You Can’t Make More People Search (Or Can You?)

You can’t make more people search.  You simply can’t.  End of story.

OK, fine, technically you can go to someone’s house, sit them down at knifepoint, and force them to search for your brand term, but that seems like something reserved for a super nerdy, boring version of a Liam Neeson movie.

So, for the rest of us that have maxed out our brand terms and have budget to spare, what are we supposed to do?  Should we just be happy with what we get and move on from there?  Is there is no reasonable way to increase our brand search volume?

I mean, sure we can all just pump more into non-brand and be OK that we get a negative ROI and the implied benefit that at some point those people will search on our brand names. We can always try content, but can you really build a brand using content match?

We can try PLAs, Google Product Search, Email extensions, click-to-call, and whatever new toy the engines have developed, but can any of those actually help us grow our brand at a noticeable rate?

I think they can, but not nearly as well as other non-search media can. So as search marketers we must find ways to become better all-around marketers or risk having our budgets be based solely on existing demand.

Breaking The Single Channel Barrier

I think I am still somewhat surprised when people say they only manage/run/service one channel.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a search nerd at heart and I love match types, bid management, and campaign structure as much as the next guy (I am even holding on to a love for Google Premium Listings and old school paid inclusion too if we are be honest here), but at this point, to only look at one channel is a little head-in-the-sand-ish.

I think we can all agree that:

  1. no channel exists in a vacuum and
  2. branded paid search is always the result of demand generated by some other sort of marketing (including the Liam Neeson method for generating demand).

So if we know all channels overlap and the primary revenue driver for search is likely the result of other marketing, how do we break out of our single-channel mindset? (note: I am setting aside non-brand a little bit right now as, while I think it can help generate demand, I also think most folks’ bread and butter is based on brand terms and nonbrand performance/participation seems to vary wildly from brand to brand).

Adopt New Techniques For New Goals

Start with these five things:

1. Execute paid search perfectly. Paid search might not be driving all that much new brand awareness, but it definitely is capturing any new demand created. So if you are spending time and money on brand building, but not running an efficient paid search program, then you are pouring water into a bucket with a hole in the ground.

Make sure you have your paid search programs down pat.  Test everything that needs to be tested, run everything that needs to be run, report on everything you need to be reporting on.  Not only will this allow you to capture demand generated from other marketing, but it will also help you further show why the powers that be can’t simply cut search to fund branding.

2. Establish the difference between direct response marketing and interest-generating marketing.  This is not intended to take away from DR in the slightest, but capturing demand and generating interest are two related, but different marketing executions and the campaigns need to be planned, executed, and optimized differently.

For example you might optimize your DR campaign based on ROI while you would optimize your interest campaign based on unaided brand recall lift, SOV in a core category on a site, or even clicks from first-time site visitors.

3. Know the important metrics.  Coming from a DR perspective, I know it is hard to look at anything other than ROI, but your sordid affair with ROI must come to an end…or at least change.  I am a huge fan of keeping ROI a piece of any online campaign, but for more interest-generating type campaign, we must supplement ROI with metrics like percent of visitors that are new visitors, bounce rates, pages per visit, email and catalog sign ups, store locators, and a host of other metrics that will allow us to quantify ROI in a slightly different light.

4. Know your options.  The world is your oyster.  You are no longer tied to spending money on Google and Bing.  You can literally spend money on any site, anywhere.

But with any freedom should come caution.  For example, you can run on any site you want, but now you must consider things like whether or not the site is brand-appropriate, who the competition on the site will be, what kind of user base the site has, is the CPM right, and so on and so forth – none of which you typically need to consider with paid search.

So while you can run on any site you want, your true options are limited to the sites that are brand, cost, competitive, etc. appropriate.

5. Know how to bring it all together. It is only worth breaking out of a single channel if you are able to tie all your marketing channels together. While a full-on attribution system would be ideal, it doesn’t work for everyone.

So start with a unified tracking system – something that allows you to track all your marketing programs, de-dupes your conversions, and will show you some basic marketing pathing information.

This will not only show you the effect interest-driving campaigns are having on your direct response channels, but it will also make that DR side of you that doesn’t like running “branding” campaigns sleep a little easier because you’ll be able to look at a more clear cause-result type of metric.

And if five things weren’t enough, I think there is definitely a sixth thing to consider.  I hear over and over again that people can’t run display media or another channel because it is such a “different set of skills” or a “totally different type of person” that runs those types of campaigns.

This frustrates me more than anything because I think, to some extent, it discredits search marketers’ abilities. While the approach, metrics, vendors, etc. may be a bit different than what we are used to, the same basic principles and skills apply.

If you are a great search marketer, chances are you probably have the skillset to be a great overall marketer too (and in many cases, you are better suited to run all of marketing because you understand metrics and optimization).

So take the idea that it takes two totally different types of people to run search and display or brand marketing and throw it out the window.  Or don’t…and be stuck with a budget that is always going to be limited to the result of what the other marketing channels are driving.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Column


About The Author: is a New York-based digital marketing and strategy consultant specializing in retail. He has worked with Nike, Neiman Marcus, Staples, Michael Kors and many others to develop fully integrated digital marketing strategies.Follow him @VicDrabicky on Twitter.

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  • Nick Stamoulis

    “now you must consider things like whether or not the site is
    brand-appropriate, who the competition on the site will be, what kind of
    user base the site has, is the CPM right, and so on and so forth”

    A good point. For instance, do you really want to advertise on a site that caters to your peers or one that speaks more to your audience? While getting the thumbs up from your counterparts is always great, they aren’t the ones doing business with your brand.


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