The Multiplier Effect: Best Practices for Cross-Channel Marketing

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Though search and social both cater to a massive, highly engaged user base, they tend to serve very different purposes along the consumer’s path to conversion. Search has the powerful ability to “pull” consumers through queries of intent. And social offers its own unique ability to “push” a message to highly targeted audiences. Marin Software conducted a study of more than 200 enterprise advertisers managing Google, Bing and Facebook campaigns. With more than $7 billion in annualized ad spend managed on the Marin platform, we work with many of the world’s largest and most sophisticated advertisers. In this report, we compared results from advertisers who manage their programs separately to those that have integrated search and social programs. The research showed that marketers who integrate their search and social advertising programs find significantly more consumers who are not only more likely to convert, but who are also likely to spend more. In addition to the detailed research results, the informative report outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns today.

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The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising: A Best Practices Guide for Cross-Channel Marketing


Over the past several years, search and social advertising have become essential ingredients of any successful marketing program. Both channels, though fundamentally different, have proven to be highly effective and efficient for customer demand generation and fulfillment. Search, with its ability to “pull” users into a brand’s message and social, with its ability to “push” a message to a highly targeted audience are capturing a greater portion of global advertising dollars every year.

According to Magna Global, more than 50% of total digital media spend was allocated to search and social channels in 2013.1 In 2014, that number is expected to rise substantially; more than 43% of marketers plan to increase spend on search and 46% on social, respectively. Leading the way in these two channels are Google and Facebook which, according to eMarketer, are considered the two most important advertising platforms for driving return on investment.2

Why is the digital marketing community so bullish on search and social channels? Despite their differences, both channels present advertisers with a massive, highly engaged pool of targetable audiences, a key requirement for any successful marketing channel. More than 92% of the global internet population uses search engines, and 59% use them regularly.3 Social network usage has recently experienced significant growth in popularity, bringing it to a level comparable to search.

According to Pew Research, more than 73% of global internet users use social platforms, with 63% using them daily.4 Moreover, with average click-through rates above 0.63%,5 users are highly engaged with ads on search and social platforms, especially when compared to display advertising performance. After all, people use search engines for discovery and social networks for engagement and interaction.

Though search and social both cater to massive, highly engaged audiences, they tend to serve very different purposes along the consumer’s path to conversion. According to Google, social “assists” other digital channels in the path to conversion far more than it directly contributes to conversions.6 In fact, according to the same Google study, for every click on a social ad that directly contributes to a conversion, there are two other clicks that contribute to conversions in other channels. Simply put, this means that marketers who manage their social advertising campaigns in isolation are ignoring roughly two-thirds of the channel’s influence in the path to conversion and are most likely undervaluing their performance.

The aforementioned 2:1 assist to conversion ratio of the social advertising channel seems logical when we consider the path to conversion of a typical buyer. Today’s path to conversion is highly fragmented, spans multiple steps and can last several days. In fact, according to Google, 65% of revenue comes from purchases made in more than one step and 47% of revenue comes from purchases made in more than one day. Though the buyer’s purchase journey may involve several touch points from a brand across several channels, search and social are the most important in researching and inspiring purchase decisions.

As search and social channels become increasingly valuable and fragmented, successful marketers will need to integrate their search and social strategies around the customer buying journey, thinking beyond the channel and focusing instead on the customer.


In some organizations, search and social programs are managed separately with distinct budgets, strategies, goals and personnel. Segregating management responsibilities and workflows for each channels isn’t in itself a bad strategy. However, a siloed approach to campaign management can become a problem when the focus deviates from the company’s overall business objectives in favor of the specific objectives of each channel.

Successful marketing executives recognize that meeting overall business objectives requires focusing on the customer, not the channel. For example, a channel-focused approach is mainly concerned with the right keywords, the right targeting settings and the best bids. While a single-channel management focus can have some tactical advantages, it often ignores the strategic goals of the overall marketing effort: acquiring the right customer with the right buying intentions at the right time. Marketing is fundamentally about target audience, while the channel is the means of delivering a message to that audience. Successful marketers are beginning to shift focus away from the individual channel and instead use the strengths of each channel to reach their intended audience.

