for those organizations, and a gain for their competitors. Meanwhile, the customers have clearly spoken; and the behind-the-times marketers will have to start listening to customers more carefully, and targeting to customers more carefully, if they’re to pull ahead.

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