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Over the course of the last couple of weeks, we have been on the lookout for new bits of furniture for the living room, which has involved the internet as the primary resource during this research period.

This has also exposed me to a wide range of online marketing tactics, and a very wide range of websites from the good, to the unusable to the just plain bad.

It is, however, the lack of unity that has been one of the main features of many of the strategies.

Unity in search marketing is one of the slides Jon Myers, the head of search here at MediaVest, loves to use – and to me it encompasses what search marketing collectively is all about.

Search marketing is not about careful keyword research, great implementation, or search path analysis – it is about tying all of these facets together into one campaign. Only by doing this will you see your online marketing campaigns perform to their maximum efficiencies.

Keyword research is and always will be an important part of search marketing.

Understanding intent, and ultimately tying this into potential return both in terms of traffic and ROI is an important part of any keyword research activity.

It is often surprising just how many people/campaigns don’t even get this part correct instead of relying on tactics such as broad match in order to compensate for the lack of appropriate coverage.

Whilst this can produce some effective learnings if used effectively, it can also result in significant baggage within the campaign.

Whether your are utilising organic or paid search as part of your strategy, ultimately much of the success of the campaigns will come down to appropriate keyword research (and choice).

The creative therefore has to enhance the keyword usage. In SEO, relevancy is obviously a fundamental part of the activity played.

Mapping your keywords to key areas of the site, and associating your information architecture and offpage activity to enhance your activity is crucial; however this principle is just as important from a paid search perspective.

From an organic perspective, it is just as important as in your paid search that you sell from the search results page. With paid search this is obviously a lot easier by altering your paid search ad creative, however your organic search should not be forgotten.

However, there are two areas, which I feel both big and smaller organisations often miss. The role your website plays in the conversion process is crucial, and this ultimately shouldn’t be forgotten.

We, for example, were shopping for a TV media unit. This is something that you do not necessarily need to visually see.

Good quality content, and appropriate imagery can do just as an effective job for you; however, it is the quality of such assets that can ultimately be the difference between sale and no sale, no matter how good your cost points are. Research by Akamai in 2006 suggested that many people made up their minds on whether to proceed or not based on load times and how well sites are put together.

It is, therefore, factors other than your pricing that are likely to be the primary cause of conversion. The fact you are the best priced, or have the best deal, is a supporting factor to conversion. It is all about unity. Good design + good technology + good pricing/marketing = success.

Finally, your conversion process needs to be as streamlined as possible. Tailor your conversion mechanisms round what converts best.

I was responsible for the optimisation of the conversion funnel, which meant the painstaking analysis of drop out points, in order to indentify where improvements could be made. By doing this we were able to reduce the number of clicks significantly to conversion.

Two things here should be noted, however.

  • One size doesn’t fit all. What works for a retail site won’t necessarily work for your health insurance provider. Understand your target audience, and how they are likely to convert. It may mean you merely need a callback facility, however test, learn and refine – and then continue to test more.
  • Don’t just rely on one method of conversion. Users don’t convert in one way, and forcing people down one method of conversion is only likely to reduce the effectiveness of your campaign.

By understanding your customer, how the browse and purchase, and ultimately tying this into a unified marketing approach – you stand yourself a much better chance of converting customers and keeping them.

First impressions do count, whether this is at the research (search engine) stage, or at the first step of the conversion process (your website). Don’t separate your digital marketing from your website development.

The two have to work in tandem, by not doing so – you run the risk of your digital marketing underperforming on a regular basis.

Peter Young is the SEO Manager at Mediavest .

The views of the author do not necessarily represent those of the publisher.

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Published 29 September, 2008 by Peter Young

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