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Putting Search in the Ad Mix

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Search advertising used to be an afterthought, but now search has become a fundamental part of the overall advertising strategy of most major brands.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, Feb. 27-Mar. 2, 2006, New York, NY.

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members goes into more detail, with specific tips and suggestions from each of the experts profiled in this article. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Let's find out how search has integrated itself into marketing campaigns and what the experts are encouraging us to capitalize on. Ron Belanger, of Yahoo Search Marketing, Jonathan Mendez of DigitalGrit, David Roth of Carat Fusion, and Chris Copeland of Outrider Search Marketing came together to explore the strategies and trends that are working as businesses put search into the ad mix.

New search marketing strategies

Ron Belanger kicked off the session. He's worked both sides of the ad fence, serving a major media agency and now a major search engine. From this vantage point, he elucidated some common sense trends and some offerings the Yahoo engine is making to encourage more integrated online ad campaigns.

First, search marketers have to realize that times have changed. Traditional agencies are embracing the search medium. It's no longer a hard sell to convince businesses of the importance of having a strong presence in the engines. Instead, the focus is on maturing online strategies.

As search tactics have diversified, it's become increasingly important for business not just to achieve first page rankings but to dominate the space. Belanger, a consummate Yahoo marketer, encouraged the audience to consider banners and display as part of their search marketing mix. "We've seen a measurable lift in response when businesses buy display ads to augment first page rankings," he explained.

To craft a more effective ad strategy, marketers are looking more broadly at the online sales process. Search marketing has primarily concentrated ad dollars at the spout of the sales funnel. It used to be thought that businesses must build brand awareness off line for their product to have relevancy on the web. But Belanger cited a recent study where 25% of respondents said they would try a new brand they'd never seen before if it ranked well in search.

You see, the actual way search has developed is different than we may have thought. Search serves to introduce people to brands. Look at the success of brands like Craigslist. High rankings in search have been used to establish a trusted name for this self-built online phenomenon.

Find the collision point between your product and search interest

Take the recent Super Bowl. Big brands consciously bought online space to capitalize on the buzz created by highprofile halftime ads. With some spark and imagination, Miller Beer created an online campaign to capitalize on their Super Bowl ad, creating an online advert game that mirrored their TV message. They bought dozens of keywords related to something online users commonly search for—not beer—but free downloadable games.

The success of their campaign was marked. Miller saw 360,000 people, over a short period of time, play their free game. Some stayed online up to 15 minutes-far more product face time than a fleeting 30 second Super Bowl slot.

Citing another Super bowl success case, Pepsi's brown and bubbly proved the value of generating demand on one channel and then capitalizing on the web, and more specifically on search. Their campaign bought search space on "brown and bubbly" among other terms, extending the run time of their campaign message and reinforcing the product interest generated by their high visibility TV spot.

Jonathan Mendez of Digital Grit had his own Super Bowl story to share. He took the audience through a fantastical account of a last minute decision by a major insurance company to augment their campaign with search.

Mendez's team, always up for challenge, created a tight and creative campaign in record speed. Spend was not an object. So keyword blocks were bid on to ensure #1 positioning. Creative was tightly written to echo the TV spot. Time periods for keyword bids were set to capture peak interest after the media run, extend the life of the campaign, and be waiting in prime position when the users came searching.

Super Bowl Sunday came and the insurance company's ad ran... but something was wrong. The message, so carefully woven into every aspect of the online campaign, did not. Mendez played the ad in the SES session for illustrative and dramatic effect. And we all said in stunned silence, reliving that moment with Mendez and his team.

What happened? The insurance company had pulled the original ad, changing the Super Bowl campaign message. Forgetting to notify the search marketing team.

In spite of this faux pas, the campaign ran well. The international corporation saw great results and were pleased. No doubt Digital Grit still got paid royally. So all's well that end's well. But the good results only show the outrageous potential to be tapped, when media buys are effectively coordinated across the channels.

Adding search to the ad mix revives an old brand

David Roth of Carat Fusion brought his experience with SEM and Ad Agencies to the podium. In a case study that could be called: Teaching and Old Brand a New Trick, David told us how Carat helped Kodak revive itself and begin to carve a name for itself in a new market using Search.

Kodak's campaign goal was to rebrand itself. Using some new products, they were intent to move out of the diminishing print photography market and build a competitive position in the digital photography world.

Carat took up the challenge, adding search marketing to the mix to media buys. They relied on search to:

  • Support Kodak's messaging in other ad avenues
  • Create new online campaigns, diversifying Kodak's keyword portfolios so they'd appear to new demographics
  • Lead people to new microsites that supported the brand transformation

Results? Kodak saw significant lifts in traffic and buzz in a short space of time.

Because search results are so easily measurable, Roth encouraged marketers to use search to vet new ad campaigns in other mediums. Test offers, messaging. Use the instant feedback to refine and adjust. Know what consumers are responding to before investing in the less flexible media buys.

Spots & stars: The final tips of a full session

To wrap up the session, Chris Copeland of Outrider brought a few additional tips of his own. First, he emphasized a track veteran SEMs may take for granted: Spot opportunities are still low cost in the world of search. They work. They're plentiful. And they allow you to diversify and penetrate new audiences with little effort. Use them like a stealth bomber. Get in and out fast. Penetrate a popular phrase or market, and measure your results.

Finally, leverage any celebrity star power your brand may have in your online campaigns. If you've got Jessica Simpson endorsing your product, use her name in your online marketing. Open new keyword groups with the key of celebrity appeal. Sprinkle that startdust. Find creative ways to help your brand or product penetrate the online space.

Amy Edelstein is the founder of Ascent Copywriting and the author of numerous articles about innovations in Search Marketing.

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members goes into more detail, with specific tips and suggestions from each of the experts profiled in this article. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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