Commentary

Have You Hired A Searchologist Yet?

Scott Brinker

Marketing's interdisciplinary push during the past 10 to 15 years continues to force marketers who support companies in search engine optimization, paid search, and beyond to tie into the mix sophisticated technologies like analytics and behavioral sciences. There's now a generation of people who have both marketing and technology backgrounds.

For example, Scott Brinker, president and chief technology officer at ion interactive, holds a BS in computer science and an MBA in marketing. "If you have a fraction of the marketing team rooted deeply in technology, it would help the company tremendously," Brinker notes, pointing to Mark Zuckerberg's strategy to create Facebook. It took an engineering background to create the platform, but at the heart of the service a whole new marketing platform emerged.

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Today, not many companies have job positions for searchologists -- but I think that's what the industry needs, people who understand both sophisticated technologies and marketing. Companies that don't want to add a management level into their reporting structure by hiring a marketing chief technology officer may want to consider Brinker's advice. He suggests looking for technologically savvy people in your marketing departments who can help integrate technology into overall company strategy.

IT departments that support online marketing with Web page and site redesigns typically don't have the time to make changes to graphics, integrate copy heat maps or drop ad tags in footers of pages to monitor Web site traffic and behavioral targeting systems.

IT doesn't always have the time to support marketing strategies. But marketing still needs access to the technologies. Train them. Give them the tools to support their projects. "It's not that IT's priorities are wrong, but...for far too long marketing's priorities have taken a backseat," Brinker says.

Analytics that prove ROI for marketing campaigns and projects will turn marketing into a profit center rather than a cost center. Remember when marketing and sales merged in the late 1990s and early 2000s? It happened to PairGain Technologies, bought by ADC Telecommunications, during my brief stint there in the marketing communications department. Perhaps, now it's time to join marketing and technology.

Technology can impact revenue and profitability, agrees Brinker. "Marketing is still an expense, but it's shifting, being tied to revenue and becoming more of a top-line activity," he says. "The challenge with IT is, it remains back in the days of being an expense and cost center."

As products get more embedded with technology that feeds back into a social community, companies will need to combine marketing and technology more closely. During my discussion with Brinker he offered up this scenario: Let's say you have a digital camera with a GPS chip. You take photos of places that feed back into your Facebook account. The technology tags them automatically.

These types of technologies will change marketing dynamics forever because they harness social and technological capabilities in a way that's not about advertising, but community, and the "Internet of things," that will likely include everything from radio frequency identification technology to location-based systems like Foursquare, which as of today tweeted on Twitter that the company's closing in on one million users.

Brinker isn't the only exec who thinks this way. Advertise.com founder and CEO Daniel Yomtobian says he began hearing the term "searchologist" about six months ago as more companies began to request services like dynamic display campaigns and keyword tracking. "We were more of a traditional agency nine years ago, but you can't survive in the industry if you provide a basic service," he says.

5 comments about "Have You Hired A Searchologist Yet?".
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  1. Chris Cairns from Braun Linen, April 21, 2010 at 4:18 p.m.

    Very interesting article. I have discovered a new title for myself. I came from a traditional outbound marketing background yet always possessed strong computer analytical skills. Once known as the king of search, as I was able to source just about anything existing on the web, I now have had much success on the other side of the SERPS in my SOE/SEM endeavors by marring my marketing and tech backgrounds harmoniously.

  2. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, April 21, 2010 at 5:49 p.m.

    Marketing has been perceived as an expense, but it is not, never has been nor should it be considered an expense. It is an investment and may explain why it's ROI, not ROE.

  3. Mark Regan from PowerChord, April 21, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.

    Laurie,

    This hits home for me. I, too, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA. I migrated from the software development to marketing and landed in between. I have always described my space as that uncomfortable in between technology and marketing where people may take a break, but rarely do they last.

    I however look it there. Even a bit saddened that the space has been outed in this article because it's a skill set not many have and therefore highly valued.

    I don't know about the term searchologist, though. There is so much more happening here than just search.

    Anyway, great article!

    Mark Regan

  4. Scott Brinker from ion interactive, inc., April 22, 2010 at 6:49 a.m.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Laurie! I enjoyed talking with you about this at Search Insider Summit.

    Mark -- I actually prefer the term "marketing technologist" myself. I agree with you that so much more is happening here than just search.

    Here's a link to the presentation I gave at Search Insider Summit called "Rise of the Marketing Technologist":

    http://www.chiefmartec.com/2010/04/rise-of-the-marketing-technologist.html

    Ruth -- I agree with you than the shift of perspective from expense to investment is import and in progress.

  5. Laura Betterly from Yada Yada Marketing, Inc., May 2, 2010 at 5:26 p.m.

    I also found a new title for what I do. Thanks..

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