As I’m returning from SMX Advanced in Seattle, I keep thinking about the presence of Bing and the lengths at which Microsoft is going to promote their new search engine.
Between lighting up the space needle during the launch party, the television commercials and $100 million in advertising, I couldn’t help but question the extent. As a whole, the search marketing industry tends to frown upon traditional marketing. Tracking metrics and proving ROI is ingrained in us. Failure is a lack of conversions, visits, rankings.
But there is something to be said for that kind of visibility and brand awareness. After all, search demand needs to come from somewhere. Branded search terms are always by far the top traffic drivers. Top non-branded keywords drive much of the traffic in part because of name recognition.
Searchers need legitimacy in the information, products and services they are seeking. And if I’ve never even heard of a company before, but see that they are ranking number one for my search term, I’m not going to be completely convinced to click without doing a quick scan for something I recognize first. Maybe the only thing going for them is a really great SEO firm. I need more than just a number one ranking.
We as search engine marketers are doing ourselves a major disservice by not valuing traditional marketing efforts. Not only is it narrow, but it takes away from our own efforts. We simply can’t, in one breath knock the validity of a radio or television ad while championing the value of social media or contextual advertising in another breath.
Given the youth of the SEM industry, we’ve still got a lot of holes to fill until we can get on a soapbox about the ROI centricity of search. Social media, first click vs. last click attribution, content network conversion and tracking nightmares that regularly stem from all flash booking engines and complex shopping carts to name a few.
The point is that it may not be worth turning the wheels to calculate ROI for social media. Or to shy away from other online marketing tactics that may not directly result in increased conversions or sales. There will always be an element of search marketing that cannot be measured and turned into a percent figure.
The key is to gain a deeper understanding between causal relationships. What happens to organic traffic when paid search for branded terms stop? Traffic drops that can be attributed to algorithm changes, seasonality, etc – can these be mapped back to a change in offline marketing efforts? Effectively illustrating these connections will soften CFO’s, empower marketers and fuel the search marketing industry on a new level.
Rachel Andersen works for the Portland based SEM agency Anvil Media, Inc. She has expertise in all aspects of search engine marketing and specializes in SEO for large sites. Andersen has been responsible for the development and execution of dozens of search and social marketing campaigns over her time spent with Anvil.