Holistic search considerations

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Roger Barnette is president of search optimization technology company SearchIgnite (, based in Atlanta. Hands On: Search recently asked Barnette about how paid and organic search campaigns can fit in with other marketing channels.

HOS: What challenges do search marketers face in ensuring multichannel coordination?

Barnette: Multichannel tracking and attribution, and subsequent media-mix optimization, is an issue of particular concern. Say a marketer is running a search engine optimization campaign along with a paid search campaign and an online display ad campaign. He may have an agency handle the display ads and receive display views, clicks and conversions from his ad server. At the same time, the search engine marketing agency that manages his paid search will provide click and conversion measurement from its technology. And perhaps he's managing organic search internally and tracking it via Google Analytics or Omniture.

What's happening out in the marketplace is that many of that marketer's customers see his display ads, then search on a pay-per-click ad before making a decision and, finally, type in the company's name in Google to make a final purchase. Each of these three channels can count as a separate action, but they need to be viewed as only one action. Remarkably many marketers haven't solved this issue.

HOS: It's apparent that a variety of different channels and campaigns can impact each other?

Barnette: Yes, and it's entirely possible that the organic search campaign, as producing the last click, might get credit for the conversion or sale. But in actuality, the organic search wouldn't have taken place without PPC and display. You have to have a system that is able to apportion credit for a single conversion across multiple user touch points or media types. When you see the proportion of each, you can make appropriate media-mix, budgeting and optimization decisions.

In general, we can say that paid search benefits from display ads and organic search benefits from paid search, with a cross-channel impact across all three. And with search retargeting and behavioral targeting becoming more important, all three become even more interrelated.

HOS: How so?

Barnette: By serving up ads to people who searched for and visited your site but who left without converting. For the vast majority of marketers, this is a no-brainer because you can run search retargeting campaigns through an agency that specializes in it and only pay when you get conversions as a result. Essentially the technology follows prospects to other sites and provides targeted ads to them.

The most critical time frame for retargeting the prospect is within one day, with ads appearing on different sites as he is visiting them. You can make a retargeting buy with ad network sites that are similar to your own and, if a visitor has a cookie from you, your ad will be delivered to him. It's a cost-effective way to leverage the media you've already purchased, such as paid search.

HOS: What does the future hold for search marketers?

Barnette: As digital marketing continues to mature, a holistic approach to managing and optimizing your ROI-focused, direct-response campaigns is critical. This would include paid search as well as SEO, performance-based display, paid inclusion and affiliate programs. Sophisticated technologies are appearing now that allow marketers to more easily track and analyze their overall performance and see how their various media channels impact it.

For example, dashboards can show you what percentage of your prospects who converted via PPC actually saw one of your display ads before clicking on that PPC link. That can help you better optimize your display and search campaigns in tandem, to increase conversions and overall return on advertising spending.

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