A laboured analogy for the way search engine marketing works. Image courtesy of Glennfinlas
People are very keen on search these days.
Whether Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
It is not much of a business to be in (since it is becoming rapidly commoditised) but it’s something every business should be into.
However, my view is that SEO and SEM should be viewed as a safety net and not a marketing panacea.
A recent comment suggested that search had replaced TV as the number one priority on the marketing plan.
This made me sad.
Sad that this assertion wasn’t backed up with some evidence and sad because I’m not sure the obsession with search is altogether healthy.
Don’t get me wrong, the TV thing is neither here nor there. I seek neither to fetishise nor demonise TV since both positions bore me rigid. No, it is the idea that if you are optimised in search all your problems will go away.
Search seems to do two things for a brand.
It gives you visibility in the natural searches that people make for terms that relate to your business and the services it provides.
And it gives you ownership of your brand name online if people decide to search you out.
Both of which strike me as hideously passive activities.
The first is remarkably random, a shit fight with all of your competitors to climb to the top of natural or paid for search around terms losely associated with your business. The whole endevour resembles a flock of seagulls following a plough in the hope of some juicy worms. And how many search terms is enough search terms?
The latter is a no brainer but its efficacy is rather dependent on whether anybody can be bothered to look you up.
Both are necessary but neither are sufficient.
The reality is that search optimisation of either colour should be seen as a safety net for a brand. It should be working as a final attempt to secure the attention of consumers if everything else has failed. But it is far better (and probably rather cheaper) if people approach their browsers with your brand already in pole position in their mental search engine – already ahead of the field because people know more about you and they care more about you.
That instead of searching for low cost air fares to Barcelona they are looking up BA.com or Travelocity.
And instead of searching for vehicle recovery services they are searching for the AA
And instead of searching for cheap home insurance they are checking out Norwich Union (yeah right)
After all how many of us search for ‘book sellers’ on Google rather than going straight Amazon?
Any monkey can buy up some search terms but the real value that marketers can add is making us care about the brand in the first place.
That’s what we might call brand optimisation.
And thats what I want to do.
By the way for a more helpful and considered point of view on the role of search try out my favourite brand search consultants Hayward Carbery.