using offline advertising for long-term search engine ranking boost

google’s personalized search results & other links between on and offline

SEOMoz posted recently about how “Personalization of Google Results Creates a Huge Advertising Opportunity.” As usual, Rand Fishkin is on to something.

Essentially, the concept involves using offline (or traditional advertising mediums) to tell people to take a specific action online. In this case, Fishkin suggests that directing viewers/listeners to Google a brand name will “bias” future related search results towards that brand. And it’s all possible thanks to Google’s personalized search results – the now default search mode where expressions of brand preference or brand affinity “influence” future searches in favor of the brand’s domain.

that’s great and all Rand & Imma’ let you finish, but there’s more to it

The opportunities to create offline marketing campaigns that deliver online results go far beyond the brand preference mechanism of personalized search. Fishkin talks about the 2010 Super Bowl and how advertisers were focused (maybe obsessed) with driving people to their digital properties. He wonders why advertisers didn’t take a page from Pontiac’s marketing playbook and tell viewers to Google their brand name. After all, Fishkin suggests, it would have made more sense to do it now than in 2007, when the Pontiac spot ran.

The opportunity expands far beyond branding, though, right? Think about the nature of Super Bowl ads, especially. It costs a ton of cash to buy time, but your message reaches one of the largest television audiences all year. Sure, you can make a flashy/quirky/funny ad that people will talk about and marketing-types will salivate over. For the most part, within days that experience has been forgotten (actually, so has the Super Bowl).

offline marketing can feet your online search marketing efforts to create way more impact

Let’s say, hypothetically, JEEP had the phrase “four-wheel-drive” absolutely dominated in search results. JEEP had almost total control of the first page of Google search results with the closest competition down near the bottom of the first page. JEEP then runs a Super Bowl spot telling people to Google “four-wheel drive.” So, hopefully, you would have millions of people Googling “four-wheel-drive” and pretty much automatically clicking on the JEEP website on the search results page. Not only have you branded JEEP as the four-wheel-drive vehicle, but you have enticed millions to act in a way that would most likely cement your “ownership” of the four-wheel-drive search phrase for who knows how long.

It’s almost like the original TV spot was a really expensive catalyst that created huge and lasting benefits in the digital world, while the real-world effect would have faded after a couple of days.

offline ads have more than just SEO implications – what about ppc and social media?

Who cares about PPC and social media? Just kidding. I do. Deeply.

Anyway, a PPC campaign could supplement the SEO-based theoretical situation described above. Take the above scenario and let’s say JEEP doesn’t have that solid lock on the search phrase “four-wheel drive,” but they do appear on the first page. So JEEP would then launch a PPC campaign centered around their Super Bowl spot with ads triggered by searches for “four-wheel drive.” That puts their brand at the top of the page, thus enabling people to see both paid and organic results and reinforcing JEEP’s lock on the phrase “four-wheel drive.”

The social media implications for an offline/online marketing integration would be almost too numerous to list. Think about it – you can build up buzz about your offline marketing efforts before, during, and after the actual ad runs; you can leverage aspects of the advertisement that lend themselves to interaction with your customers through social media (i.e. – solicit off-road stories from JEEP owners for future ads, etc.). Social media allows for such a constant, personal relationship with current or prospective customers that the possibilities for enhancing offline ads probably change daily.

Heck, send people to your Facebook page rather than the homepage of your site. If they like what they see (and if you are properly shepherding people to your site from your social network properties), they’ll find their way to your site. By doing that, you’ve also strengthened your social network with another fan/follower. Everybody wins (and you win twice).

the point is, you can stretch your offline marketing dollars much further by sending people offline

Everyone flashes their website address in TV ads; tacks it on to the end of radio spots, and throws it in their ad copy for newspaper runs. That’s a lost opportunity. Send people to search engines or your social network and make sure they don’t get lost along the way. It still works to drive traffic to your site (which was one of the goals of your offline marketing effort in the first place) and boosts your SEO efforts; builds your social media real estate, and could show some healthy ROI for a well-constructed and executed PPC campaign.

proof that offline advertising can lead to search engine and online success

Would this work? I don’t know. I honestly haven’t tried it. It sure seems like it could, though, right? What you’re doing is marketing your brand and at the same time, bolstering the ease with which people can find your site. It’s a self-sustaining loop, really. Instead of driving people directly to your site, direct them through the infrastructural channels of the Internet in a way that greatly strengthens that infrastructure as it applies to you and your site. The stronger the infrastructure, the easier it is for people to find you.

Stop thinking of your offline marketing efforts in terms of ad buys and short-term attention getters that need “replenishing” fairly often.

Start thinking of your offline marketing as “legacy advertising” that will have lasting effects on your online presence for the long haul.

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