Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Account for Navigators or Pay the Price

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Account for Navigators or Pay the Price

Article excerpt

Every day, I walk through a street market to get to my office.

From fruit and veg to improbably large pants, the traders call out their wares, trying to attract attention and bring customers in. But while they all look the same, very different motivations drive those punters.

Some know exactly what they want, and they're going to buy anyway Others are simply browsing, and are attracted to buy only when they hear the trader's call. If traders had to pay every time they called out, they'd be a lot more careful who they called to.

The last step in the purchase process, search, is, on the face of it, hyper-accountable. Tracking lets us establish precisely which keyword resulted in a sale - allowing the online marketer to pick out which of perhaps thousands of keywords are generating business - and that information can be fed back into bid strategies, continuously adjusting the amount it is worth paying a search engine for a click.

Attracted by the apparently low cost per acquisition in search, investment has spiralled, often at the expense of other media.

But while there is no doubt that search is an incredibly valuable tool, most marketers are working under some fundamental misconceptions about how search works. As a consequence, they are often substantially overvaluing what they get.

Why? Because almost half the people who search directly for a brand name aren't really searching at all. Nielsen research tells us that 43% of people don't type the web address of the site they're looking for into the address bar of their web browser. Instead, they type a brand name into a search engine.

So when someone types 'easyJet' into a search engine, it isn't because they don't know the address is www.easyjet.com. It's because they don't know how to use their browser properly, or because they can't be bothered.

Either way, they're not actually searching. They are using the search engine not to find the website, but as a means of navigating to it.

The impact of this is profound. Navigators were going to your site anyway. The search engine added little or no value here. It didn't present your brand to users when they weren't expecting it or were considering another site, it merely directed them.

This has some value, but this value isn't equal to that generated when consumers are actually searching. …

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