Don’t leave your e-customers to search blindly

I was intrigued to read the feature on search marketing (MW January 20) and the lack of understanding shown by most marketers towards online branding.

Unlike traditional advertising, where the brand is king, online searches are usually category, not brand, specific. This presents an opportunity for the so-called “challenger brands” to compete with the more established players in a relatively non-brand based environment.

As a result, those brands that are more prominent in “category” searches are much more likely to succeed without having to invest in high street premises or television advertising.

Furthermore, as the legalities are unclear, challenger brands can use affiliate sites or contextual advertising to re-route prospective customers from a competitor’s site to their own. It is now possible to serve contextually based advertising onto a wish list of branded partners. This typically affects brand advertisers more than non-branded.

It is therefore clear that brand advertisers need to get wise to search marketing. But it’s not just about understanding the technology, it’s about understanding the benefits and pitfalls of paid-for searches and click-through rates versus, for example, “natural search”. Natural search now converts four times better than paid-for listings. Consumers are becoming more suspicious about whether paid-for listings deliver the best results.

The cheapest and quickest way for brand advertisers to claw back their territory is a simple one. And it’s groundbreaking. For the biggest mistake most brand advertisers make online is to direct customers to a corporate site or homepage that is not related to their search. It has the same effect as dumping a visitor in the middle of a store rather than directing them specifically to the service or product they are looking for.

So, the next time you look around a store and no one offers to help you with your search, think back to your online presence: you may be offering the online community a similar experience.

Richard Davies

Client services director



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