It’s was an interesting discussion. I was talking with one of my associates the other day who was explaining to me how he noticed that many clients want what they want more than want what they need.
It was a profound insight considering the growth of search engine marketing and the significant movements of companies shifting larger percentages of their marketing budgets away from traditional media and towards web advertising.
Even more interesting was the timing of the discussion. Earlier that day, I was having a discussion with a potential hire about their search engine marketing experience. The candidate had some decent paid search experience with a large traditional advertising agency where he had handled a few large and well-known brand name clients. He was explaining to me the incredible success he had with the clients’ paid search campaigns and how the clients were really excited with the results. Interested in results, I asked the candidate to explain the details and “incredible” outcomes.
He went on to talk exclusively about generating massive impressions, increasing click-through rates, and driving visitors to the clients’ website. Feeling like he had left something out of his explanation, I asked about the results gained from all of those visitors to the client’s website. “Results? Oh – They weren’t tracking that! It wasn’t the client’s objective – it was a branding campaign.”
Wow – by tying the two events together I finally found the light of day or maybe the dark of night. Many clients want what they want more than want what they need because what they want is based on their current knowledge and habit. Many large companies and ad agencies are used to creating brand advertising using television, radio, and other traditional forms of media so they take the same model and apply it to search engine marketing. But aren’t they missing something?
I think so. I agree with the power of branding. With over 10 years of marketing experience and a MBA, branding has been deeply embedded in my mind. But through over six years of search engine marketing experience and witnessing its significant advantages for real-time tracking. measuring, testing and converting, I think many are applying what they want and causing a huge disconnect with what they really need to grow and flourish using online advertising.
Measuring impressions and click-through rates is definitely important but they only uncover half of the SEM success formula. What about the other half called “engagement?” Certainly a click-through cannot be sincerely considered engagement especially in light of click fraud and happy sport-clickers with no intention of experiencing the brand.
In my opinion, a brand builds equity after it is experienced. For example, I would argue that Starbucks became a powerful brand after engaging each customer in a positive experience – not just once but time and time again. Sure – I agree frequency of exposure helps develop brand recognition and recall and may influence the buying process. But I would argue that an impression to a visitor driven search, where a whole lot of other competitors are listed, or even a search on the brand, does not add any real and measurable value.
Instead I contend that if a company wants to use search engine marketing for branding purposes, it should employ engagement measures beyond the click-through like “time on site” associated with a visitor reading and consuming the brand or a second and deeper click on a specific informational link from a landing page or even a sample/coupon download. I imagine that these measures are better indicators of not only brand exposure but more importantly potential stronger brand recall later in their buying process.
I found a March 2007 study by Chief Marketing Officer Council that stated, “marketing is undergoing substantial changes due to a mandate for CMOs to improve the relevance, accountability and performance of their organization.” A great mandate – so CMOs, how about starting by learning to want what you need from your search engine marketing and start demanding proper measures (around engagement) and results that really matter to the growth of your businesses.