Marketing budgets are always stretched thin, so investing in online advertising in ways that bring the best return is always critical. Does the search engine or directory you’re investing in invest in you? How do they market themselves, do they partner with others in the industry to bring more awareness to you and do they bring promotional opportunities to you beyond your ad dollars? Online advertising is an investment like any other and you should expect results beyond just clickthroughs.
How do search engines market themselves to users or potential customers rather than to advertisers? The feel-good loyalty programs most search engines employ to keep in good faith with their advertisers won’t supply you any business leads. Many large search engines rely on a brand name and taglines alone to generate traffic. Is that enough? The full value of a brand needs to be continuously reinforced via advertising online and in relevant print publications in order to maximize visibility to users. Keeping a visible presence via trade shows and public relations are other indicators that your investment is actively being promoted.
Is search engine optimization an activity pursued or just a buzzword to the website you’re advertising with? In this day and age, it’s hard to think that a website would not be actively optimized to take full advantage of the mega traffic generated via MSN, Yahoo! and Google, but it happens. Is the site you’re investing in preventing upstream traffic from major search engines by forcing users to register before searching, or making navigation difficult for the crawlers to index? Do they work with these general purpose search engines to drive additional, qualified traffic to their site and potentially your ad?
Then there are the subtle ease-of-use issues to consider when choosing a site to advertise with. For example, is the site Flash driven (blocked by many adware and spyware –conscious surfers), graphically dense (creates page download problems), or just plain hard to navigate (no explanation needed – we’ve all run into these!)?
Is the search engine actively working with other media and online partner sites to draw qualified traffic to its own site? For example, advertising on an industry-specific search engine that powers several trade journal websites will bring pre-qualified traffic to your ad and can place your ad on a variety of other websites all for no additional cost. Some of these sites may in fact be sites you’re already considering advertising with.
Are there marketing opportunities with the site beyond advertising that you can take advantage of? Some direct marketing promotions that will create more value for your investment are testimonial marketing. Working with you to include a testimonial in outbound user marketing gives you more visibility and can generate more traffic, again to a pre-qualified audience. Some search engines allow you to place a physical catalog and data sheet online, converting them to a keyword-searchable file. Once the conversion has been made, the entire contents of those pieces of collateral are indexed on that search engine and made available for searching by keyword. Updates to the catalog can be made in a matter of days, with a global reach unthinkable with the hardcopy versions. For companies that are prepared to participate in these programs, they offer much value.
Tracking Your Investment
Is there a clear flow of user and advertiser feedback available? A search engine that actively polls visitors for usability, trending and general feedback, and then passes relevant tips on to advertisers can add considerable value to your investment. For example, polling users to discover what important search criteria can add value by highlighting changes in copy, categorization or placement of particular ads. Other valuable data on how visitors use the search engine (general research, specific searches or education) will help you better tailor current and future advertising. An open line of communications regarding general tips on how to optimize your site and maximize traffic is another attribute to look for when deciding which search engines to invest in. Will the search engine offer free marketing and optimization tips you can use to better leverage your advertising investments?
While basing who to invest your online advertising dollars with on brand name alone is the fast and easy way to decide, using this as the sole consideration is a bad idea. Search engines that market your investment will provide much more value, visibility and traffic for your advertising dollars. Whether you choose pay-per-click or an alternative advertising model, asking the right questions can increase your ROI.
About the Author:
Julie Mason is the director of general manager for Kellysearch.com.
Launched in January 2001 Kellysearch.com is a comprehensive online buyers’ guide and search engine, with more than two million company listings from over 155 countries world wide. Kellysearch.com is backed by the financial resources of the world wide publishing company Reed Elsevier. With an average of 14 million searches a month, Kellysearch.com is the leading global search engine for industry-to-industry business. For more information, please contact Kellysearch.com at 1-800-550-0827, or visit www.kellysearch.com/i2i.