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What Search Marketing Is Not

July 23, 2012

What Search Marketing Is Not

I often get asked what search marketing is and what a search marketer does. Curiously, when I answer this question I typically start with what search marketing is not in order to get to what it is.

If you are looking for a definition of search marketing, I think this one offers up quite a nice explanation. However, this particular post is not so much about the definition of search, but more about behaviors that separate the bad search marketing practices from the good. A lot of these examples are based on both good and bad approaches I have seen. Let’s get started.

Search marketing is not about treating PPC and SEO in isolation. Rather, search marketing is about using SEO and PPC to complement each other, as well as other marketing channels. A few months ago, Google  released a study on the impact of organic ranking on ad click incrementality. Yes, there may be some bias here but based on other third-party studies as well as data I have seen first hand, there is definite uplift (as opposed to cannibalization) to be gained by dominating the SERP. Some larger companies often have completely separate SEO and PPC departments which can negatively contribute towards siloed SEO/PPC behavior. However, setting common goals and KPIs can be one way to better encourage the two sides to work together, instead of in competition against each other.

PPC is not about landing all of your PPC keywords on the same page. Worse still, search marketing is not about landing all of your PPC keywords on the same web response form. It is not about forcing visitors to do that one specific action you want them to take and thinking that they will do it because you don’t give them any other options. The fact of the matter is that visitors do have an option. They can simply click off your page and go somewhere else. And if you piss them off enough, they can also choose never to click on another one of your search results again. PPC is about delivering relevancy and helping guide your visitors to the most appropriate page on your site. It is also about utilizing assist keywords to appropriately match your keywords to intent.

Search marketing is not just about focusing on people who have an immediate buying need. Don’t get me wrong; the ultimate goal is always to sell. But focusing just on searchers who have an immediate need is a short-sighted approach that will end up excluding a lot of searchers who are not yet at that stage. Search marketing is about helping people throughout the entire marketing funnel. Helping “early funnel” searchers will help strongly position you in their mindset for when they are ready to buy. Supporting existing customers with their post-purchase needs will help to increase their lifetime value and reduce acquisition costs later down the road.

SEO is not all about SEO rank. SEO is about delivering high quality visitors to your web site who will buy and repeat buy from you (either in the immediate-term or long-term). Rank is one factor that can help you get there, but should never be considered the end goal.

Link building is not about getting as many links into your site as possible. A common misconception I’ve often seen with people just starting out in the SEO space is that link building starts by getting as many links into your site as possible. The reality is that link building starts with good content but even then, good content alone is often not enough. As any seasoned SEO knows, successful link building is much more complex than that! You need to get the content right, the outreach right, be connected, and very often call in the real experts who are focused in this very important and specialist area.

Search marketing is not a “one-off” campaign. A strong search marketing program is not about doing a one-time push with the remains of some additional budget that you forgot to use. Nor is it something that you can focus your attention on one month and then forget about the next. Successful search marketing programs are ongoing and testing is an integral part of it to ensure that improvements are continuously being made, built upon, and then scaled across the program.

This is intended as a working list that I will continue to update. Feel free to add your examples in the comments too.

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