Search engine marketing — can it work for lists?

Be encouraged! The list industry is not dying; it is evolving into a dynamic, data-based infrastructure of targeted direct marketing opportunities — and the Web is bringing it all together. You might be asking, “Shouldn’t this article be listed in a search marketing column?” Not really, this is a message for list manag­ers, list owners, and database compilers who want to leverage their assets and increase revenue.

The birth of the Web, circa 1990, coincides with the learning age for the next generation of direct marketers. These search-minded entrepreneurs and business professionals are Googling their way to the top, and are less inclined to depend on tradi­tional methods to reach their market. Furthermore, those who are looking for innovative customer acquisition strategies are turning to the Web. If you are a list manager, then you might be asking, “OK, but how does this relate to my objective to increase list rental revenue?”

The same basic search engine marketing principles apply. For starters, visit Google and run a quick search on the mailing list you are trying to promote: i.e. “Advo mailing.” If you’re doing a good job with search engine optimization, then the mailing list may actually appear above the list owner’s corporate site. Maybe you’re someone looking to rent a generic list of gift buyers.

Try running a Google search on “Gift buyers mailing list” and you may actually be able to click through, view the datacard, and get a price quote for the Swiss Colony mailing list.

For list managers and list brokers, you also want to keep an eye on your competitors’ rankings. Surprisingly, you may find out that you’re not too late in getting on top of the organic search listings. Take a look at the search results for “List manager” and “List broker”. What do you see? How far down the list did you need to scroll to find your company’s name? If you’re looking for the big names, then you may need to go deep; so seize the opportunity and embrace search engine marketing (SEM) for your business. It takes time for your Web pages to get indexed, so the sooner you get started, the better.

Finally, don’t be discouraged if you begin to feel like you’re chasing a moving target as you learn more about search engine marketing. The field of search engine optimiza­tion continues to evolve as companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft implement new personalized, localized, and contextualized search meth­ods — but this should only improve the user experience and increase the relevance of search results. If you’ve done the SEM job right as a list manager or list owner, then these users (or mailers) will be waiting at your online doorstep to place their list order.

So be encouraged about the future of mailing lists, but don’t ignore the role that search engines play in directing existing customers and future prospects to you and — that’s right — your competitors.

Chris DeMartine is director of business development at NextMark, Inc. Reach him at [email protected].

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