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Interview with Matt Grebow

TSA: How did you find your way to search marketing?

MG: I joined search marketing and The Search Agency in the spring of 2006, when both were still young but growing quickly. I worked previously in print publishing, which made me especially sensitive to the rise of online media.

The publishing industry has had an uneasy relationship with the Internet. Old-school publishers have had a difficult time embracing digital media, but the savvier ones have proven that there is a strong market for original online content. The Internet is a formidable competitor for reader attention and advertising dollars. Of course, many periodicals haven’t survived. The ones that have are doing so by rethinking their business.

Search marketing has also gone through multiple incarnations. Watching the speed with which the industry has evolved over the last five years has been dizzying, but the rapid innovation allows marketers to operate on the cusp of technology. Search marketers have always been comfortable operating on the digital frontier; so, I guess that in many ways, the mindset of the industry hasn’t changed all that much.

TSA: Last month Mike Solomon discussed the growing potential of mobile paid search marketing, describing it not as a trend, but as a new feature of the online marketing landscape. As such, how should marketers approach their mobile paid search marketing strategy? In what ways does the mentality of a traditional desktop user vary from that of a smartphone user?

MG: One out of every seven searches performed on Google is made with a mobile device. That’s an astonishing number if you stop and think about it.

One way to look at the two is that mobile searches tend to be more consumptive than aspirational. In other words, smartphone users often look for concrete answers to discrete problems. It’s difficult to picture somebody today conducting extensive research on a phone about obtaining a business loan for a pizzeria, but it’s easy to see somebody looking for a good pizza place nearby. This is a simplistic example, but mobile advertisers need to consider the motive and attention span of a smartphone user when crafting appealing ads and landing pages.

Businesses with physical stores possess other advantages. Mobile searchers, by definition, are on the go. Somebody searching for information about a restaurant may be standing right outside the door. Creative marketers will find ways to integrate social media with mobile search. Imagine if that restaurant could entice people outside by sending special offers to their phones, or by showing them which of their friends had recently eaten there. The goal of search marketing is to create a fluid path from search to conversion; smartphones offer a much more intimate way to communicate with consumers.

Of course, tablets change everything. They add even more complexity to mobile marketing by marrying the best attributes of desktop computers and mobile devices.

TSA: How does the setup of mobile paid search campaigns differ from that of traditional online marketing campaigns?

MG: Perhaps more so than desktop marketing, mobile search marketing needs to be approached as integrated marketing. Aside from making a purchase on a website, there are a variety of ways mobile searchers can express their interest in a business: downloading an app, viewing a map, interacting with a social-media site. And calls. We get so excited thinking about how smartphones are becoming so much more like computers, we forget that their most basic function—making phone calls—hasn’t changed.

Accurate tracking is essential. Attributing an online search to a handful of online and offline actions poses daunting challenges, but failing to devise a method for doing so inevitably undervalues that search.

Mobile advertisers need to pay particular attention to the keywords they include in their account. Search habits always seem to be defined by technology. With smartphones, onerous keyboards may shorten the number of words in a query, but the rapid adoption of voice-activated search, which now makes up about one-third of mobile searches on Google, is expanding the types of keywords being used.

TSA: How does traditional paid search bid management translate to mobile paid search? How should marketers manage their mobile and desktop ads?

MG: The most obvious difference between a search-results page on a mobile device and one on a desktop or laptop monitor is the size of the screen. I know this seems like a silly statement, but display size has a tremendous effect on bidding. On smartphones, if your ad doesn’t appear in the top two positions, the majority of searchers are probably not seeing it, while on desktops up to 10 paid ads can show at once.

The aspect of mobile bidding that creates the most headaches, however, is calculating the actual value of a mobile click. Figuring out the fractional value of online and offline conversions is a touchy business, although improving mobile analytics will make this task easier.

When bidding, it’s useful to think of mobile campaigns as complementary to desktop campaigns. The number of searches made on smartphones increases at night and on weekends, when the volume of desktop searches dips. Rather than approach desktop and mobile bidding as distinct activities, advertisers should think about tactics for conveying consistent, yet appropriate, advertising across both. With online marketing, the medium truly is the message.

TSA: Moving away from mobile paid search, what are your interests outside of the office?

MG: I like bad movies and good literature. I like vinyl records, but not in any sort of hipster way.

I’m a proud founding member of The Search Agency softball team, which is entering its seventh season, or maybe its eight. There are a lot of similarities between search marketing and softball, but you have to look really hard to find them and people will likely make fun of you when you point them out. Also, inexplicably, I’ve become very interested in container gardening recently. I’m not sure what the relationship is between these two.

About Camille Canon

Outside of summer jobs and not-for-profit internships, The Search Agency is my first official place of employment. I recently graduated from Mount Holyoke College, where I studied Art History and German. I am an avid cook, baker, and destroyer of diets. My specialties are cream cheese brownies, biscotti cookies and lemon bars. I am also an Art enthusiast. Living in Berlin enables me to follow a young, emerging Art scene complete with “eccentric” performance pieces and temporarily converted butcher shop galleries. I also enjoy running, traveling, and handy work. Camille Canon + [6]