There are a lot of variables to consider when you advertise online. From ad types such as banners, text, rich media, pop ups/unders, direct e-mail and video to targeting options such as keyword, behavioral, regional, demographic and contextual– it’s easy to see how things might get confusing.
Through it all, though, there is one online media tactic that rises above the mix – search marketing – specifically, keyword-targeted text ads.
You know what I’m talking about. Keyword-targeted search marketing is the official name for those ubiquitous ads that appear to the right of the search results in Google, Yahoo and MSN Search (and, in many cases, just beneath the search box as well).
There are a lot of reasons to love search marketing, which is why this is only part one of a theme that I will write about repeatedly. Thanks to GoTo.com (now Yahoo! Search), search ads are performance-based. That means advertisers only pay when a user clicks on an ad – a remarkable concept back in the late 90s when banner ads could sell for as much as $80 per thousand (CPM) on premium properties such as AOL Health and WebMD.
Since search marketing is inherently tied to the way people use the internet, it makes sense that it is a very effective way to reach your market. As of December 2005, 91% of Americans who have gone online have used a search engine, according to Pew Internet & American Life and 30% of Americans use a search engine daily.
What makes search so effective and so unique? Well, for one thing, search ads are displayed only when someone performs a search. They do not passively appear beside an article or in the middle of your favorite sitcom. There is a “pull” aspect to search ads rather than a “push” aspect (if you push your product in front of me when I’m not remotely interested in it than I’m probably not going to respond).
The nature of search engine advertising forces advertisers to put themselves into the mind of the searcher. This can often produce an “a-ha moment” for advertisers who may realize for the first time that they do not really understand their own market.
For example, a company that sells jewelry may want to focus on selling diamonds either via engagement rings, as gifts or just take a “treat yourself” approach. Diamonds are a big ticket item and it makes sense to promote them liberally. I’m sure jewelry stores love to sell diamonds, but they may be missing out on a gold mine of opportunity (pun intended) if that’s all they focus on in their marketing campaigns.
Let’s say a fictional jewelry store – Ritzy Jewels – launches a search marketing campaign with a large number of keywords that reveal that terms with “diamonds” in them do not convert very well online. No matter how Ritzy words the ads and no matter where they point people to on the website, they’re getting a less than 1% conversion rate on diamond-related terms. This may be because people don’t want to buy diamonds online or they are printing out pictures of an item and bringing it into the local store (or someone else’s store). That’s something Ritzy needs to find out.
But Ritzy may be surprised to also learn that they are selling chunky pendant necklaces like hot cakes. The clickthrough rate on their ads about anything related to pendants is between 6-8% and their conversion rate is a whopping 12-13%. Digging deeper, they may discover that pendants are a hot fashion trend which young women and teenagers adore. They can begin to experiment with this newfound knowledge online by adding keywords, ad copy and customized landing pages which will likely translate into more online sales.
They can further take this knowledge offline to help them when it’s time to purchase more merchandise. If they have an offline store they may try experimenting with a pendant display area and marketing it to a younger crowd.
In the above example, search marketing has helped shift the overall direction of the Ritzy Jewel’s marketing strategy and (perhaps) overall business model by providing some insight into the mind of the searcher.
This is why I love search marketing – because it taps into the very core of what people want, forcing businesses to rethink how they interact with their customers. Have you taken a long look at your own search campaigns lately? Have you tried to imagine yourself as a customer looking for your own products or services? If not, I encourage you to give it a try. You may be surprised at what you learn.