For too long, search marketing tactics have been used in silos. Marketers believe search engine optimisation (SEO)’s only job is to create awareness, while tactics like pay-per-click (PPC) and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) are solely there to round off the purchase journey.
The truth is this is an incredibly ineffective way to approach marketing.
Brands often say they would like SEO – but no one really wants SEO. What they really want is more leads or more customers, and SEO is just one of the mechanisms used to deliver that. Brands need to think of their search tactics as working in tandem to create effective search marketing at all stages of the purchase journey.
Due to the huge number of marketing channels available today, it’s become harder to embrace the full marketing mix, and instead marketers have found themselves focusing on a smaller number of silos. They’ve also become hyper focused on trying to appeal to the algorithms, be that on Google or Facebook, and have lost sight of their original goals and ‘who’ they are ultimately trying to connect with – the customer.
Somewhere along the way the ‘marketing’ part of ‘search marketing’ has been forgotten, and both brands and customers are losing out as a result.
Breaking down the silos
When we talk about search tactics, typically we’re talking about SEO (search and discovery), PPC and CRO. However, content marketing is also key, as is your website experience. All are different elements of the same purchase journey.
From there, it’s about understanding where each tactic fits within the overall search marketing mix and how they best work together.
As a general rule, some tactics do naturally work better in different parts of the purchase journey. Generally SEO is going to work predominantly at the top and middle of the marketing funnel, generating awareness and consideration. Meanwhile, paid search is largely going to sit lower down the funnel to drive conversion.
However, that’s not the whole story. The role each tactic plays should extend beyond just its place in the funnel; all should work together and complement one another.
SEO and paid search, for example, are responsible for making sure your search results appear in a good position. But whose job is it to make sure those search results get clicked on? Is it the SEO expert, who might have a strong technical skill set but is unable to craft words like a content writer? Or is it an expert in CRO who knows the most compelling levers to pull to drive clicks?
Usually if a company decides it wants better SEO, it expects its SEO team to be able to deliver everything itself; to pull the right levers for Google, write compelling copy for the advert and landing page, and ensure their search ad is clickable and enticing.
That’s not fair or realistic. Marketers need to be able to rely on people’s strongest skills, and that means putting an end to thinking in a siloed way.
A good search strategy is one which understands the customer journey and the touchpoints along the way – as well as the gaps in a brand’s reach – and utilises the full marketing mix accordingly. It’s also going to understand that no one tactic or platform can do all the work by itself.
The business benefits
There are significant benefits in store for brands that are able to break out of a siloed approach to search. More and more we’re seeing consumers making choices with their heart rather than their head; they want to feel connected to a brand.
The way to create that feeling is to be there for consumers in a consistent way throughout their purchase journeys. That means being there from the very beginning to help them understand the choices available to them, as well as how your brand fits into their lifestyle and values.
Building that ongoing relationship and trust is of benefit to the customer too; they get to feel guided and supported through a purchase. Trust is the critical piece, and in a world where every brand can game their online reviews, the only way to build genuine trust is through constant contact.
The travel industry does this well. Consumers can start looking for a holiday as far as two years in advance, often starting with a generic search term like ‘family holiday near a beach’. The brand which catches them at that point is then able to guide that consumer through their entire purchase journey, utilising additional tactics such as email marketing and targeted ads to help them make their choice.
The opportunity is to be there right at the beginning and to hold the customer’s hand the whole way through. But brands can’t do that if they’re only focusing on small snapshots of the journey, rather than the journey and their marketing mix as a whole.
Chris Pitt is managing director at Vertical Leap