A new year is upon us. For some, it's an opportunity to chart a new course and begin a journey. For others, it's a time to hunker down and continue along a path that's already proven successful.
Yes, we search marketers made a lot of progress in 2006, and the outlook for '07 and beyond shines bright. Many of you are probably thinking that, collectively, we just need to keep executing--and search will continue its steady climb to the top of the marketing food chain.
However, before we fall back into our old routine of present, plan, implement, and optimize, it's important to take a moment and outline some concrete goals for the year ahead so we can ensure that the emergence and convergence of search is not led by traditional media execs (who still seem to be looking for ways to make search more like traditional ad vehicles as opposed to the other way around).
To that end, I offer the following 2007 resolutions for search marketers everywhere:
Be consistent with verbiage. And I don't mean merely adopting all the hot buzzwords. Search is confusing enough to outsiders and insiders alike without having to decipher acronyms and interpret newfangled terminology. It appears that different sectors of marketing have developed their own search accents: Paid Search, PPC, Sponsored Listings, Search Advertising, SEM--zoiks! And I still hear some folks use SEO to refer to all things search. I don't mind all the various terms to describe different facets of search. In fact, in many cases it's required to distinguish particular initiatives. Everyone just needs to pick the one that works best for them for each situation, clearly define it, and--most important--stick with it. More on this topic in my upcoming column, "You Say Search, I Say Query."
Don't just focus on the Web site. While driving traffic to a Web site via paid and organic search can be an incredibly profitable practice, don't forget that other opportunities exist to connect a brand with relevant search queries as well--press releases, video, podcasts, customer reviews, images, blogs, white papers, and, dare I say, even just having your message appear on a search results page. With more and more niche engines popping up and search applications being embedded into various platforms, the opportunity for your brand to be found is diminished if all your content and assets are buried within your Web site (especially if you're using fancy AJAX applications).
Put down the BlackBerry. The only way we're going to make sure search is truly considered from top to bottom in marketers' organizations is through constant communication and participation. The more we deliver our search recos on the fly via e-mail, as opposed to in person at planning meetings, the more we risk our guidance being misinterpreted or disregarded. Not to mention, if we can't make time to step away from work on a regular basis, we're all gonna burn out and there will be no one left to rule the search roost except the old-school media folks who never adopted those fuddy-duddy portable Internet thingies in the first place.
Pick up the BlackBerry. We must find a way to improve the mobile search experience. In a previous column-Is Google Celling Out?--I discussed the battle being waged among carriers to control the content and search experience on cell phones. With the mobile phone increasingly becoming the consumer's most treasured and oft-used digital device, we need to provide as robust a search experience on the mobile Web as we have on the computer Web (yes, that's the verbiage I chose and I'm sticking with it!)
Don't just integrate--innovate. With everyone focused on integrating search into the media mix, I'm afraid we'll lose sight of what makes search so powerful. We have just begun to scratch the surface on video, audio, local and social search and, without a commitment from publishers, providers, agencies, and marketers alike to develop and test new search platforms, they will never achieve meaningful utility and scale.
People come together. Trade groups like SEMPO and the DMA are developing standardized search training programs. And research firms like Marketing Sherpa,eMarketer, and comScore are continually mining the landscape for relevant data we can incorporate into our planning. Let's support these organizations in their endeavors to advance the search platform. We can't do it through individual campaign/project trial and execution alone.
Embrace the Frienemy. Google is good for advertising. Google is good for media. And Google is certainly good for search. Everyone needs to stop worrying about Google eating their lunch. That will only happen if Google doesn't get a seat at their table.
Breathe. As my wife--who works in the geriatric psych ward at a local hospital--likes to remind me, we're not saving lives here with this search stuff. Let's not lose perspective; let's keep our heightened sense of importance in check as the pace quickens and search grows in budget and share of mind for Fortune 500 marketers. If a deadline is missed or a deliverable isn't implemented correctly, take a deep breath, and think about my wife helping one of her drooling patients figure out how to use the toilet without falling. Now then, that broken redirect isn't the end of the world, is it? (OK, you can stop thinking about her now and start fixing that redirect!)