Search marketing is not a kid anymore
Once relegated to a small club of tech-savvy entrepreneurs, search has gained a seat at the marketing equivalent of the grown-up table and is a standard component of advertisers' marketing mix. For search marketers, this makes life harder. The tried-and-true basics that brought success for the past 10 years are no longer adequate to impress sophisticated advertisers, nor are they sufficient to drive search marketing success in a landscape where tactical expertise is ubiquitous.
What's next for search marketing? The answer is simple: Search needs to become strategic.
Fundamentally, strategic search marketing is built on three elements. The first is search-centric Web design. In a world where 20%-50% of Web site traffic is driven through search engines, designing Web sites to align with searcher intent is one of the most effective, yet overlooked, digital marketing opportunities. The premise of search-centric Web design is to build content, site navigation and site experiences that are directly relevant to searchers' expressed intentions.
Through analysis of click-stream data, as well as qualitative information such as surveys, it's possible for marketers to gain a deep understanding of the information most relevant to searchers. This leads to a better site-side experience, increased engagement and a higher likelihood of converting a searcher into a customer.
The second element of strategic search marketing is smart measurement. Rather than focus on a single success metric (e.g., search-driven revenue), smart measurement employs multiple data points to gauge the true efficacy of search marketing investment. This includes identifying key purchase indicators and measuring search's impact in driving offline conversions. It also includes measuring search's impact on brand perception, and quantifying the value that search has in shaping a consumer's decision-making process. Smart measurement allows search marketers to quantify the true impact search has on driving both short- and long-term returns.
The third and final element of strategic search marketing is in expanding the boundaries of what we define as search and looking beyond query-specific marketing opportunities. This requires both outside-in and inside-out approaches. From the outside in, search marketers must understand the impact their non-search marketing efforts have on searcher behavior, and optimize their media mix accordingly.
From the inside out, search marketers should apply their data-centric, relevancy-based, auction-model skills to emerging channels, such as advertising exchanges and long-tail Web site targeting. Just as strategic search redefines what we mean by “search marketing,” it redefines what it means to be a search marketer.
Through search-centric Web design, smart measurement and expanding the boundaries of search marketing, search breaks out of its tactical silo and becomes an integral component of a marketer's toolkit. Marketers embracing strategic search efforts develop powerful advantages in customer experience, insight and action that their competitors cannot match with tactical search expertise alone. Now that we're at the grown-up table, it's time we start contributing to the conversation — I think we'll find it's much more interesting.
Matthew Greitzer is director of SEM at Avenue A/Razorfish. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.