Asia leverages search engine marketing

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on April 25, 2007

Just look at Madridejos. Really.

If you think the Internet isn’t a useful tool for marketing your products and services to your customers and clients in the Philippines, go to YouTube and type in “Philippines” and “senator.” You’ll be presented with three screens of video clips, most involving senatorial candidates running in next month’s election.

The number of views for each video varies from less than 100 – typically for recent posts – to several thousand. Not all of the videos were uploaded to YouTube by the senators’ staffs, but rather by a variety of interested parties, including what appear to be some political groupies (and thinly disguised staff). That may explain why the quality varies, which probably does the candidate more harm than any benefit having the video online provides.

On one hand, it’s surprising to see this number of videos on YouTube. On the other, it’s dismaying that there aren’t more views. But consider as well that many of these videos are available on other media and campaign sites. And in many provincial sorties a candidate is thankful if several hundred of the faithful are in attendance. If several thousand YouTube visitors have bothered to view a video online of a candidate, they’ve done more than show up for free entertainment and food. They’ve spent some personal time with the candidate, indicating interest.

Perhaps a better gauge of the effectiveness of electronic media for Philippines firms is a more general search for “Philippines.” At the top of the list comes Madridejos Wet Market, with close to 500,000 views over 11 months. If one percent of those who viewed the site decided to truly live the experience, Madridejos might have experienced a mini-tourism boom of several thousand unexpected visitors looking to see some of the world’s largest snails firsthand, featured in the video.

There’s a reason the Madridejos Wet Market video engages visitors (one is an on-going, mostly unprintable exchange between the cameraman and visitors but that’s not a bad thing for Madridejos). Unlike online interviews and campaign videos, the Madridejos video invites viewers to experience an unusual, exotic locale. Most of the experience is audio-visual, but as the video is viewed and listened to, it’s easy to imagine the smells of the market, the texture of the produce, and the movement of unseen vendors and shoppers.

If some enlightened tourism official had produced the Madridejos video, then he or she would have accomplished what marketers aspire to achieve in search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. That aspiration is first to engage the visitor, rather than to promote an outright offer. Next, it is to successfully encourage sharing the content with friends, family, and colleagues with similar interests. And, finally, it is to convince visitors to act in some way that generates business. In the case of Madridejos, that action would be to book a flight to the Philippines.

Indeed, the Google ad that pops up beside the Madridejos video is for cheap plane flights. And that’s no coincidence. Google’s algorithms and keyword auctions help determine which ads get placed beside what content on websites using Google’s AdWords service. Similar services are offered by Yahoo! and MSN, but Google has, at last count, 56% of the market and recently posted a 69 percent increase in profit, to $1 billion, in the first three months of the year. Yahoo! shrunk.

One way to achieve SEM campaign targets is to generate media interest for innovative content. Dodge achieved this objective in a campaign targeted at European consumers. The campaign was built around a website offering a series of videos chronicling the mysterious behavior of drivers who had recently purchased new Dodge automobiles. When media notices, exposure skyrockets.

Online video is just one online alternative for SEM, however. Most SEM campaigns are designed to push potential customers and clients to a website where an offer can be made. Digital Media recently reported on three successful SEM campaigns in Asia. In the first, the Singapore Tourism Board generated increased attention for its new website by buying 15,000 keywords for 14 adgroups targeting 10 major markets. It generated 120 million impressions on Google and a 30 percent increase in traffic to the site.

Marriott International similarly increased traffic to a Chinese-language website by buying keywords in both local and international search engines. In Taiwan, Nissan sought to counter the benefits of competitors’ earlier launch dates for new models by developing a series of articles comparing its new offering. The reviews were placed on websites that were search engine optimized. “As a result, searches for ‘small car’ or car brands would generate the comparison reviews high up the search list.”

Anyone marketing to potential customers or clients overseas – hotels, resorts, airlines, event producers, facilities managers, for example – should take a serious look at SEM. And if you are running for Congress, you might consider an innovative video where you act less like a talking head and more like a truly interesting person. You could tour the Madridejos market, for instance.

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