SEM's Midlife Crisis

  |  January 23, 2008   |  Comments

Search marketing is reclaiming its original position as the parent of many children; SEO and PPC must scoot over a bit to accommodate it.

I'm fascinated by the role that perspective plays, especially when looking back over the brief but eventful life of search marketing and advertising. We're safely past the time when people would routinely say things like, "Search marketing is still in its infancy." But as everyone knows, childhood and adolescence aren't simple, either.

So while I read and enjoy discussions about social media's role in an SEM (define) campaign or whether a corporate site should moderate comments in its blog or the privacy flaws in the latest Facebook application, it all seems a bit rehashed, even though these one-off topics are frequently portrayed as revolutionary. Depending on where you sit, search marketing is either expanding rapidly, venturing out to other activities in a rage of decadence, or it's returning to its former self, part of a multifaceted service industry in which search is just one factor. Either way, it's not always a comfortable place to be.

Search Marketing's Generation Gap

When done right, PPC (define) marketing and SEO (define) are so demanding and intricate that very few people can rightly claim comprehensive knowledge of either one, let alone both. For many folks who've been doing this for a while, it can be downright inconvenient to consider even more angles, technologies, and approaches to traffic generation.

Plenty of SEO and PPC purists look askance at some newer ideas that worm their way into traditional SEM conversations. Social media and tagging. Consumer-generated content. Link baiting. The funny thing is these ideas aren't new at all. Before 2000, online marketing was a pie pretty evenly divided into similarly sized slices, of which SEO and SEM were only two. Other slices included grassroots marketing, viral application conceptualizing and development, banner creative, affiliate marketing, and online publicity.

The bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, followed by the September 11 attacks, forced many companies to drastically slash online (and offline) marketing budgets for fear of the unknown. In terms of online spending, few pie slices remained intact. SEO and PPC were two that did, due largely to the marketers' ability to quantify their success or failure relatively easily.

SEM isn't expanding into new territories. It's reclaiming its original position as the parent of many children, and SEO and PPC just need to scoot over a bit to accommodate them.

Cottage Industries of a Cottage Industry

Just as companies often bolster their core staff with a bullpen of contractors for times of heavy workload, a smart SEM shop should learn to support its core products and services with offerings that will enhance the client experience and increase the client's satisfaction in the long term. Some of these services are new and some are old (and some are old with new names), but their commonality is they all belong in the collective family of online marketing. And if you don't have the time to familiarize yourself with all these service offerings, you need to hire someone who does.

I used to work in the part of the publishing industry that capitalized on people's mistrust and misunderstanding of computer technology, so in that way SEO was a natural fit for me. Most people have no better understanding of search engine algorithms than they do of floating-point variables, so the more complicated things are, the happier I am. But I've had to work hard to convince myself to warmly accept a newer generation of technologies and services when I'd become very comfortable with the older set.

Conclusion

Everything old is new again, as the cliché goes. Understanding cycles of demand for various products is as important as understanding the products themselves. The smartest people in the world don't know everything. Instead, they realize what they don't know, and they either figure out how to learn it or surround themselves with people who already do.

Tried-and-true SEO and PPC aren't going away, and there's a good chance your career will be long and fruitful knowing just one or the other, as long as you know it well. But all the other tentacles of search marketing can help you reach out to a niche that may be under-explored, underserved, and much more in line with your natural skill sets and interest. Ignore them at risk your growth.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

ClickZ Live New York What's New for 2015?
You spoke, we listened! ClickZ Live New York (Mar 30-Apr 1) is back with a brand new streamlined agenda. Don't miss the latest digital marketing tips, tricks and tools that will make you re-think your strategy and revolutionize your marketing campaigns. Super Saver Rates are available now. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik Dafforn

Erik Dafforn is the executive vice president of Intrapromote LLC, an SEO firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Erik manages SEO campaigns for clients ranging from tiny to enormous and edits Intrapromote's blog, SEO Speedwagon. Prior to joining Intrapromote in 1999, Erik worked as a freelance writer and editor. He also worked in-house as a development editor for Macmillan and IDG Books. Erik has a Bachelor's degree in English from Wabash College. Follow Erik and Intrapromote on Twitter.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Search newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Lead Generation Specialist
      Lead Generation Specialist (The Oxford Club) - BaltimoreThe Oxford Club is seeking a talented writer/marketer to join our growing email lead-generation...
    • Health Marketing Editor
      Health Marketing Editor (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreCome flex your intellectual muscle as part of Agora, Inc’s (http://agora-inc.com/) legal team...
    • Technical Business Analyst
      Technical Business Analyst (OmniVista Health) - BaltimoreOmniVista Health is looking to add a Technical Business Analyst to our expanding team...