Joining the search

While brands seem to have been slow to make the connection between offline activity and online search, consumers haven’t. Steve Hemsley looks at how companies can link all marketing to boost onand offline sales.

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More Than Freeman: The character from More Than’s TV ads helps boost search for the brand’s services

“Over two-thirds (70.4%) of the UK’s top 100 brands by advertising spend state that search is only partially integrated or not at all integrated within their wider marketing mix.” This warning comes from Jack Wallington, chairman of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) search council, in his recent Search for Integration report.

While brands may not yet be fully integrating search into their operations, consumers are. Half of internet users have researched and compared products online, while 40% of offline buyers have conducted online research prior to purchase, according to a European study by GfK and Google across five sectors, including clothing and banking.

Brands need to find techniques and online tools to link onand offline activity in 2012 to take advantage of “the ROPO effect”: research online, purchase offline.

The ROPO effect does not come as a surprise to Paul Lees, joint chief executive of conference-call brand Powwownow, who says he considers the link between search and offline advertising to be crucial. His firm regularly uses radio advertising and experiential marketing, including the world’s longest three-way conference call between celebrities Phil Tufnell, Jodie Marsh and Patrick Monahan at three London rail stations.

“There is rarely an immediate need for our service, so our offline mission is to make sure that when people type ‘conference call’ into Google, they see our name and recognise it because of what they have seen offline,” says Lees.

“We experience a 25% increase in registrations on our website when there is radio advertising support and such activity also reminds people who have used us in the past that we still exist.”

Lees says Google+ is now a key driver for his business, which has grown 30% in a year to become a top five conference-call provider. It generates 28% of its customers directly from search.

“Google+ brings social media into search and if people can be encouraged to ‘plus’ our brand, it adds to the value of our natural search listings,” says Lees.

Powwownow is also a fan of Google’s latest verbatim search tool, which only searches for the exact term using correct spellings and tenses. It removes many unwanted results and includes synonyms, matching “car”, for instance, when someone searches for “automotive”.

How consumers search will often be swayed by what brand advertising they have seen offline, and their search terms can change as their journey progresses through the purchasing process. Many people will gradually refine their searches away from generic terms to include brand names and products once they reach the stage of taking action.

Pete Markey, chief marketing officer at RSA Insurance Group, which owns the More Than brand, says there is more innovation around integration than generic search.

“We decided not to bid against the main price comparison sites on generic search terms but are doing more work linking our pay-per-click strategy with our TV campaigns instead,” he says.

“If a home insurance ad is running on a specific channel, we push the brand through paid search and generic search around that particular time. We have seen double-digit growth online and it has reduced our cost per sale.”

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Crew Clothing: Offereing vouchers online that can only be redeemed in physical shops

The power of having such a strong character as More Than Freeman in its TV ads is also prompting brand searches and boosting video search numbers. Markey believes video search will become even more important in 2012 as the company makes additional use of the link between Google and YouTube. The More Than Freeman ads have had about 500,000 views.

“We know people are searching to find out who does the voiceover to the ads and we paid for YouTube content to be visible when people search for the campaign,” says Markey. “We link this to our offline direct marketing and print activity.”

Publisher Infinite Ideas has even changed the way it promotes its books offline by taking into account the words and expressions people use when searching for its titles online.

For the book Master Dating by Lisa Helmanis, editor of Redonline, Infinite Ideas has drawn on words and expressions such as: “How do I find love?”, “Where is love?” and “How do I be romantic?”. The expression “Where is love?”, for instance, has millions of searches worldwide every month.

“We take these search phrases to influence the language we use in our in-store advertising and PR campaigns,” says Infinite Ideas director Tim Moore.

While the publisher may already be promoting the use of heavily integrated marketing campaigns, some marketers are using econometric modelling to help justify the role of search within an integrated mix in their organisations.

There is a view that some brands are mistakenly attributing sales success to offline media when it is actually down to search. Modelling can demonstrate how keyword groups are driving various metrics, including brand awareness, consideration and store footfall.

One high street bank, which worked with agency Mindshare on econometric modelling to analyse the ROI of each media channel it used, discovered that paid search was directly responsible for 13% of its current account applications.

Meanwhile, luxury casual clothing retailer Crew Clothing is working with specialist paid-search agency Net Media Planet to make sure its search and offline marketing budgets work together. It spent more on search before Christmas in the hope that its 69 offline stores will see their traditional spring and summer sales boost.

Crew Clothing online marketing manager Frank Sendler says: “Two-thirds of our sales still come from offline and to show how search is driving sales, we produced online vouchers that can only be redeemed offline.”

Last year, many agencies boosted their internal SEO talent pool via recruitment rather than acquiring specialist companies. Lorraine Ruckstuhl, corporate director at Barclays Corporate, expects this trend to continue throughout 2012.

“Acquisition activity in the past year in the digital space has been nothing like a few years ago when we saw deals like Engine buying Altogether Digital and Publicis buying its digital business Digitas,” she says.

It will be up to marketers to prove that more investment in people and resources is needed for their brands to see the full potential of onand offline integration.

According to the IAB/PwC bi-annual ad spend survey for the first half of 2011, paid-for search increased 12.6% on a like-for-like basis to £1.3bn. With that kind of money involved, the right integration could reap untold benefits.

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Expedia: TV and print brand campaign uses real employees

CaseStudy

Expedia

Online travel brand Expedia has been using the marketing strategy ‘people-shaped travel’ to try and demonstrate a more personal approach to its business than is common in the online travel sector.

