Intent Generation vs. Intent Harvesting for SEM

Recently I attended the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. To my surprise the conference was actually interesting! We typically attend Ad:tech, SES, etc. to scout what’s going on within the web marketing industry. Many shows are pointless, with vendors boasting about their new product or service. The breakout session I attended shed some light on how the SEM industry is changing. The session was called “No need to Google: How to intercept customers before they search,” the speaker was Alex Rampell of TrialPay fame. It used to be good enough to get your clients’ ads placed where there were searches for their product or service. The traditional practice of placing ads to appear in search results is intent harvesting.

Intent builds brand interest

The breakdown of intent harvesting is as follows:

1. Agency or business owner creates advertisement online.

2. Potential client X searches online for product or service they are interested in.

3. Potential client sees advertisement and clicks on it. The lead goes to the advertising party (either Agency or Business Owner).

Intent harvesting is how the world of SEM has worked for a long, long time… But no more! Now the hot industry trend is intent generation. This means that advertisers are looking to generate the interest in a service or product when there was none before. You may be asking yourself… How do I generate interest? How do I get someone to search for something they don’t know they want yet. It’s easy! Interest can be generated with the right partnerships. At the lecture I attended the speaker referred to Gogo Inflight as an example. While you are surfing the web mid-flight the Gogo site is showing you ads for limo companies. Wow, limos seem expensive! But wait, I haven’t booked my car trip back yet and here is a nifty coupon for $20 off?!?!

While I may have been planning to save money by taking the train upon my arrival to NYC, using a car service with a nice savings has enticed me. This is the practice of intent generation, creating interest in a way where there was none before. The largest sector of growth for intent generation is with gaming. By gaming I mean Cafe World or Cityville on Facebook or other social media sites. Facebook collects every bit of data its’ given to use for advertisers. If you are playing Cafe World then FB knows if you are a female in a certain age group you would enjoy an offer to shop at the Gap or Banana Republic. As a user that concept makes me slightly uncomfortable, but as a marketer it makes me happy. By ‘gamifying’ your shopping experience advertisers and affiliates have found a way to entice you to shop. Perhaps this is a good thing and you wanted new jeans anyway?

Call me old fashioned, but I like to think my wants and needs are my own idea. The trend of interest being generated in a product when using unrelated sites still feels a bit spooky. Perhaps intent generation can lead to better things for consumers!