Internet marketing and keyword search - why branding should make a difference but isn't

Online marketers are busy mapping that magical space where the overlap between real life and the internet is at its most poignant. Where else would they be looking than where real people are actually s p e l l i n g out what they are planning to buy - searches on the web?

Every online marketer does it; buying keywords like crazy. But that is just about how much you hear when you try to focus on this area of internet marketing. It's a wild goose chase and it's unlikely a method will materialize in any recognizable form until the dust has settled. And that is very unlikely to happen in this ever-changing environment.

The keyword business is about the most competitive business transacted over the web, so -as with most of the information on web related business- it's unlikely you will come across any lengthy piece with a comprehensive overview of what's going on where.

It is all the more ironic that it's live and learn because in theory, the marketing community should be in its walhalla with the arrival of the internet. Hasn't it been the marketing dream for centuries to get to the stage where a potential customer takes an action? At the end of a marketing ploy, in offline terms it's called the hit, the transaction, the sale, closing the deal.

The specifics of keyword buying may be intransparent, but slowly more information is transpiring about what actually drives the process of online buying. What we know so far is that this is not exactly a reversal from the offline process, but that things do go slightly differently online. From the beginning on, the marketer can -in theory- count on a lot more commitment from his potential customer. Targeting can be much more specific because the process kicks off with the customer's action.

Keyword marketing is much more powerful compared to the offline marketing techniques, simply because it is the customer's actions that set off the spiral.

To forego the keyword search as a marketer means you miss out one vital element in the communication cycle your client goes through before purchasing a product. Inefficient marketing was mainly the issue leading to the demise of the dotcom sector earlier on and, having learnt their lesson the hard way, marketers are now finding out more about what customers really want before launching campaigns. From the customer's own words. Sounds great in theory. In practice, the landscape is bewildering to say the least.

Having the rights to certain keywords means you are dominating the results that search engines will present to people who type in those words. What is so great about this is that unlike in the real world, online marketers have way more insight into what makes people buy. Because they have access to what actions customers take even before they would be onto them had they been in the offline world.

Mountains of gold on the horizon. But the sector is still showing a lot of vulnerability and online marketing is in dire need of improvement simply because the phenomenon is so new. The big advantage to customers is that people can find what they are looking for faster and more efficiently than on any other medium. But still the gap between what customers are specifically searching on the web and what they are offered is considerable.

Customers are still too often puzzled, searching a product on the web and finding lists of items with brands totally alien to them. If an online campaign is not backed by offline action, its chance of survival will drop dramatically. Many product campaigns are faltering because adverts are simply being thrown in a surfer's face irrelevant of the context, they are annoying or ill timed.

ONE big area where online marketers are not taking enough heed of the expertise of their offline peers and where they are in real danger of losing the battle, is branding. Too much direct mail-type marketing means that credible, trustworthy branding is unlikely to occur. Type in a generic search term for a product and find yourself amazed at the outcome. Reading the results, you'd think you'd landed on Mars.

Branding the old fashioned way is a lot more time consuming than any internet marketer will naturally be inclined to think. Branding is an exercise of timing, planning, researching and optimised launches. It takes time before people are used to new products. Psychological studies confirm time and again that we buy what we think is safe, comfy, familiar, nice, soft, handy, easy, whatever the word to indicate a certain comfort zone that creates an entry for marketers. It's a known fact that you first need to see a product about umpteen times before it has become a part of your reference frame. If you don't believe this, move to a foreign country, visit a supermarket and try not to feel totally lost. It's impossible.

Only if we are familiar with a product brand, we think that purchasing it will better us. If we don't have at least a vague positive idea when we purchase a product, no brand building has been done or not enough or it has not connected with us.

Although branding of products offered online is something quite new, it is quite amazing that outright stupid mistakes are made here. Where online marketers are often wrong is where they are measuring search engine advertising the way they would direct marketing. True, much of search engine advertising resembles direct marketing, but realistic measurement of people's attitude towards the products advertised, should include more than only whether or not they buy it. Brand measurement takes place when all the responses are analysed, even why a product is not purchased or not immediately or not at a specific platform.

In forgetting to measure any customer behavior outside the conversion rate, they completely forego the power of branding. They don't realize how much greater click through and conversion rates would be if their brands were recognized and trusted by that same audience.

Here is an example of just how effective a campaign can be when branding's taken seriously. The marketers have got it so right, that their campaigns themselves have become an overnight brand known for controversy. Called Gatoring, after the company that made the software enabling it, this advertising has come under scrutiny of the courts. What people are upset with is that popup ads are thrown on competitors' sites. If are looking for a particular brand of car for instance, a popup of a competing brand would pop up. Despite its dubiousness, gatoring shows just how effective online marketing can be - when marketers do their homework!


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