Search diversity

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Search marketing continues to evolve rapidly, even as it fragments into complementary variants such as local, real-time, video and mobile.

Last week, search giant Google signaled it is prepared to roll out its new Caffeine technology, promising faster performance for search queries that return rich-content results.

“It should impact, in particular, universal search,” said Dana Todd, CMO at Newsforce, a developer of PR platforms, referring to queries that return not only text results but display ads, videos and images. “One hopes they will find the means to make it easier for advertisers, with a more robust ad experience as part of the speedup.”

Here's an overview of search marketing developments and trends:

Real-time search

Real-time search results find items posted hours or even minutes earlier. When harvested from such social media as Facebook and Twitter, this type of search result can provide an almost instantaneous peek into customer sentiment and trends.

For the b-to-b marketer seeking business intelligence about new brands or products, the potential could be significant. A July study by Surf Canyon, a company whose Discovery for Search plug-in for search engines assists users in finding relevant information, found that “by comparing click-through rates, it was shown that real-time implicit personalization can dramatically increase the relevancy of presented search results.”

These searchers, Surf Canyon found, tend to click on just one query result, rather than peruse alternate findings or, even rarer, second- or third-page results. (Surf Canyon's study, “Demonstration of Improved Search Result Relevancy Using Real-Time Implicit Relevance Feedback,” tracked 700,000 search queries primarily by technology users.)

“But real-time search presents challenges in generating rapid-response campaigns,” said Kevin Lee, CEO of search engine marketing company Didit. “It's hard to make the numbers work.”

Both Google and Yahoo this fall announced deals with Twitter to index tweets and make them available for real-time search queries.

Meanwhile, a slew of specialized search engines have appeared to search social media platforms. These include Collecta, OneRiot and Topsy, which return real-time results from blogs, microblogs, news feeds and photo sharing services.

Video search

The dynamism of video, combined with its viral appeal, makes video search a compelling new channel for marketers.

“We're just beginning to investigate video search,” said Scott Brandt, VP-marketing at SurePayroll, an online payroll processing service for small-to-midsize companies. “We already have videos of our president speaking as a small-business expert on Bloomberg, and we've placed those on YouTube as well. In particular, we want to use video tips in reacting quickly to business developments, such as the evolving health care industry.”

In this sense, short-form video posted on YouTube can function very much like a banner ad—the difference being that users are searching for its content and thus, by definition, are engaged in it.

The opportunity for marketers is clear, said Eric Pepczun, VP-client services with Performics, a Publicis Groupe agency.

“YouTube is relatively inexpensive and not very crowded,” Pepczun said. “Going out and creating video content also is cheap and, as long as the content is interesting, people will consume it.”

“I've talked to a media director at a major agency, who told me that their search director is driving their video program, with content being created especially tailored to keywords and findability,” Newsforce's Todd said. “The TV people aren't just handing off their commercials to the search people; now, it's the other away around. For search marketers, that's very encouraging.”

Local Search

Local search is for targeting local buyers, and the importance of this variant is reflected in its growing share of search ad budgets.

Borrell Associates reported this fall that locally placed search advertising expenditures in the U.S. would total $4.1 billion this year, compared with overall search spending of $11.5 billion. Moreover, local search will grow 30% over the next five years, to $5.3 billion in 2013.

“Localization is extremely helpful for small businesses,” said Kevin Ryan, CMO of local interactive marketing company WebVisible. “There are, of course, long vertical directories of particular businesses, and and go a long way to make sure the value proposition is there. Beyond that, there are seemingly thousands of local directory sites that have popped up, created solely to harvest local traffic as best they can and collect ad revenue through searches.”

But those directories may or may not be credible sources, Ryan said.

“Often the first result in a search for a local business is the Yelp review site,” he said. “But marketers shouldn't worry about that or ignore it, either. Monitoring what's occurring and what people are saying about you is mission-critical.”

For search engine efforts, marketers can utilize IP targeting, which allows them to capture local consumers searching for their company but who did not use a geo-modifier. It's also possible to purchase specific keyword and geo-modifier combinations while using local area information in the copy.

The biggest thing for marketers to understand, said Ryan DeShazer, global director-search for agency GyroHSR, is that Google will not penalize Web sites for localizing duplicated Web content, as it normally does for nonlocalized content.

“Google doesn't like repurposed content, and will penalize you in the rankings for doing that,” DeShazer said. “But if you have pages that are duplicated for local purposes—such as "business solution X for Tampa,' or "business solution X for some other city,' with only the locale changing—they'll give you a pass.”

DeShazer said the agency has seen “incremental gains from our national accounts that want to communicate to the local small business market this way.”

Mobile search

ComScore estimated that smart-phone adoption grew by 63% year-over-year in August; touch-screen handset use jumped 159% in the same period. Further, researcher eMarketer estimated that display, search and message-based ad expenditures on smart phones total about $416 million today,and will reach $1.56 billion by 2013.

While the mobile ad market, including search, is still a small part of the $24 billion currently spent on Internet advertising, observers feel it's a coming marketing force.

“I think it's yet to be seen how important mobile search is for b-to-b marketing,” said Cindy Krum, CEO of mobile search marketing company Rank-Mobile. “For people on the go, it does allow people to have constant access to the information they need.”

Last week Google announced plans to acquire mobile display ad provider AdMob for $750 million in Google stock. AdMob serves display ads on behalf of its customers to Apple's iPhone as well as phones running Google's own Android operating system; and its technology is expected to augment Google's existing text ads that accompany mobile searches.

“As search marketers have struggled this year, cutting costs to gain the same results—but not enough to drive the top line—both in-house and service-side people are asking themselves what they can add in,” said Newsforce's Todd, who is on the board of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. “Thus, they're looking to add mobile, video—whatever—into their current plans.” M

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