My friend Amy, 31, beautiful, living in New York City and with a great job, decided to give online dating a try. An afternoon was spent creating her profile, which highlighted her best personality traits. Soon her mailbox was flooded with responses, but they weren’t from her target audience. Weird men seemed to be coming out of the woodwork, courtesy the site providing enough information about the responders.

Imagine a situation where the dating site didn’t tell her anything about these men and the only way to actually find out about them was for her to meet each of them in person. That’d put Amy in a fix, wouldn’t it? This situation is a typical characteristic of traditional marketing.

As a product marketer, you advertise your product by appearing for search terms that the prospects use to express interest but, your knowledge about your audience is scarce and you aren’t sure that the product/ad is only being seen by people who are your target market.

Traditional Search Marketing has been Intent Centric but Audience Blind

Search is a powerful marketing channel as it helps garner an audience that has strong intent. With search intent holding significant sway over marketers, keywords have been at the center of search marketing universe.

A sound keyword architecture has served as foundation for good account performance.  Search marketers have been increasingly adept at choosing keywords to include in the campaigns, structuring them in ad-groups and managing ad-copies to elicit a strong response. At iQuanti, for example, we have designed an eight dimensional targeting framework which ensures that we look at keywords from multiple dimensions: stage of the funnel, need triggers, product type, customer type, device, location, brand familiarity and seasonality.

Challenges with Audience Blind Search Marketing

With (audience) intent-driven Search Marketing proving to be one of the most effective channels, there are two key challenges with an audience blind approach:

  1. Mis-targeting: Keywords don’t suffice in defining the target audience. Car buyers with different brand loyalties could be searching for “best car to buy”. Having information about the audience would help marketers and consumers ensure that the right products are targeted to the right target audience. This especially becomes important as competition for the terms increases, resulting in a higher cost per click. For many terms, not having audience information renders search marketing uneconomical.
  2. Fulfilling demand vs. creating demand: Focusing only on a keyword-driven approach results in focusing on prospects that are at the end of the decision journey. Prospects searching are already aware of the product and are looking for it (which actually helps search be efficient). But a lot of marketing is about generating demand and not just meeting it.

 

Search Engine Response: Towards a more Audience Aware Search Marketing

Search engines are making changes to help marketers target relevant, quality audience. Google specifically has made a number of recent changes that gives marketers an audience-centric dimension to play with, for better targeting.

 

Till recently, audience targeting was limited to location, device, household income bracket and retargeting. Unless a customer had engaged with your site previously, you could not target them differently, which severely limited its use in prospect marketing.

Audience targeting parameters are evolving fast and becoming increasingly similar to display marketing. Some recent changes made by Google AdWords include:

  • More Demographic Parameters: Age and gender based targeting.
  • Customer match: Targeting and lead nurturing from offline and other channels
  • Similar audiences for Search (Beta): Targeting more users with search history similar to previous customers.
  • In market for Search (Beta): Targeting people who are currently actively searching for terms relevant to our business.

All these audiences can be applied on top of selected keywords and intents to hyper-target the prospects that matter most to your business.

What does Audience Aware Search Marketing mean for marketers?

Marketers can get very sophisticated by overlaying audience on top of intent expressed by searchers. There are three key benefits:

 

Better targeting:

  • One can go beyond what users are searching for, when and where. You can now target who amongst those are likely to be more relevant to you.
  • Marketers can drive efficiencies focusing on audiences most likely to convert. In specific instances, like launch of new products or new markets, one can start with similar audience list of older product customers for a phased launch. For example, if Bath & Body works were to enter U.K., they can start with an audience list similar to its U.S. customers.
  • Marketers can target promotions and offers to those who are more relevant and are currently in the market for the product.

Tailoring better experiences

  • Marketers can differentiate experiences for generic and brand keywords segregated by audience type to match intent.
  • Relevancy and thereby, efficiency can be increased by personalizing the messaging to an audience profile. Messaging strategy can be customized and segmented by audience type.

Expanding audiences

  • By using audience targeting layered on top of keywords, one can expand to terms at beginning of the customer journey while staying focused on relevant audience. For example, a finance company can target a young couple looking for houses as they would be needing financing soon

For marketers running existing search campaigns, we recommend the following:

  1. Overlay the audience variables to drive better targeting of select ad groups. This should drive savings by eliminating non –target audience (or drive better results).
  2. Look at opportunities to drive better segmentation. Start testing different messaging for different audiences and start measuring the lifts.
  3. Re-invest the money saved by better targeting to identify need triggers for the product or service. Start targeting your audience earlier in the journey.

Search engines stand to revolutionize search space by driving audience aware marketing. A consumer can expect a better experience and a marketer, higher efficiency. Thereby, courtesy this leap, we expect search marketing to continue its primacy in the digital marketing space in the near future.