Pushing for Increased Natural Search Budget by Exposing Offline Impact

When most multi-channel marketers think about marketing online they typically focus on the impact they can have on online purchase behavior. They closely monitor metrics such as conversions, cart abandonment, web page bounce rates and traffic sources. Far fewer focus on the offline impact their search marketing spend can have, often because proving the ROI by tying the two channels together has historically been difficult to do.

The findings help to confirm what most multi-channel markets likely already suspect and struggle to prove: The offline impact of search marketing is grossly undervalued in any ROI calculation that does not include sophisticated attribution modeling.

Retail marketing firm RevTrax recently published an interesting study on the impact of search marketing activities on in-store purchasing. The study focused on millions of Paid Search ads RevTrax monitored and the consequent sales for its retail clients. To track in-store sales accurately RevTrax used landing pages with coupons and unique IDs:

  1. A paid search ad was displayed to a consumer
  2. The paid search ad led the consumer to a printable or mobile landing page displaying a coupon with a unique barcode
  3. The consumer redeemed the coupon inside a brick & mortar store
  4. Each coupon was tracked back to the online search (and the keyword)

Measuring Offline Customer Behavior

The study claims it is the first to show the offline impact of paid search marketing based on actual behavior rather than consumer surveys and self-reported data. The findings show that “for every $1 of e-commerce revenue generated from paid search, marketers can expect to see approximately another $6 of in-store revenue.”

Other findings include:

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  • The average click on a paid search ad generated approximately $15 of in-store revenue, with some merchants seeing as much as $28 of in-store revenue.
  • Approximately 9% of clicks on a paid search ad generated an in-store sale, with some merchants seeing up to 26% of clicks on a paid search ad generating an in-store sale.

The overarching argument RevTrax makes with the research is that “multichannel merchants who do not include in-store sales into the ROI calculation are potentially undervaluing the paid search channel by as much as 85 percent.” The findings help to confirm what most multi-channel markets likely already suspect and struggle to prove conclusively to the executive suite: the offline impact of search marketing is grossly undervalued in any ROI calculation that does not include sophisticated attribution modeling.

New vs. Existing Customers

Some question was raised in the comments of the SearchEngineLand writeup as to the mix of branded vs. non-branded keywords, and the percentage of customers that are new and discovered the brand via the search ad and could therefore be counted as true incremental revenue. A postscript to the article indicates around half of customers are new and keywords analyzed were a mix of branded and non-branded keywords. This suggests some of the lofty numbers ($6 in local sales for every $1 in online sales) may be somewhat aspirational, but what is clear is that there is some strong measure of offline impact from online search visibility.

Leverage Study to Push for Greater Natural Search Budget

In reading through the study writeup, one could easily imagine Paid Search Managers the world-over going study-in-hand to Management to ask for more budget.

“Look,” they might say, “not only will increasing our budget bring us more site visitors and sales, but it will also impact our offline channel.”

Given that Comscore states up to 92% of click activity occurs in natural search, and eye tracking studies show searcher attention on the SERP is primarily on natural listings, we can’t help but make an analog from the study’s PPC findings to natural listings.

Pushing for Increased Natural Search Budget by Exposing Offline Impact image Offline Impact of Search1

Could SEO Managers take the study-in-hand to management together with some of the established industry statistics on natural vs. paid click activity to ask for additional budget? Could they say “it’s reasonable to infer that the findings of offline sales return from PPC investment could be applied to natural search listings?”

Given the focus of searchers on natural vs. paid listings, one could reasonably argue offline return would be at least as significant as Paid listings described in the study, if not at a greater rate.

image source

What do you think? Could the study be an arrow in the SEO’s pushing-for-more-budget quiver? Sound off in the comments.

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