How Search Benefits From Offline Media

Mags, Word-of-Mouth Drive Medium, Result in Sales

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Search may be hailed as the most effective intent-driven marketing channel, but it turns out it owes much of the credit to the messages marketers run in offline media.
Rob Murray
Rob Murray

More than two-thirds of the online search population is driven to search by offline channels, according to a study released today from Jupiter Research and iProspect, a search-marketing firm that is part of Isobar. This shouldn't, perhaps, be that surprising given that people don't spend their lives in a single-channel isolation, but it does illustrate the need for agencies and marketers to continue aligning their on- and offline efforts.

What's more surprising about the study is that those who've initially been influenced by an offline channel tend to have a higher propensity to buy: 39% of them ultimately make a purchase. The offline search drivers most likely to result in a sale are magazines and word of mouth.

Robert Murray, president of iProspect, isn't sure exactly why that is but he surmises it has something to do with the format. "They don't have the same limitations in time and format that other offline media does," he said. "You can take those ads with you. You can have that ad right in front of you. And with word-of-mouth -- that conversation can go on for awhile."

Mr. Murray said it's important for marketers to maintain a consistency in keywords, messaging, and look and feel of the online and offline parts of a campaign.

"If you roll out a new car, you want a site that's well-optimized organically and has a paid search supporting campaign with same color scheme, same taglines, same spokespeople," he said.

The iProspect study came out the same week as another study that suggested marketers could scale back their spending on their own branded keywords. That study came from Atlas, a division of Microsoft (formerly Atlas was a division of aQuantive; Microsoft's acquisition of aQuantive closed last week) and said 71% of sponsored search is navigational, meaning that people type a term into a search box to get to a specific site they're looking for rather than simply type that URL into the navigational bar. Almost 60% of clicks came from branded key phrases -- which represent 34.2% of overall search budgets.

It suggested such navigational search behavior implies that the user already knows the advertiser and, in such instances, brands should ask whether or not a customer would find the site organically, without the advertiser paying the fee for navigation.

Some smart marketers have already begun to measure the effects of offline media spending on search -- and the return of branded vs. nonbranded keywords. Travelocity, for example, has been using econometric modeling to get smarter about where it spends money. "We think up to a quarter of search bookings should be attributed to offline media, especially with brand keywords," said Jeffrey Glueck, chief marketing officer, in an e-mail. "The interactions are strong." He cautions, however, that experiences can vary greatly by marketer.

IProspect's Mr. Murray said the offline influence on search means it's becoming more important to be present in both paid and organic listings: "When you drive someone to search, they can click on your listing or a competitor's listing. You want to be there for them to click on you."
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