Tomorrow is your wife’s birthday. You want to order her a cake and some flowers. Needless to say, the first thing that comes to mind is to go straight to Google and search for options. This is regardless of whether you finally make the purchase online or offline. Today, people are becoming more conscious of the price at which they buy a product/service, therefore spending a lot more time online researching what they wish to buy.
Google is the go-to destination for anything and everything you wish to research. It registers close to 57,720 searches per second, on an average (Source: www.internetlivestats.com). A survey conducted by Google Barometer in 2014 shows that over 60% Singaporeans use a search engine while contemplating a purchase. An Alexa 2015 survey shows that the 10 most frequented websites by Singaporeans are search engines. The same 2014 Google Barometer study also shows that 77% of Singaporeans use Google on their mobile for searches. (Source: www.digitalinfluencelab.com). These are overwhelming statistics in support of Singaporeans' reliance on Google!
So where does search engine marketing come in?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is helping advertisers reach the right target audience globally. So, any business in Singapore that wishes to grow needs to be a part of the online advertising model, especially SEM. Here are the top 3 reasons why SEM is relevant for most businesses:
Right place at the right time
It is very rare to find a one of a kind business in the market. Every business idea, once it clicks (assuming you have money for assigning a marketing budget), has hordes of competition. It is at this point that everyone wants to be found by their target audience, before their competitor can. With the search platform, being in the right place at the right time always matters and search engine marketing enables just that. No matter how superior/well known your brand is, if you let go an opportunity to make yourself visible in the top few Google search results, you'll lose out on the top-of-mind recall and your brand may fade from the audience’s mind over time.
There are various AdWords SEM strategies that allow competitors to bid on your keywords and show their ads instead of yours, when someone searches for your brand. Your competitors can also outrank your bids on common keywords to have their ad displayed above yours at all times. All these strategies if not used at the right time (based on regular analysis of your SEM campaigns), would lead to your competitor capturing a sizeable portion of a market share that you could have owned.
Another way to improve the quality of your search ads and connect with your target audience in the right way is through extensions. This feature helps you say more about your product in the same ad and also highlight your product/service as needed. You can:
- Lead the audience to specific web pages from within the same ad
- Give the audience more information about offers/features etc to ease their decision making process
- Mention awards, nominations, reviews etc that could help build trust in your product/service
- Talk about the various prices of your products/services in the same ad
SEM also allows you to target your audience by time of the day (whether you want your ad to appear during office hours or 24/7) and content network (you can have your ad appear on another publisher’s site)
People who search for a particular product will have different objectives. Let’s say you are a university - “ABC University” - and you provide master’s (MBA, M.Sc etc), degree and diploma courses. You should ideally be showing your ad:
- When Jon (a potential customer) searches for “masters programme” or
- When Jenny (another potential customer) searches for “MBA degree in marketing”
- But not when Liza (not a potential customer) searches for “MBA jobs” or “M.Sc reviews”, etc
You would first need to think of all the categories that your university would fall under and ensure that they are a part of your keywords. Likewise, the usage of negative keywords/targeting, so that your ad does not show to your non-target segments, helps ensure that you do not waste money on people who may never be interested in the product/service or convert. (Like in the case of Liza, who wanted to look for MBA jobs and is not interested in enrolling for a course).
Target both top and middle of the marketing funnel
When your audience searches Google with a keyword that includes your brand, having an SEM campaign set up with your brand keywords ensures that your target audience, who at this point falls under the consideration phase, sees the ad (with latest offers/features etc) and possibly converts.
Similarly, when your target audience searches Google with a keyword that includes a service or product you offer, having an SEM campaign set up with generic product/service related keywords ensures that your target audience, who at this point falls under the awareness phase, sees the ad. Based on the kind of copy and landing page you have in place, this person could also move to the consideration phase of the funnel.
Let’s re-use the same “ABC University” example. With search marketing you can cash in on:
- Those who are searching for “ABC University”, by showcasing the degrees/master’s courses you offer, course fee discounts (if any), highlighting reviews/USPs, placement options etc, if any
- Those who are looking for “MBA degree”, “M.Sc courses”, “Diploma in marketing” etc, by showing up along with your competitors, while highlighting the key USPs, reviews, placement options etc that you may have
Display and video usually cater to the awareness phase of the marketing funnel. Remarketing, of course, caters to the consideration phase and below. This is also available in the form of search remarketing. With display/video you are only able to put your ads on the various websites that your target audience may have shown/may show interest in. The audience that sees these ads is not necessarily interested in your offering at this point and may not move down the funnel to the next phase anytime soon (it is a possibility though).
However, with search, you are able to ensure that you make your presence felt at the exact time someone is voluntarily searching the internet for your brand or a service/product that you offer. This way, you can cash in on your audience’s intent to buy at the moment, which is very critical for most businesses, especially those that have high conversion goals to meet.
So, what does all this mean for you?
An SEM strategy if executed well, provides flexibility, precision and a quick ROI. Showing up at the top of the page or at least within the top 2-3 search results at all times is extremely important for maintaining top of mind recall and brand presence (especially in a small and competitive market like Singapore!)