This week, I was in New York, talking about Integrated Search Planning. Itís one of those industry phrases that you gloss over, not paying much attention to it. Itís bordering dangerously close to jargon. As you scan a topic list at a conference, it doesnít really grab you by the throat and drag you into the session room. I wanted to call it something like ďSearch: the Shortcut between You and Your CustomerĒ, or ďSearch, the Vital Online IntersectionĒ. In the end, we compromised on ďIntegrated Search Planning: How Organic, Sponsored and Paid can Optimize All Media SpendsĒ. Not really lyrical, but it works.
Itís a shame that Integrated Search Planning doesnít sound sexier, because when you spend some time thinking about it, itís a concept that can sneak up and smack you in the side of the head. This is an idea thatís immensely powerful.
We spend more and more of our lives online. The Internet is beginning to challenge TV for its share of our time and our attention. Add the fact that youíre actively engaged when youíre online, as opposed to passively absorbing programming and advertising, and the Internetís role as an influencer becomes tremendously important. So, for any given set of consumers, we can assume that online is a vital factor.
Now consider the fact that our time online is being integrated more and more into our other activities. If we see something on TV that interests us, chances are very good that further research will be done online. The same is true for magazines, newspapers or other media. Increasingly, the Internet is being unlocked from the desktop box in the den, and emerging into our prime living space. At home, our Media Center PC is right next to the TV, given a spot of honor in the room we spend 80 percent of our time. Iím also the proud owner of a new Pocket PC, and after I recovered from the shock of my first usage bill and learned to use remote Internet connectivity sparingly, Iím intrigued by this notion of being online, anywhere, anytime.
In a few more years, the integration will be complete. The line between our real world and our online world will have disappeared. The worldís largest depository of information will be ours to have, whenever the mood strikes us.
Connecting the Dots with Search
So, we are online, a lot. And weíll just spend more time there. Now comes search. There are billions of dots out there on the online landscape. Search is the quickest way to connect them. Itís our transporter, getting us from here to almost anywhere instantly. No, itís not foolproof. Yes, it can be frustrating, but nothing is better. We donít like typing in URLís. We donít want to figure out where we put the backslash, the hyphen or the tilde. We just pick a few words, jam them into a search tool bar and happily click away. We use search to navigate online.
The fact that 97% of us use one of three engines, and close to 60% of us use just one, makes it even easier. The search market is highly consolidated. Itís like the glory days of TV advertising, when there were just 3 networks and cable hadnít started fragmenting the market.
So, if youíre looking for the online intersection where youíre most likely to intercept a prospective customer, itís search. I know youíve heard that before, but really spend a couple of minutes thinking about it.
No matter what activity, what interest, what intention your target customer has, chances are very good that theyíre going to use a search engine today. Itís like owning a billboard on the busiest intersection in the world.
So, letís get back to the riveting topic of integrated search planning. The rest of your marketing has one purpose: generate engaged interest. If successful, where does your prospect turn? Odds are very good that it will be a search engine. While theyíre there, you have about 6 and a half seconds to catch their interest. If youíre successful, you can then direct them to your site, where you have the opportunity to turn them into a lifetime customer.
The Nascar Campaign that ran out of GasÖ
Let me give you an example. Some years ago, we pitched an idea to a large company. A big part of their marketing push was in a major sponsorship of Nascar racing. Every year, they poured millions into their sponsored team. To support this online, they has a separate section of their site that was devoted to the team, including up to date standings, race stats and other information. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the site had no search engine visibility. At the time, sponsored search was in its infancy. Overture was still known as Goto. They could have owned the entire Nascar bucket of keywords for a few thousand a month. With a little site optimization, they could have also gained the prime organic space on the major engines. They could have owned all online search traffic interested in Nascar for less than 0.4% of their sponsorship budget, driving them to a heavily branded site, building loyalty and putting their prospective customers one click away from product information.
Unfortunately, the company didnít get it and passed on the proposal. My only hope is that somewhere, someone is still kicking themselves.
How could you not integrate search into the rest of your media planning and creative strategy? Isnít this a no-brainer? Apparently not, because only a small fraction of companies are doing Integrated Search Planning right now. Maybe we do have to come up with a sexier title for it.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
September 28, 2005
Gord Hotchkiss is President and CEO of Enquiro, Canada's leading search engine marketing firm and one of the top firms in North America. His articles are regularly published in both on and off line newsletters, including Marketing Monitor, SEOToday, Marketing and many other trade journals. Enquiro's own information portal is www.searchengineposition.com.
With an extensive 20 year background in the marketing and advertising business, Gord has been working to increase client's search engine visibility since 1996 and has specialized in search engine marketing since 1999.
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