NOTE: Today’s post is a guest entry from Ryan DeShazer of HSR Business to Business, a leading B2B firm with offices in Cincinnati, Denver and Chicago. DeShazer is one of the leading B2B search marketers in the U.S. Ryan is set to launch Digimarketer.net to blog his considerable expertise soon. In the meantime, we’re happy to have it for you.
Tomorrow I have the privilege of speaking on a panel at Google’s annual B2B Executive Summit, Reaction, entitled “Brand Lift of Search Marketing.” Ahead of that live discussion, here are my thoughts on the subject. These are best-practice recommendations to keep in mind when attempting brand-oriented campaigns or quantifying the brand impact of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) programs.
Is the Acronym for Brand Lift “B.S.”?
Before exploring how to best execute a search marketing program aimed at boosting brand awareness, take a step back and consider two simpler questions that should be addressed first:
1) Is brand lift possible from search marketing, a tactic long-considered a direct response mechanism?
2) Assuming it is possible, should you be satisfied with a brand lift outcome rather than a positive direct response outcome from your target audience?
There is no doubt that brand lift exists in a SEM context, and that its positive implications are very real. Just as a digital banner or a broadcast media advert can, SEM programs can create top-of-mind awareness. After all, we trust Google don’t we? Why wouldn’t we think highly of the companies found at the tops of the organic and paid search listings? And if companies command prime real estate for both organic and paid results, brand affinity, recall and purchase intent have been shown to increase dramatically.
So if SEM brand lift is both possible and powerful, should you celebrate a brand lift result alone?
The answer is no.
“Brand lift” can mean many things to many people. In a SEM context, it could be argued that impressions and clicks alone are indicative of brand lift. After all, the advertiser’s brand was viewed and interacted with more so than it had been previously. Isn’t that the definition of “lift”?
The key is to achieve “effective lift” across the search results pages; brand exposure that will lead to meaningful outcomes.
Effective Lift in Action
In the B2B marketing space we see this often, due primarily to lengthy sales cycles. We don’t have the luxury of the impulse purchase enjoyed by many in the B2C marketing world, and have to nurture our sales leads through to some conversion activity over time. As a result, early brand touches are crucial to driving a response during future interactions.
The key for a successful program is the ability to connect the dots: tracking all audience member touch points on their paths to conversion, giving appropriate credit to effective lift touch points. Identifying which impressions and clicks initiated a successful courtship is to acknowledge effective brand lift; celebrating impressions and clicks alone will quickly become a bad and expensive habit.