January 2, 2007, 12:00 AM

SPONSORED SUPPLEMENT: Search Marketers Broaden their Horizon

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Sometimes that means thinking about applying organic search techniques to paid search strategies. "It can be worthwhile to promote a press release using paid search," says OneUpWeb`s Wehr. "Paid search is a great way to link a press release about a relevant or popular topic or link a quote from the retailer that is pertinent to the search string to support other media placement within the search strategy. By optimizing paid search in such a manner, it helps increase the relevancy of organic search results."

When attempting to strike the balance between paid and organic search, Williams stresses that retailers must remember paid search delivers quick results, while organic search delivers long-term results. "The balance between them is struck based on the goals of the retailers and what they have learned about keyword selection in the past," says Williams.

Boosting the pages

But not every retailer has the budget to purchase enough keywords to dominate a results page. In these instances, retailers need to think more about raising the profile of the URL for all pages within their sites to boost the rank and number of organic search results. "A lot of times a retailer may not have search terms shoppers use to search for them embedded in the URL of the related page," says YourAmigo`s Smith.

In these instances retailers need to alter their URL to include the identified keywords or create new pages containing the necessary keywords. YourAmigo`s SpiderLinker application scans the URL for each page on a retailer`s site to identify keywords that can be added to the page`s title, in addition to creating more search engine friendly pages.

"We can create spider friendly links to web pages, create entirely new pages with search engine-friendly URLs or add keyword combinations to existing pages so they can be better seen by the search engine. We create bridges that smooth out the bumps on the path to search engine optimization," says Smith.

Smoothing out the bumps in any search marketing strategy is critical, especially since many retailers became disenchanted with paid search after the 2005 holiday shopping season due to rising keyword prices.

The pullback was brief, however, as retailers came to understand they could offset the inefficiencies resulting from higher keyword prices by crafting broader-based search marketing strategies. "Advertisers did pull back from paid search a bit in late 2005 due to the cost, but now they see the value is still there if they take a more sophisticated approach to buying keywords more deeply," says LookSmart`s Hills. "As long as the quality of audience is there, retailers will spend more deeply."

Still, Hills cautions that retailers do need to test keywords before plunging into a purchasing strategy. Without testing in advance of purchasing, retailers will not be able identify keywords that enable shoppers to drill down past the head of their search marketing strategy. "It`s important to first understand the ROI of each keyword prior to purchasing," he adds.

Link keywords and shoppers` needs

As retailers advance their search marketing strategies, one of the points they need to keep in mind is they must select keywords and create pages with search terms that can lead to relevant content outside their site.

"Each keyword serves a purpose in the pre-purchase and post purchase environment," says iCrossing`s Wallace. "To get the most out of a keyword, retailers need to understand the linkage between how keywords support customer research, trigger purchasing decisions and provide customer support."

Other keywords are better suited to more subtle tasks, such as building brand awareness. Seasonal keywords can offer some of the strongest branding opportunities. By purchasing seasonal keywords well in advance of the specific selling season, retailers can put their brand out in front of early bird shoppers and build brand awareness and possibly snag some early buyers.

"Retailers need to remember that some keywords are more conversion oriented and some are more conducive to branding opportunities," says 360i`s Williams.

One piece of the puzzle

Nor should retailers forget that keyword buys are but one piece of the puzzle. Links to podcasts, blogs and other social networking pages need to be incorporated into their search marketing strategy, as well as delivery of search results to wireless, handheld mobile devices. While relatively new, delivering search results to mobile devices through XML feeds can prove helpful for shoppers on the run who want the address of and directions to the nearest store. IProspect already provides mobile search feeds for a hospitality client.

"The aim of search marketing is to create an integrated strategy that serves all the needs of retailer`s business, not just one element," says iProspect`s Murray.

An integrated strategy means developing search strings for pages embedded more deeply in the web site that are likely to be found using specific and lengthy search strings.

"The key to successful search engine marketing is optimizing the head and tail of the strategy," says YourAmigo`s Smith. "If retailers are not looking at their search strategy in this way, they are missing out on a lot of business. They might as well be displaying only half their inventory on their site."

Such innovations are certain to reinvigorate retailers when it comes to crafting their search engine marketing strategies. By creating a strategy that applies more sophisticated concepts to search marketing, retailers can develop low-cost but highly effective ways to reach shoppers. As they become adept at doing so, they can create search strategies designed to achieve specific goals, such as increase sales, which in turn raises the level of the creativity behind the strategy, according to ChannelAdvisor`s Wingo.

"With so many sources of information search engines can link to, there is a lot of innovation left in search engine marketing," says Wingo.

Enrich the search results

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