Search To Be Found – Using Search Marketing to Reach Your Audience

As appeared in the Presence Pointers column of the May 2008 issue of “Business Watch” magazine.

Now that you have your website up and running, are you looking to get more out of it? Your site should not only serve as a destination, but as a channel to connect you with your target audience. This month, we’re going to focus on one of the most important ways to make that happen.

It’s called search marketing. As a business, you may well be quite aware of marketing and even advertising; and I can’t imagine too many people now who aren’t at least somewhat familiar with the concept of searching online. However the combination of these two things may still be a bit foreign to many people.

So let’s start with what we know. You might view your website like a form of marketing — though your site probably does much, much more than that. But under that logic, then we can contrast search marketing against more traditional forms of advertising — TV, radio, print, outdoor, etc.

What is the fundamental difference then between traditional advertising and search marketing? Traditional advertising is macro — broad-audience, mass reach and passive in nature, whereas search marketing is micro — targeted-audience, audience determined reach, and a much more active channel.

Let’s break this down.

Targeted Audience

Search marketing is about a targeted audience in part because it comes from a completely different direction than traditional advertising. You see, traditional advertising is all about the medium — it’s about the circulation, the reach, and the eyeballs that will be exposed to your message. And to that end, hopefully a certain percentage (generally a fairly small percentage) of those exposed will be interested in or in need of what ever you are offering.

But search marketing isn’t about reaching the broadest audience based on their driving routes or favoring a particular station, it cuts past all that. And it’s less about what you have, and more about what they want. When did you last turn on the TV to watch some commercials or hop in the car to drive around looking for a particular billboard? When did you last turn to Google to search for something? That’s what search marketing is about … being there for your audience when they are looking for a solution to a problem or to meet a need.

Audience Determined

One of the most unique aspects to search marketing is that it is both a direct and mass reach channel at the same time. It connects one-on-one at the specific moment that someone is searching, but it doesn’t really matter where they are. While I launched this column back in July of last year speaking specifically about local search and that is still a huge opportunity, search isn’t constrained by geography. With search, anyone, anywhere can find you.

Active Channel

Perhaps most important, search is an active channel. You aren’t simply tossing your message up in the air, hoping that it catches someone’s interest. In fact, it is the searcher who entered in some words to search for in Yahoo who has initiated the connection. They took action and you are there to assist them.

Okay, perhaps even more important than search being an active channel is when it reaches the audience. As I mentioned, they have already expressed an interest, so search also usually connects with the audience much further down the purchase funnel, making them much more engaged and qualified.

None of this is saying that you need to drop all of your traditional advertising or marketing efforts. These are still important branding channels to keep you top-of-mind. And later, I’ll talk about how we can connect search with traditional channels to maximize your efforts, and your return. Now that you have an understanding of search marketing, going forward we’ll get into some of the specifics of using search marketing.

Search Marketing Benefits

  • Targeted Audience – connecting with those who are already looking for what you have or a solution to a problem, which hopefully you can provide.
  • Audience Reach – unlimited reach to anyone searching online.
  • Active Channel – the potential customer or client actually initiates the connection instead of the other way around.