Search marketing has proven effective in its ability to capture the attention of prospective customers based on the buying intentions they express in their search queries. For example, an online retailer looking to sell black running shoes can use Google advertising to “pull” in audiences with intentions to buy these products by paying for “buy black shoes” keywords. However, while the retailer can advertise to a prospective customer who is in a buying state of mind at that precise moment, the value of the customer viewing the ad is completely unknown. Are you advertising to a first-time buyer or a loyal customer? Will the visitor purchase a single low-margin item or several high-margin items? Search marketing, when managed separately from other marketing channels, tends to leave these marketing questions unanswered. Under most circumstances, the channel is unable to target potential customers by their audience characteristics.

Conversely, social advertising has proven effective as both a demand generation and fulfillment channel because it allows targeting of specific audience segments based on vast data on demographic or behavioral attributes. For example, using Facebook advertising, the same retailer might target women between the ages of 35 and 55 who have purchased multiple times from the company and have lifetime values of $500. However, while the advertiser knows quite a bit about the quality of the audience targeted, nothing is known about the prospect’s buying intentions at the time the ad is served. Are the prospects ready to buy or still researching? Have they lost interest in black shoes in favor of green shoes? Marketers who manage social advertising programs in isolation are typically blind to the intentions of target audiences, sometimes leading to poor optimization decisions.

Both search and social have their inherent advantages and disadvantages for targeting high-value customers along the buying cycle. To maximize the effectiveness of each channel and improve overall campaign ROI, marketers are beginning to adopt technology that can target a customer across both channels using both audience profiling and audience buying attention data. Only by using a single platform that can target across channels can a marketer work toward a common business objective, and break down the often problematic silos focused on individual channels.


In order to better understand the value of integrating search and social marketing programs, Marin Software conducted a study of more than 200 enterprise advertisers managing Google, Bing and Facebook campaigns on the Marin platform. Our methodology involved two components. First, we divided converting visitors for the sampled advertisers into two categories: those who clicked on both a search and social ad before converting, and those who clicked on only a search or only a social ad before converting. Second, we divided the sampled advertisers into two categories: those who manage search and social in an integrated manner and those who manage search separately from social. Across each set of data, we examined conversion rate, revenue per click and revenue per conversion.

Through our research, we set out to answer two key questions. One, is a customer who touches an advertisement in both channels more valuable than one who touches an ad in a single channel only? And two, does managing search and social together using an integrated strategy produce superior results? The study yielded these key takeaways:

1. Customers Who Click on Your Search and Social Ads are More Likely to Buy: Users who clicked on both an advertiser’s search and social ads had an approximately two times greater conversion rate than users who clicked on the search ad only. The impact of a cross-channel touch was even greater when examining social clicks. Users who clicked on both the search and social ads had a click-through rate approximately four and a half times higher than users who only clicked on social ads.

2. Customers Who Click on Your Search and Social Ads Spend More: The study also shows that users who clicked on both a search and social ad contributed approximately two times more revenue per click than users who clicked on search ads only. Multi-channel touch points are even more valuable for social advertising. Users who clicked on both a search and social ad contributed four times more revenue per click than users who clicked on a social ad only.

3. Search Campaigns Perform Better When They Are Managed Alongside Social Campaigns: According to the study, search campaigns that are managed alongside social advertising campaigns have 26% higher revenue per click than search campaigns managed in isolation. An integrated search and social management strategy also benefits an advertiser’s revenue per conversion. Advertisers have 68% higher revenue per conversion from their search campaigns when they are managed together with social advertising campaigns.

The data collected in our study suggests not only that customers are more valuable when they engage with both search and social ads, but also that integrated search and social campaigns perform better than campaigns run in isolation.

