Search has undoubtedly emerged as one of the most effective forms of marketing online. Overall, visits to search engines were 11 percent of all Internet traffic in August 2010 and referrals from search engines represent 25 percent of traffic to websites, according to Experian Hitwise. So while there is plenty of opportunity to capture visitors through search, the challenge is how to maximize the benefits of this critical marketing channel.
1. Understand the language of your target audience. Searchers don't always use industry jargon terms when conducting a search unless they are very well-known. So make sure that you understand what actual keywords are being used. Most people do not use terms like "apparel" or "footwear," so don't use those in search campaigns or landing pages—opt for more common terms, like "clothing" or "shoes." Also, investigate which are the most commonly used terms; for example, the volume of search clicks for "airline tickets" was more than 6 times the volume of "plane tickets" and "air tickets" during the 12 weeks before Sept. 4.
2. Increase relevancy and volume of targeted keywords. Search queries have increasingly become longer as searchers add more keywords to improve relevancy. The share of searches that included five or more keywords represented 19 percent of all searches in August, up 10 percent from the previous year. The overall volume for the type of search query will decline as they become longer and more specific, but the improved relevancy will improve the clickthrough rates for those terms.
This will entail research into the long tail of keywords with a broader portfolio of search terms to manage. But, in addition to relevancy, the terms should also be less competitive (and more inexpensive depending on your category). With searches for "credit cards," the volume for "credit cards" is significantly higher than the longer queries; however, the success rate for "credit cards" is 83 percent, meaning 83 percent of the searches resulted in a clickthrough to a website. With increased specificity, the success rate increases—"student credit cards" received 92 percent and "credit cards for college students" received 93 percent of the search traffic. When a desired outcome was included, such as "student credit cards instant approval," the success rate hit 100 percent.