Search Marketing Ponders The BT Dividend

It seems years now that we have been talking about the day when search engines will finally fold behavioral profiling into their results and ad serving engines. But search marketers are already taking the first steps toward implementing BT on the back end. Matt Spiegel, managing director, Resolution Media, a search marketing firm within Omnicom Media Group, is exploring the logistics, theory and possible limitations of tracking and re-marketing to these hand-raisers after they leave a search ad's landing page.

Behavioral Insider: How are you looking into combining BT with search campaigns?

Spiegel: It is a new area for us, and one that we are just beginning to cut our teeth on. But we have spent a lot of time paying attention to it, and anecdotally I have a lot of thoughts on where it is going. The biggest point... is that no matter how great your conversion rate is [in search], we still lose about 95 percent to 98 percent, on average, of the people who click into our client Web sites. They leave without ultimately buying the product or taking some action.  That percentage varies depending on what action you are tracking. But if we have an opportunity to understand that specific consumer who clicked on one of our client listing and ended up on our client's site, and we're able to follow his behavior patterns out there in the Web, and then at a point in time remarket to him, it allows us to provide a much more targeted message back to that consumer. We know he has taken a certain level of interest but has not finished that action.

BI: Have you tried this yet? Will it require partnering with a specific BT network?

Spiegel: We have not. You do have to add some pixel tracking to the landing pages. It's not that you have to opt into any particular network. Each network does have its own tracking system--so, yeah, I do have to add tracking codes for [each one]. Then we would have to use that technology to use their inventory, so when someone has clicked on our search listing we later see them going across all the sites they have targeted. We don't have to do it exclusively. We don't have to opt into doing it with only one network.

BI: Do you know when you will be trying this out?

Spiegel: I think really soon. For us, it's a matter of getting the right client that wants to try it. We have to make sure there is enough volume potential, so it's certainly got to be a sizable client who is spending enough on search to get the volume. Otherwise the level of people we can market back to just isn't significant. It's in the very near term. We are working on a couple of deals with a couple of clients.

BI: How is traditional search different from BT as we know, it in terms of the consumer being in a different state of mind and receptivity?

Spiegel: Fundamentally, search is a form of BT. What consumers are searching, [they're] clearly illustrating behavior that says, 'I want some form of content about this info.' So, that in and of itself is BT. The difference you have to start figuring out is interruptive vs. not-interruptive, or better said as push vs. pull. On search, one of the great things, and why it works so well, is it's a pull medium. Consumer request information and get something back. Most forms of online advertising and BT are the opposite: here's a relevant ad--more relevant [when] based on BT--that is being shown to me while I do something else.

BI: So, how do these two approaches blend?

Spiegel: I think that the key in my mind is, if I am going to use BT as a way to remarket to people who have interacted with my search ads, what is that methodology? Does it have to be within so many days of when an action was taken? Is it different based on what action was taken? Does there have to be a certain amount of time spent on a site?

It isn't one size fits all. With each client you will answer it differently. Ultimately, I think that when a consumer is doing or looking for something else, reading a site on sports, and sees an ad that is targeted to travel and maybe he clicked on a search travel listing a couple of days ago, it doesn't mean he is currently thinking about a travel purchase. So you have to figure out enough of a methodology that says, we have reason to believe this is the right time to target that consumer. Then, what is the appropriate message. Those are the things that I think about.

BI: If you look at the vendors, what is the state of the industry? Is it ready to answer those questions and give you that flexibility?

Spiegel: As far as I know, it's a mixed bag there. To say I fully understand all the things the vendors are offering wouldn't be true. I do know that you can track various actions. It doesn't have to be all the way through to sale. You can track newsletter sign-ups or just click-through. You can put frequency caps on the campaign you are on that is remarketing. You can certainly target different messages. So I think there is a lot there.

BI: Is the volume there?

Spiegel: I was at a search summit a few weeks ago and there was a cable marketing panel and I asked the same question. I said, all of you have different networks and they don't talk to each other. To make this successful, don't we need a centralized platform to bring this to scale?

Someone made the interesting point that this isn't the same type of scale that you have on random targeting. If you can get even half or a quarter of this population that has already selected itself as interested and can increase your overall conversion rate by even half a percent, think of the potential. So I guess in some ways, yeah, long-term volume is certainly key to this. But there is an argument that says, all I need is enough volume to increase my conversion by 20 percent or 30 percent, and I have made the investment worthwhile. So clearly I couldn't turn off everything else and just use this behavioral remarketing to get enough volume; but as a piece of the pie, maybe that volume equation for the moment takes a back seat.

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