Yet ironically, most executive marketers barely understand the difference between SEM and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
A majority of marketing executives today may be well aware of the average price for a :30 TV spot on "Desperate Housewives," but a lot less likely to be aware of the top keywords (or their prices) that are driving consumers to their website. Far too many marketing pros remain oblivious to the realities and implications surrounding SEM today. For example:
Reasons why SEM remains misunderstood include:
1. CMOs and senior marketers regularly watch TV, listen to radio, read the daily newspaper; but they are not avid searchers. They do not accurately represent the rapidly changing media consumption behavior of today's young consumers.
2. A great many marketers are not too interested in understanding the technology, math expertise, and algorithms that are the foundation of a search practice. Google, the leading search engine company, is not by coincidence an engineer- and mathematician-run organization. Leading-edge marketing organizations have just begun to realize that successful marketing campaigns require that mathematical expertise and algorithms be taken seriously.
3. Most SEM practices reside with specialized interactive niche players or are run by media companies within large holding companies. SEM has not been integrated into the center of any large marketing department or agency and most marketers have never been asked to get involved in SEM decisions.
Treating SEM as just another media operation is the major misunderstanding that prevents senior marketers from understanding and realizing its full potential. It is more than a traditional media operation that focuses primarily on buying paid search listings, it is a heavily data-driven optimization process.
It is safe to imagine that one day, rather than a communications centerpiece designed to create non-consequential awareness, some TV spots' main function will be simply to motivate consumers to search. Going forward, the TV spot will be a prelude to SEM and a successful SEM practice will likely combine media, analytics, and interactive and will be a key focus of the marketing program.