How integrated is your search solution?

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Randy Schwartz
Randy Schwartz

For too long, there's been no true planning process for search. The stock line is that search is managed from within, as we optimize performance in real-time. Users identify themselves as your target by the keywords they search and, because the media is sold on a cost-per-click, your traffic is further qualified by the clickthrough.

This may be how you reach the most valuable, conversion-ready prospects — but what about the higher funnel interests where you don't quite hit your goals, and most likely can't afford to buy 100% keyword coverage? There are many reasons you need to buy these upper-funnel keywords, but when you do, you'll need to figure out which inventories you'll take and which you'll leave. This speaks to your spend strategy, and it turns out the most valuable controls for search spend may exist not at the keyword level, with bid management, but rather at the campaign level, where you can control share of voice.

Structuring your campaign into various sub-campaigns helps impose your values for where your money is invested, and how you can buy the coverage that best complements your other media investments. By coverage, I mean impression share (IS), which reflects the reach and frequency metrics used to plan all other media. But where geo-targeting is typically part of your offline planning, it turns out it makes a lot of sense with search. You might not believe there's any special need to target your search media within national campaigns, but it comes at no additional cost, and for the sake of integration, geo-targeting your search might provide the greatest point of connection to the traditional media you've planned and bought.

It's commonly known that search demand is created in large part by offline media, and we'll often see a surge in impressions and even click-through rate, directly following a spike in gross rating points (GRPs). But consider where those GRPs came from, and how you arrived at buying them. Most of your budgets are planned and bought against demographics and indexed behaviors, and tools like Simmons and Media Metrix help pinpoint those geographical markets where you'll find the greatest concentrations of your target criteria. Furthermore, if you've ever looked into spot TV, you'll find different levels of competitive clutter within local markets. Finally, if you buy spot TV, your spend will create — or accommodate — regional hotbeds of brand activity and activation. By geo-targeting your search campaigns, you can leverage the media planning best practices that drive every other channel to create the greatest crossover in exposure.

Which brings us back to the initial purpose behind your search investment — to provide continuity of presence and representation across all media. Search doesn't create the purchase intent, and it never has. Search happens to be at the right place at the right time, that moment when the consumers are ready to convert and do so online. But, by providing consistent coverage to the same audience across all the media they engage, you can create the greatest lift in brand and purchase intent. Assuming you can't afford to buy every search click all the way throughout the funnel, you're going to have to make some decisions. By looking to your offline media, you might find those decisions have already been made.

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