3 Essential Elements of a Full-Funnel Search Strategy

Want a winning formula to hit your business goals? While there’s no one size that fits all, our Lisa Little, one of Search Engine Land’s 2020 search marketers of the year,  says it comes down to having these three elements in your search strategy – a healthy mix of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and ecommerce.

The search engine results page (SERP) is filled with aspects and listings that fall into SEO, SEM and ecommerce, and you need to have a solid combination of all three to take up more real estate on the SERP, not only for maximum visibility but to push out your competition. Since typical searchers don’t know if they’re interacting with organic, paid or ecommerce listings, including all three elements in your search strategy means you can be there for your customer when, where and how they personally prefer to interact with your brand. No matter your customers’ path to conversion, having a consolidated search strategy will cover your full-funnel bases and ensure you’re reaching each of your customers in a personalized, effective and efficient way.

Three Different Games, Same Playground

Lisa compares SEO, SEM and ecommerce to playing three games during a playground tournament: You’re playing dodgeball (SEO), kickball (SEM) and tetherball (ecommerce) on the same playground (SERP) with the same type of ball (platforms) but with different rules, gameplay, player positions, strategies, variables and objectives to win. Rather than invest everything into one game, to succeed at a full-funnel search strategy, you have to play a combination of these three games and find the right mix of SEO, SEM and ecommerce for your brand. When you do and when you can communicate well; enjoy continual learning, testing and rapid change; and excel at data storytelling, you’ll be well-versed to reach your brand goals. That’s when you’ll rule the playground.

SEO, SEM and Ecommerce – What They Are and How They Relate

Let’s dig into what SEM, SEO and ecommerce are and how they relate to one another. They each bring different benefits to advertisers, so including all three channels in your full-funnel search strategy is vital. Never ignore them, pit them against one other or compare them on a one-to-one basis. Each one is supplemental and pivotal to your success:


SEO is your brand’s DNA, your fundamental online infrastructure. It’s your organic search online strategy, your mindful, smart messaging that lays the groundwork for your brand. Lisa says without SEO, your paid advertising, like a beautiful mansion, will crumble under a weak foundation.

SEO provides listings based on relevant search terms to the SERP, which can be in the form of knowledge graphs, SEO and map listings, social media ratings and reviews to app search optimization, location list management, content mapping, free shopping listings and web development. It’s an ongoing process, trying to rank your website in organic search listings, updating location listings for brick-and-mortar businesses and more.


SEM is paid advertising triggered by keyword searches. Each time a keyword is searched, you and other advertisers compete in the same real-time blind auction (a combination of bid, quality and relevancy) to determine positions on the SERP. The one who wins gets to display their messaging and targeting at the top of the SERP. One good reason to engage in SEM is because your competitors are. But doing so can be beneficial in other ways: It can tell you who your customers are and how they behave. Plus, you can control your promotional messaging and measure its effectiveness  with tangible dollars. SEM is an excellent way to build immediate awareness, traffic and results if you have a budget to spend on paid digital media.


Ecommerce is the broad term for online retail, which encompasses paid and unpaid aspects that work together, and can range from shopping ads on search engines, open marketplaces such as Amazon or Walmart or integrations such as Shopify. For ecommerce success, automation and machine learning are key, so leverage a management platform like Kenshoo to consolidate holistic ecommerce stories and gain more ecommerce program capabilities.

How To Elevate Your Holistic Search Strategy

To evolve and use SEO, SEM and ecommerce and elevate your holistic search strategy, determine your primary business objective and the pain points you’re trying to solve. Our ecommerce playbook and any of our other free digital advertising resources – guides, case studies, white papers and more – can offer you the expert insights and tips to know where to start. Or seek out the right partner with the strength, expertise, tools and capabilities who can be with you right from the beginning and every step along the way to help you grow and evolve across all search channels.

To see if we may be a good fit and to get a recommendation custom built for your brand, reach out now. We can help you harness the right combination of SEO, SEM and ecommerce capabilities and opportunities to rise above your competitors and claim the notice you deserve.

Ramp Up Your Multi-location Business Marketing

Working with dozens of multi-location brands and thousands of franchisees here at Goodway Group, we routinely encounter the same three questions regardless of brand.

“How can I deliver media that’s customized to the market but doesn’t take more time and resources than I get in performance improvement?”

