Q&A: Roger Barnette, CEO of SearchIgnite

Roger Barnette, founded SearchIgnite six years ago to provide large enterprise companies with the software to power and analyze their search marketing campaigns. Barnette says the 100-person firm is “growing rapidly” and expanding its products and geographical reach. Its clients include American Express, E-Trade, Avis, InterContinental Hotel Group, Ann Taylor and Chico’s.

In an interview with Direct Marketing News, Barnette shares his tips for maximizing search engine marketing during the holidays.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): Right now, a lot of Americans are turning to the search bar to start their holiday shopping, tapping in wish lists to Google or Bing. What should retailers keep in mind in terms of search around the holidays?

Roger Barnette (SearchIgnite): One is that while Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest two days, the season is extended out over a several week period, so you shouldn’t rest on your laurels, and think it’s over. During the season, consumers are actively comparison shopping. They’re using the Web to find the best places to buy the items they’re looking for. These are much more deliberate rather than impromptu buys. That means it’s a good time for more testing, testing copy, etc. and then adjusting your campaigns in real-time. The ability to read the data, make decisions and adjust is more critical at this time of year.

DMN: Have we moved beyond keywords in search yet? What’s the next frontier?

Barnette: What we’re excited about is how search marketing plays a broader role in a digital marketing ecosystem. Consumers rely on search to make purchases, but they also interact with banner ads, they click on Facebook ads. Understanding the entire purchase path the customer takes is critical to optimizing paid search, as well as the other channels.

Giving appropriate credit to each media program is important. Don’t give full credit for the purchase on your website to the last piece of media that someone clicked on to get to your website. It’s in rare cases that they just click on one thing to get there. If you just give credit to the last click, you’re telling your systems to optimize for that part of the purchase path, leaving out the research phase where you pay attention to the keywords.

DMN: Is there a perfect formula out there?

Barnette: There’s not one formula that fits each company because each is unique in the types of products they sell, the type of media they use and how customers interact with their site. It’s a consultative process; it’s a combination.

DMN: What are some of the ways that you counsel your clients to integrate search with other marketing programs?

Barnette: Part of it is technology, having a platform that can combine clicks and search and pull in other types of media, such as Facebook, so you can view all your technology. After that it’s having a structure so you’re not making media decisions in a silo. You need to think about the right media mix to achieve the best ROI.

DMN: How do you know what your search budget should be?

Barnette: The vast majority of our clients are buying search media for the purpose of a direct measurable ROI. If you have a budget to drive ROI then you should have a threshold for how profitable your campaign should be. If you are spending $1 to make $1.50, then you should be spending as many dollars as possible.

As you spend more money, though, the profitably falls, so it’s finding the point where it’s a break even dollar, that’s where your budget be.

DMN: Tell me about the platform enhancements that SearchIgnite rolled out last month. I understand it’s offering additional metrics, showing display ad campaigns alongside search marketing campaign data?

Barnette: Search lives in an ecosystem. We think digital media should be managed in a performance environment. You should have a budget for performance media, so we’re providing our clients with the ability to track and optimize performance. The tracking systems now have ability to pull in data from multiple places and it centralizes it. User behavior is maturing so there is a complete buying process taking place online, research and purchase. It allows you to buy auction-based display media and other types of display media, alongside search buys.

DMN: You also expect to roll out new social media marketing measurement functionality as a part of your offering, right?

Barnette: We can measure social media today, but what we’re going to be launching is the ability to manager your social campaigns on Facebook, so you can upload your creative and set your bids, and optimize. That will be early Q1.

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