Do You Question the Effectiveness of Search Marketing?

Smiling young woman looking on your laptop sitting on sofa at home
There has been a lot of chatter online regarding the true evaluation of search marketing. Current discussion surrounding ROI attribution models has given cause to question the effectiveness of search marketing as well. There are many reasons why industry experts may feel that way, but consider this: The nature of search marketing is undergoing change, but that’s not news. That’s always been the case. The resiliency and relevance of Search in gaining the trust of the web user is borne out of the ability of search to adapt and adjust. Search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search advertising (PPC/SEM) are integral to any marketing strategy whether separate SEM and SEO lead generation campaigns are conducted or SEO and SEM best practices and techniques are used within a more comprehensive enterprise-level campaign. The marketing objective and messages all have SEO and SEM elements contained within.
Search Engine Architecture and Infrastructure
Let’s examine the purpose and objectives of search engines regardless of who owns and operates them. It could be the traditional search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, Baidu or Yandex, or the emerging power of retail and social media search engines such as mobile app stores (iTunes/Google Play), Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat, to name a few.
The fundamental objective of a search engine is to represent the consumer and provide a trusted service in displaying only relevant, authoritative, and quality content in response to a search query. The algorithm’s used are designed to ensure that. The search engine is where search marketing plies its trade. The building of trust with the consumer results from SEO and SEM best practices applied to all brand web content and is inherent in that content being discovered, indexed, and displayed in the search engine results pages (SERP). The transference and maintenance of that trust in the brand rests squarely on the shoulders of keeping that web content discoverable, fresh, and of value to the consumer.
CMO.com provides a bevy of interesting statistics that demonstrates the power and effectiveness of search. There are 15 listed, but here are a few of the more significant ones.
  • Eighty-five percent of retailers surveyed said search marketing (including paid and SEO) was the most effective customer acquisition tactic.
  • Seventy percent of agencies predict client SEO budgets would increase this year; 47 percent of respondents said there would be a significant or, at least, some increase to their SEO budget.
  • Overall search spend in the USA has grown by 9 percent year-over-year, with most of the increase coming from click growth.
Search Marketing Strategy Explained
SEO, organic search, and SEM, paid search, exist in a co-optimized environment within search marketing.
SEO is a long-term lead generation strategy built upon keeping all brand web content discoverable and relevant on all web properties, including product websites, landing pages for various campaigns, and information websites for white papers, case studies, and community outreach. There is a technical, website coding element to SEO as well as a content format and presentation element. SEO monitors the performance of these websites through the collection and analysis of data gathered from visitors to those web properties. Each web property has at least one key performance parameter and associated metrics that measure performance. The results are measured over the long term and adjustments made as performance dictates.
Paid search, or SEM, is a short-term strategy that is compatible and co-optimized with the SEO strategy. The ads developed are paid in order to attain a favorable position on page one of the various SERPs. The idea is to obtain immediate results to measure the most effective way to reach a segmented and targeted audience.
The fundamental tools of SEO and SEM are the use of keywords and phrases that represent what people searching on the web use regularly that identify with your products and services. Data analytics is a key tool used to test various keywords and phrases in the decision-making process, followed by live testing in a test audience environment to validate the results of what the data says.
The results of paid search performance and the keywords used then feed the long-term SEO strategy in making adjustments and adaptations to the SEO or inbound marketing strategy.
The Future of Search Marketing
As I said at the beginning, search marketing is a discipline affected by numerous changes and the need to adapt to those changes. Many of those changes are coming because of the shift to mobile devices and wearables at the expense of using desktops and laptops to do their online searches. The bottom line here is that the display real estate to show search results is extremely limited.
For example, as Google’s Knowledge Graph improves, fewer and limited search results pages are becoming a distinct possibility. This is why Google built the Knowledge Graph. If Google knows the answer to your question, it wants to surface the answer to you quickly so you don’t have to search around on a website.
Mobile apps are another game changer for search marketing. In reality, mobile apps published by brands circumvent the search engine infrastructure altogether. App store optimization (ASO) in that vertical environment is a future SEO development. Search engines are trying to disrupt that through the development of the ability to do deep linking to mobile app content so that the mobile app online presence can be indexed and content displayed on the SERP to increase discoverability. These are indeed interesting times for SEO professionals.
What Really Matters
The point I’m making here is that search marketing is here to stay.  It will never die.  Adaptive processes, procedures, and best practices may alter the marketing strategies in using SEO and SEM capabilities, but they will always be in use.  Even in our ever-changing business environment, search marketing will continue to evolve to those changes as well.  Therefore, as online marketers, we will need to not only adapt to new developments and technologies, but strive to stay ahead of the curve, anticipating what the future may bring.  It is this staying up-to-date, remaining knowledgeable, and building trust that enables the continued effectiveness of search marketing.
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