The Role of SEM in Multicultural Marketing




Just when the advertising industry begins to accept the logic and rewards of plying traditional marketing to reach America�s 80 million multicultural consumers, along comes the Internet to upset all the established rules for reaching consumers, multicultural or not.


Complicating matters is the fact that multicultural audiences, especially African Americans, have embraced the Internet with a vengeance as a color-blind medium providing equal, unbiased access to information and shopping experiences often not easily encountered in the real world.


To serve multicultural audiences, targeted websites must ply both new and old marketing tactics to establish a foothold and secure their place in the web arena.


Multicultural Audiences Embrace the Web

An America Online Cyberstudy revealed that African American's use of the Internet outpaces the general market in many ways.  The study revealed that the nearly 80% of African Americans have access to the Internet, comparable to general market levels, much of it high-speed access.   Significantly, African Americans report web usage at levels far above the general market usage in terms of days per week (6 days vs 5 days) and hours of usage (5 hours vs 2.9 hours generally). 


Given this kind of audience behavior, the shrewd multicultural marketer must revisit targeted promotion plans and reevaluate them in terms of their ability to reach multicultural audiences where they are spending a great deal of quality time � online.


Lack of Content Still A Hurdle

One unfortunate, but not surprising, finding from the AOL Study was the lack of relevant content for multicultural audiences online.  This content gap might not be as extreme as the multicultural surfers surveyed believe.  In the wide wide world of the web, website obscurity is extremely easy to cultivate.  


Wonderful destination websites like The Root, The Urban Shopper , AOL Black Voices and others serve up a wealth of relevant lifestyle and news information online that multicultural web surfers would certainly gravitate toward, if more online were aware of its existence.


Without a doubt, multicultural web owners have done an excellent job of cultivating organic audiences.  To insure future growth and fiscal vitality however, providers of targeted web content must capture the attention of greater numbers of multicultural web users either through promotion or search, while providing content that keeps them in the audience franchise. 


Exposure in Traditional Media  

Targeted web owners need to step up branding and exposure in traditional media. But the cost of ongoing promotional campaigns can be prohibitive even for deep-pocket marketers.  Skillful search engine optimization and search engine marketing becomes critical then as a strategic necessity for web owners with limited budgets.


Targeted sites with ties to traditional media such as Black Enterprise (magazine) and Black Entertainment (TV) can share the cost of exposure with their advertiser clients. Creating exciting promotions that drive traffic to their websites in conjunction with, and as a part of value-added benefits provided to their medium�s advertisers, is a win-win. 


The Role of Search Engine Marketing

In both instances, �search� can be the barometer to determine the effectiveness of traffic-generating efforts.  Through the use of search marketing strategies, targeted websites can increase visibility among the growing throng of multicultural web surfers. 


Innovative tactics such as redefining keyword boundaries to insure appearance in top results even for general searches or development of linking strategies that produces an informal �webnet�, targeted web owners can grow audiences, increase visitation time, and overall value to web audiences and advertisers like.


New Day, Same Struggle

Reminiscent of the early struggles of targeted media, a paltry sum of major advertiser banners currently display on wonderful targeted websites.  Multicultural site owners must work harder to sell valuable web real estate to the advertising community.   As media vehicles, multicultural websites must employ business-building best practices to insure they rank and rate in big money advertising plans.


The web revolution has only begun to exert its impact on the business and practice of advertising.  To insure a place at the web banquet to come, multicultural web owners must employ the tools of search engine marketing, while they reapply the business acumen that has worked to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles of the past.


Written By: Marla D. Currie, President

                Targeted Advertising Group Inc.



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