Critical Mass or Just Mass? Why Search Marketing Isn’t Exactly the Silver Bullet for Branding

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If you’re a brand advertiser, how do you know that huge advertising budget you just sank into online ads will generate revenue? How do you determine an accurate ROI on winning price wars for online search terms? Analysis of this year’s advertising trends claim it’s a sellers’ market out there. Prices for online ad space continue to climb. When media buying becomes so difficult that ad sales reps aren’t returning client calls, it makes sense for ad buyers to re-examine their purchasing operations. Ad buyers representing brand advertisers face multiple hurdles: high client expectations, staggering costs, fierce competition for ad space, and dubious statistics regarding CPM, CPA, and subsequently, the validity of advertising investments.

Just like your Amazon Gold Box is full of stuff you’d never buy, most web sites you visit are full of annoying ads you’ll never respond to. Advertisers are reaching audiences, no doubt, but not necessarily the best targets for their products. How do you find the best target audience for your online ads without going bankrupt? And how do you reach that audience without bothering anyone else?

For brand advertisers, search-based advertising is not a silver bullet. Technology using search terms is limited by site content and misses the value of the actual audience for the site. For example, running ads for Tide detergent based on the search term “tide” could lead to ads being run on sites talking about tomorrow’s high tide at the beach. This audience of surfer dudes is probably not the exact audience Tide detergent wanted to reach. The Tide ad buyer would probably be better off advertising on sites where parents who make household product purchasing decisions congregate — sites talking about kids or schools, for example.

Since the scope of search-based advertising is enormous, brand advertisers can get better results for their ad dollars by finding their target demographic wherever these people congregate online. This is similar to advertising on multiple TV shows that all share a demographic and then running the same brand ads on these shows to raise mindshare among the advertiser’s target consumers. By analyzing and compiling the user demographics of multiple websites, and using this aggregated research to place ad buys, brand advertisers can better connect with customers across a broad base of websites. Specialty and niche sites stand to benefit the most from this approach. While these sites on their own might be overlooked by advertisers, combining hundreds, if not thousands, of sites with similar audiences creates a critical mass that makes them extremely valuable.

Want to make more money this year? Tap into that critical mass. No one doubts that there is plenty of room to expand the breadth and range of online advertising. According to a report by Internet consultant eMarketer, online ad revenues are expected to rise 19%, to $19.5 billion – but that figure represents only 6% of the overall advertising market. There’s a lot more money to be spent online if the value can be proven.

The future of effective online advertising is, quite simply, finding the people who want your stuff, not blanketing a huge population with messages they don’t want to hear. Brand advertisers spend millions figuring out who the best demographic for their products are — they should spend their online ad budgets based on this information for the best results. And the best way to do that is by finding your target demographic wherever they are online, not just dwelling on the search terms that got them there.

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