Andrew Warner, senior marketing director EMEA at Expedia, says the link between search to the TV and print brand campaign featuring real Expedia staff is crucial. “The aim is to show how our site is powered by people who love travel and not just powered by a server,” he says.

Expedia has worked with Ogilvy & Mather to uncover residents in major world cities who have an interesting viewpoint or occupation and can give travel reviews a different perspective. Video content has been uploaded and the company has teamed up with offline media partners, including The Guardian, to generate editorial, which has also helped to boost SEO.

A double-page feature of TV and radio personality Johnny Vaughan mudlarking (looking for valuable items in estuary mud) along the River Thames appeared in the Metro newspaper, while articles in other publications included an insider’s view of the New York cocktail scene and Barcelona’s hidden restaurants.

“Marketers can make the mistake of caring more about their campaigns than their consumers do,” says Warner. “If there is TV advertising, they will spend money bidding for words relevant to that campaign, but this can be more about vanity and not always matched by what people are actually searching for.

“With our campaign, if someone searches ‘something different to do in New York’ they will see our usual information but video as well, so the link with our offline partners boosts our SEO capabilities.”

He adds/ “We are seeing huge leaps in innovation across search and offline media but until now, travel advertising has stayed relatively still, focusing too much on palm trees and price points.”

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Nick Lisher, Marketing director, mydeco.com

Viewpoint

Brand search is becoming increasingly important, which is why an alignment between search and public relations is vital. It was our decision at mydeco to invest in an extensive PR campaign that improved the way our own search and offline marketing activity works together. There had not been a particularly strong link in the past.

Many of our products have been featured in interior magazines and Sunday supplements and the halo effect for the brand extends beyond someone simply typing in our URL.

The PR campaign has promoted our 3D home planner and an affiliate website, which gathers furniture from big retailers, such as John Lewis, and many smaller ones.

The search tools and opportunities to link with offline are there and they allow sites like ours to be more in control of the customer journey. For example, we gather up all the best dining tables in terms of quality and value and sell them on our online shop. There is a lot of great furniture being made by people who might not have a great e-commerce platform.

We are also focusing the PR activity on the items people search for at different times of the year. So we are using our search data to drive our offline PR and our outdoor advertising.

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Microsoft: Investing in video search

Video search

Across the world, 1.2 billion people watched an average of 18 hours each of online video in October 2011. Consumers are searching for and responding to quality content – which is more important than the quantity available – according to a report from ComScore called A New Era for Online Video.

The report claims one in three people who view video online add a comment and about a half share videos. The most popular topics for video search are music at 33%, TV at 17%, film at 11%, gaming at 10%, news at 9% and sport at 5%.

With entertainment topics so popular, Microsoft has shown its belief in the sector’s potential by acquiring video-search agency VideoSurf to bolster TV content discovery on its Xbox Live platform.

Video search engine Blinkx has over 35 million hours of searchable video and more than 720 media partnerships, including with national broadcasters and private libraries. Founder Suranga Chandratillake says video search is at the point text search was four years ago.

He cites Shell as an example, which, as part of its campaign to demonstrate its work to make fuels greener and more efficient and its drilling work safer, produced videos aimed at consumers interested in the environment as well as at car enthusiasts. He suggests that the 2012 Olympics will be another opportunity for brands in the UK to produce content around events people will search for.

With an audience already in the billions, the market for online video is set to grow in 2012. By getting involved now, brands can potentially ensure they are creating content that will appeal to consumers and bolster their integrated marketing strategy.

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nma explains search

The search market has matured to the extent that no online campaign can exist successfully without some form of paid and natural search strategy.

This year, all eyes will also be on the increasingly integrated social and search propositions of both Google and Facebook, and the subsequent evolution for personalised search services.

Another challenge centres on how best to unite search marketing with offline activity. The UK launch of Google TV is only one of the many such examples. Its arrival this year will mean brands can bid on search terms on the TV for the first time.

Jessica Davies
new media age

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Ed Stevenson, Managing director Marin Software

Sponsor Viewpoint

Ed Stevenson

Managing Director

Marin Software

The recurring theme of innovation in 2012 is likely to be integrating search marketing with offline activity. The most interesting innovation will come around the optimisation of search campaigns based on offline factors, such as conversions and physical location.

It will become more common for large advertisers to integrate search campaigns with offline transaction data in order to squeeze more out of their search spend. This can be technically difficult because most major advertisers have several software solutions, pulled together over many years, and integration is hard to address with one piece of software. However, it is now a reality.

For some of our clients, we are already tracking offline conversions back to the original search keyword the customer clicked on. If you get the search-to-offline conversions link right, it will lead to more confident decision making. Brands can begin to understand the missing link in the customer journey from online advertising to physical store.

This link will enable chief marketing officers and marketing directors to have a dashboard across their entire marketing mix, letting them optimise activity on a daily basis. Agencies are driving this call for more integration and expect it to come to fruition in 2012.

One of the most exciting innovations will be brands taking into account a consumer’s location when they use a mobile device. When people search via their phones, they tend to want an immediate response based on where they are. Expect to see advertisers optimising search bids based on a consumer’s proximity to one of their shops, restaurants or hotels.

The increased proliferation of tablet devices will also make this a more prominent trend. Our research has shown tablet searches already have higher click-through rates than desktop searches, while further data shows 80% of tablet owners are happy to make purchases on their device. Expect to see increased clicks and conversions via mobile search and devices in 2012.

Despite these innovations, the challenge of overall search spend rising while search queries stagnate will continue to push cost per clicks up. Brands will continue their battle to make search spend more efficient in order to maintain return on investment. Getting the basics right through greater efficiencies and further optimisation will, as always, remain central to this.

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here