The boundaries of search marketing have, of course, been blurring for several years (maybe more), taking search marketers outside the realm of query-based targeting. Google AdSense and other forms of contextual advertising, for example, fall within the search marketers' domain. But they are not "search." Rather, the skills necessary to manage a successful contextual campaign -- facility with auction-based pricing, comfort managing thousands of placements, mastery of self-service ad platforms --made search marketers uniquely qualified to take ownership of this opportunity. So in exploring the role of search marketers over the next decade, the obvious question is this: What other marketing opportunities exist that are uniquely suited to the skills search marketers possess?
Perhaps the most obvious opportunity that deserves consideration is the auction-based media marketplace. While still small, the market for auction-based media is rapidly growing and may someday supplant ad networks as the dominant form of buying and selling remnant ad inventory. Auction-based media bears close resemblance the search marketing landscape in two key areas. One, inventory is priced via an auction-based model. And two, campaigns are largely self-service -- facility with hands-on campaign management is a requirement. Both of these factors make auction-based media a ripe opportunity for search marketers to explore.
Another emerging opportunity of interest to search marketers is the advent of "long tail" Web site targeting. Until recently, it was impractical for advertisers to establish specific relationships with small, niche Web sites. While highly targeted, these sites were too small to justify the cost of management involved in working with them. Advertisers could gain coverage on these sites through ad networks, but not explicitly, meaning the majority of their ad network budget would be spent outside of these niche sites.
But this is changing as ad networks increase transparency. Google, most notably, allows advertisers to target specific sites across the Google publisher network through Google Site Targeting. Advertisers can identify high performing, long-tail sites through use of Google's vast content targeting network, and then establish explicit relationships with these sites through Site Targeting. And Google's ad platform makes hands-on management and monitoring relatively painless.
Other ad networks will undoubtedly promote similar models combining transparency, flexibility, and ease of management. This will pave the way for scalable, long-tail Web site targeting in which advertisers can explicitly target hundreds or even thousands of highly relevant, niche sites.
Evaluating thousands of niche sites could be challenging for traditional marketers. But search marketers, conditioned to evaluate thousands (sometimes millions) of keywords, should embrace the opportunity. The self-service management aspect of long-tail site targeting, too, aligns directly with search marketers' skill sets. Search marketers will surely play an active role as chances to do this form of targeting increase.
The last development is both the most distant, and the most compelling: long-form on-demand advertising. It is also the only form of marketing that applies search marketing concepts to the television format. Long-form on-demand ads are in their infancy, and today exist in various forms such as "showcase" channels on cable and satellite television. Not to be confused with the 15 or 30 second ads that precede some on-demand programming, long form on demand ads rich with content, combine the functionality of the Web with the visual impact of television.
These ads are of interest to search marketer for two reasons. First, they are on-demand. Outside of search, there are few channels where customers are inclined to actively request marketing information, but with on-demand long format ads they are doing just that. And second, they will be searchable. Today the volume of information available in long-format on-demand is limited. But as real estate, automotive, financial service, entertainment and other advertisers embrace this channel, one can foresee a future in which the available information is too vast to be navigated -- it must be searched. It's too early to say what role the search marketer will play in this new and exciting channel, but it's certain that a role exists.
I've explored the basic question, "what's next in search engine marketing?" through a focus on areas outside of search that make search campaigns more effective, and a look into future developments that will expand the search marketer's role. And while the topics explored may be compelling, they are not comprehensive. I'd love to hear what readers have to say on the topic:
What's next in search engine marketing? Post your thoughts on the Search Insider Blog.