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Google Is Not a Strategy

  |  December 2, 2009   |  Comments

If you think the content network on Google means you're reaching the Internet universe, you're mistaken.

Google isn't a strategy, or even an e-marketing strategy. Google is a tremendously robust search partner for marketers, but it's one partner in the tactical execution of search, where search may be one of the channels used in an overall e-marketing strategy.

If you're ever tempted to believe that covering brand, product, category, long tail terms, or even the content network on Google means you're effectively reaching the active Internet universe, you're mistaken. By limiting your reach to Google's reach, you're still neglecting more than you're finding and missing whole aspects of the consumer -- or B2B (define) -- experience online.

This has nothing to do with whether you're a small or large business. While Google has made it relatively easy for small businesses to use their self-service options, and plenty of mid-size or even larger businesses have put all their online dollars in the Google basket, the convenience and efficiency of the medium rarely makes it a standalone approach to achieving your online objectives.

Budgets Play a Role

Often, especially lately, budgets have been drastically cut, leaving little opportunity for a well-rounded approach to digital strategy. In this situation, some marketers have made the decision to defend their turf and absorb as much demand as their pocketbooks allow through search.

It's cheaper to absorb demand than to create it, and you don't want to disappoint customers searching for you by brand, category, or product. You certainly don't want to leave that opportunity open to competitors. Organic search plays a key role, but that isn't free either.

As budgets loosen, you'll see marketers start to invest again in brand building, awareness building, and other activities that rely more on non-search related digital approaches.

Everyone Searches

True -- or close enough. Search is a nearly universal activity online with a reported 50 to 80 percent of all online sessions starting with a search, depending on which study you reference.

Google rules that marketplace with more than 60 percent of searches, but what about the other engines? The Bing/Yahoo combination could be compelling.

Some people are still attached to alternate engines or use some combination of engines. They also search in industry vertical engines, especially in a B2B environment. A growing segment of the population shops online, and the number and diversity of comparison shopping engines have grown to meet their needs.

Nearly everyone searches, but not everyone uses Google, or uses Google exclusively. Even if you're wed to search as a singular tactic, try to include more search partners.

Is it Just About Search?

The way people view content and make decisions online is complex. It can't be reduced to simply the search and contact, or search and buy activities alone. Let's take a quick look at two pretty common occurrences -- the search for health information and the search for buying information on any product.

In one healthcare example, a consumer with a new diagnosis or an interest in specific healthcare information might start with a search engine. Searches will quickly yield commercial sites offering relief or management options for their ailment, communities of people with the same ailment, and perhaps their caregivers, plus resource sites with deep information and advice.

Consumers with some experience with the disease or condition and healthcare professionals are probably less likely to start with a search engine. If they're sophisticated users, they may have already set up alerts or RSS feeds from their most favorite or credible sources of information. So, if this was a target population, you could reach some of these consumers using search, but if that's all you do, you would miss them in many other critical locations and mindsets that support positive brand associations and allow for complex message delivery.

In another example, an electronics product decision maker might start with search, follow an ad or social media link, or they might visit retail sites to view options and pricing. Almost certainly a large portion of them will utilize consumer shopping engines to get deals, coupon sites to take advantage of promotions, and technology communities to get the insiders' reviews and ratings. They might also utilize their own networks through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or other avenues to solicit advice from trusted sources. An effective strategy in this case would need to be broader than search and even shopping engines to include contextually relevant placements, a content strategy, and social media to make sure your product was in the considered set.

If your digital strategy is limited to those who already know to search for you in some form, then your strategy is limited in many ways. Smart marketers use search and a number of other avenues to supply their audiences with the answers to their stated or implied questions. It's a grievous mistake to assume that all users are alike or that all users are in the same stage of their discovery or buying cycle.

For some users in some stages, search engines will be a critical component and Google will be a strong contender for your marketing dollars to reach that group. For other users, a better approach will be the whole universe of non-Google digital opportunities to reach, inspire, educate, entertain, engage, influence, or otherwise touch your audience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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