A Person, A Paint Brush And The Art of Holistic Search Management

In my last column, I discussed balancing paid and natural search to create a holistic management approach, and outlined some of the perceptions that typically prevent marketers from moving in that direction.  In this installment, I would like to discuss the key factor in the co-management of natural and paid search campaigns: people.

People make sense of the data that tools provide

Considering that there are so many technical aspects related to search management, it is easy for some marketers to view tools as the solution for simplifying and making sense of the complex world of search.  But the simple truth about managing search is that while tools are integral to doing our jobs, they can't be allowed to overcompensate for search inexperience.  There are no substitutes for human insight and search experience, and a non-balanced, technically-focused approach leads to unbalanced search campaign performance.

It ultimately takes a creative and analytical person to find out the real story behind your search campaigns, and to turn that information into actionable strategies that positively impact business objectives. 



A violin and a paint brush

For a moment think of a violin and a paint brush.  Viewed independently, they are simply objects with the potential to create great music or great visual appeal.  Violinists and painters study their art for many years, and meaningful and innovative ideas begin to flow only when technique and conceptual application become second nature.  So now imagine a melody--or envision a painting with technique and conceptual application in mind, and perhaps you have a better understanding of these two concepts at play.

Conceptual application and the art of search marketing

I personally prefer the aesthetics of Itzhak Perlman playing Paganini's "24 Caprices," or Jean Dubuffet's "Group of Four Trees" over the Inventory Suggestion Tool.  This analogy isn't meant to be confusing.  Search marketing is not an art form, but there is an art to search marketing.  A person's balance of technical ability and conceptual application will ultimately make or break the success of a paid and natural search campaign.  

Characteristics of good search people

Good search marketers are a special breed and in very high demand.  While there may currently be a shortage, this new breed of practitioners possess a few key characteristics that you should look for, or help develop, within an existing agency or in-house search team:

Ability to think globally and objectively. Good search marketing people can see and understand the universe of search elements, and make decisions on how one might impact the other.  This includes paid and natural dynamics, Web sites, analytics and an understanding of a company's business.

Ability to think analytically. Search marketing people are always asking '"how?" and "why?"  If we outsource these key questions to technology alone, dollars are lost and overall campaign performance suffers.  Examples of these questions may include "How are natural algorithmic changes impacting sales?", "How are they affecting complementary paid search campaigns?" and "Why are current search conversions differing from previous historic trends?"

Ability to think creatively. Thinking creatively not only addresses the "how" and the "why," but also helps to solve problems, create efficiency and formulate strategies to address the ever-changing search landscape.  The creativity of people reveals itself in strategy, reporting, keyword research, technical solutions, team communication and many other areas.

Does not shy away from tough problems.  Fortitude is an essential element in the holistic mindset.  Good search people are constantly refining data and applying insight to create efficiency. They also adjust to the daily changes in the search landscape. 

Diversity of background. Some of the greatest search observations have come from people with diverse backgrounds not related to search.  I have been influenced by people who have applied their backgrounds in law, investment brokerage, public relations, music, art, language and psychology. 

Accepts that search is not perfect. The holistic search marketer is constantly adapting, and accepts change as a part of the business.  If you truly believe that search is simple and perfect, then you're not looking hard enough for areas of improvement.

Has an appetite for instruction. Also at the top of the list of characteristics for successful search engine marketers is a voracious appetite for knowledge about search.  These folks don't begrudge time spent attending seminars, reading books, testing out concepts, and reading the daily news, blogs and newsletters. Instead, they seek out such experiences.   

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