The results are more easily understood when we consider our own experiences as both customers and marketers. As customers, we are generally more likely to buy a brand when we believe its message, trust the company and see value in the product. When these purchase criteria are positively reinforced through multiple channels, we are typically more comfortable buying from the brand. From a marketing perspective, we know that the customer’s buying journey touches several different channels along the path to conversion. When we are able to manage, measure and optimize our two most important channels side by side, we are better equipped to make sound budgeting, bidding and targeting decisions that affect performance.


Successful marketers are increasingly moving toward an integrated cross-channel strategy in order to improve overall performance, increase operational efficiencies and acquire the highest-value customers. In fact, according to eMarketer, roughly one-third of marketing executives felt that cross-channel coordination was their top priority for 2013.9 Unfortunately, many marketers struggle with integrating their search and social marketing programs without the use of a single unified platform that can manage, measure and optimize cross-channel audience data. Here are four tips for getting started with an integrated search and social strategy.

1. Assess Your Organization’s Cross-Channel Capabilities – According to eMarketer, only 44% and 35% of marketers respectively feel that their paid search and social marketing channels are tightly integrated with their overall marketing activities.10 These figures suggest that the digital marketing industry still has much room for improvement in integrating search and social programs.

The first step toward integration is to conduct an honest assessment of your organization’s current cross-channel capabilities. Are your search and social programs set up and managed in a way that closely aligns with your company’s business goals? Or are the two channels managed in silos, limiting your program’s potential? By asking the following questions, you can begin to identify opportunities to improve the level of integration:

  • a. Are your search and social teams working toward the same business objectives? For example, is your social marketing team focusing on fan acquisition while your search team is focusing on lead generation?
  • b. Is your message and value proposition consistent across channels? For example, is your social marketing team advertising a “low price” while your search marketing is advertising “high quality?” Conflicting messages may confuse the customer and dilute your brand.
  • c. Are you properly attributing revenue from each channel? Are you tracking conversions for search and social from the same revenue source? As social is primarily an assisting channel in the path to conversion, using two different tracking sources will cause duplicate conversions and hinder your data integrity.
  • d. Are you budgeting across channels based on campaign ROI? For example, are you overinvesting in search campaigns without looking at social campaigns that may have a higher overall ROI?
  • e. Are your promotions aligned across channels? Are you launching and ending promotions simultaneously across search and social, or letting them run independently? Running channel-specific promotions may cause confusion and frustration with the customer.
  • f. Is your business intelligence strategy integrated? Are you looking at your performance reports and making tactical decisions across channels, or limiting your business intelligence by managing each channel in a silo?

2. Target High-Value Audiences Across Search and Social – Successful multi-channel marketers strive to reach the right customer with the right buying intentions at the right time. This audience-centric approach to marketing focuses on targeting each customer across channels using a combination of intent (search query) and audience (customer profile) data. Marketers can implement an audience-focused strategy by adopting a leading multi-channel digital marketing platform like Marin Software that enables audience retargeting across search and social publishers.

  • a. Search to social retargeting: Marketers should create Facebook Custom Audiences based on search query data from your digital marketing platform. Then target the same audiences on Facebook with tailored messages based on their search queries. Using this strategy, a marketer can reach previous website visitors on Facebook who have intentions to “buy running shoes” as expressed in their search queries.
  • b. Social to search retargeting: Marketers should create Google Remarketing Lists based on visitors from social marketing ads. Then use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) to retarget your social audiences when they search for your keywords on Google. Using this strategy, it is possible to automatically bid higher on Google for searchers who fit audience profiles and have previously engaged with Facebook ads.

