Jan, 18th, 2012
When thinking about the relationship between Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Electronic Direct Marketing (eDM), the first thing that comes to my mind is a scene from Austin Powers where, (bear with me for a moment!), Doctor Evil throws to Austin that very quotable line:
“We’re not so different you and I”
This is true between SEM and eDM also!
There are several key similarities between the attributes of effective SEM and effective eDM.
1. Both operate in challenging environments.
Paid ads exist in an environment where there is a lot of information to compete against, so ads have to be clever and work to get the user’s attention. Email is not quite the same, the user is in automatic mode as opposed to an engaged mode, but eDMs also have to be clever and to work to get the reader’s attention. There’s little difference between fighting to get the attention of an engaged user against competing ads and information, and fighting to get the attention of semi-disengaged user against other emails and lifestyle factors. The best strategy is one that works for both: short and high impact…
2. Both work best when kept sharp
Paid Search ads have no choice but to be succinct and high-impact. E-mail marketing doesn’t have the same restrictions, but it could work better if it did. Often, the best performing eDMs are akin to best performing SEM ads – simple, concise, and high-impact.
3. A strong singular theme works best.
Paid Search ads work best when they stick to a singular theme – that’s a given in the world of SEM. Likewise, eDMs usually work best when they too stick to a singular theme, and convey this with quick impact much like a paid ad does. If you have more than one theme or uncomplimentary themes it is best to split these up into separate eDMs or separate ad groups.
4. Same Attributes/Elements, or Building Blocks
Catchy heading, Engaging copy, easy link to a website. Sound familiar? It doesn’t just optimise Paid Search ads, but eDMs too. An eDM’s subject line is like a paid ad’s headline, the body copy is like a paid ad’s description lines, and text buttons like a paid ad’s display URL. E-mail marketing just has the luxury of being able to utilise a few more elements, most notably images and multiple URLs. Its structure though can essentially be seen as a more developed paid ad.
5. Drive click-throughs and conversions
Both paid ads and eDMs essentially share the same core three objectives, either to drive: impressions (exposure), clicks, or conversions. Both formats are to be clicked by the viewer, and to take the viewer to the website to complete some type of action. The two channels just go about this through different media, but utilising common attributes effectively.
6. Both benefit from testing
Paid Search ads are an on-going marketing initiative, whereas eDMs are generally one-off, so paid ads have the advantage of constant testing that eDMs don’t. An eDM can and should have its ‘subject line plus sender name’ combination tested for large database sends. Here, several combinations are formulated, and a given number of emails are sent out using each combination. Whichever subject line and sender name has the best results is used to send the large remainder of the send. This is important, because subject line and sender name is the first contact a user has with the eDM, and determines whether the email is opened or not. Even a modest improvement can translate into a massive performance increase in large-scale sends.
Both Paid Search ads and eDMs can, and should, use some degree of segmentation to increase return on investment. Paid Search ads do this through account and campaign settings and keywords, whereas eDMs use database filters. Either way, they’re different ways of accomplishing the common task of reaching the most relevant target audience.
Similarities abound, but what should be taken away is that search engine marketers unwittingly know more about electronic direct marketing than is realised. In fact, an SEM specialist’s contribution to an eDM campaign would be valuable in keeping the communication strong and performance-focused and results-driven.
Likewise, an Electronic Direct Marketer can understand SEM as a similar product to email marketing, just much simpler and on-going.
So next time someone talks SEM or eDM, have the confidence of knowing that the two areas are fundamentally very similar. So whichever of these challenges you’re facing, there’s no doubt that you’ll have what it takes to save the day; much like the international man of mystery himself!