There is no doubt that natural search is coming to a crossroads. My view is that the transformation may not be so radical that everything changes, in so much as having situations where only some things become more challenging. However, the basic tenets of natural search will remain the same, only applied to more sophisticated scenarios on a personalized level, a research level, and a technical level.
Personalized search has now gone mainstream, thanks to Google. What's a marketer to do about it? I can sum up the best strategy in one word: nothing.
If you're following the blogosphere, you'll know that there's a war of words afoot between my company's president, Dave Pasternack, and the SEO community. Dave's written a series of articles arguing that SEO should be managed in-house -- and that, rather than serving on retainer, SEO firms should serve primarily educational/consultative positions from now on. That argument has ruffled a lot of feathers.
How long search advertisers can maintain attractive CPAs depends on many factors, but one thing is clear: competition is the overriding threat. In fact, there's been some noise lately on keyword inflation and lower conversion rates driving some advertisers out of the market. But it does beg the question: Where are the opportunities in search? Where's the beef -- i.e., the untapped markets on the menu? Is it vertical, local, video, mobile, etc.? My suggestion is to look internationally. It's a super-sized market.
One of the great ironies of marketing is that we're in the communication business, but many of us aren't that good at it. And I'm not talking about broadcasting to a million people, I'm talking one-to-one, get-your-point-across communication. When it comes down to saying why you should buy something, in a way that hits home with a consumer who's ready to buy, we're at a loss for words.
I've read all the articles. I've even read the recaps of all the articles. I've patiently held my tongue waiting to see if the issue would resolve itself or just fizzle out altogether. It's done neither. So now I feel compelled to weigh in. Here's some background for anyone who hasn't been tuning in to the Great Rocket Science Debate of '06/'07. It all began back in October when Dave Pasternack of Did-It penned a column about how SEO was not rocket science and, therefore, SEO firms are in danger of becoming obsolete....
Though I spend my day working on client proposals, at night, during the past couple of months, I was working on one proposal that mattered more than all the others combined. More often than not, it led me to the shortcomings of search engines. Here's where search worked, and where it could use some work, in the context of planning a major life event.
For those of us in search, there's a cautionary lesson in the Boston Cartoon Network debacle. Like outdoor, search is also built around injecting your brand into the ebb and flow of real life -- since, at this point in the 21st century, search has become one of life's basic tasks. Until now, we search marketers have avoided the unpredictability that's haunted outdoor advertisers, because our control over keyword lists gives us immense control over who sees our ad, and how.And we still have that control -- but times are changing.
Everyone knows by now that user-generated content was the "in" thing of 2006 -- so much so that Time magazine named the user "Person of The Year." Nobody denies that user-generated Web sites have changed the face of the Web today, and will continue to do so in the future. While Time looked at the trend of consumer acceptance of these new Internet vehicles, their impact has been both positive and negative.
You know the phenomenon of synchronicity, where once you become aware of something it seems like everyone is talking about the same thing? For me that was social search -- and the time was last week. While I was certainly aware of social search before that, for some reason last week was the week where the knocking got so loud I had to pay more attention.