It’s time for CMOs to harness the power of search engine marketing to drive tangible results – online and offline, argues Sarah Pike, chief marketing officer at direct mail marketing company Salmat.
Google processes some 100 billion search queries worldwide every month; that’s around 40,000 every second. These queries lead more visitors to content-rich websites than any other form of marketing.
Given the staggering importance of search, it is essential for CMOs to understand how search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO) are changing.
Consumers today have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They continually search online to support both their in-store and online purchase decisions and both SEO and SEM strategies are an increasingly important and critical part of an integrated marketing strategy.
Here are five things CMOs need to know about search:
It drives in-store purchases
Search engine marketing is now all encompassing. A study by Google showed that 68 per cent of Australian smartphone owners use their phones to search for information while in the store.
Sometimes this is “showrooming”, where they visit a store, look at products, search online for the best price, and even take photos to share with friends. Other times, they are seeking out reviews, third party recommendations and customer stories.
Either way, two in three said the search activity directly influenced what they went on to buy.
Don’t build a one dimensional SEM approach, but to consider the integrated nature of your business and what your SEM does to enhance both the online and offline experience of your brand – especially how it complements the in-store experience to grow sales.
It’s becoming a mobile game
Mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches for the first time ever. In fact, 74 per cent of Australian smartphone users rely on their phones at least as much as their desktops when searching for information so your goal should be to ensure you are always there to be discovered.
Research by Google shows that 94 per cent of smartphone users look for local information on their phones, with 84 per cent taking action. The bottom line is, if your company isn’t taking advantage of mobile search, you won’t be found online.
You need to target the mobile consumer by ranking high on local, organic searches. Do this by making your SEM time and location relevant.
Not all search is the same
Throughout the purchase journey, your target audience is using search to decide what (and whether) to buy. However, not all journeys are created equal.
Consumers searching for your brand on their laptop have a different mindset to those searching on their mobile. They may be the same consumer but their needs and reasons for search will be different. That goes for any device.
Consider the mobile journey. Unlike a desktop search, you might not be able to lead them through to an online sale, but you will be able to get them closer to purchase through tactics such as click-to-call, free trials, email subscriptions, directions and opening times for the local store.
On top of this, consumers are using mobile and desktop together, switching between devices depending on their needs.
You need to understand how your customers search, why they search for your product or service and how these vary across different devices. Then, devise unique strategies for each, as well as strategies that bridge devices and track the whole journey.
Put user experience first
It’s great if your company can bring hundreds of new visitors to its website via a pay-per-click (PPC) ad. But what happens when visitors on mobile devices encounter an ugly site that doesn’t work well? Most will quickly become frustrated and leave the website. A poor mobile search experience can undo all your efforts to attract new visitors.
Not only can it scare away customers, but Google is now prioritising mobile-optimised websites so your site won’t even appear.
A mobile-specific version of your website isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ – it’s an imperative so you need to test user experience (UX) throughout the design process.
Aim for organic
Consumers spend a considerable amount of time browsing and sifting through search engine results. The more often consumers conduct online searches, the more adept they become at discerning what is false information and what they can trust. And yes, most will identify the difference between organic and paid results.
Organic search is seen as a reliable source of information in the same way as the traditional news media. In other words, when consumers find your business through an organic search, they’re more likely to trust you than if they click on your site through a paid ad. The proof is in the number: research says organic search is often the highest ROI channel for brands.
Focus on diverse forward-thinking SEO strategies to build an organic search ranking for your brand.
It’s time for CMOs to explore integrated SEM and SEO solutions that will help reach both online and offline audiences on any device, anywhere, anytime. This is increasingly proving its clout in driving conversions, increasing sales (both online and in-store), and building brand awareness.