Search Turns To Discovery, But Marketers Missing The Mark

Search engines remain the top tool for finding search engines, but a new strategy has emerged based on discovery, according to research from Forrester Research. In fact, 54% of U.S. online adults found Web sites through organic search queries -- up from 50% in the prior year, but down from 61% in 2010. Paid-search ads also continue to grow in popularity to bridge the link between engines and Web sites.

The study details how people found Web sites in 2012. The findings are intended to help search marketers develop what Forrester analysts Elizabeth Komar, Shar VanBoskirk, and Collin Colburn call a "discovery," rather than campaign strategy.

Social networks came in at No. 2. Some 32% found Web sites through social networks, compared with 25% in 2011 and 18% in 2010. About half of Generation Z searchers ages 18 to 23 and 43% of Generation Y searchers ages 24 to 32 found Web sites through social networks this past year.



Links, at No. 3, drove 28% of U.S. online adults to Web sites. Gen. Zers at 29%, and Gen Yers at 31%, dominate this migration path. Gen Zers also found Web sites through newspapers and magazines, but only 12%, whereas the Golden Generation ages 68 and older -- along with older Boomers ages 57 to 67 -- rely mostly on offline channels to find the online links.

The study also points out that marketers continue to miss the opportunity to use search engine marketing, organic and paid, as a discovery tool. The analysts say that's because search marketers are goal oriented to drive immediate results rather than focused on experimentation. Search marketers test, but rarely experiment. Keywords may have branding value, but one search marketer explains how the boss rejects budgets for anything that does not drive immediate sales.

The Forrester analysts explain how discovery marketing will change search. It will require search marketers to use tools that help campaigns get discovered across myriad media and platforms. "We expect standalone bid management tools to extend their capabilities through partnerships and acquisitions," according to the report.

For instance, the report points to iCrossing's addition of DSP Red Aril to its proprietary search media bidding engine, as well as Adobe's Media Optimizer suite. Expect IBM to add Kenshoo and [x+1] to its existing interactive marketing product suite, which also confirms my assertion that search marketing cannot survive -- or thrive -- alone.

3 comments about "Search Turns To Discovery, But Marketers Missing The Mark".
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  1. Andries De villiers from, June 19, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.

    Laurie, Great topic to cover. SEM is the highest performing channel out there, but that is a double-edged sword. Too often performance targets constrain SEM's ability to scale, despite still out performing other channels. By relaxing SEM goals to fall closer in line with other channels, marketers are able to expand their search efforts by order of magnitude, while still beating every other channel. Testing new search channels like adMarketplace can be bucketed as "testing" yet has the effect of "discovering" new customers searching outside of Google and Yahoo/Bing.

  2. Christa Toole from Greater Than One, June 20, 2013 at 10:25 a.m.

    I agree that because SEM can drive very efficient acquisitions, often advertisers aren't open to the idea of using SEM as an awareness driving tactic. There are studies out there to support the idea that if your brand isn't in the top few spots in the search results, consumers won't think of it as a top brand for that search. Because of that I think it is imperative that brands that have awareness goals use search for awareness not just acquisition.

  3. Stephen C. Baldwin from Steve Baldwin Associates, June 20, 2013 at 4:05 p.m.

    "Search engines remain the top tool for finding search engines..."

    Do you mean "finding web sites?"

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