Commentary

Search Marketing: DON'T Pardon The Interruption

If you have ever used a search engine in your life, you probably have some sense of knowledge that search engine optimization is now the state of the market when it comes to customer acquisition and online audience development. I've heard that old school lead generation was derived from affiliate networking marketing inventory and revenue sharing models. These days many marketers are seeking additional inventory alternatives to broaden their potential audience.

Studies show SEM/SEO is one of the most effective tools in lead generation, with the capabilities of producing the volume advertisers are looking for without suppressing the quality of the leads. Increasingly, advertisers are finding that SEO/SEM generates warmer, more qualified leads than both affiliate networks and e-mail marketing.

Why? Most lead generation methods are driven by what I call the "fishing method." The fisherman casts his line into a river hoping for a bite -- most likely using some sort of bait that will get the most attention. The analogy in the lead generation business is that advertisers are interrupting the consumers (fish) with various call-to-action offers that may or may not be relevant to the fish's interests and needs.

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The premise of leveraging search within lead-gen is simple. Instead of the advertiser interrupting the consumer, the consumer interrupts the advertiser. A consumer voluntarily raising his or her hand, requesting the advertiser to contact him in real time, makes these leads even more relevant and viable. Search leads tend to be warmer because users are self-selecting, have an active interest in a particular product and are ready to take action.

Increasingly, marketers have been utilizing microsites to make their search marketing more effective, helping lift lead volume while maintaining lead quality.

Microsites are just what they sound like: individual pages or groups of Web pages designed for a specific marketing purpose, separate from an advertiser's standard Website. For example, if you search for the phrase "insurance quotes," a plethora of microsites are listed in the sponsored link and organic listings section relevant to comparing insurance quotes from various vendors. The microsite can also be exclusive to a specific advertiser, which creates even more valuable prospects for that brand.

SEO/SEM is an effective gateway to customer acquisition and online audience development but advertisers, must use appropriate conversion strategies to ultimately increase ROI. By implementing search marketing into your online media mix for lead generation, you are significantly increasing the quality of your leads because you are no longer interrupting the prospect -- the prospect is finding you. Your upfront cost may be on a per-click basis using search engines; however, the microsite advertised alongside relevant search topics will prompt the user to request to be contacted. Once you have collected substantial lead sample size you can determine your average conversion rate, profitably and make the necessary adjustments to achieve an increase in ROI.

We see two key components in managing an effective search marketing strategy for lead-gen: There must be resources dedicated to managing keyword bids to effectively back into your ROI goal. There also needs to be a team dedicated to working on SEO/SEM for your microsite. You must manage these components daily to maintain profitability. It's like owning a pet; you must feed your pet everyday to keep it alive, active and healthy. Once you determine your target acquisition price point, you can effectively manage your pay per click and SEO costs.

There is still a major opportunity for marketers with direct response online lead generation initiatives to take advantage of search marketing. Stop interrupting prospects; let the prospects interrupt you, and your ROI should be that much better.

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