The Personal Worlds of Search and Email

AUTHORS: Alison Goldberg , Oscar Alejandro Perez
Jul 28, 2021
8 Min Read

Email marketing and search engine marketing (SEM). As marketers, you know them both as vital digital marketing channels, and at first glance, one could argue that they don’t have a lot in common. But as you dig deeper, you’ll find these two channels have a lot more in common than you’d think.

First and foremost, they both technically involve search engines. While SEM operates solely in the most popular and ingrained search engines people use, a person’s inbox also has a very personal search engine built-in. They also rely on algorithms to understand how users interact with content to decide how that reflects the organization’s overall reputation. Finally, no two inboxes and no two search result pages will look the same due to user behavior —but we can use that to our advantage.

It’s time to explore the personal worlds of SEM and email marketing while getting actionable tips on increasing relevance, quality score, and sender reputation, and understanding user behavior to make these channels work more effectively and efficiently.

User Intent and Relevancy

SEM and email marketing campaigns are reliant on the intent of the searcher and receiver. For email marketing, relationships and intent are established because people freely gave their email addresses to an organization or company. In SEM, user intent is set by the search query.

Both SEM and email marketing rely on an already established connection to be most successful. How you turn this preexisting intent and relationship into successful marketing campaigns is by creating relevancy.

What is SEM relevancy?

Searchers will typically know what they are looking for before they type in the search engine. It’s crucial to create relevant keyword-to-ad copy to capture all types of intent. For example, a user might be familiar with your organization (“XYZ Symphony”) and type it directly into the search engine. Another user might be looking for “chamber concerts near me.” With both types of searches, your ad copy must be relevant and meet searchers where they are.

Pro Tip: Create efficient metadata
Good SEM traffic thrives off of relevant website content. An easy and efficient way to do this is by crafting landing page copy that can be seamlessly translated into search ad copy. Having these changes in place will help search engines create more traffic relevance.

What is email relevancy?

Users on your email list are already inherently bottom-of-funnel, which means they are already part of your universe. They’ve raised their hands to hear from your organization by allowing you to contact them. Once you have their email address, you can email them basically whenever you want (but we know you’ll employ segmentation to email strategically!) The flip side is that users can choose to open your emails (or not) whenever they want.

Pro Tip: Be memorable in people’s inboxes
Be present in people’s inboxes when they’re looking for your email at crucial moments. When is that? Well, when it comes to email in 2021, there’s less of a consensus on the “best” day or time to send an email. As a result, people are more likely to open emails from your organization when they are more interested in them.

In email analysis for Capacity Interactive clients, we’ve seen revenue attributed to emails sent in the months before the transaction took place. This situation illustrates that the user thought of the organization (maybe due to a Facebook ad), remembered they had gotten an email and headed to search their inbox.

quality score and sender reputation

SEM and email marketing rely on your organization’s reputable digital standing across your website and email program. Quality score for SEM and sender reputation for email marketing are like a credit score—ways to measure your organization’s standing and can have a direct impact on your marketing efforts.

How does quality score work?

Search engines rely on the searcher’s trust in the platform’s ability to show them what they want to see. This relevance is graded through the quality score of your keywords, keyword-to-ad copy relevance, and click-through rate which impacts account health.

This process begins with a search engine, like Google, crawling your organization’s websites and drawing direct links between the text on the website and the ad copy & keywords on your campaigns’ headlines and descriptions. This is one part of the formula; the other is how searchers react to your ads and the goals you have outlined in the account. Overall, this ranking not only affects how often your ad will be served but also how high in the search page it will be placed in.

Pro Tip: Improve keywords and ad copy
Improving keywords and ad copy is the quickest way to create an overall efficient SEM account. You can improve the efficacy of your keywords by using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, and Google Trends. When you’re crafting search ad copy, we advise that you keep it as true to your landing page as possible. Essentially, if it’s not on the website it shouldn’t be on the ad copy.

How does sender reputation work?

Sender reputation is the email equivalent of a quality score. This is how inbox hosts (think Gmail, Apple Mail) judge the emails you send and decide where to deliver them—either to the users’ inbox or spam filter. This is an algorithm driven directly by how your users as a whole interact with your emails—more opens and clicks improve your sender reputation while non-opens and spam complaints can hurt it.

Pro Tip: Configure your IP Address
Be sure your email service provider (ESP) correctly configures your IP address. You should also pay attention when your ESP tells you your email looks spammy and make the necessary changes to avoid spam complaints. In addition, the more quality emails you send with more engagement will help improve your reputation. In that vein, cleaning your list from emails that hard bounce and try to engage inactive users will help boost your engagement rates—a sign of a healthy reputation.

user behavior impacts performance

Both SEM and email marketing algorithms change and learn based on your audience’s behavior. How a user interacts with your search ads or email will be different based on where they are in the funnel and what is being advertised/sent to them.

User behavior is valuable in gaining a deeper understanding of your audience—how often do they click an ad? How often do they click, star or trash an email? User behavior data should be used to make calculated and valuable changes, ideally forming a circular model of user behavior insights impacting marketing strategies.

How do you evaluate SEM user behavior?

SEM is benchmarked by how well it can appear to searchers and convert users into clicking an ad resulting in a key page view and ideally purchases. The behavior of searchers doesn’t just start with a click; it begins with the query. The search query holds valuable data related to what users are thinking of and the words they associate with your organization.

In practice, this might look like sending an email about a new season and seeing an increase in search terms containing that named show. Instead, SEM helps you see a new, fuller picture of your digital marketing efforts as a whole.

Pro Tip: Put user behavior into action
Your SEM campaigns will collect data on search terms that trigger a keyword and its corresponding ad. It’s important to use that data to inform how you optimize your marketing. For example, if you see a common search term keep popping up and triggering your ads, it’s worth turning that search term into a keyword. The wonderful thing about our digital marketing world is the ability to directly change moving parts depending on how our audience reacts and evolves!

How do you evaluate sender reputation?

While sender reputation lets you into the inbox, user behavior determines where exactly you end up, especially in inbox providers like Gmail. Yet another algorithm decides if your organization’s emails end up in the Primary inbox or the promotions folder— and this will be different for every user.

For example, for a highly engaged user on your list, your emails are more likely to end up in their Primary inbox since GMail can see they tend to open and click on your emails often. On the other hand, your email may end up in their Promotions folder for a less engaged user, which they may check less frequently and thus engage with your emails less.

Pro Tip: Be thoughtful with keywords in emails
Keywords in emails impact where your email ends up. For example, sales-focused marketing emails can end up in the Promotions folder while ticket confirmation emails are more likely to end up in the Primary folder since the keywords used to sound important to the algorithm. Consider taking what we learn users are searching for to write emails that answer the questions users are actively curious about or the content they are searching out.

SEM and email marketing are all about understanding users, anticipating their needs, and being there when they need you. By implementing these pro tips, you’ll be well on your way to being in the right place at the right time.