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Why Brand Trumps ROI: 3 Tips To Build Your Brand Online

by Matias Wigozki

ROI. ROI. ROI. It’s the mantra for most direct response marketers. But to remain competitive, marketers must look beyond direct ROI, and invest in programs that will enrich their overall brand. Let’s take a look at why.

Understanding The Shift

There are more brands competing in search than ever, but the playing field is hardly level. In fact, it has shifted. Today it favors well-recognized brands that have built brand equity. Those who haven’t invested in their brand are being left behind.

A recent study underscores this point. According to a recent Kenshoo report, “the number of clicks on search ads increased by 54% from 2009 to 2010, while the number of search ad impressions (the number of times these ads appeared) increased by only 1%.”

This finding demonstrates that while the overall number of searches remained flat, traffic increased drastically for those brands already running robust search programs.

The Importance Of Integration

Many marketers think they can leverage paid search to drive ROI without investing in brand. Unfortunately, this thinking is delusional. To win in this arena, you first must invest in creating a well-known brand that is top of mind with consumers. Doing so will build volume that you can then capture via search.

The significance of this dynamic is supported by an iProspect and Forrester Research study on the integration of search and display. It reveals that display advertising is effective at producing brand lift, particularly when it is used in combination with paid and natural search.

In fact, the study indicates that “almost as many Internet users respond to online display advertising by performing a search on a search engine (27%) as those who simply click on the ad itself (31%).”

This finding underscores the importance of investing in display advertising to boost brand as it will increase the number of branded searches. In turn, it will yield a higher direct ROI as these terms tend to be cheaper than non-branded terms.

Learning A Lesson

Clearly, investing in brand is key; however, it won’t drive ROI by itself. Connecting branding efforts with paid search is essential. A major home electronics manufacturer helps us see why.

The company was running an aggressive display campaign, evident by their ads being found on a large majority of consumer electronic review sites. This was an ideal branding initiative as it hit consumers when they were in the shopping mindset. It also communicated the brand’s unique value proposition. Fortunately, the effort produced a substantial increase in search query volume for the brand month-over-month and year-over-year.

However, the manufacturer did not run any paid search campaigns to capture the demand they had created, and only one retailer capitalized on the manufacturer’s newly-created brand interest. Consequently, the lack of connection between the branding effort and the search program hurt the conversion and click-through rates. Ultimately these disconnects resulted in lower online sales for the retailers carrying this brand and for the manufacturer itself.

Taking Action To Build Brand Search Volume

Below are three tips to help you build your brand online to create more volume and better connections:

1.  Leverage the content networks

Both Google and Bing/Yahoo! have comprehensive content programs that can be managed from paid search interfaces. If your brand doesn’t have display creative, utilize the best performing ad copy from your search campaigns and leverage it in the content networks.  If creative is available, test between text and other types to see which combination of copy produces the highest return.

By expanding to where your consumers are digesting content, you will inevitably build brand recall. This is particularly true for the retail industry. Another iProspect study indicates that online display ads produce a brand lift of 5% in regard to the likelihood of purchasing from a particular retailer. It is also worth noting that the same study found that the combination of paid search and display advertising produces a 15% lift in unaided brand recall.

2.  Leverage social media

Until recently, measuring the value of social media interactions has been difficult unless the vehicle being used was a direct sales tactic such as a coupon. According to research done by Syncapse and hotspex, the value of a Facebook fan is $71.84 more than a non-fan. This data alone supports the value of a Facebook campaign focused on acquiring fans; however, there are more benefits.

By generating social media buzz, you can drive consumers to search for your brands. Therefore, it’s imperative that a brand’s unique value proposition be communicated in a consumer-friendly manner in order to generate awareness and chatter. Without conversations, the value of Facebook and other social media mediums is limited, and without buzz, there are no incremental queries on the search engines. By generating incremental brand queries, sales will increase online, and thanks to Facebook fans, off-line as well.

3.  Leverage online videos

According to a study conducted by YuMe, more than 66% of respondents watched more online videos than they did 12 months ago, and 48% said they planned to increase viewership this year. Taking these statistics into account, it is easy to see why video should be considered for more than just funny clips. Today, videos are a means to gain mass media recognition.

Given that, brands need to leverage online video to grow their awareness, not just as a way to repost their TV spots. By creating branded content, marketers will be able to build deep relationships with their consumers and generate greater brand awareness. In turn, this will lead to higher branded search queries.

In today’s competitive search landscape, the best way to drive ROI is to first invest in building your brand, and the above tactics can help you do just that. Then, you’ll be in a great position to tap into paid search to capture the demand you’ve created.

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