Searching for subs

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Search engine marketing and search engine optimization have been buzzwords for some time in the circ industry. And pay per click (PPC), a tool to help in the search engine battle, is rapidly entering the audience marketing vernacular. At least two b-to-b publishing companies, Reed Business Information and Bobit Business Media, have begun to use PPC, a marketing technique in which the company bids on keywords from a search engine so that its ad appears when someone types in those particular keywords. The company only pays when someone clicks on its ad. “It's simply another way that we're trying to find new subscribers in as cost-efficient a manner as possible,” said Eric Rutter, VP-audience marketing at Reed Business Information. “And we think that this has the potential for scale.” PPC can get pretty complicated, Rutter said. “For each keyword or phrase, there need to be specific landing pages,” he said. “We also needs to have a sense of how the search engine works and then build different pages to work in conjunction with different keywords.” Christine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and e-media at Bobit Business Media echoed Rutter. “You don't want to dump [users] onto a general form or landing page because these are very targeted people,” she said. “If they're looking for something related to the business of nail salons, it suits you to build a related landing page that will bring them in.” Reed Business Information is testing PPC with one of its electronics titles. “If we bought the word "microprocessor,' our ad would be competing against microprocessor manufacturers,” said Rutter. “Since we want to reach someone who is interested in receiving a magazine that covers the microprocessor industry, we may use long-tail keywords such as "microprocessor industry news' in order to refine our search results.” Keyword choice is obviously the most important aspect of PPC. While marketing a tax publication, Oldenbrook said, choosing a more specific keyword targeted to those who work in the industry rather than a general term such as “tax” will be much more effective. “It needs to be something that people in that industry use naturally,” she said. “It could be a phrase from a particular document or a particular tool that is only used by people in that industry. You can't trick the system by creating a whole keyword library that your editors should use. People don't work that way. You need to make it as natural as possible.” Employing PPC requires more interaction with editors because phrases that are drawing traffic should be used in stories. This makes it easier for search engines to pick them up. And editors can resent this. “This is a big barrier,” Oldenbrook said. “[Editors] need to feel part of it.” In essence, editors are being roped into the audience-marketing fold so much so that Bobit is giving editors dashboard devices so they can track the numbers as well. This allows them to see how many people are viewing their articles and where those views are coming from. “A shot of good feeling never hurts,” Oldenbrook added. Bobit works with a search consultant, Erik Gauger, who has a variety of clients. “That's something you want to know about your consultant because he has a wide source of knowledge,” Oldenbrook said. “He can see how different ideas are playing out in different sectors.” Search engine optimization is too often thought of as a strictly IT department function, Oldenbrook said, rather than being examined thoughtfully by all involved departments. “The description codes can be key to bringing more people to the site,” she says. “That's not a classic IT way of thinking.” A consultant can help bridge the gap between departments, she said. One important step Bobit has taken is to benchmark every step in its PPC optimization plan in order to create a master document that all parties can share. “Having those benchmarks and that dashboard will really help the editors and business side see the effects of the things we're doing,” Oldenbrook said. She added that with PPC, lots of testing is necessary. Current Web analytics can tell publishers how people are coming to the Web site and what words they are using to find the site, but the more circ works on targeted keywords, the better. Using more specific terms can help circ departments find potential subscribers who don't yet know about the magazine or bring back those with lapsed subscriptions when, for example, they find a story focused on a particular need. Most important, PPC allows circulators to be where the market is going for information on a daily or even hourly basis: online. “We need to make sure that our online subscription offers appear on the sites where our subscribers visit so they can find us,” Rutter said. “It's as simple as that.”
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