10 Sports Analogies For SEM

Two weeks ago, in a column about attribution models, Gord Hotchkiss cited John Yi's bowling and pinball analogies for marketing. That got me thinkingL "How many sports analogies can I come up with for marketing?" The answer: 152. Too easy.

So I asked myself, "How many sports analogies can I come up with for SEM?" The answer: 10.

1.No Limit Hold 'Em. I won't get into the rigmarole over whether or not poker's a sport. These guys may not look like athletes, but tell that to their pocketbooks. No comment about the physique of your average search geek nor typical compensation -- but I will say there's quite a lot that No Limit Texas Hold 'Em and SEM have in common.   

Per Wikipedia, in Hold 'Em "the objective of winning players is not to win every individual hand, but rather to make mathematically and psychologically correct decisions regarding when and how much to bet, raise, call or fold. By making such decisions, winning poker players can maximize their expected gain on each round of betting, thereby increasing their long-term winnings." 



The same goes for PPC bidding. Only amateurs make "all-in" decisions on individual keyword auctions. The pros take into account entire keyword portfolios (counting the outs) as well as historical performance (previous hands) to model expected performance (calculating the odds) and react to competitive pressures (reading the tells).

And, in poker and search, sometimes you just have to ask yourself, "Am I feeling lucky?"

2. Ultimate Fighting Championship. In UFC, it's a fight to the finish and nearly anything goes. You can punch. You can kick. But no biting. Sorry, Iron Mike, you wouldn't last in the octagon.  

Same goes in SEO. For any given query, there can be only one winner. And, when it comes to link-building, nearly anything goes. You can beg. You can bait. But no buying. Sorry, JC Penney.   

And then there's the ultimate SEO PPC battle. It's like Shamrock-Gracie. Or, perhaps, Tortoise-Hare.

3. Decathlon. This Olympic event consists of 10 individual events, with the winner based on combined performance. So, too, with SEM, there's no one specific tactic you can deploy to catapult -- or, shall I say, shot-put -- your way to the top of the SERP. You've got to compete in keyword selection, ad grouping, match typing, title and description writing, landing page relevancy, budget setting, bid management, KPI reporting, A/B testing, and cross-channel attribution. And that's just PPC. There are hundreds of SEO ranking factors you have to consider and master when going for the gold. 

4. Baseball. Steve Ballmer favors the baseball analogy when talking about how Microsoft is competing in the search space. He's often said that we're in the early innings. Methinks -- that was for you, Rob -- the tortoise and hare analogy works here, too, with Bing gaining search query share every month since launch until this past June

5. Quidditch. In JK Rowling's magical game, chasers fly around trying to shoot the quaffle across the pitch and into the goal. Meanwhile, seekers try to capture the golden snitch while beaters fire bludgers left and right.  What in Hogwarts does all this have to do with SEM? Work with me here...

In SEM, marketers scurry around trying to get their listings on the first page and into the top spot. Meanwhile, the search engines try to deliver the one perfect result, while webmasters fire off signals left and right.

As for Potter's secret weapon in the battle against Voldemort? Well, it ain't no magic wand.

6. Croquet. In this *cough* sport, you use a mallet to hit balls through hoops and get extra shots if you hit your opponent's ball out of the way. In SEM, we're always looking for new ways to bump our competitors. The question is, what to do when you're up against a cheater? Now that's what I call a sticky wicket!

7. Bocce. While we're rolling on grass, here's another one for ya. Bocce requires you to toss your ball closest to the jack, knocking out all others in the path. Seems like an appropriate metaphor for SEM or any form of marketing in which you're trying to get your message through all that commercial noise to reach your target audience. Now if only Father Guido Sarducci had cut a video revealing the secrets of SEM!

8. Volleyball. Bump. Set. Spike. Hopefully that's what your conversion reports look like!

9. Thumb-Wrestling. OK, I'm really getting desperate -- but bear with me here.  There's no more stripped-down version of wrestling than a good old-fashioned thumb war. You can have the buffest bod, but when push comes to shove -- or grip comes to grip -- you have to rely on your thumb to do the heavy lifting... and pinning. Now think about SEM. There's no more stripped-down version of marketing. You can have the biggest brand, but on a SERP you have to rely on your text to capture the click. And if you really want to isolate the variables, try this on for size.

10. Soccer. Soccer -- or football, as the rest of the world knows it -- is the most popular game on the planet. Just like soccer, SEM goes by different names. Search Engine Marketing. Search Marketing. Pay Per Click. Search Engine Optimization. And, just like soccer, SEM is the most popular form of digital marketing on the planet.

They key to soccer is endurance. And endurance is the key to SEM as well. In SEM, you have to endure a frantic pace, tough competition, rule changes -- do pandas wear snoods? -- and even governmentinterference. But in the end, it's all worth it! Just make sure you set the right goooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaal!

2 comments about "10 Sports Analogies For SEM".
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  1. Gordon Hotchkiss from Out of My Gord Consulting, June 29, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.

    Missed one...

    Hockey: In hockey, you can lead the league all season, yet fall short in one critical game, and your supposed fans suddenly riot, trashing everything in sight. SEM can lead all the marketing stats quarter by quarter, but one campaign management incident (forgetting to set a bid cap on a bad broad match and burning through a month's budget in 12 hours comes to mind) or missing one sudden spike in search activity due to an unforeseen opportunity and suddenly your former fans are out to lynch you and your search budget gets eviscerated. Of course, both scenarios are purely hypothetical.

  2. Aaron Goldman from Mediaocean, June 29, 2011 at 3:28 p.m.

    True dat Gord! Gonna stop short of calling clients Canuckleheads though. :)

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