The Ten Truths Every CMO Must Know About Search Marketing

Oct 6, 2008 - 2:42 pm 0 by
Filed Under SMX East 2008

Whether you're a CMO - or someone who needs to educate, advise or influence one - this session will educate you on the 10 critical important concepts surrounding search marketing and its role within the entire marketing mix that CMOs must understand in order to be successful. A panel made up of senior level search marketers across a variety of industries, business models, and sizes will share their experiences, advice and perspective on these 10 critical truths and how understanding them has influenced their CMOs.

Moderator: Chris Sherman, Executive Editor, Search Engine Land

Panelists: Michelle Stern, Client Services Director, iProspect Willie Fernandez Director of Marketing, World Travel Holidays Jennifer Doss, eCommerce Marketing Manager, Hat World and Lids Jill Nortman, SEO and Web Analytics Specialist, Allegis Group Jen Miller, Manager, Online Content and Marketing

This session is sponsored by iProspect.

1. SEO is an ongoing process. Why do CMOs need to pay attention? Search marketing should be an integral part of an entire marketing strategy. It's difficult to communicate the right issues. Enable 360 degree communication. Jill: SEO is really less of a function and more of a process. It's ongoing - you can't set it and forget it. You need to be involved because the Internet industry is constantly changing. Recently, social media sites are being indexed. Having a presence there is very important, especially to articulating that to your CMO. Blended results are also a new phenomenon - if you aren't keeping up with those changes, you're missing the boat. Jen: SEM is an ongoing process. Delta marketing is separate from content production. When she manages paid search, she was working with the content group on how to optimize the website. But then they realized that content and marketing are one so both organizations have been combined. It's been a lot more beneficial for them. It's a front-end process. From an organizational standpoint, it was successful, but it took a long time.

2. Being #1 isn't everything and sometimes is not even possible. Willie: Being in the cruise space today, the #1 term you would want to rank for is the term "cruise." However, from month to month, being #1 not only was causing them to reach their budget quickly but the word wasn't converting well. They decided to scale back and found terms that should have been #1 but weren't. They saw that their budgets were not being stretched out as much and they were finding those other words convert better. In a 4 month exercise, they analyzed 2,000 and scaled back to the point that there was a positive ROI on words that were losing money month to month. Michelle: In paid search, revenue is really key. Being #1 is not always where it's at. Analyze your keywords and determine what value your keywords are based on ROI. That will allow you to afford the keywords that ought to be in position #1. Jennifer: We have a very extensive keyword list and a dozen of those are the most efficient. We do rank on those keywords, but like cruises, hats is a keyword that can't necessarily be #1. Look at the multi-keyword phrases and you can rank higher. Because they are specific, they convert at a higher rate. 70% of all clicks come from the first page, so concentrate on getting on the first page and then work your way up. Being #1 isn't as profitable, so looking at where you're ranking and your spend and if you're meeting your ROI goals, maybe the lower positions are a better place. Jen: You may want to optimize for a one-word phrase but it's too competitive. Think about the top converting/clickthrough keywords instead.

Chris: How much of a challenge do you find addressing ego - "we have to be #1!"? Jen: It's about education, trying to share strategy and saying that it's about integration with other channels and how they play against each other. Jill: With PPC, you have to pay to play. Being in position #2 can save you a lot of money. As long as you can remain on page 1 or above the fold, that's something you should also strive for. Jennifer: Education is a primary element. Directors in our department will ask why we're not #1, but we have to explain budgets and resources to them.

3. The long tail is your friend. Michelle: Long tail keywords give you more qualified traffic. Also, there's less competition and that increases chances of being visible on those terms. That feeds into the third benefit which is when there's less competition, that equals less costs. Jen: Mine through the data to see what people are searching for and bid on them. Willie: We expanded our keyword base by about 10,000 keywords, if not more. We saw that people are searching for something but then they've decided what they want. For example, "christmas cruises from New York" or "carnival cruises from miami" has proven to be very successful. Michelle: You need to start broad and develop more long tail terms over time based on clickthroughs. Jill: The importance of analytics is critical before you start bidding on keywords.

Chris: So it seems that analytics and tools are really key.

4. Both paid and natural SEM are crucial. Jennifer: For us, we want to have as many listings as possible on the results page. 54% of our search revenue comes from our organic listings and 46% comes from paid. Visibility in both increases our brand awareness. In our paid listings, we can control the ad copy but you can't do that as easily with organic listings. We use that copy to promote special sales and offers. You can also control the landing page for these so you can go to higher-converting pages. She did a test and saw that depending on the destination URL, there were higher conversions. Try to find funds to do tests and how being listed might help your organic listings because of the increased visibility. Michelle: In addition to what Jennifer said, you need to be in paid and organic listings. 70% will click on organic listings and 30% click on paid listings, according to research. You should be in both places becasue there are different types of people. If you're in 2 parts of the page, you'll probably get the click. Chris: What about a brand lift for being in organic and both? Jen: When Delta was not visible for brand in paid search, their visits went down. What does that show? There are different customers for different things, as Michelle said. To her point, we found that paid customers are must more shoppers and they're more ready to convert. It pays to be visible by brand. We knew we had to take the risk even though there is obviously a budget issue with this. Jill: We have found that clicks in our paid advertising usually are those who are the first time visitors to our brand.

