New Search Engines Shake Up SEM Strategy
With the emergence of new search engines beyond Google, Yahoo and Bing, CMOs need to look at new ways to integrate overall Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies — the “umbrella” channel under which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is practiced — into their approach.
Upstarts such as Pinterest, Amazon, and even multichannel retailers Walmart and Target, are giving traditional search engines a run for their money — but marketers still need to get their organic SEO strategy right before SEM can be useful to them. Combining both strategies adds power to any campaign, as integrated marketing efforts are ultimately more effective.
Search engine marketing is designed to place relevant ads in front of online audiences. SEM comprises SEO and also paid search methods such as pay per click advertising (PPC) listings, social media and advertisements. Search is a growing market: revenues from search advertising totaled $32.7 billion in the first half of 2016, and have grown by 21 percent, on average, year-over-year since 2010. The overall goal of SEM is to help brands determine which themes will optimize the marketing strategy as a whole. But to get there, marketers first need to understand which keywords, using which engines, will drive the most efficient returns, or conversion rates.
What’s Changing: The Rise of Non-Traditional Search Engines
In an online world where the ecosystem is never static, both changing online consumer buying behaviors and this emerging crop of new and non-traditional search engines underscore the need to develop an integrated paid search strategy in order to remain relevant. The question becomes, how is it possible to address and maximize both traditional and non-traditional engines, incorporating new marketplaces and leveraging advanced keyword and audience targeting tactics, on an allocated budget?
In its 17-year history, Google AdWords has expanded to serving more than 4 million advertisers and generating tens of billions of dollars per year. Nonetheless, entering 2018 and beyond, we will see more and more consumers using search engines other than Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
One example of a non-traditional engine is Amazon’s search, which has been stealing the largest market share from traditional search engines. According to a study done by BloomReach, 55 percent of online shoppers go directly to Amazon before checking other sites to make a purchase; and in the last two years, Amazon has made up more than one-third of total online sales during Black Friday.
While Pinterest may be thought of primarily as a social platform, it too has risen in importance as a non-traditional search engine. In 2016, there were 2 billion searches performed on Pinterest; 97 percent of those searches were non-branded. Other marketplaces have also seen significant growth in adoption based on their competitive pricing and lightning fast shipping guarantees.
For example, Jet.com, Walmart, and Target have all gained significant traction by enabling brands to sell their products through open marketplaces. By leveraging technology, brands that used to sell primarily directly through their own websites can now sell through many other marketplaces, as well.
The Importance of an Integrated Strategy
There are significant opportunities and advantages to creating a holistic strategy that prioritizes budget in a way that embraces both the traditional and the non-traditional, while maintaining consistency across platforms. Knowing the variations in average order value, return on ad spend and customer lifetime value, as well as understanding which keywords drive the highest conversion rates using which engines, will help brands allocate budget and strategize successfully.
As Amazon, Pinterest and other marketplaces catch up to the traditional engines with targeting capabilities and access to data to create better experiences for their customers, brands will need to shift ad dollars across marketplaces. Looking into the future, the prevalence of non-traditional engines will only continue to increase, keeping CMOs on their toes as they constantly adjust the mix required for an optimally integrated search campaign.
Patrick Kuehn is Senior VP, Sales and Marketing at ObjectWave. Speaking five languages, he specializes in international business in the digital age. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of his advice on integrated marketing, check out the article "5 Steps to Driving Traffic and Delivering Results with SEO" and guide "Search Engine Marketing: Creating a Holistic Paid Search Strategy" over at Objectwave.