Online Exclusive: Is Your Search Campaign a TV Campaign?

Television ads are broadly crafted and wasteful. Search ads — done right — are pinpointed and efficient. And because the two kinds of advertising are so different, you want to do your best not to confuse them.

TV is wasteful. Beyond the fuzzy numbers you get from polls, focus groups and estimates that glean learnings for millions and millions of people from a handful of tracked viewers, you never really know who's watching TV. And because you don't know who's watching, TV ad messaging is fraught with inefficiency: A lack of targeting means that a lot of your audience will tune you out; meanwhile, a lack of good TV metrics means you can't learn enough about what's wrong to fix the problem.

In the TV world, that kind of inefficiency is OK. It's all just part of the game; and if you break out ahead in the end, the TV reasoning goes, all that necessary waste was well worth it.

Search is precise. In search, “necessary waste” isn't part of the picture. Even at the very simplest level of search analytics, you know exactly what each member of your audience is looking to find: All you need to do is look at the keyword. And if your analytics is better still, you can figure out where on the planet a searcher is coming from, what time of day she's looking for what you sell and even extraordinarily targeted information like how much money she makes.

Meanwhile, with highly pinpointed search testing you can learn the exact ad copy/landing page/deeper page combinations that get you the best conversion rates, from the best searchers possible. Don't know whether your ads are the best ones possible? Test them against another ad. Aren't so certain about that landing page? Make another landing page and test that one as well.

And because search gives you tracking and testing capabilities like no other medium, it offers targeting and efficiency that no other medium can offer, too.

TV viewers aren't searchers. Though TV ads are wasteful, that happens to be OK: first, because there's nothing you can do about it, and so it has to be OK; and second, because in the early buy cycle, passive-recipient world of TV advertising, the only thing your viewer asks of you is that you provide entertainment. As long as you justify your interrupting her favorite TV show, your TV ad audience really doesn't care how targeted you get.

But in search, your audience is later in the buy cycle (after all, they're looking for something); they're looking to find something specific (even if they don't know what it is yet); and they're looking at your ad and all of your competitors' ads at the same time — which never happens on TV. This means your audience is asking for targeting in search; if you offer them the targeting they want, they'll reward you for it — and they'll punish you if you don't).

The conclusion is that you don't want to run your search campaign like a TV spot. If you're creating a highly targeted campaign that takes advantage of each keyword, ad and landing page by testing appropriately, then you're doing just fine. But if you're not taking advantage of the targeting that search offers you (if you're treating all your keywords equally, say, and hoping to win out in a game of averages), then you're trying to apply a TV model to search. This means you're wasting money, missing opportunity and selling your campaign short. That is something you don't want to do, something you don't need to do and an entirely avoidable source of search waste.

Want to get the best efficiency out of your search? Click off the TV.

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