With more competition for clicks online than ever, brands must ensure their digital marketing strategy mimics consumers online behaviour across an increasingly complex media landscape.

According to Google, more than 65% of revenue comes from purchases that involve multiple touchpoints. With this in mind, it’s vital marketers spend their budget wisely. Forrester’s findings that 51% of digital marketing budgets in the US will be spent on search and social marketing in 2015, highlights how these are undoubtedly two of the most important channels for marketers.

Although search and social both engage large audiences online, they serve very different purposes along the consumers’ path to conversion. Social media has grown in importance over recent years, as consumers more frequently take to their networks to garner the opinions of their friends. However, paid search remains an incredibly significant channel. For example, while the benefits of social media can be seen at the start of a customer’s decision making process, the return on investment (ROI) of paid search is apparent more quickly and often leads to the all-important final conversion click.

I’d go further and say that marketers are backing themselves into a dangerous corner if they use a siloed approach to their marketing strategy. According to a Google study, for every click on a social ad that directly contributes to a conversion, there are two other clicks that contribute to that conversion across other channels. This means that marketers who manage any advertising campaign in isolation are ignoring roughly two-thirds of channels of influence in the path to conversion and are most likely undervaluing their performance.

It is marketers’ responsibility to engage as many potential customers as possible across their preferred channels. Understanding the value of each channel individually is important but to stay ahead of the curve, marketing strategies now need to work together. Recent data published by Marin Software found that advertisers achieve 68% higher revenue per conversion from their search campaigns when they are managed together with social advertising campaigns. In fact, we know that users who clicked on both search and social ads are more likely to buy and spend more. Consumers that clicked on both had an approximately two times greater conversion rate than consumers who clicked on the search ad only and contributed four times more revenue per click than users who clicked on a social ad only. Brands that do not adapt may find themselves vulnerable when competitors, which are likely to have broader horizons, enter the market.

Successful marketing executives recognise that meeting overall business objectives requires focusing on the customer, not the channel. Search marketing has proven effective in its ability to capture the attention of prospective customers based on their buying intentions expressed in their search queries. For instance, an online retailer looking to sell black running shoes can use Google advertising to ‘pull’ in audiences who are intending to purchase these products by paying for “buy black shoes” keywords. However, while the retailer can advertise to a prospective customer who is in a buying state of mind, the lifetime value of the customer viewing the ad is still questionable.

Conversely, social marketing has proven effective as both a demand generation and fulfilment channel because it allows targeting of specific audience segments based on vast data on demographic or behavioural attributes. Using Facebook, a retailer could target women between the ages of 35 and 55, who have purchased multiple times from the company and have lifetime values of £500. In this scenario, whilst the advertiser might have a lot of data about the quality of the audience targeted, nothing is known about the prospect’s buying intentions at the time the ad is served. Marketers who manage social advertising programmes in isolation are typically blind to the intentions of target audiences, sometimes leading to poor optimisation decisions.

Both search and social have their inherent advantages and disadvantages for targeting high-value customers along the path to conversion. To maximise the effectiveness of each channel and improve overall campaign ROI, marketers are beginning to adopt technology that can target a customer across both channels using both audience profiling and audience buying intention data. By using a single platform that can target across channels, marketers can break down silos focused on individual channels and run more profitable campaigns.

Jon Myers

Jon Myers


VP & Managing Director EMEA at Marin Software.