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You’ll hear lots of good advice for how to improve search marketing for your Web site, but too often it focuses on all the little dials and controls that must be set this way and that way. While all that technical advice is needed, you need to understand your prime motivation for search marketing before you launch into the technical arcana.

The Three Purposes of Search Marketing

No matter what kind of Web site you have, you need to keep in mind its basic purpose, which falls into one or more of these:

  • Drawing eyeballs. If your site’s business model is to attract traffic to your site because you are selling advertising, then search marketing success can be measured by the number of ad impressions you present. So, if you are CNN or ESPN, then this is your basic model, but most companies need more than traffic.
  • Raising brand awareness. At least a secondary goal for most sites, for some brand awareness is the primary goal. If you make children’s cereal, you aren’t trying to sell anything online—you’re trying to get people to remember your brand.
  • Driving conversions. For most sites, your real goal is sales—either online or offline.

Most businesses are not based on an advertising model, so we’ll focus on the more common brand awareness and conversion goals, starting with branding.

In Search of…Brand Awareness

Raising brand awareness through search marketing came under suspicion during the Internet bust of the last few years, but recent studies show that search really does help raise brand awareness. 60% of searchers remembered the companies they saw while searching, for example, while only 20% do from banner ads.

What’s more, if you have a company that is very resistant to search marketing, you can get people interested by using search to measure brand awareness driven by other marketing efforts. When you launch a print campaign with a new branding message, watch the changes that occur in the search keywords that people use to get to your site—if they suddenly start searching for what you are promoting (even using the words you used), then you can measure in a couple of days how well your campaign is driving awareness. This measurement technique might be the first glimmer of interest you draw from offline marketers for search marketing.

In Search of…Conversions

Most companies need their Web site to drive sales. Perhaps you have a shopping cart and sell online, but most of you need to switch your customer to an offline channel to complete the sale. Regardless of what you business does, you need to turn your Web site into a conversion machine.

If you sell online, it’s easy for you to identify your conversion event—customers check out their shopping carts and buy. But even offline sellers have some kind of Web conversion. Perhaps you ask your customer to fill out their contact information, because 9% of those leads eventually close. Maybe you know that 4% of customers that download your white paper eventually buy your product. Your Web site must be designed to offer these Web conversion opportunities and then drive your customers to them.

Taking this approach to your Web site puts you clearly in the realm of direct marketers. Just as a direct mail company or a catalog marketer is constantly tuning its message to induce a higher response rate, so should you constantly tinker with your Web site to raise Web conversions. Although most Web sites don’t do that today, the future of interactive marketing will see measurements drive everything we do.

Don’t settle for a Web site that just sites there—find out how direct marketing principles can transform the effectiveness of your site. Download the complete set of slides for this talk, called Remember That Search Marketing Is Marketing. For even more ideas, check out the book Search Engine Marketing, Inc.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and a senior strategist at Converseon, Revealed Context, and SoloSegment. Mike is the author of three books on digital marketing and is an instructor at Rutgers Business School. He is a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO, a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research, and a Certified Speaking Professional.

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