Search is Paramount in the Emerging Green Category

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Paid search continues to
grow and is now considered by most marketers to be a core component of
their online marketing tool kits. This continued growth
is not surprising, however, as it is hard to beat search as a marketing
channel for both its efficiency and effectiveness.

There are several reasons for search’s continued dominance. Search
allows marketers to 1) engage consumers as they actively seek
information in market, 2) connect consumers with relevant content based
on self-identified interests, 3) pay only when consumers click on a
sponsored link, 4) scale spend in the channel (to a point) and 5)
enhance the productivity of other channels. For example,
building awareness with a 60-second spot will likely result in more
searches being conducted by consumers to turn to the web to find out
more information or the link to the advertiser’s site.
 

To green marketers, search also represents a powerful component of the overall media mix.  In
fact, Marketing Green believes that search is even more critical for
marketers of green products than for more established products because
green is an emerging category that has high consumer interest but is
difficult to navigate due to the lack of familiarity and standards. 
 

Moreover,
green search will continue to increase as awareness and interest grows
and consumers increasingly turn to the Internet for answers. Here are few reasons why, as well as recommendations for green marketers on how to maximize the impact of the search channel:
 

Consumers have a growing interest in green, but limited familiarity.  Many
consumers are curious about the emerging green category but have
relatively low understanding of the category or how to navigate it. As
such, consumers are more likely to research product choices before
making purchase decisions and turn to online search when the do so.
 

For
marketers, this means establishing broad presence in paid search across
both the general as well as green vertical search engines in order to
intercept consumers when they actively seek category-, product- or
brand-specific information.
 

Consumers
today conduct that vast majority of green searches through general
search engines such as Google and Yahoo and will likely to continue to
do so in the near term. The popularity of green vertical search engines
– including Green Maven, Greener, GreenGamma, LiveGreenOrDie, GreenLinkCentral, EcoEarth, EcoSeeker and Earthle
among others – is growing nonetheless based on the perception that
green vertical search engines return more relevant results than general
search.

In
addition, green filters are emerging that allow consumers to search
with greater precision either as an overlay to existing search engines
or as a way to narrow the results based on a set of business rules
regarding green. Palore is one example which enables consumers to identify green merchants when using Google’s search engine. 
Below
is Palore functionality loaded into Google Maps.  Note the symbols
included under each listing – including the carrot which denotes that
the restaurant offers organic foods.

In addition, online sites are emerging help locate products and retailers offline. Evolvist locates products and retailers by geography.

Alternatively, Alonovo filters products and retailers based on their relative corporate social responsibility and “greenness”.

Products and brands are proliferating.  Green products are being launched every day across almost every product category. Product
“greenness” is relative, however, which results in a spectrum of
products, features, benefits and trade-offs that consumers must weigh
before making purchase decisions.
 

As product proliferate, so too will our vocabulary that describes them.  

Marketers
should, therefore, take advantage of this by greatly expanding and
testing the number of keyword and keyword combinations purchased. Moreover, these lists should align with marketing campaigns and their objectives across the purchase funnel. For example, an awareness campaign should include both branded, category and product-specific keywords. Marketers should refresh this list frequently as the entire category is still very much in flux.
 

Consumers are hungry for relevant content. Lacking
familiarity with green products, consumers turn to credible information
sources to learn about products, compare features and validate choices.
 

Marketers
should respond by providing relevant content on landing pages that link
from both paid – and natural – search. This is important for several
reasons.  First, consumers are more likely to engage in the content if it is relevant to their search.
 
 

Moreover, content that pays off corresponding keywords searched translates into a better, more relevant consumer experience. This
is important with current algorithm-based search engines, as well as
with emerging community-powered and/or customized search engines such
as Eurekster Swicki, Rollyo and Yahoo Search Builder.
 

In
a world where consumers put considerable trust in the opinions of their
peers, community-powered search engines will likely become more popular
as search results are informed by the collective experience of the
community.

This is especially important in an emerging category such as green. With
green products emerging rapidly, relatively low consumer familiarity
and few standards, consumers will likely turn to peers to help make
informed purchase decisions; community-powered search engines will
likely play an important role in facilitating this process in the near
future.

This article was originally posted at Marketing Green: Green Marketing Strategies for a Sustainable Future  on August 7th, 2007 by  David Wigder, Vice President/Director of Digitas. 

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