Brand Strategies for Search Marketing - Part 1

"Why would I buy my own brand terms?" asks . "Aren't we are already listed at the top of the search engines?"

Sound familiar? Of course it does. Whether you're an agency, consultant, or in-house expert, at some point you will need to effectively answer this key question.

Before you answer, remember: when dealing with clients or executives, it's best to use terms they can easily understand rather than confuse and frustrate them with technobabble. So, the next time you're asked this question, the following analogy should help.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Let's say you own a clothing store. You have two entrances to your store -- a front and a back. The front entrance is on a nice, well-lit street that is very busy. Each day, 700 people come in through the front door.

What's the search marketing equivalent of a front entrance? Organic search results.

On the other hand, the back entrance to your store is not well lit. A seedy, dark alley greets potential customers looking for your store. The 700 people streaming in through the front door seem like a pretty good crowd, so you invest nothing to improve your situation. As a result, your store has zero patrons entering through the back door.

The back door represents paid search results.

The 300

Meanwhile, a rival clothing store has a back entrance adjacent to yours. Same back alley, similar back door. However, they've recently paid to light their entrance and hired a security guard. Fancy signage touts how their clothes are more stylish and a better value than your offerings.

Your rival store now receives plenty of traffic through this back entrance.

If your store made the same investment toward improvements, you'd receive 300 profitable patrons through this entrance. Not only that, but you can also control the messaging people see when they walk by. With your new signs, you can highlight how your clothes are the best around.

These 300 patrons will also tell others of the great experience they had at your store and your front entrance traffic will increase from 700 patrons to 800 patrons. Hence you've increased traffic to your store by 400 profitable patrons (300 from back entrance + 100 from front entrance) and have also planted effective messaging about your clothes with these patrons who are subsequently telling their friends. Who wouldn't want to make this profitable investment in the back entrance?

The Doors

Wait.

You're worried some of the 700 customers (who've been coming in the front door) might start using the back door. Or, you're losing sleep because some of the 300 now using the back door would've used the front door if only you'd locked the back door.

Sound silly? Sure it does.

You've already forgotten the most important fact: a short time ago you never had those 300 customers.

Control the Message

Studies that have shown buying paid terms synergistically increases your organic clicks.

Couple this with the fact that paid listings give you control over exactly what message you want to convey about your brand. That's invaluable, particularly when coupled with the synergy of paid and organic search.

What could be more important when you're spending millions on traditional media (TV, print, outdoor) to launch or promote a new product or service. With search, you can guarantee your branding efforts are embedded in the new product, service, promotion, or sweepstakes.

Now that we've convinced our CEO to buy our brand terms, our job has just begun.

Next time: how to effectively manage brand listings and measure success.

Join us for SES Chicago from December 3-6 and training classes on December 7.

About the author

Erik Qualman is the Global Vice President of Online Marketing for EF Education, headquartered in Lucerne, Switzerland. With more than 26,000 employees in 53 countries, EF Education is the world's largest private educator.

His book "Socialnomics: How Social Media has changed the way we live and do business" was released from Wiley Publishing in August 2009. Qualman is a frequently requested speaker within the Internet and marketing community and also maintains a social media blog at www.socialnomics.net.

Qualman has been highlighted in numerous publications, including: BusinessWeek, AdvertisingAge, USA Today, Forbes, PR Week, Investor's Business Daily, eWeek, Media Life, Direct Marketing News and Direct Response Magazine. He has also been interviewed on various radio and television outlets. Qualman is also a published fiction author.

Prior to joining EF Education, Qualman helped grow the online marketing and eBusiness functions of Cadillac & Pontiac (1994-97), AT&T (1998-2000), Yahoo (2000-03), EarthLink (2003-05) and Travelzoo (2005-08). Qualman holds a BA from Michigan State University and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin. He was also first team Academic All-Big Ten in basketball at Michigan State and still finds time to follow his beloved Spartans.