Integrated search and digital strategies a MUST in a competitive multi-channel and multi-device marketplace

….A fully Integrated digital search strategy is a difficult thing to achieve but is a must for all digital marketers in a competitive multi-channel and multi-device marketplace. C-level employees need to realise that to deliver an integrated strategy, all departments need to be aligned to work towards the business's goals….

The search space has continued to evolve at a rapid pace over the last two to three years with the paid and organic spaces constantly blurring. This can be clearly seen with the likes of Google Shopping becoming part of the paid space and aspects such as mega/enhanced sitelinks appearing in Paid Search ads. The addition of Google Plus and so many searchers now being signed into Google has also fundamentally changed Google's search engine results pages (SERPs). These recent changes along with the introduction of universal search, a number of years ago, have highlighted the need for truly integrated search strategies.

Marketers need to start using the large amounts of data they have at hand, to see where there is crossover between their organic terms and their paid presence. Clear testing plans need to be developed, incorporating metrics such as traffic, rank, position, conversion data and the volume around keywords. A huge amount of advertisers' budgets are potentially wasted on keywords they do not need to bid on.

However, an Integrated Search-based strategy is not simply about whether you should bid for certain keywords or not, it needs to be broader than that and pull in areas such as PR, Social Media and content creation. When planning an Integrated campaign, you should ask: what are our plans for video content, blogger outreach, alignment with above-the-line marketing plans etc? And how can these elements affect our search presence?

This should then lead you to consider how to step away from considering just search and construct not just an Integrated Search strategy but the elements involved in developing an Integrated digital strategy. This can lead to answering harder questions, rather than whether you should be bidding on certain keywords or not.

A truly integrated strategy moves away from looking at keywords and asks what the business's goals are and how they can be achieved in the digital sphere. It suggests that to be fully integrated, a company's marketing team needs to be wholly aligned. Having siloed individual specialists managing PPC and SEO separately (all fighting for different budget and different channel targets) is not the most efficient or integrated way to manage your strategy.

This siloed approach needs to change and needs to be driven from the top. Businesses need to become 'Digital First' companies. C-level employees need to realise that to deliver an integrated strategy, all departments need to be aligned to work towards the business's goals.

This may require a number of considerations in relation to:

-          How reporting will change if the basis for that reporting is last click

-          How integration will fundamentally affect the business's forecasts

-          How attribution will affect the companies channel/ marketing plan

-          How to remunerate the respective agency if the business is no longer looking at a single channel

-          How this will affect contracts, targets and business planning moving forward

Over the past few months we at Greenlight have worked with one of our financial clients to integrate their strategy, making several changes:

-          The contract was reviewed so it no longer focused on a single channel

-          Targets were changed to become target focused

-          All forecasting changed to suit one integrated model

-          Billing changed to be based on time rather than percentage of media spend

The above changes can be difficult for clients to stomach as they can go to the heart of how their business might be run, how it has traditionally reported its performance in the past, and even be as granular as someone's job specification.

Whatever your view, integration is a necessary change required in today's digital world. To really embrace it, a business needs to be ambitious and courageous.

Businesses must be able to recognise the changes that need to be made and have the vision to see the benefits a truly integrated strategy and company can deliver.

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