SearchFocus: The Search Hole
Search engine marketing, whether paid search advertising or natural search engine optimization, is defined by one primary characteristic: loneliness. Most marketers and agencies think of search as a stand-alone direct marketing tactic that exists outside of any other marketing program, and is measured separately. This is a grave mistake.
Everything an agency does for a client, every ad that the marketer places, drives audiences online to search. And when someone searches, there are only two possible outcomes: they will find you, or they will find your competitor.
Because there is a gigantic hole in the sales funnel of most companies, prospective customers go online and find the competition, not you.
Did you know that your television ads, public relations, even print ads have an impact on what words your customers use to construct queries? There are words in the search vernacular that didn't exist a few years ago. Today the keyword phrase "cell phone" is in decline as marketers push the phrase "mobile phone."
The insurance industry introduced a new language as it extends coverage to new groups of workers. Sure, "health insurance" and "life insurance" remain perennial favorites, but "senior insurance," "individual health insurance," and "student health insurance" identify smaller groups of buyers. Marketers drive search language, whether they know it or not.
Yet when marketers plan and budget their yearly campaigns, search is often an afterthought.
Yet very specific relationships between advertising and search behavior occur. Each time a pharmaceutical client's TV ad runs, click-throughs increase on allergy-related keyword phrases. When marketers distribute bulk e-mail, a marked increase in site traffic from branded queries occurs. Though the e-mail itself may have only a modest open rate, people searching for the company on their brand name spikes. Coincidence? Hardly.
Finally, though marketers make a point to include their URL on nearly every piece of offline marketing, do they really believe that everyone will be holding their ad while they open up a browser? Unlikely.
Need more evidence? Consider one of the all-time most queried keywords: "www.yahoo.com," followed by searches for "yahoo.com." If that's not enough to convince you, consider this: though Microsoft has one of the easiest domain names to spell and remember, in a recent 30-day period, there were 124,000 searches for "Microsoft Windows" and 84,000 searches for "Microsoft update."
Even when people know the domain name cold, they rely on search engines to find it.
It's time for marketers and their agencies to recognize that all advertising, on or offline, drives search behavior. All marketing programs should consider search; if not, your company is aiding the competition.