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Integrate search across channels

Today, consistent campaigns across media are essential — and making the most out of search is key. Four experts share how to integrate organic and paid search into your plans.

Noah Elkin
VP of corporate strategy, Steak Media

In an increasingly fragmented and competitive marketplace, it’s more important than ever to plan your mar­keting programs to be integrated and consistent. So how do you make sure you get the most out of each channel?

The first step is analyzing how your business functions across a multi-chan­nel environment. Don’t look at chan­nels in a vacuum. Instead, concentrate on the customer journey as a whole and examine where different touch points intersect, paying close attention to offline-to-online transitions. Remem­ber that search plays a key role in this dynamic as the first place consumers go when coming from an offline channel.

Take a deep dive into the demo­graphics, psychographics and behavior patterns of your customers. Understand how they act at each stage of the journey, what needs your cam­paign addresses at each stage and what factors influence a particular action and use of a particular channel. Search often functions as the starting point for offline-to-online conversions, so use deep-dive keyword research to help determine consumer intent and potential conver­sion paths. Consider paid search as a platform for conducting A/B message testing. Apply the results of that testing to your other channel marketing copy and test it repeatedly.

Once you have a good sense of who your customers are and how they behave, develop and optimize content to meet their differing needs. This includes everything from keyword iden­tification and expansion, optimization of digital media (images, video, news, etc.), content network selection (site targeting and ad network optimization), social marketing and coordination of activities between online strategies and offline placements.

Finally, implement a robust ana­lytics program to track how your campaign is working, which channels produce the highest ROI and what steps you need to take to further optimize the campaign. Make sure all channels benefit from these insights.

Search is the pivot point between your offline and online messaging

David Berkowitz
Dir. of emerging media and client strategy, 360i

Search marketing should not exist in a silo. Other channels should be planned in tandem with search to provide a consistent and measurable end-to-end experience for the consumer and the marketer.

One of the biggest opportunities to run cross-channel search programs is integrating search with social media ini­tiatives. In doing so, it’s possible to find ways that will systematically improve sites’ search engine rankings, rather than doing so entirely on an ad hoc basis.

For example, integrating search engine optimization (SEO) tech­niques and best practices into widget syndication platforms can be effec­tive. These SEO-friendly widgets attract more traffic and drive more visitors to participating marketers’ sites. How?

As widgets are posted across the Web, each link from the widget gen­erally connects with the site of the marketer sharing it. Therefore, wide distribution of search-optimized widgets or other digital assets can increase the quality and quantity of inbound links to a marketer’s site, which also improves the site’s rankings across the engines. This applies to more than just widgets, of course. Increasingly, photos, videos, news stories and other forms of content are being shared on high traffic sites and blogs across the Web.

Once search-optimized digital assets have been developed, a marketer still needs to distribute this content to increase traffic and the quantity and quality of inbound links. Actively promoting content in social spaces via social networks, Twitter or other sites is a great opportunity for brands to engage their customers, while also increasing their search viability. Digital word of mouth — where a brand actively reaches out to Web site editors and blog­gers to promote the distribution of the brand’s assets — can also drive traffic and high quality inbound links.

Integrating search with social media can have a multiplying effect on a campaign

Jennifer Black
VP of marketing, Local.com

Search marketing can deliver tre­mendous results and measurable ROI, and by following best practices you can reap the benefits. But you can also use offline ads and marketing to drive peo­ple to your Web site. Both components are important because in today’s world, businesses need an integrated approach to reach consumers at all levels and vari­ous stages of the purchase process. Start by developing an all-encompassing local online advertising strategy that includes various elements such as sub­scription ads.

But before you take another step, make sure that you’ve done up-to-date research on the keywords and categories that consumers actually use. Even the most carefully thought out strategic plan will fail if people can’t find you.

Because 82% of people visiting local search sites follow up with offline actions such as a store visit or call, you can use your online marketing to drive offline sales. That being said, you can also use offline ads and marketing to drive people to your Web site.

Regardless of budget, be sure to take advantage of both free and paid local business listing services and, again, do your homework — ensure that your business listing information is accurate and complete. And the beauty is that this doesn’t have to be a time-consum­ing process. With most directories and sites, it takes less than an hour to get your listing and/or ad up and running. So no matter what your resources, you can get it done effectively.

Don’t feel you have to rely solely on banner ads or pay per click on gen­eral search sites. Sometimes these can get expensive and can be hard to man­age. Also, be sure to take advantage of flat-fee subscription ad services as these provide significant cost and resource advantages for local businesses.

Embrace online and offline advertising as part of your search marketing campaigns

David Gorodetski
Executive creative dir. and COO, Sage Communications

Today’s world has changed. While the brand used to tell customer what it wanted in the channel the advertiser felt most comfortable in, today custom­ers tell the brands what’s relevant and where they want to be reached.

Creating an architectural branding map is helpful. Marketers need to be able to reach the customer at any point in time and make sure channel conver­sions are consistent to reach that audi­ence, using multiple touchpoints, with the same message.

It’s important to integrate online and offline components, but there are no silver bullets. Some media work bet­ter than others. For example, in today’s household, each person is exposed to messages in different media: dad in the car, mom when she’s watching TV and the kids online. When thinking about online vs. traditional media, you can’t say one or the other. Your campaign must be crafted based on the behavior of your target audience.

In the online space, most users rely on organic links more than sponsor­ship links because they do not appear biased. So some effort should go to organic optimization without a second thought. Cover all steps for organic search optimization, especially to get your result above the fold. Users then look to the sponsored link on top of the screen and then to those on the right side. Numbers drop drastically under the fold and on secondary pages. This is why Web site optimization is so impor­tant for marketers.

To appear in organic results, marketers should develop titles to all pages and links and optimize meta tags’ descrip­tion and keywords on their sites. You can also create a site map, including a robots.txt script that will tell Web crawlers to view every page of the site.

To rank higher in search engine results, you can also develop constant syndication or develop relationships with other online Web sites to link to each other.

When looking at online strategy, look beyond traditional pay-per-play

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