Evolution of Search: Integration Across Digital Channels

In the latest installment of “All Marketers Are Geniuses,” Magnetic CEO James Green sits down with NetPlus CEO Robin Neifield to discuss the latest trends taking place in search marketing. Robin shared with Magnetic her take on how the search experience is changing for “searchers” and how this will impact digital advertising strategies.

This recent segment, titled “Keeping up With the Searchers,” touches upon key trends revealed during the holiday planning season, including dedicated budgets for social media. According to Robin, the growing role of social media “can be a powerful conduit to resources that may supplant some pure searching activity.” Indeed, consumers are tapping into their networks to “search” for information or recommendations. Google has been an early adapter to this logic, evidenced by their recent integration of Google + in its search results. Robin points out that “integrated search results now give users more choice in the kind of content that will meet their need and drive users to a broader variety of locations.”

In addition to a variety of content, users also have a variety of search devices at their fingertips. As users move from laptop to smart phone to tablet throughout their day, how are marketers to “keep up with the searchers?”

According to Robin, “integration across digital channels is now imperative…We have to understand the entire life cycle of the consumer and their varied needs and attention at different times and in different channels.”  In addition, she asserts that data is the ‘backbone of good planning,’ emphasizing how critical it is for any good display campaign. In order to succeed in the evolving digital space, Robin contends that marketers have to be “equal parts psychologist, analyst, creative and visionary.”

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Reality Online: Keeping Up with the Searchers

NetPlus CEO Robin Neifield recently shared with me her take on how marketers are keeping up with the evolution of the search marketing channel and the latest “searcher” trends. Here’s the transcript from our Q&A:

JG: What shifts in digital strategy have you and your team seen in planning for this holiday season?

RN: Most of the shifts we have seen have to do with timing and also dedicated resources to social media, but they are not the same across client categories. Retail clients have started a bit early this year hoping to fully capitalize on Black Friday and Cyber Monday online activity that proved immensely valuable last year. Promo calendars, email cadence have all accelerated to move consumers to an earlier decision point in an attempt to catch sales retailers might otherwise lose to more aggressive competitors.

Additionally, holiday planning came a bit later this year for many of our CPG and non-retail client partners who had last minute budget approvals. We have several CPG holiday efforts launching in early December that are centered around a social media promotion to take advantage of consumer activity and responsiveness in those channels. We can provide a lot of value and get tremendous response as we craft a social program that supports and extends the brand in an engaging and creative way.  We’ve been able to build email lists and fan communities that will have long standing value as remarketing, messaging and learning platforms.

JG: How do you think search will change for the “searchers” (i.e. consumers)?

RN: For users with a clear search objective Google and Bing will continue to be the place most users begin their information mission. Also, the device a consumer chooses to use may impact the  search experience. Mobile use, for instance, often signals a different kind of localized intent that demands a different result in order to be truly relevant. Integrated search results now give users more choice in the kind of content that will meet their need and drive users to a broader variety of locations.  Where it used to be brand sites dominant in top search engine results pages, you now often find social sites, especially Wikipedia and YouTube, and other choices to compete with the brand site.  This forces brands to focus on building content and, in many cases, community across multiple destinations.

We also need to recognize the growing role of social media in search.  Consumers increasingly tap their networks for reviews, opinions and resources when they “search” for information or recommendations.  In that way twitter lists, blogs, social pages and communities and other social clout can be a powerful conduit to resources that may supplant some pure searching activity – a fact that Google is keenly aware of and is attempting to address with Google + and its integration in search results.

JG: How will consumer behavior impact digital strategies across your clients?

RN: Integration across digital channels is now imperative as consumers move seamlessly from smart phone to tablet to laptop exhibiting surfing, searching, socializing, gaming, reading and other key behaviors that we can connect to and track.  We have to understand the entire life cycle of the consumer and their varied needs and attention at different times and in different channels.  This helps us to deliver appropriate messaging in the most effective format and at the most advantageous timing to support business objectives.

JG: How important is data to your digital display campaigns?

RN: Data is a critical element of any good display campaign.  It is the backbone of good planning and helps us to match delivery channels, formats and partners to our targeted consumer and the specific objectives we have for this effort or time period. We’ve been working with demand-side platforms (DSPs) and ad exchanges to access third party (offline) consumer data that elevates the consumer profiles we are able to craft. This gives us a rich picture of our consumer and helps us to segment messaging and manage budgets to multiple objectives.

In addition to the demographic data and other campaign planning data there are other kinds of critical data used to optimize performance.  We use site-side data to validate campaign impact and to uncover insights into what we are seeing in campaign reporting. Third-party ad serving data is vital to optimize post-click conversions that drive the ROI goals of the campaign.

JG: Complete this sentence: Marketers are geniuses because…

RN: Marketers are geniuses because in order to succeed they have to be equal parts psychologist, analyst, creative and visionary.