Google Week, Day 1: Search marketing

Google logoThis is Google Week on my blog. While content marketing, social and mobile are getting a lot of the attention in digital marketing these days, Google is still the 1,000-pound gorilla of online marketing — in part because it supports in various ways those new initiatives, too.

This week I’ll be posting new thoughts on Google each day, specifically how marketers can take advantage of Google search, display, mobile, video, YouTube, social and analytics options, and then some closing thoughts on the company, its corporate culture and other major initiatives it’s undertaking.

Oh, I guess I’m supposed to “disclose” that I’ve owned Google stock for some time, and it has been very, very good to me. But, really, I don’t think that my thoughts on Google are going to move the market. Not very much, anyway.

So let’s get this party started! Because twenty years into the broad adoption of the Internet, a successful digital marketing program still begins with search. And if you’re doing search marketing, you have to be on Google, which people go to to perform about two-thirds of all searches and approximately 85-90% of the rapidly growing U.S. mobile searches, and even higher worldwide.

One of the major reasons for the move to online marketing is because it’s so trackable. The old saying, “I know that half of my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half” doesn’t apply to digital. A well-managed online program provides deep metrics for every part of the program, including its ROI, and where ROI is lacking you can phase out that part of the program.

Despite all that data, though, always remember that you’re marketing to people. And with search you are getting your company in front of the people who are in the act of actively searching for your products and services – what Google has called The Zero Moment of Truth. Today, the place most people – and almost all B2B buyers – go when starting to consider a purchase is the Internet. As SiriusDecisions puts it, “Our research shows that online searches are executives’ first course of action (just like everyone else).”  What actions are we doing from search?  All of it: reading, watching videos, attending webinars, using online ROI calculators, etc.

People use different search terms in different parts of the buyer’s journey. Early on they are likely to be using broad, generic terms such as “office equipment”, “high-uptime servers” or “digital cameras”. As they learn more they’ll refine their searches and start to search on particular brands that they’ve been learning about, and those searches might also include words like “reviews” or “support” or “forum”, where they can check out the issues actual users are reporting. So a wise search campaign needs to take into consideration how buyers behave throughout the buying process.

As part of that, marketers need to use search to support their content marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just write a great blog post or schedule a webinar, you need to get them in front of the right audience. Search marketing can help you do that.

In the early days of the Internet people might have browsed through two or three pages of search results, but today virtually all search click are on page one of the results. It will vary by search, but often over half of clicks are on the top two or three links. Obviously it isn’t possible for every company to be on page one, but any company can get page one presence through search ads.

And if your organic link is high on page one, having search ads also will increase your click-throughs. What more proof do you need than this: Amazon, which knows a thing or two about online marketing, uses paid ads in Google search for the term “Kindle” – when they already totally dominate page one results!

Google search results for term Kindle

At this point I would think that it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: advertising on Google search is imperative for any ecommerce website, whether B2C or B2B.

One of the most important reasons to use search is to build a cookie poll for remarketing. Remarketing is when you show display ads to people who have previously come to your site and visited particular pages. It is an incredibly powerful way to super-charge your online campaigns because you’re only advertising to people who are already aware of you: a kind of digital in-house list. You can customize who sees ads by product or section of the site, and add in other targeting information such as demographics and interests. And to eliminate any annoyance factor, you can limit how many times a day a person will see your ad, and for how many weeks. Everyone should be doing remarketing.

Search should be an always-on marketing channel. While you may vary keywords, ads and offers by season or other factors, you always want to be in front of people who are actively searching for you.

And Google search can be turned on very quickly. While a complex search program can have tens of thousands (or millions) of keywords and ads (for example, Best Buy), a starter program with just a few ads and keywords can be up and running in 15 minutes. And if it wasn’t easy enough before, Google AdWords Express helps you speed your ads to market.

Once on, you can optimize your campaign by keywords, ad, offer, time of day and virtually every other factor. And this research is invaluable for your other marketing efforts. Since Google encrypts organic search keywords, you can’t see what terms are bringing people to your site through organic search, but with AdWords you can do that keyword research and then apply it to SEO. Insights you gain about the most effective ads, offers, wording and so forth can be applied to your other online and offline marketing, too. And by linking your AdWords account with Google Analytics you can implement sophisticated attribution models and see which search clicks, and other marketing programs, are leading to leads and sales.

Mobile is a special case of search marketing. In 2012, we reached “peak desktop” and desktop search declined for the first time. Meanwhile, mobile search continues to grow rapidly and is expected to exceed desktop within the next 2-3 years. Consumers searching on mobile often are in action mode, and 57% of B2B decision-makers and influencers use smartphones in their research phase. In many cases this research on mobile continues on the desktop. So you need to make sure that your search ads are on desktops, tablets and mobile. (Google’s new Enhanced Campaigns helps you with that.)

The people at Google apparently have never heard the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, because they’re always experimenting with new ad types and pricing. One new format allows you to add interactive charts in which people can compare and sort products right in the ad. And new pricing models include Cost Per Lead for ads that let people send their email or phone directly to you from a field in the ad. Google even has a patent to add a transportation extension to its ads, so you could easily arrange to be picked up to go to a local business. Maybe next year.

Of course, not just every company, but every product and even every ad will perform differently. As I’ve written before, industry averages are meaningless and you need to optimize your campaigns for maximum ROI. And, in some cases, search ads may not be effective (such as for very low price items), and you may find that display and other channels are more profitable. Plus, factors outside of AdWords will affect the success of your campaigns: the strength of your brand, the quality of your products and services, and how well your landing pages are written and designed are just three important elements that will have an impact.

But regardless of the size of your business or budget, search marketing is where online marketing starts. And search marketing starts at Google AdWords.

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