With direct response well and truly in the bag, surely SEM for brand is the next big win for Google.  Here’s a shift in thinking to help brands up the ante.

SEM as a direct response tool gained instant appeal, spend sky rocketed and found its equilibrium where CPA is equitable. Search marketing for brand surely is the next big win for Google, but no one seems to be making a good case for brands.

It stands to reason that if millions of consumers are flagging their interest and are eager to explore responses, then brands should be getting in on the action, but search as a channel for brand marketing has not been embraced yet. 

This may be because brand marketers have been distracted by social media or perhaps have the wrongly ingrained mindset that search is a purely direct response tool. I have recently seen presentations around the subject of “Search for Brand” from both Google and the IAB, but it all seemed a bit one dimensional.

Search is currently seen as a tactic for obtaining rankings for branded content to drive direct response (which is really just the tip of the iceberg), and is measured using simple CPA/ROI calculations. So, for brands to fully embrace and harness the search opportunity, a big shift in thinking is required. 

Here is a contribution to help bring about that shift. I would very much welcome any feedback, comments or refinements from the community.

Building Brand Search Journeys

Brand Search Journeys

  1. First and foremost brands need to stop thinking about PPC, SEO, online PR, social media and branded content as separate tactics and start joining the dots using customer journeys as the consistent anchoring thread. Consider consumer journeys from awareness to advocacy. The brand objective is to move as many consumers along the journey, bridging the gaps and addressing any blockers.
  2. Influencing media within a brand category should be thought of as thousands of possible online consumer journeys connected through search > click > content pathways. To improve performance within their category, brands must feature favourably in these online consumer journeys.
  3. A typical brand category long tail keyword curve reveals opportunities to:

    -  Build brand awareness within related interest search results.
    -  Enter consumer brand consideration set through generic queries.
    -  Answer decision support queries such as “best…”, “…reviews”.
    -  Respond to brand and product queries.
    -  Connect committed consumers with retail partner points of purchase.
    -  This forms a quarter of the “brand search journey” graphic.

  4. Search offers fantastic opportunities to intersect consumers online journeys, but success in moving consumers along the brand journey towards advocacy is entirely dependent on having the right content to connect them with. We’ve found that consumer purchasing habits are in fact more likely to be influenced by third party endorsement, asking “What do the experts and my friends say about the brand?”  
  5. Blended with your SEO and PPC strategy therefore goes a creative online PR and social media effort to earn the media which will take customers from consideration to commitment. The way to do this is to turn happy and loyal customers into vocal brand advocates then use search to connect consideration set consumers with this influential earned media content. 

    Creative tactics might include:

    -    Customer service initiatives.
    -    Product review programs.
    -    Online advocacy programs.
    -    Blogger relations.
    -    Online press office.

  6. The reputation generated through this activity will be recognized by content filters such as Google and YouTube, which will power increased visibility for branded content, which will connect brands connect with greater numbers of consumers and drive greater category share of brand awareness, thus completing a virtuous loop which will help brands to dominate the powerful new medium of brand search journeys .
  7. Embed this model in your psyche and watch as the possibilities of “Search for Brand” crystalise before your very eyes.

And if you want to jump straight into practical and tactical right away, here are five search for brand tactics to get you started.

Jack Hubbard

Published 26 April, 2010 by Jack Hubbard

Jack Hubbard is managing director at Propellernet and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can hook up with him on LinkedIn and follow Propellernet on Twitter here.

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Comments (2)


Online News Guy

Some good points made here. Here at Newsvend, we have long been advocates of the holistic approach to search, content and social media. Brand strategies must connect and form a circle of communication. Often it is not possible to calculate ROI on one segment alone, but there is definite and measurable synergy in a connected, multi-pronged approach.

We work alongside branding agencies in delivering customised news into websites, delivering authority and branding fodder to the clients. The news content is used to help propagate the brand image in social media sites and reinforce customer relations in email campaigns.

about 8 years ago

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan, Senior Copywriter at Koozai

There is a tendency, I believe, for some brands to focus too heavily on one unique aspect of SEM. The Internet provides a plethora of opportunities to promote your brand identity, so why not optimise for them all. Search engines are the hub for most of this activity. With the integration of social aspects, a brand can command huge swathes of a Google SERP just by developing their SEO, PPC and social media marketing strategies. The scatter gun approach is only risky when you don't have the resources to put the work in where it is needed most. But if you are to connect with the online consumer base, you need to have your brand seen - for whatever related search - first. That recognition has to be positive too. I liked what you said in point 5 about turning happy customers into brand advocates. Obviously this isn't something that you can force, but by encouraging them and making it easier for them to make their feelings felt, then that will invariably help to increase the trustworthiness and awareness of your online brand. A great article and an interesting read, I think it is certainly something that SEMs and brand strategists need to be more aware of.

about 8 years ago

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