When I’m in a pinch for Search Insider topics, I draw from personal experience -- i.e., what’s on my mind the day my column’s due. I’m especially fond of analogies (best served with a healthy dose of puns) that relate my life and times to my chosen profession.
When connecting the dots from the daily grind to the written line, I sometimes focus on general business practices. Other times I dive into product development. Every once in a while, I’ll let my hair down and get personal with topics like playing sports, dating and child-rearing -- not at the same time, of course. But usually, myscopeis marketing, and, specifically, search.
Sitting on a long flight back to my sweet home Chicago, I’m reflecting on my time in Israel last week and seeing what nuggets might be digestible for SEM. This was my eighth trip to Israel, so by now I should be qualified to share some food for thought from the land of milk and honey.
1. Be innovative. Per Bill Gates, “It’s no exaggeration to say that the kind of innovation going on in Israel is critical to the future of the technology business.” Accordingly, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, Cisco and many other tech giants have R&D centers in Israel.
What is it about Israel that breeds such innovation? The full answer is out of scope for a 1,000-word column, but I strongly suggest the book “Start-Up Nation” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. (Big ups to PPC rock star David Szetela, who recommended it to me.) The fact that Israel has the highest per capita number of engineers, scientists, and technicians in the world (source: Israeli Government Counsel for Economic Affairs) certainly helps. And it might explain why Israel has more companies traded on the NASDAQ than any other country outside of North America.
When it comes to SEM, you have to be innovative in your approach. The landscape is ever-changing and the competition is ever-increasing. The tools and processes you used yesterday will not work tomorrow. To stay one step ahead, surround yourself with people and platforms that challenge the status quo and relentlessly seek new solutions to old problems.
2. Be alert. One of the big influences on Israeli business culture is the mandatory military service for every Israeli citizen. Typically, Israelis join the military immediately after high school and before attending university. This is a formative experience that shapes each Israeli’s life-view. Experiences and connections made in the military often carry over in the business world with people recruiting others from their unit in the army to create or join their companies.
One of the military tactics that gets ingrained in every young solider is the importance of gathering intelligence. And, while the stakes in SEM are much lower than national defense, it’s critical to ingest every possible data point, monitor your competitors’ every move, and adjust your strategies accordingly. There are a number of great tools to do cross-channel tracking and attribution as well as competitive intelligence. Not to tap them is to do your country, er, company a disservice.
3. Be direct. If I had to sum up Israelis in one word, I’d say that they’re direct. Israelis never hold back and always speak their minds. Unlike in the U.S., where we tend to sugar-coat things or say what’s politically correct, Israelis dispense with the formalities and just get to the point.
In a business setting, Israelis love to challenge each other. And they don’t discriminate -- manager, peer, Israeli, non-Israeli -- everyone’s equal when it comes to voicing opinions. Meetings are often filled with spirited debate and, if you didn’t know better, you’d think the people either really didn’t like or each other or really didn’t like the idea. But the truth is that arguing is just the Israeli way of improving. Everyone’s encouraged to present their point-of- view, and sometimes a little chutzpah can go a long way.
From an SEM perspective, being direct can mean a few things. Of course, there’s the element of interpersonal communication and being direct with co-workers and partners to ensure everything is considered when it comes to achieving the set goal(s). But being direct can also speak to tracking and optimizing ROI. Every keyword, every ad, and every landing page has a direct impact on the bottom line. Tracking all consumer interactions is crucial and, in a world of rising cost-per-click, the only way to know the optimal amount to bid for each keyword is to understand its contribution to your end goal, whether through direct conversion or some sort of assist.
4. Get social. Israelis spend more time on social networks each month than people from any other country. To truly excel (another intended pun) in SEM, you have to “get” social. Understand the new ways people are using social networks to do product research and get recommendations. Understand the interplay between ads on social networks and search engines. And understand that likes are becoming just as important as links when it comes to natural search optimization
5.Work backwards. Hebrew is written right to left, which is backwards for most of us. To get the most from SEM, you have to start with your goals and work backwards to arrive at the strategies and tactics that will achieve them. Now that’s what I call forward-thinking.
Incorporate these five lessons from Israel into your nine-to-five and you’ll see the improvement is real.