Search Marketing: Time To Re-engineer
Long the afterthought of the digital marketing tool kit, “search” is emerging as a nexus between consumer behavior and real-time data. In fact, I would argue that as more social platforms emerge and devices continue to become the lifeblood of interpersonal communication, search must be viewed as a strategic imperative in today’s convergent marketplace.
But why, at a time when the digital landscape is evolving faster than the blink of an eye, has search stagnated? While the rest of the industry was rapidly evolving, most digital professionals were having a hard time keeping pace, with little time to look at the bigger picture and how search could be optimized.
It’s time for a paradigm shift in the way that we as marketers approach search. Web 2.0 is long gone, and we’re in a new era of digital evolution -- a time of extreme entrepreneurialism with social platforms driving much of the industry. The more platforms and devices that are added to the landscape, the more digitally social and complex the world becomes. All of this boils down to more consumer information.
Harnessing this frenzy will provide a window into consumer behavior, allowing us to compare real versus reported insights, and ultimately help to improve business.
As traditional marketers become more comfortable with the digital landscape and social platforms as marketing tools, they are beginning to see the power of search. In fact, search continues to grow double digits year-over-year, as it increasingly gets woven into consumer connection points.
But in order for search to be truly effective, the way we approach it must evolve. I have identified three main areas that must be addressed in order to maximize the potential of the search category: Strategy, Technology and Talent (ST2).
- Strategy – Keyword list and meta titles no longer cut it when it comes to search. A good search strategy starts from the consumer perspective, with a healthy dose of competitive and category insights mixed in to arrive at the execution schematics.
- Technology – Search marketers not only need to understand how to cross-utilize various tools and technologies, but also identify those that provide a consolidated view of the digital landscape. There must be a focus on developing measurement plans that aggregate upon the strong abilities of various platforms rather than relying on manually pulling together the basic information. Current technology solutions must be evaluated for their scale and roadmap over the next five to 10 years. Audit the current partners and discuss the plans they are putting in place to ensure that the solutions remain robust for the changing digital landscape and they are elevating the role of search data within the overall marketing strategy. This will help cut down turnaround timelines and enhance cross-discipline integration.
- Talent – Yes, those Excel and number skills are still relevant to search marketing. Analytical thinking remains at the core of search. But creative thinking must be a major strength in talent, given the importance of turning data into actionable insights for clients. Simply collecting the data is a missed opportunity. But understanding what conclusions and actions can be drawn from data is what impacts the bottom line of a client’s business. Every keyword entered into the engines is a story that ladders up to a larger tale; all you have to do is to become is a good storyteller. Hiring people with diverse skill sets at mid-junior levels at a search agency can help bridge this gap and prepare the new generation more quickly.
Keep in mind that rebooting your current search practice has practical implications in addition to an opportunity to grow the skill set. By evaluating the above scenarios, there is a potential to reduce some of the cycle time between agencies/clients while increasing quality of service. Companies will be able to move faster by cutting down turnarounds to get to actionable insights rather than looking at an Excel sheet plotted with lots of keywords and numbers.
On the flip side, if not handled appropriately, this exercise can easily slip into turf wars and run into resistance. It’s critical for management to be committed to raising the bar and ensuring that such concerns do not deter them from shifting the role of search practice into a more strategic content strategy “think tank.”