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Top 10 Things that Make Search Marketers Scratch Their Head
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I love working in the Search industry. For the simple reason that it is constantly evolving and that change appears to be the only constant. To me, being in Search Marketing is a rewarding yet sometimes thankless job and any time that you have a new industry such as this one, there are bound to be trials and errors, quite often more errors than the alternative. To be an effective Search Marketer you really have to have the ability roll with change.

You see to be a good search marketer there are two things that you need to be good at.
  1. Search - or at least the ability to understand Search
  2. Marketing - realizing that marketing has drastically changed over the past century and especially in the past decade. Relationships have to be built and nurtured and truly realizing that the consumer is in command.
If you are not good at one or neither of these things, you are not going to be successful as a Search marketer. Furthermore, if you are not learning something new everyday, you are not going to grow and bring to the table new ideas and contribute to your company or your client's business objectives. Let's face it, it's not easy. As a Search Marketer you're expected to know "everything about everything". You need to know about coding issues, site architecture, on-page optimization, interlinking, link building, content development. news release management, blended search, marketing 101, mobile, offline and online integration, viral marketing, social media marketing, search engine specs, usability and the list goes on an on. The fact of the matter is, there are people who have made a lot of money and gained a lot of attention for excelling in any one of those areas. It still does not make the life of a Search Marketer any easier.

As a result, we have put together a list of the top 10 items that tend to leave search marketers scratching their heads at times.

10 Things that Make Search Marketers Scratch Their Heads
  1. Balancing the need for strategy vs. tactics and tactics vs. strategy - actually this issue holds true not just for Search Marketers and marketers, but for people in general. Whether your a GM for a professional sports team or a novice entrepreneur, at various points everyone tends to struggle with defining strategy and tactics and when to use them. Many confuse the two.

    Strategy: high level, the "big picture" and overall plan that outlines who one will achieve their objectives.

    Tactics: the activities and items that assist in the execution of the strategy.

    It gets confusing because there are items that fall into both categories. For example, Search can be a strategy unto itself. It can also be a tactic as part of a higher level strategy. Is a "blended search strategy" a strategy or is it a tactic? The answer is it depends. It depends on the objective and on other "strategies" being leveraged... Are you scratching your head yet?

  2. Duplicate Content - it seems like duplicate content always leaves search marketers scratching their heads. This is understandable as the Search Engines have not been entirely clear over the years as to what exactly they consider duplicate content to be. They have opened up a little more recently by providing us with tools such as the canonical tag to help deal with duplicate content issues. However go to any conference and you will always hear a discussion about duplicate content.

  3. The Algorithms - for years and years now, people have been trying to reverse engineer the Search algorithms. This is difficult to do because there are hundreds of factors as to how the algorithms operate. Not to mention the fact that they are constantly being updated. Recently at SES New York, Bruce Clay mentioned that Google communicated that they made 415 changes to the algorithm in the past year. That's a lot of changes. If someone could reverse engineer this algorithm, Google would be out of business or at least have some decent competition. An effective Search Marketer does not need to reverse engineer the algorithm to try and manipulate the results. A successful Search Marketer works with the algorithms to enhance the results.

  4. Non-Search Engine Friendly URL Structure - what I mean by this is why large sites continue to deploy these brutal URLs and site architecture and wonder why they have limited visibility in the Search results. Whether it's due to a proprietary CMS or just sheer lack of SEO best practices, the number of large sites who fail to address this key issue is bewildering. People, work to create search engine (and user friendly) URLs. Make sure that you have canonical URLs.

  5. Getting Recommendations Implemented - ahh another age old problem. You see for Search Marketing, specifically SEO to be effective, you need to implement the recommendations and best practices that are provided. SEO results can take time, we all know that, but the take a longer time when a recommendation is sitting with legal or with the IT team for weeks or months. Here's the thing, you have to create Search Champions at each level and at each division. That means in marketing, in sales, in I.T., with your copywriters with your PR teams with third party vendors, within the C-Suite. Heck you'd probably want to create Search Champions with anybody and everybody involved directly or indiretly with your Web properties.

  6. Integration of Offline and Online - why is it so hard to get companies to understand the importance of this for marketing efforts? Search can compliment other marketing channels and can assist offline efforts. Yet many, probably because Search is still somewhat new, appear to feel that Search has yet to prove itself. We are still seeing the majority of budgets directed at offline activity. This will change as the masses learn just how cost effective SEO and to a lesser extent PPC can be.

  7. The Importance of SEO Fundamentals - I often scratch my head when I think of all of the big brands and websites that have failed to address the fundamentals when it comes to natural search. A prospect will come to us with the objective of wanting to increase natural search traffic by X% and online conversions by X$ and will question why they do not have a strong presence in the Search results. A quick look at the site and we see that basic SEO fundamentals have not been addressed. Title tags and meta data is not optimized, page copy is minimal, the site is entirely in Flash, the URLs are not search engine friendly, the pages are not well interlinked.. and it goes on. These are big sites and big brands that are doing this. Sheesh...

  8. Website Redesigns - specifically the timing of the redesigns. In the perfect world, if you design your site with the user in mind and keep SEO in the mix, you should not have a need ever to redesign your website. You may need to re-skin it for aesthetics, but if your site has a sound infrastructure is well optimized and user friendly, you should have no need for a website redesign. In case you did not know redesigns can be expensive and they take time and resources. Not to mention any time you do a website redesign you risk jeopardizing your existing presence in the organic/natural search results of the major Search Engines. Website redesigns take time and careful planning must be a part of your redesign. Do not plan to launch your site during your peak season, wait for the downtime and be sure to test prior to launch. I am amazed at companies who continually redesign their websites. If your site is so bad consider using micro-sites but people (and Searchers) are creatures of habit and become accustomed with familiarity.

  9. Integration of PPC and SEO - I continue to scratch my head with the amount of money brands spend on paid as opposed to organic. I can understand why, but as data suggests, Searchers still prefer to click on organic listings (70-30 split) and organic results are longer lasting. (Of course you want to ensure that you have optimized the right page for the organic results). At the end of the day SEO and PPC need to work together and there should be budget for both. While you while receive immediate results with your sponsored ads, over time you may see a better return with organic in terms of overall revenue being generated.

  10. Rankings - industry folk suggest that "rankings are dead". Well we might agree... to a point. Rankings are important for the single fact that ranking trends need to be monitored. You see organic rankings lead to traffic which can lead to qualified traffic which leads to leads which leads to conversion which leads to revenue which leads to profit... and isn't that what it's about at the end of the day? Rankings also provide insight into your online visibility and can illustrate the type of results you are being found for. A video results vs. a Web result vs. a blog result vs. a social media result vs. a news result. Of course it's more about the click, but in order to be clicked, you need to be found first. Search is all about key phrases and intent. Keyword searches are sorted into rankings, so to say that rankings are dead just is not 100% accurate. Sure personalization and blended results are changing the landscape, but that just gives Search Marketers some other items to scratch their heads about.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, May 14, 2009  
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