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Creating demand and awareness for search advertising

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Allen Hammock is director-technical sales with search advertising company LookSmart (www.looksmart.com). Hands On: Search recently asked Hammock about best practices in integrating search marketing with other channels.

HOS: How does search best coexist with other marketing channels?

Hammock: The current search model doesn't create demand, it reflects it. That's a big hurdle for the search advertising industry at large because, as search marketers and advertisers, we're faced with seeing opportunities wasted if we don't coordinate offline media campaigns with online search campaigns.

Today's demand is driven through a variety of online and offline channels which, in turn, create opportunities for conversion through search. In hyper-connected online environments, search activities occur only after awareness has been established through nontraditional mediums, branding and word-of-mouth. The good news, however, is that when efforts to generate awareness are integrated into performance-based search campaigns, the result is greater reach and impact overall.

HOS: What awareness-generating efforts can you point to?

Hammock: Let's take a look at social search. With 82% of U.S. online adults engaged with these channels, according to Forrester Research, this is inevitably one of those areas that search marketers and advertisers can't ignore. Of course, potential customers typically aren't scanning Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn solely with purchase intent; rather, they're there to share, collaborate and connect with offline and online relationships. Any resulting move towards search is conducted as an afterthought.

HOS: How can search marketing leverage these interactions?

Hammock: Given unprecedented levels of user adoption and integration of social mediums with review sites like Yelp, these collaborative online forums are ideal ecosystems for search marketers to focus their efforts. Recommendations and reviews create an environment for customers and prospects where they can search based on the advice of their peers. Meanwhile, location-aware mobile devices allow customers and prospects to remain connected with their online contacts in real time.

HOS: What practical means exist to reach these prospects?

Hammock: Google has already begun to link “awareness media” to its search capabilities by incorporating Twitter posts into its results pages. Meanwhile Facebook is experimenting with location-based “check-in” services similar to Foursquare that enable mobile users to broadcast recommendations and reviews to their social networks.

This blending of search, social interaction and mobility can create commercial opportunities for businesses that want to tap into these rich word-of-mouth channels, but only if done right.

HOS: Do you have suggestions on doing it right?

Hammock: Experienced marketers will rightfully point out that the means and metrics for managing search and nonsearch campaigns are extremely complementary. Once that realization is made, efforts to find integrated channels—and thus to coordinate online and offline campaigns—can begin. A new set of tools for measuring the transition from awareness-oriented campaigns to performance media can be developed.

If you're managing a search campaign, become aware of your company's media calendar in print, television and radio. Make sure to read your company blog or follow your @company on Twitter. Find out if your company has a Facebook fan page or presence on LinkedIn, and if those pages show up in the organic results that appear alongside your paid search campaigns.

Search managers need to be aware of all available avenues of customer interaction in order to bring their campaigns to the next level.

HOS: Those are a lot of channels to keep in mind.

Hammock: If you're not a member of the network, you're outside of it; and that puts you at a significant disadvantage. Your competitors will be able to correlate online and off-line media buzz with their search marketing conversion rates. The audiences you're trying to capture will be searching for the products and places their friends and colleagues are talking about on Facebook, reviewing on Yelp, and visiting on Foursquare and Gowalla.

Search marketers must take it upon themselves to be aware of the world around them and adapt their search strategies to take advantage of these insights.

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