Search marketing brings us full circle

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We recently held a half-day session devoted entirely to search marketing that gave us an opportunity to cast a wide net internally about this very important topic. I learned some new things and also had a few moments where it seemed the obvious was being presented, but sometimes even "hearing the obvious" can be valuable because it prompts you to make new connections and draw useful conclusions. That was the case for me.

Search engine marketing vs. search engine optimization

When considering search, it’s helpful to remember the distinction between “search engine marketing” (SEM) and “search engine optimization” (SEO).  SEM is the focus on increasing website visibility in search engines through paid placement and optimization, whereas SEO deals with website improvements to climb to the top of organic search. Simply put, SEM is paying to associate your web content with terms and phrases so your web page shows up in the paid suggestions at the top of the page in search results (or along the side of the page). SEO is giving your web content the best chances of showing up near the top of the page for a given search term or phrase. You earn SEO with relevant content and with a plethora of techniques relating to keywords, links, URL structure and others that I won't delve into here. Both areas are important and are mutually-reinforcing, so paying attention to both is key.

Search – it’s what we do

Search is important simply because so much of our everyday lives are spent online. When online, we search, we find, we read, we react, we comment, we share. Even in the middle of our browsing session, we might open another tab to search for something related or simply loop back to search when needed. Quite simply - it's what people do online. And because of that, if we are not already doing this, we marketers need to rethink every aspect what we do in terms of search.

Search compels marketers to change

Of course, marketers still need to focus on our target market(s) and do all we can to understand what they need. When broken down to discrete activities, our work entails many things (not in any particular order): listening, responding, offering, inviting, engaging, studying, analyzing, segmenting, reading, writing, designing, creating and so on. From that view, what emerges is that the most important interactions with our target market involve content in some form and that's why search matters so much. We might understand how our new whitepaper relates to the business issues, but can our target market make that same connection? Let's hope so. Using search marketing techniques are ways to boost that likelihood.

Search reinforces Marketing 101: Know thy customer

Understanding how our content might be searched for is how we help our market connect our content to their issue. Content can be images, descriptions, PDFs, podcasts, videos, webcasts, webinars or updates. Even Tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates are all content. The new world of digital marketing enables new ways to reach customers with great content. We can also measure our effectiveness in many ways, but it also has empowered the customer to tune you out if you’re irrelevant to them. So content is king, but only as long as the customer agrees that it reigns or they go searching elsewhere to get what they need.

An equally bad outcome is that they never find you because you’ve not adjusted the way you do things to fit the new rules of search-driven digital marketing. The rules are simple, but equally important – keywords, tags, page layout and other factors of good search-driven marketing all stem from what the customer prioritizes.  Get them wrong, and you won’t even show up when they ask for what you can offer.

Whether tuning you out or simply never finding you, either case is a disconnect that is eminently preventable and it highlights the importance of understanding the customer.  It’s come full circle back to Marketing 101, folks, but with a twist – so pay attention and understand how the twist impacts how you are going about marketing.  The stakes for getting it right have never been higher (and they’re equally high for getting it wrong).

Use SAS to get full customer profiles

So a complete customer profile has never been more important, and SAS Customer Intelligence solutions give you the ability to get full customer profiles and make the most of them. For some great stories of how our customers understand online behaviors, please visit our customer success stories for Customer Experience Analytics. Please let me know your views on search and its impact on marketing.

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About Author

John Balla

Principal Marketing Strategist

Hi, I'm John Balla - a Digital Marketing Principal here at SAS focused on Content Strategy. I co-founded the SAS Customer Intelligence blog and served as Editor for five years. I like to find and share content and experiences that open doors, answer questions and maybe even challenge assumptions so better questions can be asked. Outside of work I stay busy with my wife and I keeping up with my 2 awesome college-age kids (Go Quakers! Go Tarheels!), volunteering for the Boy Scouts, keeping my garden green, striving for green living, expressing myself with puns, and making my own café con leche every morning. I’ve lived and worked on 3 contents and can communicate fluently in Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian and passable English. Prior to SAS, my experience in marketing ranges from Fortune 100 companies to co-founding two start ups. I studied economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and got an MBA from Georgetown. Follow me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

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