Seeking ROI Online | Adweek
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Seeking ROI Online

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As consumers evolve how they navigate the Web, they are driving a paradigm shift in how marketers utilize their online advertising budgets.
 
Display ads -- a former online advertising champion -- declined by 5.6 percent in the first three quarters of 2008, according to Nielsen, even as budgets around relatively newer advertising channels like Facebook are running into hurdles. Marketers just aren't getting their desired ROI through shouted messages or obscure friendships with brands.
 
But despite the current economic landscape, online advertising is expected to grow to as much as 15 percent of total ad budgets by 2013, according to eMarketer. So where will this projected growth occur and what's driving it? Search-engine marketing, behavioral marketing and other interactive sources are all top contenders, but it remains unclear which will drive most awareness, loyalty and, of course, profits.
 
Search-engine marketing provides a core list of terms for any brand that help promote their content among search results, offering every brand several words that best describe it. With each new campaign or topical issue, brands have a near infinite number of words to buy, e.g., "drinkability." Barclays is predicting a 20 percent increase in search marketing budgets, and eMarketer reports that search will lead all forms of online ad spends. Marketers and agencies need to aggressively understand and enter the search space, beyond just buying keywords.
 
The current search model is that users enter a term to find a piece of information, then take the information and act on it elsewhere in their online or offline lives. However, there's often a disconnect for search-engine marketers because their sponsored content is not always valuable enough to the user to apply it to the purpose and results of their search.
 
As social-media tools rise and fall, the power of search has remained constant, but the evolution of search and search-engine marketing is still on the horizon. The currently available search tools can find amazing pieces of information across the Internet, but both the search and sponsored results have yet to help users achieve the purpose of their search.
 
The key to successful growth in this market is to understand the purpose behind the search and the behaviors that will use that information. By connecting to the real goals of a user's search, behavioral and search-engine marketing can drastically improve the likelihood of using the sponsored content, and even improve the effectiveness of the search tool itself.
 
The predicted increases in search-engine marketing won't magically appear as brands flee from inefficient display and other online ad options. These predictions will come true as brands explore the new search options that provide greater interaction with the users who are already conducting billions of daily searches. Searches not just to know, but also to achieve.

Jordan English Gross is founder, COO of Saber Seven. He can be reached at jordan.english@saberseveninc.com.