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Demystifying paid search for brands

Hannes Ben, chief international officer at Forward3D, demystifies paid search

Opinion

Demystifying paid search for brands

By Hannes Ben, chief international officer at Forward3D

Paid search has established itself as an essential part of any brand’s digital marketing strategy, yet it is still extremely difficult for brands to navigate. With marketers suffering from an understandable information overload, there are a number of common misconceptions about paid search that make it confusing for brands wanting to increase efficiency and return on their spend. Having worked with clients across a number of sectors globally, our learnings are relevant across the board and are vital for any brand hoping to drive awareness and ROI on their paid search spend.

Set clear goals

This may seem obvious but paid search can seem even more daunting if brands set unrealistic goals. Expecting search spend to have a huge impact overnight is unfeasible, and long term and incremental goals need to be set and reviewed on a regular basis. It’s great to have big ambitions, but defining the key priorities and setting out how success will be measured is absolutely necessary. Is the priority brand awareness? Shopping cart conversions? Lead generation?

It may be a combination of these, but brands need to understand the real value of each and ensure they understand how paid search can play an important part in achieving business objectives. By keeping the strategy agile, brands are able to react when changes need to be implemented and can identify opportunities to maximize the impact of their search spend. For example, sporting events, celebrity influencers, and even the weather can shake up the kind of generic search terms that peak customer interest and drive ROI.

Measure the impact of brand versus generic search terms

Today’s technology enables marketers to interpret a range of factors that can influence consumer search behavior. It is a common misconception that advertisers need to use their search terms to promote both brand terms and generic search terms. The power to predict activity based on data patterns enables brands to optimize their campaigns for the best results while pinpointing potential drains on their budget.

In a number of instances, we have found that customers searching for brand terms are typically people who are already familiar with the brand. So while there is often a high rate of conversion, it’s likely many of them would have occurred organically. By using this budget to promote generic terms, brands have the ability to compete for customers that are earlier in their purchase journey. As a result, they are more likely to maximize the impact of their digital spend.

There is no one size fits all strategy

In today’s digital world, brands have the ability to expand into new markets quickly. However, it can be easy to assume that a brand’s strategy in one market, can be replicated in another. In the majority of instances, this is not the case. One of the biggest assumptions is that Google is the dominant search engine in all markets. Google may be King in western markets, and it continues to dominate in the Middle East, but some of the fastest growing e-commerce markets like China and Korea are far from being Google-centric, and major players like Baidu and Naver have their own unique challenges to work with.

For example, Baidu has its unique product called “Brand Zone”, which allows one to purchase brand related keywords and works on a cost per time model. It dominates the search results with an array of different media, covering video, image and new platforms. Also, foreign languages have very limited use in the APAC region, so tailoring to local languages is a key consideration.

Brands should invest in developing local strategies for paid search, or work with qualified partners with the relevant insights. Awareness of the different motivations people have for going online across markets helps to identify where dollars are best spent. For example, social media has huge commercial influence in the Middle East and APAC, compared to the UK or the US. This means that customers are more likely to buy products directly through social media, rather than simply using it as a browsing tool before converting in-store, and budget allocation should reflect this.

The paid search environment can be crowded and confusing, but by setting clear goals and understanding which search terms are most impactful on ROI, brands will be able to implement a clear and effective search strategy that gets the basics right, and crucially, drives conversions.

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