Bringing Sexy Back to Search

"Over the course of time, in my dealings with Gord [Hotchkiss], I've learned two things. One, Gord is usually right. Two, if you ever think Gord is wrong, refer back to number one."

That, dear readers, is an exact quote from chapter 21 of my book, "Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google." However, after reading Gord's last column, "Search May Not be Sexy Anymore, But It Pays the Bills," I've had to refer back to number one quite a bit.

In comparing search to everything from air to marriage, Gord's point rings true that search has become a bit boring. Sure, it's helping millions of companies generate new customers while spawning a very healthy ecosystem around helping those businesses manage search programs, but it's still become pretty boring. It doesn't get the headlines. It doesn't pack the halls at conferences. It doesn't trend on Twitter. Heck, it doesn't even trend at our own conferences.



However, rather than be content, like Gord, to "drudge along, cranking out a few more billion in search revenues," I'm bringing sexy back. Yeah.

In my last column, "The New Haiku -- 2010 Edition," I proclaimed, 95 rhyming characters at a time, that SEM now stands at the center of the marketing and media world. From social to mobile to video to display, key attributes of SEM are being incorporated into emerging online ad platforms and content development best practices. And it won't be long before the convergence of the online and offline world -- see Google TV -- brings the search mojo to traditional channels. Accordingly, SEM professionals are quickly expanding their roles and leading the next wave of marketing innovation.

Now, don't tell me that's not sexy. Sure, it may not be new. And it may not be hot. But it sure is sexy. 

According to Wikipedia -- and if Wikipedia says it, it must be true -- innovation is a "change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries." And "those who are directly responsible for application of the innovation are often called pioneers in their field, whether they are individuals or organizations.

So step away from Excel, my fellow SEMers. The marketing model has a new face. As Yahoo might say, "It's You."

Here are 10 reasons why SEM professionals are positioned well to rule the marketing roost:

1.    We're always curious. Gord is certainly the poster child here.

2.    We're adept at testing. Keywords, copy, landing pages, oh my. There's a test for everything and everything is a test. This approach is critical in a fast-paced, dynamically changing market.

3.    We're adept at failing. After all, per Wikipedia, "fifty to ninety percent of innovation projects [are] judged to have made little or no contribution to organizational goals." See also Google Print Ads, Google Audio Ads, Google Nexus One, and Google Wave.

4.    We're highly analytical. From data exchanges to better target display ads to advanced algorithmic models to predict cross-channel impact, it's critical to speak geek if not be one. SEMers know better than anyone the importance of letting the data decide.

5.    We understand auction-based media. Operating in a real-time bid environment requires a balance of teams and tools, automation and activation, insights and interoperability.

6.    We're comfortable with change. To a digital immigrant, the speed at which the media world changes can be dizzying. However, SEM pros are often digital natives -- or what I call digital empathizers. We just get it. It's in our DNA. We embrace change. We thrive off change. Too many CMOs and agency leaders resist change and stick with what they know or what worked yesterday. That shortsightedness is quickly falling out of fashion and favor. (Or, as Justin would say, "Those other [bleepers] don't know how to act.")

7.    We're comfortable with technology. This may be redundant with #6, but it's worthy of its own call-out. Technology is a great innovation enabler. And those who understand how to leverage the power of automation to achieve scale will win.

8.    We're able to decipher audience intent. Search queries are a great proxy of interest and intent. Mining them can be a valuable source of audience research. Ignoring them is marketing malpractice. The same intent-o-meters built for search can be used for social et al.

9.    We know the difference between push and pull. Search is the original demand-side platform. It taught us the importance of identifying precise audience targets, determining the appropriate time to deliver a brand message (and which message to deliver), as well as assigning a value to that transaction/interaction in real time based on closed-loop tracking.

10.  We respect the user-experience. Having relied on non-intrusive little text ads to generate billions in revenue over the years, SEM pros know the power of consumer initiation. We also know how to be relevant. And keep it simple, stupid.

So go 'head, search. Be gone with it. And get your sexy on.

4 comments about "Bringing Sexy Back to Search".
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  1. George Michie from Rimm-Kaufman Group, August 11, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.

    Aaron, I certainly hope you're right. It is remarkably difficult to get a conference talk on paid search these days because people: 1) think it's a "solved problem" -- it isn't; and 2) there's math involved and it's too much like listening to an accountant.

    It remains the most important piece of the online marketing puzzle for many advertisers, and yet nobody wants to talk about it.

    Hopefully the wisdom of your words will resonate. No question that the skill sets and methodology will continue to make us valuable in paid search and other new media...but I'm not sure we'll ever be sexy again :-)

  2. Rob Griffin from Almighty, August 11, 2010 at 11:47 a.m.

    Data is where the sex is at and fundamentally what makes search cool. We just don't realize it. Well maybe with the exception of Gord as he always has data and insights in spades.

  3. Harold Cabezas from Cabezas Communications, August 12, 2010 at 10:08 a.m.

    Thank you, I really enjoyed this post.

    - hc -

  4. Ammon Brown, August 13, 2010 at 9:44 a.m.

    Search has always been sexy, just not always within the media industry. I, for one, have kept it sexy. You just have to be a bit of a nerd to still appreciate the sexiness.

    Good article, Aaron!

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