What Retailers Want From Search

This week I was lucky enough to learn the ins and outs of working a booth at a trade show. The exhibit hall at the Internet Retailer show in Chicago was filled with marketing professionals at small, medium and large retailers, ecommerce solution providers, search engine marketers, online advertisers and investors. Based on the conversations I had with people walking the exhibit hall, online retailers can be divided into the following camps in terms of knowledge of and interest in search engine marketing.

Need to know the full search picture. It's not that these marketers don't understand search or don't want to, they are merely still at square one or two in the online marketing arena and want to learn more about the big picture and how search can inform all of their online marketing efforts (e-mail and affiliate marketing remaining very important to this industry).

Natural and paid: one or the other. A number of marketers I spoke with had either experienced excellent results with paid search, and therefore fully understood the concept of media management--or they had someone on their interactive team whose sole responsibility is to keep up with the trends in natural search engine optimization--and that person had gotten them the "results they wanted" in terms of positioning.



Don't "need" search. There were also the marketers who, after hearing about our online marketing approach, responded with the standard, "We already have good positioning for our brand name" and therefore were uninterested in continuing a conversation. These people don't understand that keywords represent customers. There are always possibilities in search beyond the brand name or product name. As my colleague Geoffrey Wilcoxson puts it, there's a culture around customers. Deliver the content surrounding their culture, and you'll see results. And what retailer couldn't use more customers?

Do need search. Then again, there were marketers who, after learning about the concept that the way people search is the way they think, responded with, "oh yeah, we already have great positioning for our brand name--but if we could get even better positioning with other traffic, we'd grow our business." Bingo.

The industry has changed in just the past year. I didn't talk to anyone who was completely lacking in knowledge about search engine marketing; there were simply varying degrees of knowledge and understanding.

One woman had made the switch from the interactive agency side to the client side. She possessed years of experience in the media management arena and worked closely with a group that could manage the optimization of her company's site. The only piece of the puzzle her team lacked was the ability to conduct a full audit of the site in terms of content management system compatibility with search engine spiders, she said.

Is that really the "only" aspect she's missing? We on this side of the fence would beg to differ.

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