Friday, March 26, 2010

Branding and Search Advertising

Branding and direct response are integrally related, but they're often positioned against each other.

Search engine marketers are often focused on a basic direct-marketing objective: conversion and outcome. They measure their search advertising by direct-response metrics. Google and other search engines measure conversion. They haven't taken the time to do any research on what happened to the people who saw the company listing but didn't click on it. Most of the people buying search are buying clicks. So they haven't measured the brand at all.

Some online marketers forget branding's importance as a search engine marketing component. When they regard search advertising as direct-response marketing, they believe they save money by paying only for conversions. They don't realize how much greater click-through and conversion rates would be if their brands were recognized and trusted by that same search audience.

These search marketers believe simply being in front of a motivated buyer, at the moment they're considering a buying decision, is enough to help them achieve success. That's often not nearly enough.

Many search marketers believe they can pop in front of a prospect, screaming, "Offer! Offer!" A wiser strategy may be, "Brand, brand, brand, offer!"

Successful marketers know they must brand before they offer.

Branding occurs every time your brand is placed in the path of prospective customers, preferably when they're somewhwere along the buying cycle. You cannot expect a lot of prospects to come to your web site in order to be sold. You have to sell them around the periphery -- with print media ads, PR, at trade shows, with email blasts and ad banners. Not just online.

Ever notice how the number of prospects who query your brand name increases immediately after you publish a PR or article? How many more search click-throughs your site receives during and after an ad campaign?

Evidence of brand lift? Definitely.

If a prospective buyer hasn't heard of you until he's ready to make a purchase, you're not perceived as very different from your competitors. You're probably already losing.

If you can increase brand awareness, recognition, favorability and favorable brand associations, you will be able to increase the quantity and quality of click-throughs from existing paid keyword ads.

Reach your audience several times. Allow them to get to know you before you present an offer.

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To share common sense lessons learned with 40-plus years experience in marketing, sales and as a B2B publisher.