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A recent Microsoft study revealed that most small business people would rather do their taxes than develop a search advertising plan. Child birth or a root canal might be preferable. Why? Too expensive, too complex, too time consuming, too hard are the typical complaints. It’s true. Search marketing is complicated, and it's absolutely necessary.
Search marketing is complicated because it’s part of a continuum of digital marketing. It’s dependent upon keyword marketing—the integration of paid and organic search referrals to your site. It’s dependent upon web analytics—data collection, reporting, and analysis of key metrics. It’s dependent upon content testing—developing a hypothesis about the meaning of those metrics, creating alternative treatments to test the hypothesis, then testing those treatments against reality. Wringing maximum value from search advertising requires an investment in technology and, more importantly, an investment in the skills necessary to gain competitive advantage from that technology. Getting paid search right requires getting it all right. Why bother?
“A vaguely scientific rigor can be brought to a previously arcane art.”
Because marketing is undergoing a radical change that will dramatically affect the competitive landscape for businesses large and small. The old regime was ruled by fiat and intuition, often dictated by the highest paid opinion, but marketing is becoming a data-driven function. Digital marketing provides immediate accountability. Metrics can be gathered throughout the sales cycle. Advertising campaigns can be changed in flight in reaction to those metrics. A vaguely scientific rigor can be brought to a previously arcane art. That doesn’t mean the surrender of creativity or autonomy; it does mean that any creative will need to prove itself in the real world or go home.
Digital marketing represents a fundamental change in the way we do business, even the way we think about business. It’s a gut wrenching change for many, especially small businesses with challenges that dwarf their resources, especially in these lean economic times where competition becomes Darwinian. These days every business needs to focus on ROI with the intensity of a cat eyeing a mouse. The ability to draw conclusions based upon data and rapidly test those conclusions against reality is becoming a competitive differentiator.
“Keywords are the foundation of digital marketing.”
Search marketing is hard because making decisions based upon data is hard. It’s complicated because it requires integration with testing and analytics but it’s immensely powerful for the same reasons. And it’s absolutely necessary because keywords are the foundation of digital marketing.
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Thank you Debbie Downer
This is a great article, I have been doing SEM for small business for about 2 years now, and this couldn't be more true. Another huge factor for the resistance of the adoption of SEM, is the fact that many small businesses haven't heard of it yet. I am making hundreds of phone calls a week, and I can't believe the number of business owners that don't have a clue what I am talking about. They don't know SEM, or even what a Search Engine Results page is, I suppose one of the most important things we need to do as digital advertisers is continue to educate on how effective this medium can be..... anyway, great article .
Nick, I think becoming a trusted advisor to your clients has substantial competitive value. Guiding them in the best practices of analytics and testing can result in lasting loyalty. That said, an advertiser needs to be engaged to justify your investment. The advertiser isn't the only one calculating ROI.