February 3, 2011, 2:45 PM

Getting a broader look at paid search results

Many channels can contribute to a sale, and retailers are getting better at giving credit.

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Online advertisers must take a wider look at how paid search interacts with other forms of advertising, including exposure on Facebook, comparison shopping engines, display ad networks and affiliates networks, experts say.

“We tend to find more interaction these days between advertising channels,” says Andrew Morgan, director of product development for online advertising services firm Rimm-Kaufman. Advertisers, in turn, are taking a broader look at how each advertising channel is contributing to sales or other types of results, such as increased clickstream activity for building brand awareness.

In the past, Morgan and others say, online advertisers looked closely at either the first or last advertising channel that a consumer touched before making an online purchase. If they focused on the first touchpoint, or the top of the advertising funnel, credit would typically go to search ads, while focusing on the last touch would more likely give credit to an affiliate site where a shopper received a coupon for the purchased product.

New tools for monitoring the effect on purchasing of multiple advertising channels have emerged recently to help marketers better attribute results to the multiple forms of advertising that may have led to a purchase. Rimm-Kaufman, for example, launched its Attribution Module in last year’s fourth quarter, and e-commerce technology and services provider GSI Commerce Inc. acquired ClearSaleing, whose advertising attribution it now offers through its TrueAction marketing services division.

Instead of providing too much credit to a single ad channel, advertisers can see how a shopper progressed through an advertising funnel before making a purchase. “A client can see clickstream data from Facebook to paid search to an affiliate network, then apply credit for each,” Morgan says.

That helps advertisers to better allocate spending on each ad channel, Morgan says. “If a client says it got 1,000 orders from an affiliate site, we can tell them that of those 1,000, how many also clicked an e-mail and a paid search ad.”

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