The New Attribution: Smart Marketers and User-Based Media Optimization

Search marketing is growing up. We've been saying this for some time, but growth and maturity continues in our industry. It's gratifying to see.

It's always useful to look at what the smart marketers are doing to see where the industry is heading. Based on what we're seeing, the industry is heading in the right direction.

In the early days the smart marketers recognized paid search marketing as a performance marketing goldmine and put a few quant geeks in a back room and let them work their magic.

As search marketing became more mainstream and competition increased, the smart marketers began to utilize technology to optimize their bids, expand their keyword lists, and manage their landing page and creative ads.

Most recently, smart marketers have understood that user behavior is changing and that there is a purchase cycle that happens entirely online.

Enter the Buzzword "Attribution"

While this is unfortunately still in the aspirational stage for most marketers, understanding how paid search works within the entire customer purchase process is good for paid search and for digital marketing as a whole.

Smart marketers use attribution to optimize performance-based digital marketing holistically -- knowing that within this landscape search marketing plays the largest role.

What are Smart Marketers Doing Now?

Onsite User

The smartest marketers today understand that to optimize their digital marketing efforts they need to deliver the right message at the right time to their potential customers whether through media or messages on their web site.

Customers browse. They search. They go to your website. They see display ads.

They search again. They ask their friend about your product on Facebook. They go back to your website. Only then do they purchase.

If you're spending incredible amounts of time and resources buying digital media and optimizing the creative your customers see, why aren't you treating your web site -- and the message your potential customers see there -- as part of the creative optimization process?

Attribution, in reality, goes further than just cross channel, measurement, and allocation of digital spend. Conversion optimization should be part of the mix as well. The same technology that delivers the right advertisement to a potential customer is also very well suited to deliver the right message on your website.

Optimization Goes Way Beyond Search

Many a marketer forgets this. To deliver optimal value to your digital marketing campaigns it is essential that the traffic you bring to site is optimized and converted.

Smart marketers will only spend more money if they see consistently increasing revenue and ROI on media they purchase. This can happen in two ways:

  1. Delivering a more qualified audience to your website.

  2. Getting them to convert more often when they get to your site.

These two goals may seem like different efforts, but they are very intertwined. In the past, many search marketers have blamed the site, the user experience, the failure of the website owner, or onsite optimization for not converting enough "quality traffic."

Digital, Onsite and User-Based Optimization, Simplified

Onsite Optimization

It's vital for the search marketers to understand and embrace the online purchase funnel and work closely with onsite teams to ensure that you take an "attribution" like approach to onsite optimization. As always, keep a close eye on your cross channel data and attribution models.

As we often say in digital: don't look at them in silos. The end result will give you more insight and data to feed back into your digital media efforts.

Are you optimizing this whole experience of the customer journey? If not, we'll discuss in more detail how to do this in my next column.

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About the author

Roger Barnette is President of IgnitionOne, the world's first closed loop Digital Marketing Suite offering media optimization, on-site optimization and attribution all in one platform. As president, he oversees the company's aggressive growth and technology strategy. Previously, Mr. Barnette was the Founder and CEO of SearchIgnite (now IgnitionOne), leading its expansion into one of the world's largest media platforms managing more than $1 billion in online advertising.

Mr. Barnette has extensive experience managing and growing emerging technology businesses and is a veteran of the online marketing industry. He is a monthly columnist for Search Engine Watch and MediaPost's Search Insider blog, and a frequent guest speaker at digital marketing conferences. He has received numerous awards including the Atlanta Internet Marketer of The Year award and Emory'sGoizueta Business School Outstanding Alumni award.

Previously, Mr. Barnette was Founder and CEO of eTour, an Atlanta-based Internet marketing company that was acquired by Ask.com. At eTour, he raised over $52 million in equity financing and grew the company from its inception to 5 million registered users, 400 advertisers and 170 employees in under three years.

He holds a MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University and a BS from the University of South Carolina.