Magazine article Marketing

Digital: Search Belongs at Centre

Magazine article Marketing

Digital: Search Belongs at Centre

Article excerpt

Search marketing is starting to prove its effectiveness when used as an integral part of a campaign, writes Greg Brooks.

Search marketing's meteoric rise has been well-documented, with the medium now worth pounds 750m in the UK alone, a figure that could rise to more than pounds 1bn by the end of the year on the back of product launches such as MSN's AdCenter.

But its ascent has left many marketers confused. While they appreciate and are constantly lectured on the benefits of, and the need to adopt the medium, there is little to suggest they have fully grasped how to integrate it with the more traditional elements of their already prodigious promotional activity.

Advocates of search marketing are clear that such integration is possible and can achieve a variety of aims, from enhancing the effect of work on other channels to providing an effective measurement tool for broader campaigns.

The key to making this happen in terms of paid search marketing is establishing it as an equal partner. Digital specialists such as full-service agency Framfab have noted the medium's importance, and aim to present it as an option to clients as early as possible at the pitching stage to demonstrate the need for an effective search strategy. The agency always asks to see prospective clients' existing marketing and media schedules so that it can gauge the breadth of their marketing strategy and suggest a suitable way to enhance search. 'You need to have an understanding of the whole marketing plan to understand how search fits in,' says Jonathan Axworthy, media director at Framfab.

Specialist digital media agencies such as i-level are also aware of the important role the medium plays in feeding other marketing disciplines. 'Search should always be at the centre, whether the marketing is online or offline, as it is an integral part of the customer journey,' says i-level head of search Amanda Jones. 'We advocate an integrated approach to clients and encourage them to let us plan alongside their offline agencies.'

While the online industry may be fully briefed on search's effectiveness, the challenge is to convince the offline world that it should take the medium more seriously. The point can be strengthened by the wealth of research demonstrating that an integrated marketing approach generates traffic spikes on search engines. For example, a brand might run a TV campaign using a memorable tagline and then mirror that tagline through a search strategy. This is especially pertinent when one considers that there are 36.5m people online in the UK, the majority of whom use the internet to research products and services.

Foundation-building

To reap the rewards of integrating search with other channels, though, it is imperative to ensure that the medium is factored in at the inception of any overall marketing plan. 'As soon as a campaign goes live, searches are happening. You need time to develop your keyword strategy and if this has been done, it closes the loop,' says Paul Mead, managing director of paid-search agency Quartz Interactive. 'If you don't do it, you are losing return on investment on all of your marketing.'

Virgin Money is one brand that has adopted this technique, working with specialist search agency The Search Works to ensure it never misses out on the full impact of its TV campaigns. 'We get Virgin Money's TV schedule and upweight after its TV spots,' says Stephanie Carr, deputy managing director at The Search Works. 'We have moved on from the view that search is a direct-response mechanism; it is now being used to support the brand.'

The strategy can be applied across all media channels, and is already being employed by a range of companies to ensure they get the maximum out of their marketing. In some cases, it can even save them money.

Package-holiday operator MyTravel uses MVi paid-search technology in conjunction with a search-engine optimisation strategy devised by search specialist Ambergreen to ensure that it ties in with any offline marketing. …

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