The Art and Science of Web Marketing: Getting the Gist of Key Words, Managing the "Funnel," and Other Tricks from Interactive Agencies and Other Pros

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In the real world, bank marketers use copy and images in direct mail or ad campaigns to lure customers into their ranks. Or, they rely on telemarketing scripts.

In the web realm--which is changing form and function with flustering rapidity as it matures--the banner ad and smartly worded click-to-pay have been the bait.

Among the most sophisticated practitioners, keyword buying from Google and other search engine providers, particularly the purchase of regional keywords, is a newer tactic designed to bring the searcher to your website, where presumably, he or she will find ways to do business with your bank. (Existing customers also get promotional emails, phishing risks notwithstanding.)

What could be simpler? Well, as it turns out, many things. "We've had 150 years of learning around print, 80 years around radio, and 60 years of getting to know what's effective on television," says Deno Fischer, senior executive at Accenture Marketing Sciences, based in New York. "When it comes to the digital channel, we've got about 12 years and only half of them are characterized by use of broadband. We're all learning by doing." And, as your channel marketing people can tell you, grasping even the basics of search engine marketing (SEM) takes some doing. Moreover, search engine optimization, that is, designing the bank site and filling it with content that will encourage search engines to index the material there and make the site discoverable is a non-stop act of adjustment.

A quick search on the terms "SEO" and "SEM," for instance, will bring up any number of blogs, tutorials, and specialists in this decade-young field. Certainly, that alone is an indicator that search isn't simple.

But what about other web developments--immersive content, FaceBook, and YouTube? Moving graphics, segment-oriented landing pages, or smartly worded ads placed adjacent to social networking sites are certainly options and being considered by several internet marketing leaders. Viral marketing on YouTube can also kick up awareness of your firm.

Peter Sapienza, director of marketing strategy and analysis, for Sapient, a Cambridge. Mass.-based global interactive agency, is already an old hand with these maneuvers.

Sapienza, who works out of the Los Angeles office, is in the midst of developing an updated web strategy, including leveraging social media, for Union Bank of California. While details of the project were scarce at the time of this writing, Sapienza pointed out that UBOC believed that tapping into the online community made sense for a bank known for its community building efforts in its geographic region.

Site as a face of the brand

Search basics and new web developments like YouTube may be intriguing distractions, but before you worry too much about either one, say experts, you need to think strategically. What do you want your website to accomplish? Who, in terms of age, demographic, and requirements, will be constituents of the site?

Then take an assessment of your current website: Does it look 1999? Is it on a manageable platform that makes content easy to maintain? If the website is outsourced, is content driven off a template that allows some flexibility in design, or do you need a new provider altogether?

Whatever else it does, the website should function as a well-designed face of the brand. Sapient, which is also working on a major rebranding strategy for a respected East Coast super regional, explains that a new site look and feel will be a key part of the overall campaign to both punch up and modernize its corporate image. Joey Wilson, director of marketing strategy, interactive media, says that as part of the overall effort, the bank will launch a financial advice blog.

Cantor Fitzgerald, which went with on-demand web content management provider Clickability, San Francisco, knew it needed a look and navigation principal that showcased all of its business units and also showed traders, investors, and international investors information about investment banking and asset management. …