3. Measure Performance Across Channels – Effective cross-channel optimization requires cross-channel business intelligence. Marketers looking to maximize overall campaign ROI require a single source for measurement, insights and analytics that aggregate search and social marketing campaigns in one interface. Marketers who analyze search and social campaign ROI holistically are able to make better decisions faster than they would by managing each channel in a silo. Follow these tips for successful search and social performance measurement:

  • a. Ensure your search and social campaigns are tracking revenue from the same data source – Marketers who manage their search and social programs independently often make optimization mistakes based on over or undercounting conversions. This is typically a result of tracking revenue or conversions from two separate pixels. Audience-focused marketers should use the same revenue tracking pixel across both channels.
  • b. Integrate search and social budgeting workflow – Use a digital marketing platform that provides search and social performance data side by side. Make campaign budgeting decisions in a channel-agnostic manner based on each campaign’s ROI. Then, optimize budgets for search and social campaigns regularly based on changes in performance.
  • c. Measure the path to conversion across channels – According to Marin’s study, 48% of search conversions are assisted by a click on a Facebook ad. This means that looking at search performance in a silo might ignore important touch points along the buyer’s path to conversion. Marketers should study the cross-channel paths to conversions that generate the most overall ROI. Do conversions typically start with one channel and end in another channel? Marketers should use path to conversion data to inform their messaging and creative strategy.

4. Optimize Across Channels Toward Audience Lifetime Value – Marketers who manage their search and social programs in isolation may become focused on the wrong objectives. Social campaign managers may begin to see performance through a tunnel vision of metrics such as app installs or engagement. Meanwhile, search managers may become narrowly focused on quality scores, leads and cost per acquisition. These channel-specific metrics are directional at best and do not effectively indicate to marketers whether their investments are driving high-value customers that have the potential to buy again in the future.

Marketers should instead optimize toward the lifetime value of their target across both search and social channels, using cross-channel ROI as a guideline for success. Follow these tips for implementing an integrated search and social optimization strategy that focuses on customer lifetime value, the most accurate measurement metric of success.

  • a. Automate your cross-channel bidding – Use a leading digital marketing platform like Marin Software that allows you to automate bidding toward target audiences across search and social based on their lifetime value (LTV).
  • b. Forecast lifetime value at different target ROI intervals – While some social advertising tools offer predictive lifetime value, only Marin Software offers this capability across both search and social. Use forecasting to predict lifetime value of your target audiences across channels. Analyze the tradeoffs between volume (e.g., LTV) and efficiency (e.g., ROI). Does decreasing your ROI target for a given audience result in a higher lifetime value? Based on the answer, use the forecasting capability to predict the level of investment required across search and social to meet your ROI target.
  • c. Use click-weighted attribution to assign revenue across clicks – If we know that two out of every three of social advertising clicks are assisting conversions in other channels, managing social advertising in a silo will result in undervaluing performance. Successful marketers are using cross-channel revenue attribution to allocate revenue across both search and social clicks in order to accurately value each channel’s impact in the path to conversion.
  • d. Create look-alike audiences based on the LTV of converting audiences – Once highvalue audiences are identified, marketers should create look-alike audiences and target across channels. For example, marketers can use Facebook’s look-alike modeling capability to identify similar audiences based on their Custom Audiences. Marketers can also partner with a data management platform (DMP) to build lookalike audiences based on first- and third-party data sources and target the audiences across search and social channels. Look-alike audience modeling can help expand your campaign reach while staying within your ROI targets.


Search and social have become the two most utilized channels in the digital marketing industry, and for good reason. The two channels offer massive, highly engaged global audiences that can be used to drive demand generation and demand fulfillment for marketers across verticals. However, when the buyer’s path to conversion is considered, it becomes evident that the two channels behave fundamentally differently.

Search is more likely to drive sales directly while social is more likely to assist conversions from other channels. Successful marketers are beginning to adopt integrated search and social management and optimization strategies that focus on targeting high-value customers as they navigate a buying journey that is highly fragmented and involves multiple touch points.

These marketers recognize that the highest-value customers are those who touch both their search and social messages. In order to effectively acquire these types of customers, the two channels must be managed in an integrated manner. Successful marketers also recognize that there are performance synergies between the two channels and that holistic management drives incremental lift in overall campaign performance.

Increasingly, successful marketers will integrate search and social strategies in order to better manage, measure and optimize toward customer lifetime value, increase efficiencies and improve overall ROI.

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