In Search of ROI
Media spending forecasts have been nothing but bullish on the continued rapid growth of online marketing, particularly search engine marketing (SEM). In case there is any lingering confusion as to what SEM is exactly, let's clear it up: SEM refers to all activities related to getting one's Web pages listed on search engines' paid and free (also called organic) search results listings.
This issue contains a special report on SEM that will provide you with insights on the latest strategies being employed by forward-thinking companies. For example, recent research from DoubleClick reveals that in the early stages of their searching efforts, people tend to rely more on generic search terms; closer to the purchase time, people switch to more brand-oriented terms. If your SEM program does not include an integrated strategy for branding and sales-related keywords, check out "Separation Prevents Dilution" by Performics' Stuart Larkins.
In addition, it's becoming common knowledge that many search users don't look beyond the first page or two of search results. On top of this, the Pew Internet & American Life Project recently found that 44 percent of consumers turn to only one search engine for their online researching needs. This makes it imperative to get ranked higher in the free listings, or be willing to pay a premium price to win a paid listing. To address this need, our special report also looks into the viability of paid inclusion and provides ideas for how to get search engines to index all the pages in your Web site.
A parting takeaway tip on SEM: Don't get so caught up in generating traffic that you forget what to do with these visitors when they're on your site. Tom Fanelli, vice president of sales and marketing for Coastal Computer Corp.—who shares his firm's paid-inclusion experiences in the special report—urges marketers to make the most of their Web traffic by offering visitors white papers, product sheets, product comparison guides, discount coupons, anything that will help link a casual browser to your company until he or she is ready to buy.
SEM is, after all, just another tool in the DM toolbox.
P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for Target Marketing's next special report, on personalization, in the April issue.