As disruptive technologies reshape the digital marketing landscape, advertisers are scrambling to stay relevant and top of mind with consumers.

In this shifting landscape, paid search continues to evolve outside of the traditional search format as an omnipresent influencer throughout the entire consumer decision journey.

For years, search marketers have obsessed over bottom-of-the-funnel activity for its seemingly higher CTRs and conversion rates, in part fueled by last-click attribution. I’ve certainly been guilty of obsessing about conversions and bottom-of-the-funnel tactics, because they would win me incremental search budget in the future.

But most marketers today agree that it is essential for a brand to appear at all stages of the funnel — and thanks to some new findings from the Bing Ads research team, we now have even more visibility and hard data to show how paid search is driving brand affinity and recall across the decision
journey.

Deconstructing modern decision journeys & query paths

In many ways, today’s search marketers must unlearn some old practices and adopt a new mindset, delving deeper into individual customer journeys and query paths. Paid search is no longer a product with broad KPIs, such as conversions and clicks. Clicks are no longer clicks; they represent individual consumers on specific journeys.Search today gives us intelligence through each stage of the decision journey, not just bottom-of-funnel conversions.

To begin, let’s dissect the modern decision journey and query path.There are five distinct stages within a consumer’s decision journey: initiation, research, comparison, transaction and experience. For different types of journeys, each stage has a different level of importance that depends on cost of failure, frequency of purchase, cost and complexity of the task and the type of shopper.Each journey is highly personalized and will vary in length and importance. Whether a consumer is hopping online to replace a broken baby bouncy chair or researching a new hot water heater after taking yet another freezing cold shower, marketers must reach the right person at the right moment with the right message.

According to a recent research study by Forrester, 71 percent of consumers begin their journeys by using a search engine to discover new products and services (initiation), and 74 percent reported using a search engine for consideration and purchasing (research, comparison, transaction).

These searches span many different types of queries

Brand searches include a specific brand or product name. For example, Fischer-Price is the brand, and product searches could include Little People or Power Wheels.Competitor brand searches include your competitors’ brands or products. This is an opportunity for your brand to appear through conquest advertising. For Fischer-Price, these terms could include Exersaucer, Baby Einstein or Safety First.

Category searches include broad search terms that are not product- or brand-specific, such as “baby activity center,” “bouncer chair” or “jumpers.”

Tangential searches include searches that are related to a given journey, but not in exactly the same category. For instance, if I’m searching for baby activity chairs, a tangential search could be for “baby gates” or “childproofing products.”

Research findings: Non-brand searches are key to starting a journey

Read all: The value of search across the modern consumer decision journey

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