Well I am at Search Engine Strategies San Jose; the weather is beautiful, the company great and the discussions so far excellent. The following are point form notes from an interesting seminar that discussed how search can be used to aid in branding instead of just as a direct response sales vehicle. Each point, stat or anecdote is in itself intriguing but overall add up to a helpful overview of how to use search to brand. Please brace yourself, however, this discussion went to many edges of the marketing universe so this post will have gems from many disciplines.

  • URLs vs Name Brand: the big advertisements are more often recommending prospects search for their name online rather than provide a URL. This is because a high percentage (sorry can’t remember the #) of prospects cannot remember the URL later but have little problem remembering the brand.
  • Cover Your Assets: When advertising offline make certain to buy paid placements for the many potential misspellings from your campaign. This recommendation also includes purchasing the applicable misspellings of the campaign URL for those that use it. If you fail to cover these gaps you can lose a substantial number of potential buyers.
  • The Special K Campaign: One of the speakers noted a branding campaign that many of us likely witnessed during the 2006 Christmas/New Years season by Kellogs. The concept of the popular TV commercial was that Special K wanted to help you in your bid to become healthier. The crossover to the Internet occurred when anyone typed in “Special K” into Yahoo (who was a participant in this campaign) they were provided with a co-branded customized search result page that provided targeted routes for users. One such route was to a forum area where users could get help and ask questions about their bid to get healthier. The other was a co-branded tips section where there was plenty of advice on snack eating, associated diets, food myths, etc.So what does this branding campaign demonstrate? Special K took an approach that is now the spirit of social marketing; they were not directly asking people to buy Special K but they were building credibility for their brand by partnering with their prospects in their bid to get healthier. Brilliant!
  • A Funny Bit About Contextual: I have never been a big fan of contextual advertising so when the search agency representatives on the panel were asked how they felt contextual worked into their marketing plans I perked up. What I heard made me grin ear to ear… the panelists seemed a bit perplexed for a moment and then in their own turn essentially said contextual advertising was only considered with any money that was left in a campaign. In other words…. forget about it unless you have some pennies to spare and you want to really blanket the world.
  • How will the growth of universal search affect paid search marketing?: I was surprised by the answer to this question. Essentially the agency panelists agreed that universal search could be bad for paid advertising. The reason they cited was the more accurate organic search becomes the less likely it is that searchers will act on paid advertisements. I was surprised more by their candor than anything. In my opinion they are entirely correct which is why I firmly believe that organic search engine optimization is a key component to every online marketing campaign.
  • Yahoo Universal Search: Yahoo representative Kelly Graziadei noted that Yahoo is currently testing various forms of universal search within its results. One such example can be seen by searching for “Transformers”. In this instance Yahoo has decided to keep the top 10 organic rankings intact but they have preceded them with a graphic enticing viewers to check out the movie trailer to the popular movie or see reviews and find show times in their zip code.
  • Local Better than International: Scott Linzer, Director of Search Marketing at Universal McCann loosely noted that the campaigns which made the more time consuming foray into creating locally targeted campaigns experienced a better bang for their advertising dollar in contrast to the more common national approach.
  • PPC and Organic are a Logical Pairing: both of the agency advocates noted that even after achieving a #1 ranking for a specific term there are direct benefits to continuing with a paid campaign for the very same term. To back this up they stressed the benefit of multiple locations for branding but they made an additional point that I thought very logical: the content within paid advertisements are easier to control and to revise to improve clickthroughs than organic rankings currently are.
  • What is a Reasonable Conversion Percentage?: I asked Scott Linzer this question and his response was that 2 percent was a reasonable conversion expectation for a paid campaign. Any lower than 2 percent requires serious scrutiny and continued testing. Of course, I expect no one ever stops testing. I should note that the company Scott works for, Universal McCann, handles a great deal of Microsoft’s paid advertising so I was happy to get his opinion on this question.

There you are ladies and gentlemen. I will have more to come on Wednesday. For now I am signing off and preparing for the next day of fun. All the best, Ross Dunn.