TM: How can marketers defend their brands in SEM?
RC: One of the ways is by crowding the search space with “friendlies.” A friendly is someone who is either positively aligned or neutrally aligned with your site; they could just be a reseller or an information site. So [a prospect] is continuing to be exposed to your brand message and brand attributes rather than a competitive environment.
TM: Is there any difference in cannibalization between paid versus organic search?
RC: There are differences depending on where [prospects] are in the consideration cycle or their propensity to use either paid or organic. You still see organic outperforming paid, but you have a difficult time [developing an organic program]. That’s the sexy part of paid: You have to buy it to be there. Where organic is more ethereal, you have to build content and link things, organize your information architecture in a way that allows you to properly show up for terms that are most relevant for what drives your business. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be there [with organic search]. Understanding the mix, when you have both an organic and a paid listing on the page, how do you moderate your spend … all these are pretty tricky dynamics.
And it’s further complicated by lead aggregators entering the channel, where they essentially could be reselling a lead to multiple sources. Therefore, they have a higher marginal utility and can bid higher than you can if you’ve only got one shot to sell that person, but they’ve got six shots to sell that lead; it changes the dynamics of what you can do versus what they can do. It really forces you to understand the conversion dynamics of your program and maybe move away from those large head words that may drive a lot of volume but might be early in the consideration cycle and not ultimately attributable to conversion—at least not immediately.