August 05, 2011

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Search -- The Missing Link Search marketers have always assumed that some kind of relationship between organic and paid search exists, but we’ve never been able to put our fingers on it exactly. Clients, looking for efficiencies, often question the value of paid search versus organic or natural search because they assume if they get SEO right it obviates the need to spend incremental dollars on SEM. A team of math guys at Google added a new dimension to this debate by looking at 446 search campaigns in four countries between October 2010 and March 2011. Their methodology was simple. They studied organic campaigns in isolation and counted the click throughs. Then they looked at organic campaigns run in-tandem with paid search and counted the clicks again. They were searching for incremental clicks by drawing a baseline and counting the added impact of paid search. The objective was to answer a fundamental sales objection. “Why should I buy search ads when my organic search effort will get me the traffic I want?” By understanding how many clicks a campaign would have gotten naturally and then how many clicks paid search added, Google documents the long standing mix assumptions and simultaneously defends its core value proposition. The result was … running both at the same time yielded 89% more incremental clicks. There were slight variations by vertical category. Retail was slightly lower (87%) and healthcare was slightly higher (93%). Interestingly, when an organic search result and a paid search ad appeared in close proximity to each other, the impact was reduced. This suggests three interesting implications: A. SEO and SEM compliment each other. The addition of paid search appears to justify itself from a Cost-per-Click perspective. B. Results in close proximity on the search results page cancel each other out. Seeing two similar results, users pick one, usually the organic version, and get the answers they need. Maybe search planners should run campaigns based on likely projections about organic results. Since high organic rankings seem to negate the results of a highly ranked paid search placement, heavy up the buy if you don’t expect much in terms of natural search results. C. Brand awareness and media weight weren’t factored into this study. Conceivably better known brands and brands with high frequency or a large number of search campaigns generate different levels of natural search results, which are affected in different ways by adding paid search campaigns. The bottom line is that both SEO and SEM contribute to driving traffic though the mix and frequency is still a matter for testing and learning.
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Twitter's Changing Complexion New research suggests that the laws of natural selection are affecting Twitter. Active users and a critical mass of voyeurs dominate tweeting. The One-Time Charlies are disappearing. The result is a homogenized community that has embraced the format and acts in predictable ways. The ~20 million people who like Twitter really like and use it. And the rest do something else. Increasingly Twitter is positioning itself as separate and distinct from Facebook, Tumblr and the other social media, if for no other reason that to carve out a value proposition for advertisers. You might recall that about a year ago, Twitter executives were expressing their desire to become “the pulse of the planet” and distancing themselves from being defined as a “social network.” The new posture differentiates Twitter users in terms of their brand loyalty and their value as advocates and amplifiers for brands. According to the data from ExactTarget, active twitter users, the people who follow brands on Twitter, are 3X more likely to “amplify the influence of the brand” than their counterparts on Facebook. When you add this data point to the fact that 73% of active Twitter users say they want to accumulate larger audiences, you end up with interest, reach and motive sufficient get more brands to pay more attention to this platform. The pitch is that Twitter people are bigger blabbers so that if a brand can engage them, they will materially increase the reach of a brand’s message. The RTBs (reasons to believe) that active Twitter users should be part of your communications arsenal are: 72% of active Twitter users are bloggers 70% comment on other blogs 61% write at least 1 product review per month 56% write articles for third-party sites 53% post videos online 50% contribute to wiki sites 48% share deals and coupons Active content creators and re-tweeters can have more influence on your brand than passive readers. On the basis of these data points TheNextWeb Blog concluded, “What happens on Twitter doesn’t stay on Twitter.” Twitter users expect brevity and intimacy. They believe that they can get under the skins of the brands they love and can get inside information, direct contact with the company and either first dibs on new products or services and advance notice about deals. They are eager to interact and quick to broadcast their positive and negative brand experiences in real time. They will reward brands that engage them well by passing the word along. This gives Twitter unique characteristics as a marketing tool. It gives marketers an incentive to devise a separate and distinct Twitter strategy with its own cadence and content.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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