The Art And Science Of Search And Brand Marketing

Search marketing has evolved into a finely honed science for marketers.  Bid optimization, creative optimization, keyword expansion, targeting, and match types are all managed with an unblinking focus on the direct-response goals of the funnel, leading from clicks to conversions.  Technology platforms make it possible for marketers to pull levers and make adjustments in real time to react to changing promotions and market conditions for always-optimized media.  Consequently, search marketing has largely been the domain of performance-based marketers.

But what about brand marketers? Rather than science, brand marketers deal in art.   And artists, by their very nature, deal with the subjective.  Their goal is to have influence over the heart and mind -- the results of which can be extremely hard to quantify. So, is there any place in the world of search for this level of subjectivity? I’ll answer that question in a moment.

Currently search marketing is largely underused by brand marketers, or used blindly without being able to track or measure results. As marketers, we have become spoiled with clear metrics we can measure against. So when we are faced with putting ad dollars against brand goals, we pause. But brand needs are more important than ever. So how could you use metrics to learn which search ads drive users to become more involved with your brand?

As search marketers, we need to expand beyond our direct-response metrics and get creative about what we are tracking against if we want to better optimize for brand goals. First, look at your users who have the greatest brand affinity: How do they act? How much time do they spend on your site? How often do they revisit? How much do they interact with you? Make these characteristics your metrics to measure against. Optimize your search spend to focus on the keywords, campaigns, and media that improve these metrics.

Of course, this may be easier said than done. So it’s important to centralize your marketing data, to connect the dots between your web analytics and your advertising metrics to understand the actions that your media are influencing.

The end result is optimizing not for conversions, but for something that might have been hard to quantify, something that you might have thought was subjective: engagement. By learning about your users, and understanding what successful engagement looks like, down to an individual user level, you can focus your efforts on the marketing that drives those (what turns out to be) very0quantifiable metrics.  

So, is there any place in the world of search for this level of subjectivity? There might not be a significant place in search marketing for the subjective, but there is a significant spot for brand marketers who can optimize engagement or other quantifiable brand metrics. While the final version may look like art, science is beneath the surface.

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