Five need-to-knows for search marketing


It is widely acknowledged that Search Engines are a critical medium for driving website traffic. In fact, 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine such as Google. Despite this, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) continues to be one of the most misunderstood and underutilised online marketing channels. Most businesses miss the mark in the search channel, losing a great revenue opportunity in what should be the most profitable channel.

The Australian retail sector is most at risk, as major Australian retailers currently can still afford to miss the mark: For large brands “Online” is often only equivalent to 1 out of their 400 physical store locations, Australia’s online retail market is underdeveloped, accounting for less than 10 per cent of total retail revenue, compared to 20 per cent in the UK.

However, this is about to change, with strong international players entering what used to be a market protected by geography.

  1. Search is where the Online battle is won – or lost.

Search is the largest and most profitable acquisition channel for successful online businesses. Your successful online competitors derive 50% and more of their online sales from Search.

If a business cannot generate positive ROI from generic (i.e. ‘non-brand’ keyword) Search, they don’t have a scalable online business.

Search is where consumers are looking for your products. If you cannot fulfill this existing demand of customers that are in ‘buying mode’, you either manage SEM poorly, or your website has a usability problem affecting conversion rate. Or, worst case scenario, you don’t have a competitive product.

And if targeting exclusively your brand terms is the only way to generate a positive ROI in SEM, then you are not actually acquiring new customers.

  1. Attribution, COCA, LTV – and why Brand keyword search is not an acquisition channel

Generic keywords are where you find new customers. Brand Keyword traffic is where you find existing customers who are too lazy to type in your URL. So, technically you could call brand keyword traffic a Retention channel.

If you want to acquire new customers in Search, you must focus on generic keyword campaigns.

It is also true that a proportion of users who find your brand through generic keyword ads (or natural results), later convert on brand keyword searches. This means Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA) of generic keyword campaigns is often overstated, while the CPA of brand campaigns is grossly understated.

This demonstrates the need to track your brand and generic keyword traffic separately, while attributing ROI accurately between these.

In fact, measuring channel-specific COCA (Cost of Customer Acquisition) and LTV (customer Life-Time-Value) to allocate budgets is often more efficient than looking at CPA or ROI.

  1. Pull Marketing vs. Push Marketing channels

Push Marketing channels use a promotional strategy to push your message in front of potential customers to create the desire or interest to buy your products.

Pull Marketing channels refers to the customer actively seeking out your product, and retailers simply fulfill the direct demand.

Search is the pull marketing channel par excellence. Users do not only have an idea in their head that they need to buy something, they say it loud and clear to everyone who wants to listen. As such, Search is much more a Sales channel than a Marketing channel.

  1. Search engines are an extension of your website

Imagine Google is a shopping mall where you own a store. Your shop sells fashion, and visitors to the mall are walking around saying out loud “I want a black dress with white collar in size 12”.

You say:

A. Nothing – You are not actually listening. Your shop is open, staff are working but you saved on employees listening to people walking around (= your search marketing budget). You think customers will find your store eventually on their own. This is equivalent to not having a search budget to cover these keywords.

B. “Hey, I am Brand X, we have beautiful dresses at a 50% discount!” – Then you take them by the hand and lead them to the female fashion section. This is suboptimal ad targeting with suboptimal landing page matching.

C. You say “Hey, we have black dresses with white collars in size 12, priced from $120” – Then you take them by the hand and lead them to the wall with your black dresses with white collars in size 12.

Congratulations! You have optimal ad targeting and perfect landing page matching!

Which brand gets the sale and which brand might say, “SEM does not really work for us”?

Now imagine these question and answers happening millions of times with 50% of shoppers asking very specific questions as above – Welcome to “Long tail” Search.

  1. The “Long tail” is where you find the highest ROI in Search

The more specific the search query, the more consumers know what they want and the closer they are to making a purchase. Long tail traffic has the highest conversion rate potential, if you show customers the easiest way to the product they are searching for.

At the same time, Long tail keywords have the lowest competition. It is easy to target your industry head terms. Targeting long tail keywords properly, managing large keyword lists with exact matching ads to generate new customers at a profitable COCA, is an art specialists learn over many years.

Directing all those very specific search queries to the right landing pages for each search query requires hard work and is often a challenge –  a single landing page with the best matching products may not yet exist. Fortunately, this challenge can be solved with technology, at scale.


About the author

Andreas Dzumla is the Managing Director and co-founder of Longtail UX, a patented technology that enables businesses to convert the Long tail of search into sales.