Yahoo! keeps more than half a billion consumers worldwide connected and delivers powerful audience solutions to advertisers through its unique combination of Science + Art + Scale: the science to understand and target an audience, the art to create engagement with premium content, and the scale to reach the right audience in meaningful numbers.

With a steadily growing Internet audience, APAC accounts, with its currently around 480 million, for almost half of the global online population of 1.1 billion. Thus, to no surprise, Yahoo! has been moving into all Southeast Asian countries with its search marketing portfolio. Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM) first started in Singapore and has now service selling activities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. “Building further sales channels are our next goal and is also the main focus in the next year”, says Margaret Chang, General Manager of YSM. Her division of Yahoo! has local service teams which are aware of the fact that all Asian countries are culturally and in terms of language very different. So, being localized is very important in order to convince clients.

Margaret believes that having access to a dedicated account team, that is guiding marketers through the design and implementation of a search campaign, is important for success. Search marketing is performance based and requires an astute marketer to know what needs to be done to refine a campaign based on a level of data analysis. An online self-service model may be effective for extremely savvy marketers with Internet usage literacy, however, it may not suit marketers who are new to search or digital marketing. “Small and medium businesses would stand to gain the most from working with Yahoo! as we are committed to helping these marketers cross into search marketing in a cost effective manner”, Margaret claims.

Her expertise in product development and user experience, therefore improving a client’s online performance is always on top of her mind as well as efficiency and ROI. “Search marketing is a very long business cycle”, she says, “our account managers’ sales need to grow with the client rather than just grab a bunch of money and then spend it and give them a report.” That there are different types of clients with different kinds of expectations and budgets is clear, but Margaret wants every client to just try out her offers with a minimal budget and learn how search marketing works before increasing the budget. “Just be focused on your own business targets and identify your core product/service keywords that you think people are looking for. Then provide, in a next step, a very honest description rather than a fancy selling pitch by imagining what users are thinking when they see the page results. It is an advantage if you have a time limited promotion or if you are specialized in a certain field within your industry when writing your short description”, she advises.

Search is efficient by nature

"One of the key benefits of search marketing is that a user has an intention to search for information or knowledge about a brand or product. While they are in a discovery or research mode, they are actively seeking for information. Thus, being in the right position helps influence a users’ decision-making process", Margaret explains. In this way, search marketing is quite different from brand or product marketing, as these marketing approaches rely on tools to find or convert customers.

What marketers, however, still tend to forget is the fact that search marketing needs to be tailored to different mass audiences and at the same time different users' needs. Marketers often make the mistake of leaving massive market opportunities to their business competitors by focusing on one particular group of searchers only. “For example, someone may be thinking about having a holiday in Australia and they may use ‘Australia’ as the first keyword search they perform. Not making an investment in buying ‘Australia’ as a keyword, if you are an Australian travel operator or state tourism authority, may leave you out of searches which may draw interest to your destination”, Margaret exemplifies. Marketers should simply avoid defining their target audience as a common group of people who take a similar approach towards information discovery. 

Margaret advises marketers, in addition, to build their budget and run a search marketing campaign to serve three different phases at the same time to fully capture opportunities in the search marketplace:

  • First phase: Research (20%)
  • Second phase: Brand, product comparison (40%)
  • Third phase: Price comparison (40%)

This approach ensures that marketers are driving traffic and converting clicks to increasing an audience’s time spent online at each phase. By allocating a search marketing budget this way, marketers are building a program to reflect the importance of capturing all users' mindshare and attention in the search marketplace.

The effectiveness of search can be attributed to how every dollar paid on a search is turned into a visit to the marketer's website rather than an ad impression, which makes search an invaluable marketing tool, especially when marketing budgets need to be more accountable.

Key trends and drivers in the search marketing arena in Asia

“By delivering on results efficiently and regardless of the state of the economy, we are witnessing the growth of search marketing globally”, Margaret says. “During an economic downturn, marketers are even more attuned to search marketing since the cost of marketing is pegged to the click through rate from a user. There is less wastage as budgets are tuned to support targeted searches over campaigns that are simply tooled towards building brand awareness for a mass market”, she states.
The Internet penetration rates in a country provide in general an indication on the effectiveness of search marketing. Having a larger Internet population online means a wider pool of users will be searching for products/services or information online. Therefore, Yahoo! sees performance based businesses such as travel, finance, online shopping or professional service companies moving their budgets towards search marketing as it directly drives customers to their businesses online and tends to be most cost effective compared to traditional marketing campaigns.

Yahoo! and Microsoft's agreement of 2009 will start transitioning international markets in 2011. Microsoft will power Yahoo! search, while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' premium search advertisers. This represents an exciting opportunity for both companies and will boost their activities in Southeast Asia. So it is just a matter of time to see how far their combined power will bring them. Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) made some nice progress in recent years, like the launch of their advanced match feature, the equivalent of Google's broad match option, around a year ago, but expect more to come in 2011.

By Daniela La Marca