Monday, August 4, 2008

Search Insider: The Anatomy Of Great

The Anatomy Of Great

IN SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING, "GREAT" is completely relative and open to interpretation and opinions.  However, this doesn't stop any of us from consistently striving for great results, opportunities, situations, and elements in this medium whether we're on the client side, at an SEM agency, or a global agency focused on media or traditional marketing.  

Prospects and clients alike often ask me what the components are that lead to greatness in SEM. So this week I'm offering some examples; after all, you need to know what great is in order to have it.  Since this is a blog, I'm curious what you believe yourselves exemplifies or drives greatness, so I encourage you to post away with thought-provoking responses.  

Measurable business results. The pillars of SEM are accountability, measurement, and control; therefore, what's "great" is measurable business results from SEM, and an attitude toward it that's focused on return.  All else should be considered unsuccessful management.

True investment in digital media. Greatness is represented by investments in search and risks taken with budgets appropriate for testing and long-term development and growth.  Dipping your toe into paid search, SEO, or emerging media programs with minimal budgets and then running for the hills when the going gets tough will ensure failure while your competitors reap the rewards.  Just because there's a brake pedal readily available doesn't mean that you need to always ride it.  Great results usually come from considerable upfront investments driving faster data collection, analysis, tests, and optimization of results.

Valuable in-house search managers. What's the unique value that an in-house search manager should provide at a company that outsources SEM to an agency?  Greatness exists where search managers are less focused on justifying their organizational role by poking at bid management (which the agency is managing), and more focused on providing business and customer data, clear goals, advanced ROI tracking/measurement, creative assistance, internal reporting of results, and visibility into exec level requirements and discussions.  Great are the champions of in-house search who follow the immortal words of Jerry Maguire: "Help me help you!"

"Search-smart" agency account management staff. Great are "search smart" account people on the agency side that clients view as true consultants they can depend on.  When working with an agency, clients are in a tough spot; those who they speak with and rely on the most can often be relationship managers with no answers, and even worse, no ideas that will drive opportunities, recommendations, and business growth.  Great results ultimately tie back to great thinkers who are smart about search in business-relevant ways, and can be trusted taking the lead.

Fundamentals of marketing understood, touch-points valued. People don't wake up, do a search, click, and convert.  By now we should all recognize that "search" is a utility, and "search marketing" is how we effectively present marketing messages within the context of that utility in order to drive a desired result (orders, customer acquisition, page views, etc.). "Great" are marketers who understand that their target audience will move through Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action phases (the media funnel). When this is understood clearly, great marketers usually invest in media that touches each phase (cross-channel) in an intelligent way that influences or supports cross-channel results and ultimately drives conversions at the bottom of the funnel.  Great are those marketers who also strive to gain insight into "modes" that their target audience may be in within unique channels (mobile, outdoor, online display, search, etc.) through data analysis and strategic planning that acts on this data through testing and cross-channel collaboration internally and among agencies.   

Web sites as strategic marketing tools, not destinations. Web sites are no longer destinations; they're tools for driving intended business results, and when approached in the context of today's media landscape, should be part of a process I like to call "digital asset management."  "Great" are corporations that don't live in the past (where Web sites were once marketing annoyances that ideally required minimal effort and investments to manage).  Instead, they see success in search and the broader media ecosystem as totally dependent on the digital experiences that are provided to consumers.  

Paid search technology as results driver, not time-saver. On the technology front in paid search, it doesn't matter where we've been. What's important is that there's plenty of tools at this point for bid management and analysis of campaigns, including those offered by the search engines.  "Great" are technologies that don't just organize and make easy the manual processes search marketers may be struggling with; they drive performance results far beyond what humans would ever be able to achieve. Charles De Gaulle said it best when he noted that "greatness is a road leading towards the unknown." Search marketing represents a genuine revolution in reaching the consumer, and the mastery of its practices will be extensible to future forms of marketing, whether or not the discipline we call "SEM" exists five or ten years from now.  No one can say exactly what these new forms of marketing will look like, but they will all include the same elements, including measurability, control, efficiency, transparency, and heuristic ability, that make all things "great" in SEM today, likely to be heavily valued and leveraged in the future.

Got another example of greatness in SEM? Send me an e-mail or post a response on the blog.

Gerry Bavaro is vice president, client services at Didit, an agency for search engine marketing and auctioned media management based in New York. You can reach Gerry at

Search Insider for Monday, August 4, 2008:

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