Seems WPP and Google are teaming up to finally research in-depth how effective online ads are. More specifically, “how online media influences consumer behaviour, attitudes and decision making.” They will be looking at both buying actions as well as psychological impact of all different types of online ads. Some heavy hitters are involved here, including researchers from Harvard and M.I.T.
While online ads are great for tracking immediate responses, number of eyeballs and the like, we still have a lot to learn about how they influence behavior, whether they impact brand perception and how they integrate with offline media. I have always included SEO (and often paid search) in my mix for traffic driving when I worked in corporate, but it was easier to see how it impacted traffic in the aggregate, rather than one to one buying (with complex enterprise software, that is to be expected – no one is going to see a search ad and plop down $500K for software without more touchpoints).
Optimizing your website for “organic search” (when someone types in the search term and you appear in the listsings they get back) is pretty easy if you have good web designers like Karo or Foxparlor. But search rankings rely on 3 things: 1) meta tags within the code of your site 2) your content and how it is written (how often do terms appear in your copy?) and 3) how frequently your site content gets updated to remain relevant (blogs help with this). This is why maintenance and periodic tracking of your search rankings is so important – you can’t just deal with it once and expect your ranking to remain up there forever. Constant viigilance is needed.
Not sure if search advertising is going to be part of this research study, but my guess is yes since Google is sponsoring it.