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The mindset required for search engine marketing

One conceptual leap which potential search engine marketers often struggle to make is, at its heart, quite simple. It’s the jump from thinking about the environments in which their customers work to thinking about search intent. And it’s very important.

Here’s what happens. An advertiser sells blue widgets but specialises in selling them to the automotive industry. Back in the days when magazine advertising was a sensible investment, it was obvious that placing an ad in an automotive design magazine was at least as valid as using “Blue Widget World”. In the automotive design magazine, only a small percentage of readers would be interested in blue widgets, but in the blue widget magazine, an equally small percentage would be in the automotive industry (what separated them was probably the fact that fewer people would actually open the blue widget magazine than the automotive one).

With search engine advertising, you don’t really get that choice at the moment. Nobody identifies themselves through their searches as being in the automotive industry …why would they? So you need to advertise next to searches for blue widgets, and to try to appeal to people in the automotive industry within your advert. Search engine advertising is like using “Blue Widget World”.

Google does of course have the equivalent of advertising in the automotive magazine, with its “display network” adverts which go on other sites that you can specify. The problem here is that the response rate on the search engine advertising (analogous to the blue widget magazine) is so high that the response rate on the display network looks poor by comparison. But as you only pay per click, that doesn’t matter, you just cast your net more widely.

So when considering search engine advertising, think about your customer’s search intent. If you’re selling blue widgets to the automotive industry, your ad needs to be running alongside searches for blue widgets. Disappointingly, I still see advertisers putting their ads alongside searches for the target market, as if people in that market would be searching for the name of their own industry. Anyone who types “automotive design” into Google is not likely to be looking for your blue widgets for the automotive industry, however good they are.

And this applies for targeting Google “natural search” results just as much as it does advertising.

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