Why Plan Search In A Vacuum?

Chris Tuleya - correct version260Having pitched many clients looking for a range of media services over the past 10+ years, it still surprises me when a search-only RFP crosses my desk.

It’s flattering that companies still see the importance of a strong search approach.  At the same time, it’s frustrating that the industry has not yet developed the ability to integrate both digital media and search marketing under one roof. The skillsets required for each may differ, but the advantages for developing best in class practices in both fields go beyond just having additional touch points for clients. This integration needs to happen at the strategic level because neither should be planned in a vacuum. Here are 3 areas where that integration can begin:

  1. Utilize top search terms and results to help drive media consumption behavior. How someone searches can lend insight into how content is consumed. As marketers we think we know how people behave. We review endless research on consumer behavior to drive our media recommendations, but we seldom look at the insights search keywords can drive. How someone approaches researching a topic (e.g. the keywords they use) can help inform how they wish to gather information and help identify key points when decisions are made. Analyzing what websites rank high within the search results can also shed light on what information a consumer is looking for and where they prefer to get it. Doing a quick search on ‘apple iphone’ spits back apple.com as the top result but also lists reviews and articles from sites such as c|net and stuff.tv. As marketers this tells us what sources we may want to align our brand with if we are marketing products that complement or compete against Apple.
  2. Anticipate a lift in search as a result of other digital media programs. Proactively collaborating across teams to predict search volume after being exposed to display media will allow us to capture a highly qualified audience. The act of searching is inherently lazy. Search allows people to get what they’re looking for even after pursuing it with vague or misguided search terms. As two-screen media consumption continues to grow, the role of search as the backstop to capture activity triggered by other media channels will become even larger. This integration doesn’t end with keywords. Ensure you have message consistency across all relevant channels. Knowing that most sales take place after searching on brand-related terms, it is important to align search with the other channels that can drive more brand searches, like television. By speaking in a consistent tone between TV commercial and search ad, it can be easier to achieve the desired action. If the broadcast and search teams aren’t closely aligned, you could end up driving new searches that end up at a competitor’s website.
  3. Ensure measurement across all channels is aligned. Pure attribution is a mythical being that can consume precious agency hours. Instead, focus on what basic measurement is needed to inform decisions across platforms first. This can be as simple as agreeing to use a single offset of KPIs for measurement, or looking closely at key dates and periods, analyzing activity for trends. Comparing activity across platforms can inform what placements or properties are more likely to trigger an action.

These approaches come natural to an integrated agency. That’s not to say a specialty search agency can’t integrate search well with the rest of your marketing and media channels, but it can be more challenging to plan a search campaign in a vacuum without knowledge of what else is going on for the brand.

This column was written by Chris Tuleya, Vice President, eDR, at Underscore Marketing, a firm that creates and manages integrated marketing programs for health and healthy brands.