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Why search is about a heck of a lot more than just marketing

I never cease to be amazed by search marketers that:

a) complain about the Powers That Be (e.g. Google, etc.)

b) chase algorithms

c) operate in utter and complete search vacuum (or worse yet an “SEO only” or “paid search only” vacuum)

The first one freaks me out because there are so many other moral/ethical abominations worth addressing and so many better ways to spend your professional time. The second one freaks me out because all of the truly skillful and successful search marketers that I’ve ever worked with are focused on building a business that’s immune to the ups and downs of algorithms and quality scores. The third one freaks me out, well, because so many people I’ve encountered in our industry – from junior analysts to well-known bloggers and conference speakers – seem to live in a well-insulated SEO or paid search bubble.

But I digress.

What I really want to talk about is some of the ways that you can move beyond the confines of traditional search marketing and extend yourself and your team into the realm of true business optimization via the tried and true avenue we refer to as search.

For starters, and to be fair this is far from a novel insight, make sure that you’re thinking all the way through from referred traffic to conversion rate and even on through to revenue and financial analysis. Also, make sure that you’re working with colleagues on an intelligent way to attribute traffic and conversion to and from other marketing channels that are parallel to search, because sometimes, understanding how search works in unison with parallel channels like social media and display retargeting can make the difference between positive and negative ROI in hyper-competitive market segments like e-commerce.

And don’t stop there, because there’s even more you can do to shape your business (or client’s business) and disrupt your competitive landscape.

For example, you can implement techniques like competitive price tracking and optimization (e.g. tracking how competitor pricing compares to your own company’s pricing and how fluctuations in those price points impact conversion rate for natural and/or paid search keywords) in order to impact conversion rates, which in turn, impact the top and bottom line of your search programs. And if you’re in the e-commerce space, you can partner with your merchandising colleagues to provide data and insight on key product and brand trends in an effort to influence the breadth and quality of the assortment being sold on your site. Properly executing on this front can actually have a more profound impact on conversion rate than more traditional techniques such as A/B and multi-variate landing page testing.

The point is that with every passing day the search landscape – and the broader digital landscape – becomes more and more complex and more intertwined with other cross-functional facets of business operations. And while it’s nice to carve out a nice technical/tactical niche for yourself in rabbit holes that are SEO and paid search advertising chances are that over time and with ever-increasing technological sophistication those niches will become less and less relevant.

Don’t fool yourself. Search marketing isn’t simply a marketing tactic. It’s a form of business administration.


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  • http://twitter.com/jcolman Jonathon Colman

    Well said, Hugo, and completely spot-on.

    This is one of the reasons I’m preaching Agile to marketers – why not build a strong brand based on on organizational workflow that embraces change in all forms and that is truly user-centric rather than, you know, whine about Google? 🙂

    • hugoguzman

      That’s actually really smart, Jonathan! I’m not quite at your level (e.g. fully implementing agile to manage search) but we do use project management software to help streamline and workflow across both paid search and SEO. It also helps us document all of the things we’re doing in case anybody comes asking. So far, it’s paid huge dividends!

      • http://www.facebook.com/greg.boser Greg Boser

        Thank you for helping to spread the good word! If you stay in the bubble, you will eventually run out of air and die.

        • hugoguzman

          Thanks for swinging by, Greg! It’s an honor to have you chime in my humble little blog.

          And true that!

  • http://profiles.google.com/ajfried Aaron Friedman

    Nice post indeed! This was the exact reason I left my old agency to join my current agency. I would for sure classify myself as an “SEO Specialist” but I wanted to work closer with other teams (paid search, Media, creative, etc.) because down the road, this is for sure where things are headed, that is, if its not there yet.

    • hugoguzman

      Thanks for chiming in, Aaron! I completely agree and I’m glad that you found an agency that’s opened up those parallel avenues for you.

  • hugoguzman

    Totally agree, Anthony, and I dig the MMA metaphor. Also, I’m always up for physics talk : )

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  • http://twitter.com/DocSheldon DocSheldon

    Great stuff, Hugo. I agree with you 100% that folks that limit themselves to only one small aspect are just waiting to be made obsolete. Not a fate that I’d care for, thanks!

    • hugoguzman

      That’s a great way of putting it, Doc! And like you, I’m not interested in making myself obsolete.