“How can  I get our corporate marketers to better understand the uniqueness of my local  market to deliver better marketing plans?”

“How can I find scale in digital media that’s still hitting my target audience?”

To get corporate marketers, franchisees and regional managers on the same page and aligned, our president Jay Friedman suggests you do this: Pay attention to your individual markets, get a wider view of your customer, know who your customers are and aren’t and automate for results.

Pay attention to your individual markets.

Marketing automation platforms, account-based management platforms (ABMs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs) all perform well, but which is best?

Jay gets asked this all the time. His answer? The tool you use isn’t the differentiator. It’s the people and thinking behind the tool that matter.

With multi-location brands and businesses, this is even more vital. Running a homogenous national campaign for a multi-location brand, of course, takes the least effort, but this won’t generate optimal results. To get those, you really need someone who has the right knowledge and expertise preparing and managing your campaign, especially since each market – and often submarket – needs to be carefully analyzed, set up, and optimized differently.

Get a wider view of your customer.

Working with only average customer personas can limit your success. You can forget edge cases are often the bulk of what makes up a customer base. This can lead to overtargeting, which can eliminate valuable users from your targeting and limit campaign scale.

For instance, say a brand places a conversion tag on a multi-location restaurant’s website order confirmation page and app to discover if its ads are generating conversions on its website. Nationally or globally, the brand sees a blended view of its average customer in aggregate. When it matches back to its platform data, it sees its average consumer has two children, eight devices per household, at  least two streaming service subscriptions and so on. But is this accurate? “Likely not,” Jay says. “It’s the “myth of average.”

To avoid falling victim to it, Jay says it’s important to gauge the likelihood that certain characteristics are present among your customers and prospects and see how these characteristics differ from market to market and even submarket to submarket – because they can a lot.

For instance, Austin, Texas, and San Antonio, Texas, are less than an hour’s drive from each other yet are different demographically. San Antonio has a median household income of $49,024 versus Austin’s $71,543. Shopping habits and media consumption in these two markets likely differ too: Customers may drive different cars, subscribe to different streaming services and so on.

When you’re a multi-location brand, drilling down further and learning how to customize your digital advertising efforts by a geographic area, market or submarket can help you achieve a more effective campaign and better results.

Know who your customers are and aren’t.

Sure, you know who your customers are, but do you know who aren’t? This is just as important, especially if you don’t want to sink valuable time and money into nurturing seemingly good leads that are bad. Jay says it’s this degree of difference between customers and non-customers that has the greatest impact.

For example, Jay says a brand may discover that many of its Texas customers drive a Chevy Silverado. But a lot of people drive Chevy Silverados who aren’t customers, too. It’s simply a popular truck in Texas! You need to determine if this one specific characteristic is important. In a given market, if 7% of your customers drive a certain car but only 0.8% of the broader population does, this could be significant. Luckily, you don’t have to guess or go with your gut. With digital media, we can look at both behavioral data and technographic data (browser, site, time of day, and so on) to identify your most statistically significant variables.

Automate for results.

Understanding your audience, customizing media plans and personalizing advertising for 210 different designated market areas in the U.S. is challenging enough, let alone customizing by submarket, which can be grueling work, even if it makes sense. Doing this manually for 1,000 locations and their respective areas just isn’t realistic or viable. Labor costs will cancel out performance benefits. That’s why the smartest marketers and their agencies today are finding success automating this process.

Great marketing is becoming more technical and scientific every day, and creating and using algorithms to automate and guide your success can set you apart. Most agencies today are doing this or are working with a partner who can, and it’s fair to expect this from your agency or in-house team so your dollars are spent well. Jay’s advice? To achieve great results and become a leader alongside your national and global brand peers, embrace automation wholeheartedly and spend significantly more time measuring and replanning than anything else.

Multi-location brands can struggle with how to reach customers across different regions. But through thoughtful campaign setup and smart decisions with hyperlocal campaign optimizations, it’s possible to reach these customers through customized targeting at scale – that doesn’t drain your resources.

Need hyperlocal audience design, targeting and ad delivery for all your individual locations? Reach out to us today for a custom recommendation. See how our award-winning tech, expertise and optimizations in action can propel your multi-location campaign performance more cost-effectively and efficiently so you can do more with less and accomplish goals faster.