The 2012 planning season is in full gear. Right about now, discussions are heating up about search marketing budgets and an array of new digital marketing channels. Let’s take a look at three hot search-centric strategies that should be, at minimum, on every CMO’s radar or, better yet, incorporated into the overall marketing mix for the coming year.
The New SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t dead. In fact, it’s more important than ever, but it’s about more than just optimizing your Web site. SEO is now about digital-asset optimization. Today, a brand must leverage all of its digital assets in its SEO strategy—assets that include images, press releases, videos, whitepapers, RSS feeds, podcasts, and blogs--and work to own the top search engine results for relevant keywords related to those assets. Why? Because search engines rank them, along with user-generated blogs and social conversations, local reviews/info, and more. Businesses must capitalize on the aggregate rankings, share of voice, and downstream conversions that stem from such digital-asset optimization initiatives. (For more on the topic of digital assets, read "How To Contain Your Marketing Assets Costs.")
In addition, social media continues to grow in importance for SEO. In particular, social media is changing the face of link building for improved natural search rankings and results. While quality factors in link building are critically important, it’s no longer just about the quantity of links acquired. Therefore, marketers must continue to evolve their capabilities that focus on advanced techniques in link building and incorporate social signals that can drive equity (which is preferred by search engines as ranking factors). For example, marketers need to ensure that their brands’ Facebook and other social media pages drive more link equity in the proper way. That means making sure consumers who land on a brand’s site have the accessibility to easily “like” or provide their Google +1 ranking. In this sense, social sentiment, online brand management, and SEO have become tied together. After all, engines are (in part) ranking a site’s relevance based on the number of likes and +1s, which further help to drive improved rankings and positive online brand sentiment.
Search Keyword Content Marketing
Why focus on search keyword-focused content marketing? Content is still king. And SEO, social marketing content optimization, and content creation are still key to being found in the search engines. Historically, though, major brands have not invested enough in organic search. But to win in organic search and across the social Web today, brands must find a comprehensive, cost-effective model for producing the quality content their customers need during the product consideration and purchase stages of the consumer marketing funnel. Developing a keyword-rich content marketing program can help marketers do exactly that.
Content marketing will continue to evolve as a way for brands to deliver the information their customers seek. It will be seen as a new and distinct offering for brands seeking an end-to-end search marketing solution that sits at the center of organic search and social marketing, while also maximizing audience reach and message relevance. And it will become even more important as the number of mobile searches performed by consumers increases and the need for appearing at the top of the organic search results becomes more vital.
To get started, marketers need to pick a strategy to build out a search-centric content marketing program. Whether they hire an agency or build out the function in-house, they need to think about how to best streamline the process. Their automated approach should cover four key areas:
- Talent: Writer recruitment and management
- Keywords: Topic development based on search engine keyword volumes and keyword strategy
- Oversight: Content creation, management, optimization, editing, and publishing
- Accounting and reporting: Monitoring the types of traffic and results the content drives and the associated return on investment
Search Keyword Retargeting
For marketers seeking strong results from paid search marketing, a new form of reaching consumers while in-market has emerged in 2011 and will take off in 2012. It’s called search keyword retargeting and is a form of digital advertising that enables brands to remarket to users who have previously searched on a particular keyword in the past day, week, or month in a search engine, social media site, comparison shopping engine, or other online channel. The beauty of search keyword retargeting is that even if a user doesn't choose to visit your Web site or engage with your brand, you can still target them with a marketing message while they are presumably still in-market.
The emerging industry has a few providers, such as Simpli.fi, Magnetic, and Chango, that have built large-scale cookie pools of result keyword searches. Advertisers then work with such providers to retarget searchers across a unique network with display and contextual ads. The process and optimization of running a search keyword retargeting campaign is very similar to a Google paid search campaign, except your ads are presented as display ads on online publisher sites. This channel is ideal for search practitioners because they can leverage their search keyword intelligence in the digital display marketplace. In other words, search retargeting provides marketers with the ability to bridge the silos of search and display, and extend the marketing and media mix.
While search keyword retargeting is still in its nascent stages and working through some issues, such as limited inventory and targeting capabilities, they should be resolved quickly. Marketers should explore this new channel ASAP: Warly adopter brands that have tested it are seeing very strong results. In some cases, results rival paid search effectiveness.