Everything You Assumed About Search Is About to Change

By: Matt Spiegel, CEO
Appeared In Search Engine Watch

For those of us who are passionate about the search industry, there is a never-ending pool of compelling subject matter. You should know that I truly enjoy sharing my philosophies on a wide range of topics; I’m confident I’ll even enjoy writing about them. I’ve published plenty of articles before, but this is my first venture into the role of columnist. This will be quite a different relationship we’ll have; with any luck, I’ll be on your regular reading schedule, doing what I can to both ask and answer key questions about the future of our industry.

After years spent within the industry observing and pondering events and trends, I often come back to these questions: What is the future of search marketing? How will it be defined as it evolves? What is the core expertise of a search marketer? I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

To get our relationship started, I thought I’d share with you a few of the topics on the top of my mind, with a quick preview into how I’ll discuss these issues in the future -- a few of my “soapbox” topics, if you will.

The idea of branding vs. direct response is wrong.

I believe strongly in continuums. Marketing is rarely about absolutes, especially search marketing. True, search is great at driving a direct response, but does this mean it can’t help create a brand? The reality is that today, and even more so in the future, all marketing, and I’ll argue especially search-driven marketing, sits at the intersection of branding and direct response.

It’s not about the pricing model, it’s about the behavior.

I get that in paid search we are uniquely focused on buying media via an auction (or “exchange,” as the current lingo suggests). If you’re focused on technology, fine, I relent; for you, it may well be about the pricing model. For the rest of us focused on marketing strategies, our core expertise isn’t how we purchase media. What we know is how to leverage consumers’ interest into an opportunity to build a brand and sell products.

The format matters, but not in defining search marketing.

I think we are almost past this one -- the idea that somehow a text listing defines all that search marketing embodies. Not only can we be experts in video and audio placements, we can be equally adept at purchasing search-related advertising via mobile devices, and yes, even TV! (You read it here first -- IPTV will be an amazing evolution for search marketing.)

Industry evolution is happening faster, and slower than we’d like.

Search marketing is on the radar, and it isn’t going anywhere. Each day, another CMO checks his or her company’s brand name in Google, doesn’t find it, and a begins a long string of emails that finally make it down to the search marketing guru (or assigned search agency) with instructions to fix this immediately -- and then proceeds to go back to the important business of filming the next TV spot. Meanwhile, our friendly neighborhood search guru (or assigned search agency) continues to fight for budget, integration, and the structural changes necessary to ensure that his or her company is a world-class search marketer. If only everyone was on the same page.

Success in the future will be about data analysis -- as long as it’s the right data.

Our industry has a problem; it’s called data overload. Only recently has our industry begun to understand how to use marketing data. Marketers and agencies alike are wasting time because they don’t know what data to use and when. It’s not always easy to teach the idea of materiality, especially when the CMO wonders why the brand is only at position two today for that all-important keyword that generates ten clicks a day.

Engines, marketers, and agencies, oh my!

I grew up selling digital media; I think media providers are crucial to our success, and I don’t believe agencies can be the sole source of ideas to marketers. I also believe that no single entity maximizes its potential without the other two. Search is another media, arguably a more complicated media to execute than most. Why, then, is this the medium where marketers are more apt to rely on the media provider for their strategy? I have theories, and counter arguments, but for now, I’ll leave it there.

Hopefully, I’ve whetted your palate. I trust you’ll find I enjoy a little controversy. We are all busy people -- I’d expect you’d only read my column if I make you stop and think, or stop and scream! I look forward to getting to know you.


Copyright © 2008 Resolution Media, Inc. All rights reserved.