Darwinian chase through search

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Darwinian chase through search? marketing
Darwinian chase through search? marketing

Marketers' search programs must be laser-focused but nimble to keep up with algorithm tweaks and social and mobile while not neglecting the essentials of SEO that can organically propel brands to the top.

When Taco Bell was sued this January over the quality of its beef, issuing a press release was not enough of a response. Neither was taking out full-page ads in several national and local newspapers. Neither was creating a YouTube video featuring Greg Creed, the company's CEO, addressing the lawsuit, or a Facebook campaign. 

A day after Taco Bell received the lawsuit — and a day after "Taco Bell Meat" was the tenth most searched term on Google — the fast food chain launched a search campaign "to get the facts in front of a lean-forward audience who was proactively searching for information," says Juliet Corsinita, Taco Bell's senior director of media services, via e-mail. 

"We wanted to make sure that our official statement was the first thing our audience saw when searching about the beef lawsuit and to ensure that 
the real facts were shared," Corsinita adds. 

To position the company's viewpoint in the search rankings, Taco Bell threaded relevant keywords throughout its "news releases, the website and 
video descriptions to increase organic search," says Corsinita. The company centered its paid search 
campaign, conducted by Draftfcb Chicago, around several keywords, including "taco bell lawsuit," "tb lawsuit," "Taco Bell," "Taco Bell menu," "seasoned beef" and "taco meat." 

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Taco Bell created a new landing page dedicated to the lawsuit that "featured Taco Bell's official statement, the print ad and the video from Creed," says Corsinita. 

"We used this landing page to update with new information as it became available. We also 
optimized our mobile site at m.tacobell.com so that 
users could access the information from their phones."

Taco Bell understood the centrality of search to the success of all other marketing efforts. Search engine marketing (SEM, or paid search) has come a long way since the first ad — for live mail-order lobster — 
appeared to the right of Google's search results in 2000, and search engine optimization (SEO, or organic search) has come a long way from ensuring a keyword appears frequently on a Web page. Topping a search results page is no longer so simple. 

Effective search marketing still revolves around thinking like a customer — Google advises as much for those who employ its AdWords offering. With the increasing personalization of search through the introduction of tools such as social search, instant search and location-based search, how does a marketer think like a customer when that customer has so 
many disparate thoughts?

"Now we're shooting with a laser where years ago we had the opportunity to just use the shotgun and spread that really wide buckshot," says Paul Elliott, 
partner in consumer products and retail at interactive marketing agency Rosetta. 

The growing precision of search has forced large national retailers like Walgreens to completely 
rethink their paid and organic search marketing 
efforts. "Walgreens campaigns have changed pretty much 180 degrees," says Vural Cifci, the director of search and acquisition marketing for Walgreens. "When I took over the [Walgreens] program, we decided to take a look at what has been done and first fill 
the gaps, and then tackle the entire SEM and SEO 
program from scratch." (Editor's note: Direct Marketing News interviewed Cifci in February when he had been leading Walgreens' search marketing for nearly a year. He was expected to move to Travelocity as director of acquisition in March.)

Cifci and his team first looked at "how search marketing played a role in the overall marketing mix," he says. They sifted through the search data to identify areas of strength and weakness. His team's response was to build from the backbone of search marketing and to layer on it newer search features. 

"The first initiative was getting 100% presence of all brands that Walgreens sells in our campaigns. The second initiative was making sure the product ads are utilized," says Cifci. "The third initiative was trying to take advantage of the reviews and star ratings in the ads. The fourth initiative was to have a very accurate representation of our locations in various Google products, including Google Maps."

Walgreens relies on iProspect for campaign execution and Kenshoo for search software, while handling 
software in-house.

It's notable that Walgreens' first two initiatives 
focused on traditional SEO and SEM. Since revisiting the company's search marketing efforts, "the paid search campaign has generated about 39% more 
revenue year-over-year with a flat budget," says Cifci. 

He allots partial credit to the adoption of interactive ad features such as location and product images, but also credits the creation of dedicated product 
landing pages. Just as an athlete has no business bench-pressing 300 pounds if they're not even able to perform a push-up, a search marketing campaign that chases 
after optimizing for search engines' newer complexities is doomed if the search engine cannot effectively crawl a company's landing pages.

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