Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Search Is of the Essence

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Search Is of the Essence

Article excerpt

Traditional marketers should not allow unfamiliarity to stop them engaging with the digital world.

This week, I spoke at the launch of ISBA's new guide to hiring digital agencies, a booklet I was asked to write with John Owen, planning partner at Dare.

ISBA has long been aware that there is demand from marketers for help - they feel ill-equipped to judge who to hire, and unfamiliar with the techniques and language that agencies use.

It's understandable. There is a lot that's different about digital marketing, and the pace of change has led a gap to open up between those who practise at the cutting edge of the discipline, and those who haven't yet dipped their toe in the water. The area so many struggle with is search.

But while this column tends to concentrate on innovation, I was this week struck by how, in many ways, search is perhaps the purest expression of the marketer's trade - how the skills, techniques and insights required are the very essence of classical marketing.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as 'The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitability'.

In search, it can be easy to get bogged down in the technology, the arcana of the bidding process and the jargon. Most search people do, which stops them exploiting the true potential of search, for themselves and their clients. Because the alpha and omega of search is the identification, anticipation and satisfaction of customer requirements.

Let's start with identification. On a simple level, customers self-identify in search - it doesn't take a genius to work out that a query (what search marketers call a search) for 'car insurance' is a good target for an insurance company.

Closer analysis shows this to be less clear, however. 'Car insurance' is a term people use fairly early in their consideration phase - in reality, it often converts to sales rather inefficiently. But someone searching for '5 years no claims' could be a very good prospect - they are telling us something about the nature of their business, and often, about how far down the purchase funnel they are.

Detailed analysis of search behaviour looks at the influence of terms five or six searches before the final search that led to a sale. Doing this lets us model our investment in a different way on the search terms' real value, not simply based on which was the last to trigger the sale - the so-called 'goalhanger'.

So a query tells us a lot about what a customer is like: how close to purchase they are; what sort of product might suit them; even how profitable a customer they might be. …

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