5. Customers hear their language, not yours. Jill: She reads a quote that says that one of the biggest mistakes is that people campaign with the messaging that the company wants to push rather than what people want to hear. The messaging slogan will tie back into what happens online so don't just speak from the brand. Think about the users. She talks about the automotive industry and how in the past, it was about crash data, but now it's a big issue about going green and gas mileage. Why? That's what the people are looking for. Willie: Sometimes we got in touch because we used industry terms in our ad copy. The bounce rate was through the roof. We couldn't understand why, so we ran a focus group and we started to understand that we were talking amongst ourselves and not to our site visitors. We toned it down and translated the industry terms to pain English and consumer friendly terms. We started to focus on some user-centric terms on other pages - e.g. cruise reviews. After a customer has purchased, they would want to review cruises before they purchase. They build up cruise reviews on product pages. The bounce rates dropped and they saw an increase of conversions by 45%. Chris: I observed companies using thier own site search tool to identify holes.

6. Web pages aren't the only assets you need to optimize. Jen: We interface with communications with users, so we need to get our content distributed. We launched a blog, and we use press releases and videos (YouTube channels). How do we optimize these areas? This is obviously important. Jill: You want to take advantage of content beyond the landing pages, like video. Tag that video, make sure the title is in line with the message, etc. You also want to be there on a paid perspective. But even with branded and nonbranded search, you need to think about social. Those results are showing up. If someone does searches for this, you want to be in the landscape and you want your social ads to show up.

7. Integration is a must. Michelle: It's really critical to share information so that you can benefit from your marketing campaign. Marketers who are responsible for media plans need to communicate to search marketers to capture demand through search. Search marketing should also communicate. Jen: We recently had a campaign where we needed to talk to travelers based out of NY. We decided to bid locally and geotarget to NYers. We changed the language for these users. Paid search gives you the opportunity to supplement another campaign to a different audience. Chris: we've been talking about search and online, but what about other marketing? Do you do any of that? (Silence.... I guess they need to read the coverage I wrote earlier this morning on integration!) Jennifer: We don't do much TV/radio, but when we do, it's in conjuction with our vendors. We do special promotions though occasionally. Jill: There was another session this morning (yay!) that was basically about integration or die. The disconnect was that your message offline may not be the online for some people. 67% of people were motivated to search online for what they heard offline. Nearly 40% of those searchers ended up converting. Who wants a 39% conversion rate? We all do! (If you are a first time SERoundtable reader, go check my coverage from this morning.)

8. Tools simplify everything. Willie: We have inhouse tools at our disposal that we built that indicated that newspaper ads are a dying breed. We wouldn't have known this without tools. We learn about the long tail keywords, so without those tools, we wouldn't know where to bid. Jennifer: We have about 10,000 pages and our content is forever changing. We had to manually manage that beforehand, and it wasn't efficient. With the help of iProspect, we put a few things in place, like a Google sitemap, a template that helped us for dynamically generating site optimization tags, and more. Sometimes creating/building tools can take time and development can suck time, but in the long run, it makes us remain up-to-date and current. We don't necessarily have the resources inhouse but thinking about tools does help you become more efficient.

Chris: What do you do to demonstrate the value of ROI? Jen: We tried to transform our site optimization from the backend to the frontend but transparency of tools and accessibility to those content producers so that people can be evangelists - we don't get guidance from the agency. They can mine the data themselves and find what's relevant. We have analytics tools that are self-service. We all become part of that process and share information. Michelle: Case studies of what you've been able to do in the past helps to drive the momentum for going forward.

Chris: In this economy, is there new money or do you have to take money away from other marketing efforts? Jill: Before shutting down offline altogether, in the state of the economy, we're seeing that the budgets are shifting. They're honing in on the return of over campaigns in the past year. There's more efficient spending by shifting funds. Michelle: We're not seeing anyone reducing search spend and that's because search is so measurable. You have to keep it in an economy like this. Jen: As long as you get rewarded, you should continue. It's easy to justify.

9. Don't bid solely on branded terms. Michelle: I would definitely say this. You run the risk of your competitors benefitting. What I mean is that - think about someone searching on a non-branded term. Most people are still researching, so your competitor will get that customer. Jen: At Delta, we talk a lot about incremental tickets. We don't have content on every single destination we're going to -- yet. In order to have a void, we bid on those unbranded terms so that we can capture that researcher who convert into an incremental ticket, a ticket that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Optimize for that unbranded term as much as possible. Jennifer: Bidding on the unbranded term will help as much as possible. About half of our revenue comes from the unbranded term search. Sports fans search by their teams, not by the brand name, for example. We pay very close attention to those keywords. I read a retail study that said that 55% of traffic came from nonbranded and 49% of those who purchased clicked on a non-branded term and 12% clicked on both! Jen: People usually search initially on nonbranded terms but then they actually search on the branded term when they are close to buying. Jennifer: You need to look at your list and revise/develop the terms.

Chris: There has been in the past during recessions a move away from brands. That would play into this entire thing to have a mix going forward. Jill: You can always get paid optimization to complement your organic efforts. Sometimes that offsets the cost.

10. You must set goals. Jill: You need to focus on the goals and then focus on the tactics to get there. Then you need to get creative with your goals - of course everyone can agree on some conversion points but you need to think outside the box, for example, offsite optimization and social. Monitor the number of friends that you acquire each month. The same goes for video. Some videos increase 25% monthly for us even though they've been up for over 12 months. Case studies are another opportunity - keep track of that and make sure you're seeing regular growth. They are really good goals to have.


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