In 2010, brands must integrate their paid search,SEO, social and display media campaigns and move towards a universal brand management approach on the search engine results page (SERP). More reliable cross-channel data collection and analysis techniques will also aid them in making highly efficient and dynamic media buying decisions. Subsequently, brands will be better able to specifically target qualified customers—at scale—through innovative search, social and display micro-targeting solutions.
Trend #1: The Move towards Universal Brand Management
We live in a search driven world. The SERP influences how consumers perceive a brand and, ultimately, whether they buy from a brand or its competition. Traditionally, brands have used paid and natural search text links to control their message on the SERP. However, the SERP has changed—incorporating news, maps, videos, blogs, tweets, images, product reviews and even audio clips. This means marketers can control more aspects of the SERP for brand queries by leveraging online assets beyond a brand’s native site. It’s helpful to think of online assets in three buckets: (1) owned, (2) earned and (3) paid.
(1) Owned content
Owned content used to be a brand’s native website. However, a brand’s native Web site can only achieve two search results per query in natural listings. This leaves eight firstpage results (in addition to news, images, maps, etc.) open. A significant social media presence gives brands the opportunity to control more SERP content, especially as real-time search results become more prevalent. Brands can use their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linked In, YouTube, Flickr and other owned social content to take up more valuable SERP real estate, better engage consumers, stifle competitors’ listings and improve reputation management.
The growing role of local content like maps, phone numbers and addresses can also help marketers dominate the SERP. SEO teams should ensure search engines can find this accurate and informative content, because the easier consumers can find a brand, especially on mobile devices; the easier it is for them to shop for that brand by visiting a store.
(2) Earned content
As the name suggests, marketers must work for earned content. It includes user generated content (UGC) like tweets, YouTube videos, blogs, news and images that are now fully integrated into the SERP. Since earned content belongs to consumers, it can be difficult to control and can create reputation management issues. A Google search for “Comcast,” for example, shows a first-page YouTube video of a Comcast technician sleeping on a customer’s couch. Brands can leverage positive earned content by using SEO tactics to boost its visibility and suppress unflattering listings. Social listening tools can also identify negative social media chatter, which can fuel product or service changes and/or prompt marketers to contact disgruntled consumers before they create negative content.
Positive earned content, derived from authentic consumers, is one of the best ways to influence consumer opinions about a brand and grow sales. To spur the creation of more positive earned content in 2010, marketers should identify positive social chatter to locate brand evangelists and influencers, court them with special offers and incentivize them to spread their love of the brand. These strategies increase the chance that the influencers will create positive earned content that will make its way to the SERP.
(3) Paid content
Traditional text-based paid search ads can contribute to SERP domination, but new emerging paid content opportunities give marketers the option to do more, including Yahoo! Rich Ads in Search (RAIS), Google Ad Sitelinks and Google Product Ads. Google Ad Sitelinks provide links under the traditional paid search ad to highlight deep site content and bring consumers directly where they want to go. Yahoo! Rich Ads in Search (RAIS) allow advertisers to buy top position with a flat monthly fee for an ad that includes text and multimedia (video, pictures, expanded functionality).
A global electronics retailer recently worked with Performics to achieve a 774% increase in click-through-rate (CTR) with RAIS over traditional search ads and a 504% increase in sales for one of the retailer’s top brand terms. RAIS also enables complete page domination on Yahoo! as the video takes up most of the space above the fold.
Realigning to adopt a more universal approach to online brand management like this in 2010 will position marketers to better control the SERP.
Trend #2: Data Rules across Search, Display and Social
Technology can be used to leverage mass volumes of cross-channel data (paid search, natural search, display and social) and make even more efficient and dynamic buying and optimization decisions. Data mining/compilation and cross-channel attribution can enable brands to make well-informed decisions of where to best invest each advertising dollar. Thus, reliable data and actionable analysis provides justification for brands to give up revenue in some channels to drive more conversions in better performing channels. Additionally, a shift towards performance-based agency compensation will result in better integration and accountability.
The online industry faces numerous challenges given the vast amounts of data that exists. However, as innovative solutions arise and advances in technology continue, opportunities to drive performance in a number of ways will include:
- Channel attribution modeling: Gains insight into consumers’ online activity streams including impressions, display clicks and search clicks that lead to conversions and non-conversions.
- Paid and natural search integration: Uncovers each keyword’s potential value to determine which channel is the better investment, enabling better allocation of paid search funds.
- Social listening data: Enables understanding consumers’ brand discussions, aids in the creation of relevant, compelling search copy and uncovers new search keyword opportunities.
Trend #3: Better Techniques to Deliver Qualified Consumers
In 2010, advertisers will be able to more effectively and efficiently buy specific audience locations, demographics and qualified customers—at scale—through innovative search and display micro-targeting solutions. These solutions include:
Brands can now use tightly defined geographic areas to target consumers based on data such as drive time to physical store locations. Once consumers are identified, different strategies can be employed to capture different consumers. For instance, we have found that if a consumer lives close to a store, they have a greater likelihood to buy from that store. Thus, a retailer should bid more aggressively for mission critical keywords in the locale of this consumer. This capability enables brands to prioritize marketing investment.
Consumers have shown they are open marketing messages on social sites. Many brands have tested the channel in 2009 and are ready to dedicate more spend. A brand’s Facebook friend-base or Twitter following is a self-selected list of people that are saying to you: “we are interested in what you have to talk about.” One option is to micro-target Facebook cost-per-click (CPC) ads at qualified consumers based on age, gender, geo or profile interests. Another is to offer coupons and promotions through tweets and Facebook status updates. Test which times of day and types of messages drive the most clicks, conversions and in-store traffic. Future opportunities, such as paid search ads on Twitter Search or other social sites, could also come to fruition and enable brands to use social data to micro-target consumers.
Ad networks and exchange-based buying models are expected to grow 25 percent in 2010. As they continue to grow, exchange-based buying models will soon become the norm across the globe. Exchanges sell impressions in real-time and enable buyers to review the impression, evaluate against proprietary data and decide the optimal bid at that moment. Buyers can leverage data insights to decide if an impression is useful, which gives buyers the opportunity to have transparency and control of their own data. Like search, agencies will continue to develop specialized buying teams and technology to execute on exchanges. Display micro-targeting through exchanges will enable teams to buy only the consumer impressions that matter.
2010 will be another formative year for performance marketing as universal brand management, cross-channel data collection and analysis and innovative, scalable targeting solutions dominate the industry.