The key is in the keyword

Marketing campaigns will lead to internet searches. Brands must familiarise themselves with keyword research to make the most of this, says Ken McGaffin

Ken%20McGaffin%2C%20Worldtracker.comThe Web changes every brand campaign into a direct response campaign whether brand marketers like it or not. The reason? When consumers are exposed to any marketing message that catches their attention, a significant number of them will do a Google search to find out more.

There is a mounting body of evidence that people’s search behaviour can be heavily influenced by traditional forms of communication – offline advertising, public relations and even product placement. For example, scanner company Neurologica generated numerous searches for their innovative portable scanner when the product and the brand name, CereTom, were featured on the medical drama ER.

And when people do these follow-up searches, brand managers better make sure that it is your website that is found, and that you have content directly relevant to what people are searching for. If you don’t, not only are you missing out on engaging with those people, but you’re damaging the overall experience of your brand. And if you don’t appear in the search results, your competitors will. In effect, your campaign will be sending consumers to your competitor’s websites.

The big problem for many marketing teams is that they don’t understand search at all, and if they do, they don’t see it as creative. It has been seen as a technical task that comes into play once all the real creative work has been done. But that is changing.

All search marketing depends on effective use of keywords – the words that people use when they search for your products online. Keywords carry meaning: so if someone types “How can I find cheap car insurance” into a search engine, “cheap car insurance” is the keyword.

Research has largely been confined to the techie world until now, but business nificance. It’s not just a tool that might get you to the top of Google results, it’s a wonderful insight into what people are really looking for. Understand the words that people use when they search and you’ll understand your audience better.

Keyword research measures real behaviour: it’s not someone’s opinion of what they’re looking for, it’s direct evidence of what they’re actually looking for. Bring this rich source of customer insight into early planning sessions with your market research and you could find that it brings you a valuable competitive edge.

Once you bring a search specialist into your planning sessions there are three things you should be looking for. First, insight into what customers are really looking for. Forget about any thoughts on optimisation at this stage. It’s pure market research you should be after. Ask for the main themes in the searches people carry out. What market segments or niches do they suggest? Explore this as fully as you can.

Second, look at your current search engine performance. The great thing about the Web is the ability to collect and store information. Your log files will record all the searches that people conducted to arrive at your site.

Check how well you perform on brand-related searches – the popular keywords that contain your brand names or variations of it. Of course the objective should be to score well for all these keywords. And once you strip all the brand terms out of the keywords that bring you search traffic, what are you left with? What do these words suggest? Can you build upon your success? Third, a search engine optimisation (SEO) expert can help you with your planned campaigns. Ask what searches are people likely to do as a result of this campaign? What are the most relevant brand messages currently searched for? There are many challenges in the world of online and offline marketing. One of the most difficult for marketers to understand is the technical method of keyword research – but it is just market research in its purest form and one of the most potentially rewarding areas for traditional marketers to explore.

Ken McGaffin is chief marketing officer of Wordtracker.com

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