Dominic Earl

The trend from the UK is that search spend was slowing, but still growing in Q4 of 2008, despite the slump in the global economy. Google as expected is still by far the dominant player in the search engine world, and Yahoo’s search market share is in decline.

A new trend in the UK search market was that the content network on Google is getting a higher share of the search engine marketing budget. The content network if you don’t know is all the non search engine sites that display Google ads. In the past the ROI’s achieved were not so great, but thanks to improvements made by Google, it is now a viable channel to consider using again. The improvements made to the content network were allowing better measurement of campaign performance, and the ability to filter which sites your ads appear on.

Some tips on the best way to make use of the content network? First keep it separate from other search campaigns to make measuring its effectiveness easier. Second ideally use image and video ads as they are much more effective than text ads in delivering conversions.

Managing complex search campaigns

Other discussions centred around which tools were best for managing complex search campaigns. Of course having reliable accurate software that measures results (conversions) and simplifies the reporting and management of campaigns is the basic requirement of any search tool. But the key need for many was the need to fully understand the customer journey in order to maximise the efficiency of search campaigns. Knowing which keyword was the last click before the conversion is not enough data any more. Both advertisers and agencies want technology that allows them to see the pathway to conversion.

This leads me to the bigger idea emanating from SES London, that search is no longer confined to just the search engines via paid search (PPC) or organic search (SEO). Search is growing in popularity on local search (Google maps), on mobile platforms (iPhone), on social network platforms (Twitter), and on video networks (You Tube).

Engaging customers through all potential channels

As a result of the rapidly evolving search space, a 360 approach to search is needed to make sure that the customer is being fully engaged effectively through all these potential search channels. Ultimately to achieve this goal advertisers need to be able to accurately measure the performance of all these channels, both in isolation and their impact on each other.

To do this means understanding the interactive process between search, online display ads, social media, and blogs, in the digital marketing space. And just to make things even more difficult, it now also means about understanding the importance and impact offline marketing, print, radio and TV has on search and other digital marketing channels.

Of course in these tough economic times the temptation is to cut back on offline spend, not realising how effective it can be at driving customers to interact with brands and make purchases online. A more effective strategy now is to try and understand how offline channels and online work together.

So how can advertisers optimise the entire customer purchasing journey not just the search/digital journey?

Any offline marketing campaign running on TV, radio, or print should by default also have a complementary search/digital campaign, using the same slogans (ads/keywords) and ensuring that the company’s website URL is displayed or mentioned prominently in any print, radio, or TV campaign.

We know search engine marketing works, and delivers fantastic ROI’s but how can we use other media to get it to work even better, and how can search help complement existing marketing activites? These are the big questions from SES London and for search marketers the world over in 2009.