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Search History Marketing – Who’s Watching Who, Doing What?

When Internet users were allowed to opt-out of data collection based on their browser activities last year it’s safe to say those in the business of digital promotion weren’t best pleased. That information- once easily accessible- was priceless. Fear not, though, rather than proving catastrophic few members of the public clicked ‘Do Not Track’ on their browser search history and future searches.

Search History Marketing

Skip forward to December 2013 then and terms like targeted online advertising remain important and the options available within this are plentiful. But who’s watching who, and what are they looking for? In many ways the answer is ‘everyone’ and ‘anything’, so long as it relates to the business employing these concepts for marketing purposes. The problem being such sweeping statements don’t really help those looking to grasp the fundamental principles of this practice as it stands today.

Search History Marketing – The Rise of Content Marketing and Native Advertising

Arguably the most interesting development over the last 12 months has been the rise (and rise) of content marketing and native advertising, which whilst not being the same thing, and not necessarily synonymous with web browser and search history based promotion, are most useful when coupled with the latter two concepts. So, as things are right now, we can target great content- whether that’s created in house or externally but with direct reference to our brand- at specific users based on their online behaviour, with that information gleaned from the websites and web pages they have visited in the past, including user history search.

In Moscow, for example, Russian Internet and search engine firm Yandex has just launched a new technology called Atom. Offering an API to marketers, allowing them to access data taken from user search history on the engine, any business can now deliver any kind of content imaginable to specific users based on their prior browsing history. It’s a new move for this online gatekeeper firm, but realistically represents the latest of many. Google offers similar services to paying customers, projecting corporate messages via display and banner ads, promoted links and keyword rich stories, specifically aiming these at users that will find the information interesting

All of which is stating the obvious, but these ideas are being taken to further and further extremes by brands far and wide. Anyone visiting one of GE’s blogs, for example, will leave a digital mark telling marketers which content has pulled them in, and the brand can, technically, use this information to create a more personalised experience next time they pay a visit, suggesting related articles and posts that are more likely to keep them on the site. It’s a logical way to maximise the initial investment in content.

Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton, the designer clothing giant and owner of arts and culture domain Nowness, asks readers of the latter to ‘Love’ content, and connect their social media profiles when logged in. Both afford the firm a huge insight into which content to send the reader’s way in the future, and the most obvious next step in each case is to extend beyond the core domain. Creating a customised experience for those visiting a website by tailoring what’s on the screen to their previous online behaviour is a fantastic idea, and linking this to targeted display ads outside that website is useful.

But this can (and should) also feed into options such as promoted links, whereby a marketer can promote particular articles- either from the firm’s own blog or coverage elsewhere in the media- deciding who to suggest that to based on that all important web history. The point being that our online efforts to market and sell products must feed off each other, and serve to create a user-friendly, taste-driven, 360-degree digital offering in order for any individual aspect therein to be exploited to its full potential.

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