HOW TO: Integrate Paid Search and Social Media for Better Marketing Results

by Matt Lawson

This article first appeared on MASHABLE

Matt Lawson is director of marketing for Marin Software, provider of the leading enterprise-class paid search management application for advertisers and agencies.

Google Search Image

Paid search and social media are both extremely important marketing channels. But how can brands combine the two distinctly different tactics –- the bid-based, conversion-obsessed, ROI-driven world of paid search and the experimental, brand-building, hard-to-measure world of social –- to drive an overall increase in ROI? Marketers large and small are grappling with the challenge of how to integrate their paid search advertising programs with social media programs on networks like FacebookFacebookTwitterTwitter, blogs, and viral video sites.

Social and Search Should Work Together

The most important thing to remember when starting a search-and-social integration program is that search and social each provide different benefits to your business, so you should leverage their strengths instead of trying to get them to deliver results that aren’t suited to the medium.

Marketers usually participate in social media to create an active dialogue with consumers around their products and services, with the main goal of building brand value, and a secondary goal of driving sales. On the other hand, marketers use paid search primarily to drive sales, leads, and conversion, and don’t expect the short text of their paid search ads to do much for branding.

But together, the two disciplines can increase the value that each program delivers. By creating social content that attracts an engaged audience, marketers can then craft targeted paid search campaigns to “capture” this audience and turn them into buyers.

As an example of how this works, consider these findings from an October 2009 study conducted by GroupM Search, M80, and ComScore. The report found that consumers exposed to a brand’s social media content are 2.8 times more likely to search on that brand’s terms. What’s more, consumers exposed to social media are more likely to perform deeper searches, going further down the purchase funnel and completing more purchases. Consumers exposed to a brand’s social media are 1.7 times more likely to search with the intention of making a purchase, and, overall, brands reported a 50% lift in click-through rates from consumers exposed to both social media and paid search, according to the study.

What these statistics show is that stronger brand awareness through social media helps drive paid search effectiveness in three ways:

  • Target audiences are more likely to search (more impressions on your ads)
  • Target audiences are more likely to click (more clicks on those impressions)
  • Because of higher clickthrough rates, ads are placed higher on page (higher quality score)

Smart Strategies

chess strategy

There is no silver bullet for integrating search and social, but there are several concrete strategies every marketer can use to start bringing the two disciplines together. Here are a few tips to help you optimize social and paid search programs to work in a complimentary way to boost overall ROI.

  • Make your social campaigns search-friendly. Make sure your social media programs (Facebook, Twitter, viral video, etc.) are appropriately tagged and indexed, and that metadata for pages includes your top keywords. This will allow people searching for your brand content to not only find your paid search ads and natural search results, but to find your social media content as well. The first step to building brand engagement through social activities is to enable consumers to easily find your content.
  • Experiment with keyword advertising on social media sites. Facebook and YouTubeYouTube both allow for keyword targeted advertising, but the way that these ads work is vastly different from how advertising works on GoogleGoogle or the Content Network. Facebook ads allow you to target users based on preferences they list on their profile. For example, a retailer selling DVDs would create ads that target interests such as “action movies,” “horror,” or “funny movies.” YouTube’s advertising system allows you to target specific user queries. However, remember the queries that occur on YouTube are different than those on Google, because users on YouTube are searching for content, not products. For example, people may be trying to find “Avatar trailer” or “car scene from Modern Family,” rather than searching for a particular DVD, so make sure to target your ads to these more specific types of search queries.
  • Create social media-influenced paid search campaigns. Closely analyze the topics and discussions taking place around your social media campaigns, and then mine these discussions for new keywords you can use in paid search campaigns on Google, YahooYahoo!, and BingBing. Whatever people are talking about, bid on keywords that reflect these conversations. As always, you should measure the performance of these campaigns to prune non-performing ads and increase investment on terms that are more likely to capture downstream conversions. In addition, consider running controlled experiments with social media advertising turned off and on, so you can measure the impact these campaigns have on your paid search programs by observing changes in your paid search click-through and conversion rates.

By quantifying the uplift that social media delivers to your paid search programs, you can gain insights into your marketing programs that search marketers who limit their view to just one channel do not –- and improve the performance of both your paid search and social programs.

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