To keep abreast of discrepancies in search engine algorithms that present both risk and opportunities to boost ROI, Mountain View, Calif.-based financial software provider Intuit partnered with Zeta Interactive, a digital services firm in New York, to improve response during the current tax season. Zeta Interactive assisted Intuit in creating ad groups to support tailored cost-per-click ads and now monitors the frequency with which various search queries are used, rolling frequent queries into the program. It also monitors Intuit’s campaign keywords and ad groups, adjusting, as needed, to create more relevant ad copy. Here, Intuit Director of Online Advertising and Internet Media Seth Greenberg discusses his company’s revamped search campaign, avoiding competitors’ “black-hat tactics” and leveraging paid search to maximize multichannel advertising.
Target Marketing: What are your goals for this year’s TurboTax Online advertising campaign?
Seth Greenberg: We relaunch with fresh creative at the start of each new tax season, and the new creative is positioned to resonate with that year’s release of TurboTax Online. Starting in December 2007, the goals of our paid search campaigns are not only driven by product sales, but also to support consumer education. For example, this year there has been a lot of news and interest generated by the legislative delays around the alternative minimum tax. The issue drove high volumes of search demand, and, together with our agency, we made sure to meet our customers’ informational needs on the topic.
TM: With this year’s campaign, what types of messaging did you use for your various cost-per-click ads?
SG: Our messaging reflects our strong branding and position as the leader in making taxes easy. Since last year, we also offer a free Federal Edition product for simple returns. Leveraging the power of “free” has helped increase interest and interaction with our brand.
TM: What challenges did you face during the creation and implementation of this campaign, and how did you address them?
SG: Although paid search is maturing, there are still many ways competitors attempt to game the system to increase their shelf space on the search results page. We are a trusted brand that strives to keep our house in good order and neither condone nor engage in these sorts of “black-hat tactics”. Ultimately, the search engines themselves realize that allowing such activity is not in their interest or that of search users. Zeta, ourselves and the [search engines] regularly meet to address and resolve these issues.
TM: What results have you seen since increasing your investment in paid search?
SG: We see substantial ROI from paid search, and our rates of ROI continue to increase relative to how we market in other channels. For example, television advertising affects our search volume. The conversion goal is a year-over-year growth rate in unit sales and revenue. Although we cannot disclose the target growth rate, we can say that it is substantial, that we exceeded it last year and that we have every confidence in doing so again for [the current tax season].
TM: What advice do you have for marketers working to implement or refine their paid search campaigns?
SG: Consider and prepare for how your other marketing efforts affect search. TurboTax makes a considerable investment in television advertising and direct marketing. These efforts, in turn, drive search activity as people are called to action on the Web. Limiting coverage in search can result in diminished realization of that total marketing investment.
Use search to support all your initiatives. This year we’ve launched an innovative engagement campaign on YouTube called Tax Laugh (www.youtube.com/TurboTax ). It’s a contest where the winning video entry will win $10,000 and the opportunity to open for Jay Mohr at [one of] the Improv [comedy clubs]. We’re also leveraging paid search to help build and capture buzz for this program using a special URL.