Brands integrate video and social in search

Marketers are scrambling to catch up with a fragmented and quickly evolving search marketing industry that takes greater advantage of social networking sites and integration with video.

Industry players are responding to more types of searchable Web content, as well as a broadening range of search marketing and measurement tools, according to a recent report from Forrester Research and industry experts. Yet, the added complexity isn’t hurting search’s appeal to marketers. Search accounts for 60% of interactive marketing spending, according to Forrester.

Entertainment brand Six Flags Theme Parks partnered this year with Yahoo to use rich media to include video commercials in its search efforts. The company’s primary goal was to tie search to its online ticket sales to make a direct connection with consumers, instead of just building brand awareness.

“[Within] our digital media efforts, [search] is the most important thing we do,” says James Geiser, VP of marketing and sales at Six Flags Theme Parks.

Other marketers are also taking advantage of the fact that video, which can spread easily through social networks, is becoming more searchable, say industry experts.

“It’s not sufficient to just take your video content and put it on your website in a Flash Player. If you also upload it to YouTube, you’ll probably get increased reach and more views on that content,” says Stephan Spencer, VP of SEO strategies at Covario, a provider of online marketing analytics software and search marketing services. He added that with consumers able to share video content, that content can lead to a two-way conversation in social media.

Six Flags invests in rich search ads

Six Flags Theme Parks launched a paid search campaign with Yahoo’s “Rich Ads in Search” in June. The effort marked first time the amusement park brand incorporated online video within RAIS.

“When the RAIS product became available, it was a perfect fit for the Six Flags campaign,” says James Geiser, VP of marketing and sales at Six Flags Theme Parks.

The search effort’s main goal was to drive ticket sales and revenue, says Geiser, with the secondary aim of increasing brand awareness.

From June through August, the campaign resulted in sales of 8,000 tickets, which amounts to a 28-to-one return on investment, Geiser notes.

Consumers are also visiting social platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Gowalla, for information about products and services. Google enhanced its offerings in August by launching Google Realtime Search, which consumers can use separately from its primary search engine to find content from social networking sites such as Twitter.

Industry experts cited another reason for rapid change in the space: most consumers are getting savvier in their search efforts.

“People are no longer searching for a one-word term. They are searching for three-four-five word terms,” says David Castle, director of client strategy at digital marketing agency OneUpWeb. “So, searchers are becoming more sophisticated as well.”

Car rental company Avis Budget Group has modified its search strategy based on research showing that consumers actually segment themselves based on their keywords.

John Peebles, VP of online marketing at Avis Budget Group, says that after taking this data into account, the company created a dedicated landing page for search-savvy consumers.

Brands are also using search marketing initiatives to target consumers by their geographic location. Outdoor goods retailer Cabela’s began a geotargeting program promoting its in-store pickup in May that used search — a first for the company. The multichannel retailer used search to geotarget potential customers in and around Grand Junction, CO, before a store’s grand opening. “We had about $25,000 in sales when the doors opened,” says Derek Fortna, Internet marketing manager at Cabela’s.

These changes are also resulting in search marketers’ jobs becoming more complex, requiring them to take on business functions and responsibilities that, in the past, were not connected to search marketing. Industry experts say it is critical that up-and-coming search marketers have a full grasp on the other moving parts of their business in order to succeed.

“Knowledge of product financials, inventory levels, promotions, ratings and other data points allow a search marketer to help achieve business goals such as optimizing for revenue or margins,” says Jon Armstrong, CEO of Adlucent, a company that provides paid search for retail clients.

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