Groupon is everywhere. From your inbox to the "Today Show," you can't escape the appeal of collective buying power. After raising capital at a $1.35 billion valuation back in April, Groupon has put that money to good use ramping up staff and buying out international competitors. Just last week, Groupon ran its first nationwide promotion for Gap and generated $11 million in sales in one day.
Here are 50% of the top 20 ways search marketing is sexy like Groupon. Note: if 100 people give this column a thumbs-up, I'll share the other 50% in my next column.
1. The more the merrier. The whole idea behind Groupon is that a certain number of people have to sign up for a deal before it tips and everyone cashes in. In search, you have to amass links from other people before you can get top organic listings and rake in the traffic. While Google and the other engines don't share the number required to make your listing "tip," the power most definitely resides with the people.
2. Everyone's got a fetish. As we learned in the "Diff'rent Strokes" theme song (R.I.P., Gary), "What might be right for you may not be right for some." So, too, with Groupon, the deals come in all different shapes and sizes. The past 9 Chicago Groupons have featured a paintball game, blues bar, Cubs rooftop, dental salon, retail apparel, ballet, bowling, French food, and Indian food. That's some orgy! For search marketers, too, it's critical to offer something for everyone and customize your message accordingly. Mapping your content to the intent of the searcher is table stakes. The best cathouses know how to go one step further and convert browsers to buyers.
3. First impressions are everything. Catchy headlines are critical for standing out in a cluttered email inbox or on a crowded search results page. The Groupon I got back in February titled, "Half Off Intro to Pole-Dance Workout" would've been much less alluring had it featured the name of the retailer instead. "Half Off at Sheila Kelley S Factor?" Delete. Similarly, in search, if your ad title doesn't pop off the results page, you're as likely to get a click as I am to stop using bad sex puns and analogies.
4. Word-of-mouth is viral. In chapter 19 of my book, I share the wisdom of Ian Sohn and his $2 bill strategy. The idea is that retailers should stock their cash registers with $2 bills because people stop and notice when they get $2 bills in their change and are likely to tell someone else where they got it. Sohn turns the $2 bill into a metaphor for doing something remarkable as a company to stimulate word-of-mouth. In Groupon's case, there's a great Easter egg when you unsubscribe. I mean, really, who remembers their unsubscribe experience other than when it's utterly infuriating -- much less tells someone else about it?!? Same goes for search. Generating query (and sales) volume is a function of having a product or service that makes people remark, search, (buy,) and repeat.
5. The finer the target, the better. Groupons go out to entire cities so, as a merchant, if you only service one neighborhood (or it would only be logical for someone in one neighborhood to choose your service) then you're going to get a lot of waste. Ditto for search. Running a campaign nationally when you can't deliver is like paying an escort just to talk. Waste of money.
6. It pays to be the pimp. Groupon keeps about 50% of the total revenue it generates, splitting the other half with merchants. Meanwhile, Google keeps 49% of AdSense for search revenue, giving 51% to publishers.
7. It's always personal. Groupon recently started delivering personalized deals based on people's gender and ZIP code. In search marketing, keywords, ad copy, and landing pages must be customized for each searcher. And the engines, for their part, show personalized results based on geography, search history and a host of other signals.
8. The traffic can come hot and heavy. Whether you're talking about Groupon or search, offline or online, you have to be ready to handle the traffic before you go live with your program. Make sure you've got a few extra phone lines and staffers on hand before that Groupon hits. And make sure you've load-tested your Web site before turning on the paid search dial. The last thing you want to do is trigger a 10-day traffic jam.
9. You'll always remember your first time. Pop quiz, hotshot. Assuming all else is equal, which scenario is better? Paying $100 to get a new customer that spends $50 on the first visit and $5 per month every month thereafter -- or paying $100 to get a new customer that spends $110 on the first visit and never comes back. The former, right? That's what Groupon merchants are betting on. So, too, with search, you have to measure repeat visits and actions to truly assess the value of each dollar spent. Using bid tools or strategies that don't account for lifetime value is like leaving the house without a condom. Rookie mistake.
10. If it looks to good to be true, it is. As a consumer, you always have to read the Groupon fine print. Weekdays only. Cannot be combined with other offers. Not valid on alcohol. Tax and gratuity not included. Etc. Likewise with search (and online dating for that matter -- see lesson #15 here), you have to have the proper attribution models in place to properly give credit to each marketing tactic. If your search ROAS is shooting through the roof, make sure you understand the linkages before blindly dumping more money into it. We'll explore this topic further at OMMA on Sept. 28th during the panel, "Is Google Taking Too Much Credit?" Yes, I'm all about making search sexy, but that doesn't mean every other marketing platform isn't worth having a fling with.