Search is where it's at

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Search is where it's at
Search is where it's at

Total search-related ad spending soared in 2006 to $9.4 billion, up from $5.7 billion in 2005, according to a study by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Association. More than 85 percent of that spending was for paid-search listings. Businesses are recognizing that search, like direct marketing, can be measured, tracked and held accountable. Enterprise marketing budgets are reflecting this heightened awareness, with search-marketing budgets beginning to encroach upon print, television, newspaper and other channels. But as more businesses begin to understand and profit from the higher ROI provided by search, it is becoming harder to maintain an edge over the competition.

The next big thing on the search frontier, search-relationship marketing, moves beyond “point-of-query” tactics, such as organic optimization or paid placement/inclusion. In its most advanced form, SRM allows businesses to dramatically extend the reach of search-related ad spending, effectively “remarketing” more personalized content to Web users through a unique mix of search-marketing strategies, affiliate Web partnerships, shared cookie technologies and dynamic ad-serving tactics. So, regarding search-marketing aspects of SRM, how can marketers use existing customer data to offer more personalized content for searchers?

Segmenting searchers

Applying the strategies traditionally associated with direct marketing, including segmentation, targeting and personalization, will increase the conversion rates on your search-related marketing efforts. If you haven't done so already, perform a segmentation analysis on your current customer base. Use the results to determine which groups are distinct enough in their demographics, psychographics and behavior to target with an enhanced pay-per-click campaign. Next, write different versions of paid-search ads, appealing to each segment's known or implied attributes. Finally, create a personalized landing page for each segment, featuring content or offers focused on unique needs and desires.

A key to the success of your campaign is the correct mapping of keyword clusters to customer segments. Data-modeling techniques, such as cluster analysis, can provide insight into which segments map to which products and keywords. You may want to consult a search-marketing professional to identify the appropriate keywords for your campaign as this can be a complex process.

Next, associate your pay-per-click creative with each segment's keywords. Links should route searchers to the personalized landing page that speaks to their needs. If multiple segments are mapped to the same keyword, use post-click-segmentation tactics to identify visitors and route them appropriately. Set cookies on a user's system during the first visit and, if possible, append incoming search terms with site behavior data to serve up more relevant offers on future “non-search” site visits.

The key with SRM is to start simply. Use existing channels and current customer data to improve your current pay-per-click ROI. Then start looking at other partnerships, technologies or tactics that could offer your potential customers more personalized brand interactions.

Dave Tomlinson is management supervisor at Rapp Collins Retail, Dallas, TX. Reach him at

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