Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 | 6 min read
Search marketing is having an identity crisis. While it continues to drive ad traffic by targeting users at critical moments, it’s struggling to keep up with audience demands for a more customized, relevant ad experience.
But, as exciting new social platforms continue to capture the hearts of marketers and consumers alike, it’s important to remember that SEM is still a critical marketing channel. Search is the source of over 64% of all web traffic. With more than 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone, SEM reaches a massive audience and has potential to drive a high ROI for marketers who optimize their search strategies.
Laggards, on the other hand, drive potential customers away at alarming rates. An ad that is irrelevant for the user means wasted dollars and a negative brand experience.
Weak experiences in search drove 90% more customers to use ad blockers this year compared to last, due primarily to a cluttered or low quality experience. The web is becoming saturated with ads across platforms and channels from brands trying to secure a competitive advantage. Enhancing your search strategy, however, must be less about outweighing the competition and more about leveraging customer data to create compelling, relevant search marketing experiences.
Here are three advanced tips to take your search marketing strategy to the next level:
Users who browse your site or engage with an ad provide valuable insight into their purchasing habits. Be cognizant of their actions and seize the opportunity to nurture these leads further. Marketers often get lost in the clutter of keywords or ad content, failing to focus on the consumers themselves and ultimately reaching the wrong audience. Brands getting it right, however, see a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads compared to non-nurtured leads.
While tools like AdWords remarketing lists play a key role in SEM strategy, they are limited in their ability to segment users by specific behaviors. Innovations such as Google’s Customer Match, RankBrain algorithm, and Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) allow marketers to use behavior-based, contextual, and audience-focused targeting to revolutionize SEM’s potential to efficiently communicate with customers.
The growth of such search tools highlight an industry-wide focus on targeting and retargeting along with nurturing across channels. On average, customers have 10 points of contact with a brand before they decide to purchase something, making it ever more critical to reach leads, engage with them, and guide them through the purchase funnel.
Marketers have access to unprecedented amounts of data that paints a vivid picture of what their audience may be looking for at any given time. A potential customer who engages and later becomes dormant may appear to be a lost cause, but with the right approach, search marketers can leverage this data to deliver a targeted promotion and win them back.
What, then, is the key to reactivation success? Create a sense of urgency. A time-sensitive promotion, such as a limited-time only 20% of coupon, will increase your value proposition and may provide the nudge that turns the target into an active customer again. Inactive customers must not be seen as lost customers, and reactivating and incentivizing these users can help monetize the potential value they hold for your business.
Leveraging customer data is essential for building a smart search strategy that attracts and retains users, but is especially critical for high customer-lifetime value (CLV) users. These users make up only 8% of your audience, but 41% of your revenue. Search marketers need to know where and when to serve the right ads—particularly to users driving significant revenue—but must also make informed choices about when doing so is more costly than it is beneficial.
Tools like Customer Match allow you to assess customer behavior, empowering a smarter, more data-driven search strategy. The sheer amount of data available to marketers today eliminates the need to squander ad budget on high CLV customers who are already likely to buy, and boosts the intelligence with which marketers can choose to place or withhold ads.
A user who is searching for a brand term, for example, is likely to find an organic listing and purchase from your brand without being served an additional ad. On the other hand, buying branded search terms in order to boost loyalty campaigns can drive conversions at a high rate. To maximize profit and ensure ad spend is worthwhile, search marketers need to ground their strategies in customer insights and focus on smart, data-centric strategies to make the most of valuable customers.
The competition within search marketing is fierce, and brands continue to battle for the attention of key users. Brands run the risk of driving away their customers and missing out on critical revenue if they fail to deliver the right contextual ads, use the right keywords, or launch a personalized campaign.
As the digital market progresses, customers will want brands’ strategies to become smarter and more customer-centric. Search marketers should ensure that their strategies are always fully informed by customer intent and where users are in their journey. By identifying users’ present state, the path to reaching their end goal—whether it be one of nurturing or reactivating, and ultimately driving sales—becomes both clear and achievable.
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