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Looking beyond the last click

Imagine Spain playing a football match. While the glory of the goal belongs to a Torres or a Silva, would the goal even be possible without an Iniesta or a Xavi? Football may not be an obvious analogy for Search Engine Marketing (SEM), but it is an apt one — the ‘last click’ is the striker that gets a customer to a site, but without assists from earlier clicks and assisted keywords, the ‘goals’ are impossible.

SEM has long been an essential tool to drive leads, acquisitions and calls for online businesses. Building the right keyword pool and optimising for the best performing keywords has always been the domain of any search manager, but the definition of ‘best performing’ can sometimes be too direct. Does the last click end up getting more credit than it is due at the expense of earlier clicks during the research process?

We think so, and the data confirms it: 43% of global paid search conversions included more than one paid click (source: Google AdWords). We see a similar pattern in the purchase cycle of flights and hotels for our customers.

The data clearly shows that a user enters ‘research mode’ well before an actual conversion event takes place. During this research phase, a user makes little distinction between organic and sponsored links; to her all the links on the page are Google’s ‘search results’. Thus, for a marketer, it’s as important to be visible when the research happens as it is to be visible at the time of purchase. This is further borne out by the role of assisted keywords:

All this is before conversion. What about after? Every medium has a beta effect on a parallel medium, and the case here is no different. Just as offline TV campaigns can impact direct traffic in a big way, SEM campaigns add to non-paid traffic in their own way.

The lesson of the day: analyse and optimise based on both, the impressions (first click) and the conversions (last click). You will then have a ‘World XI’ team that rakes in the goals every time they go out to play.