Do you remember the time when it was in vogue for nearly all upcoming marketing consultants to claim that they were "experts" in search engine optimization (SEO)? I remember it well. After most of these folks discovered the social media trend, then they quickly shifted their focus.
Regardless, today search remains a key component of savvy digital marketer campaigns. Perhaps the huge flock of self-proclaimed social media experts will rediscover search, once the current "social everything" fad has lost its appeal -- we'll have to wait and see.
According to the latest market study by eMarketer, search can help to build strong brands by bettering their brand-health metrics. But creating long-term relationships with their valued customers is usually the top priority.
eMarketer says "even though a majority of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers now believe that search affects brand-building, digital marketing executives sometimes still find it tough to prove that search is a critical ingredient in branding."
Search strategy is not just for legacy direct-response marketing. Today, its use for branding related applications tends to be far more subtle than when it's used simply to drive a new purchase.
Search strategy, as eMarketer defines it, includes several tactics:
- Use paid advertising on search engines and SEO to boost organic rankings;
- Mine data from search ads or SEO to discover more about a brand's customers or prospects;
- Study general search data -- not necessarily from a brand’s own efforts -- to get a sense of the target audience and the brand’s competition.
"When considering whether or not to weave search into a brand’s total campaign, there is one simple, inarguable reason why brands should use it," said eMarketer. "Search is where the audience can be found."
AYTM Market Research found that as of June 2012, the vast majority of U.S. internet users used search engines either daily (63.5 percent) or fairly often (21.0 percent).
Because consumers use search so regularly, brands really don't have much choice but to connect with consumers there.
Moreover, search results influence consumer perceptions about a company, according to 81 percent of the respondents worldwide in a November 2011 study from PR agency Weber Shandwick.
Even the absence of a brand from search results could influence consumers by subliminally implying the brand is not important in the context of whatever the search query involved.
eMarketer believes that to get consumers to see branded content, search is key. Once companies invest in content marketing, nearly 78 percent of brand and agency marketers used paid search and almost 69 percent used organic search optimization to increase the target audience awareness of branded content -- that's according to the finding of a market study by Outbrain.
"Brands need search -- and not just paid ads and higher organic rankings -- to help them achieve their overall marketing goals," said eMarketer. "And they need to connect all their search activities to their overall branding campaigns."