Search Marketing: Where's The Integration?

By now, it should be crystal clear that search marketing is every bit as important as online advertising, e-mail marketing, content sponsorships, and Web sites when it comes to achieving success online. With media allocation priorities coming into focus, it's time for interactive marketers to think more critically about search in the context of integration.

While the tools and technology available to search marketers have grown in depth and sophistication, too many practitioners still seem to believe that an effective campaign can be boiled down to bids and clicks. The reality is that the key principles of advertising --relevance, clarity, and cross-media consistency--apply to search just as much as they do to any other online format. Any business can submit its site to search engines and directories. Any business can launch and manage its own paid search campaign. And, getting the coveted click is easier than you might think; it's incorporating search into your overall marketing strategy that takes some doing.



Start with a simple concept such as cross-channel message consistency. In many cases, search campaigns are planned in a vacuum, with little regard for associated messaging in online advertising programs, sponsorships, or even Web sites. This segregated approach to search invites a host of problems. First and foremost, it compromises the uniformity of a campaign, and the integrity of the message that's being delivered. How can you maintain a consistent brand experience when your ad placements are all being planned, created, and managed separately?

A second opportunity exists at the intersection of search marketing and Web site optimization. Internet marketers who miss this vital connection will never produce the kind of fully successful campaign that true integration allows. Qualified site visitors can be hard to attract. But producing a quality site visit is even harder. From search engine placement to copy, site landing pages, shopping applications, and even Web site information architecture, there are just too many critical factors that invalidate a fragmented approach to search marketing.

Analytics is another often missed integration point. But integrating your search marketing program into a holistic analytical framework can greatly increase your chances of going beyond the coveted click to secure the most valuable consumer action--whatever it may be. While many marketers equate conversions with sales, there are, in fact, countless other measures of search campaign quality: post-click e-mail campaign registrations, brochure requests or downloads, rich media content interactions, and dealer/store locator searches, to name just a few. By applying integrated tools and analytical techniques, search marketers can track and assess the quality of visitors' behavior from the very moment they click--on the search engine, on your site, and beyond.

Interactive marketing integration is a simple concept that isn't nearly as prevalent as it should be. Cross-channel message consistency, Web site optimization, unified analytics and reporting, and a single vantage point from which to assess the impact of individual campaign elements relative to one another, are all ways to start practicing campaign integration. It's a progressive approach to online marketing, but one that is far more achievable--and necessary--than you may think.

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