Read On For An Exciting Chance To Win More Customers!

Try to name a campaign that has included search marketing as a memorable component. Several come to mind. Pontiac advertised on TV and directed viewers to "Google 'Pontiac' to find out" more. Sony crafted an intricate interactive campaign for "The Da Vinci Code" that required players to use various Google search services to complete the puzzles. Currently, Baskin-Robbins connects with Yahoo Local to direct entrants to "find the pink spoon" and win prizes if they do.

The common thread: no search is an island.

I've been hearing many discussions lately on search's role in the so-called media mix. How common is integration now? It's hard to measure, though anecdotally more examples come to mind. Yet one type of integration I'm seeing little of is tying promotional campaigns to search.

Promotions may be more common for paid search now than previously, but they're not utilized anywhere near to the degree that they should be, especially outside of the holiday season. The term "promotion" itself can be vague, but for the purposes of this column, we'll look at the narrower sense of a contest, game, or other time-sensitive incentive.



There are some notable examples of promotions integrated with search. For instance, a search on "Coke" in Google brings up a sponsored link entitled "My Coke Rewards," with the copy urging, "Enter the Sweepstakes & You Could Win $10,000 in Exciting Rewards!" That's far more compelling than just slapping a tagline ("Things go better with Coke") into an ad and calling it a day.

A skin treatment marketer offers a more common example of how promotions are used. Search for "contest" in Yahoo, and a paid search ad from this marketer entices consumers to "win a luxury spa vacation." Enter "Botox" and the same marketer appears, but its ad entirely hinges around the phrase "wrinkle treatment." The promotion, only visible when consumers actually look for contests, is cast aside, left to grow wrinkles of its own.

Fortunately, there is a form of Botox for paid search campaigns, a treatment that can be injected to make the campaign look, feel, and perform like a fresh-faced recent college grad. Better yet, it doesn't even require a needle. You can tackle the challenge of applying promotional campaigns to search by either using search to bolster promotional campaigns, or using promotions to bolster search. Either way, it's an integrated approach where each channel and strategy aids the performance of the others.

The concept is straightforward: a marketer sets up a promotion with an online component (one that may be marketed offline and in-stores). When someone searches for the marketer's brand, or when someone uses lower-converting non-brand keywords in the search, the promotion is mentioned in the ad copy, as Coke did with My Coke Rewards.

The promotion can help the campaign stand out and raise the click-through rate (CTR). On Google, and later this year on Yahoo when it implements its new advertising platform, a higher CTR can raise the ad's position without raising the bid. For a marketer already ranking first in the sponsored links, the promotion could lower the bid required to stay there. If successful, the marketer attracts more customers while meeting return on ad spending targets.

These types of promotions work best when the marketer seeks to generate leads. For marketers looking to close transactions with every click, the promotion could be a distraction. Consumers looking to purchase immediately, such as those entering keyword phrases with specific product names or models, will likely want to finish their task as quickly as possible. Even if consumers are tempted to click on the search ad featuring the promotion, they might have "clicker's remorse" and find another marketer that can meet the need at hand. A consumer broadly researching home renovations or décor may be enticed to win their dream home, but the consumer in the market for a dishwasher most likely wants cleaner dishes first and a mansion second.

Meanwhile, there is the vast universe of searches for which marketers aren't aiming to lock in immediate online conversions, and consumers will be more receptive to rewards and riches. Consider searches for information or entertainment, or verticals such as B2B that can have lengthy sales cycles. Marketers can use promotions to build customer lists and stay in touch with those searchers.

Promotions will help your odds of winning more business when you integrate them with search. It's a surer bet than trying to win that luxury spa vacation.

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