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Revealing the hidden benefits of search marketing

For several years now, an increasing number of small businesses have reaped the rewards of investing in search marketing.

But while the obvious benefits – better targeting, clearer return on investment (ROI), cost efficiencies – are clear, there are other hidden rewards to uncover. Search is much more than just a lead generator; it can be an incredibly powerful business intelligence tool, extending into PR, product development and broader business strategy. All it takes is to think a little bit outside the (search) box…

For example, Matthew Stibbe, CEO at online admin paperwork company Turbine, describes how search marketing helped in unforeseen ways: “We can track back from visitors and sign ups from trialees, and figure out what they typed in in the first place to understand cost per acquisition. It…provides us with business intelligence on where we should be investing our development resources.” Stibbe is making Turbine’s search results work harder for them – getting not just ROI on their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, but detailed information on their customers’ intent and the language they use to express it. By focusing on the queries that converted to sales, Turbine can adapt their marketing language, shaping their wider marketing strategies and essentially, as they’re tapping into their customers’ needs, making them a more customer-centric business.

In time this approach can also start to influence SMBs’ product development cycles. If a potential customer clicks through but leaves without purchasing, the intent expressed in their keywords can help suggest where products are falling short of demand. A quick analysis of this data over time can identify where additional product lines can be designed to meet the needs implied in the keywords used, ensuring future success. 

This may appear time consuming, but there are tools available to help analyse the data coming through from every SMB’s site. One of these is Microsoft Advertising Intelligence (MAI) – a free tool operating in Excel. MAI helps maximise marketing ROI for keyword campaigns by providing research, keyword expansion and pricing and KPI data, giving SMBs full, transparent access to the search behaviours on Bing and Yahoo!. In addition, MAI also empowers businesses with the knowledge they really need to get to know their audience: geographical, age and gender data.

This easily-accessible data can really aid business decisions.  For example, a retail SMB with both online and in-store presence could use the demographic data to design a targeted mailshot campaign offering discount vouchers both online and in-store, for those customers nearby. Also, by identifying the archetypal high-spending online consumer, they can tailor offers around products most popular with this demographic, and complementary products they might not have previously considered. This easy technique could help drive sales across a business using just search marketing data.

Another hidden technique is to harness the power of social. Nowadays, a social presence is no longer a ‘nice to have,’ and a smart SMB combines both search and social to design a co-ordinated and customer-centric marketing strategy. As discussed in Search and Social Media: Making your brand stand out, jointly produced by Microsoft Advertising and the IAB UK, if search engines are a database of intents, social networks are the recipient of the sentiment. One tip from the report is to monitor the latest trending topics and quickly adapt keyword campaigns to reflect that ‘buzz’. This helps SMBs exploit interest through search where people will be looking for more information and is “an area with real potential for further penetration.”  

Social media can also feed into search by creating fresh, quality links, improving the natural search ranking of SMBs’ websites. SMBs can contribute to and shape the conversation and encourage bloggers and influentials to interact with their brand, either by nurturing their own digital community, or maintaining an appropriate presence in existing forums. Again, these techniques are quick and easy ways to improve traffic flow to websites without breaking the bank.

To conclude, it’s clear that search marketing has a lot more to offer than first meets the eye. This is especially valuable given that PPC is one of the easiest ways to measure ROI, so it’s simple to try some of these tricks and measure their effectiveness.  Investing a little more time in developing a strategy can uncover some real treasure for SMBs, so why not try digging in for yourself?