Search Engine Marketing: You Like It, You Really Like It!

A while back, I wrote about how I was going to use the term “search engine marketing” rather than “search engine optimization” to cover the wide range of activities involved in obtaining traffic from search engines.

Apparently, readers like the idea. Over 30 people sent emails to me on the subject, with the vast majority of them in favor of the change.

For those who disagreed, one common theme was that “search engine marketing” seemed too narrow a term. They felt marketing on the Web should encompass more than search engines.

I entirely agree. People who want to market Web sites do need to think about things beyond search engines. However, some companies and individuals specialize solely in search-engine-related activities, as opposed to affiliate marketing, email marketing, and so on. It is this specialized group that I meant for the term to cover.

If you offer more than just search engine marketing services, then, by all means, you’d want to give yourself a broader title, such as “Web marketer” or “Internet marketer.”

Here’s a sampling of responses, first those in favor, then those against.

Those in Favor

  • “I agree that search engine marketing is a broader-based terminology, but I really like the abbreviation of SEO rather than SEM, which when said rapidly has a sexual connotation.”

  • “I was responsible for search engine optimization as my last job, and the task was so large that it should have been a full-time position.

    “These days you’re not only managing submissions to search engines, paid placement, pay for inclusion, and content. But you are also worrying about site architecture and link density, etc. It really is a lot of work for one person to do.

    “I am glad that you are now calling it ‘search engine marketing.’ Give all of the poor people with SEO as a task a break. It is more than just a task.”

  • “I think the term SE marketing is a brilliant idea. I work for a Web design and development company under the marketing department. I can see this term is actually a great way of assisting clients in understanding that SEO is a form of marketing both their business — products/services — and their Web site. SEO often scares the ‘bejeezus’ out of clients — SEM might help take some of the mystery out of the process and importance of SEO/SEM, as most clients understand the concept and relevance of marketing in general.”

  • “The term ‘search engine optimization’ has always sounded as though we are trying to trick the search engines into ranking our sites well. On the other hand, ‘search engine marketing’ as a term emphasizes that we are actually using search engines as a tool as part of our overall marketing strategy, which it is.”

  • “I agree with using the term ‘search engine marketing.’ Most people I talk to don’t have a clue what SEO means, although it does create some amusing curiosity when they see my business card with my name with S.E.O. at the end of it. The first thing people ask is, ‘What’s an SEO?’ I can see the look in their eye wondering if they should tell me I have a typo on my card but once I explain it, there’s always a chuckle, and, voil&agrave, the ice is broken….

    “I feel that search engine marketing defines my company in a clearer light and encompasses everything an SEO does and more. I will continue to use SEO as a title and identify my business as an SEM firm.”

  • “Yes, search engine marketing does makes more sense than SEO, especially if we, as a group of marketers, intend on broadening our perceived suite of services. However, it is safe to say that if you are already doing all the SE marketing activities, then you are a mere step away from starting to look into all the other ways to promote a site online — past the search engines.

    “To cover this, my company has recently expanded our service title from SEO to Internet marketing strategies. Why pigeonhole ourselves into such a narrow online alley when all other online site promotional activities are such natural complements to SE marketing? They go hand in hand, and it seems to make sense to start putting them all together.”

  • “Definitely time for change! Search engine marketing fits the bill these days more appropriately than SEO. As Danny pointed out, SEO only refers to crawler optimization, whereas search engine marketing refers to what we do on all the search engines — market a particular site! We consider ourselves online marketers and within that comes search engine marketing.”

  • “I agree with your use of the term ‘search engine marketing’ instead of ‘search engine optimization.’ Even novice users can relate to marketing, while I find myself continuously explaining what ‘optimization’ means in this context.”

  • “I agree that it should be search engine marketing. That puts the onus of being responsible for it into the marketing department, as part of an overall site promotion and marketing strategy. Too often this important tactic is relegated to IS/Web developers because it’s more ‘technical’ in nature.”

  • “Search engine marketing is my preferred description. I’ve found that people often are confused when I describe what I do with SEO or SEP. Also, those terms are limiting, when you consider the reach of what we do as Web marketing gurus. My goals are more about bringing targeted traffic to my clients’ Web sites.”

And Those Against

  • “I personally think Internet marketing is a more encompassing term as this includes inward links, banners, email campaigns, etc.”

  • “No, I think that search engine marketing does not adequately describe what I do. Most newbies seem to think that it means that you are marketing a search engine.

    “We optimize sites for search engine access. Yes, we do marketing and submission for sites as well, but all that is included. When I explain what I do, I say that I make sites both search-engine and user friendly.”

  • “Well, if you are going to go for the ‘marketing’ word, I think you need to acknowledge that SEO is really just one component of Web site marketing — which is really the term you should be using to address both online and offline marketing of Web sites. The directories and other forms of site promotion are components of Web site marketing. I don’t know that there really is or should be an umbrella word for the combination of SEO and the directory and related promotional work you outlined in your article.”

  • “No, I don’t think SE marketing fits the bill for SEO. I believe SEO is one component of search engine marketing. The others are site optimization, directory optimization, strategic links, pay-per-inclusion strategies, featured links, sponsored links and others.”

  • “I am going to respectfully disagree with your term ‘search engine marketing’ as opposed to ‘search engine optimization.’ The term ‘marketing’ is already one of the most overused and abused words in the business vocabulary, and in my years of print publishing and consulting experience (over 25, including 5 in electronic media) I have had to consistently work with clients to get everyone using the term ‘marketing’ to agree on its use.

    “What it is not:

    “Advertising is not marketing.
    “Discounting prices is not marketing.
    “Selecting media is not marketing.
    “Selling and sales are not marketing.

    “What it is:

    “Marketing is a system (or method) by which products/services are conceived and ultimately brought to market. All of the brief list above are subsets of the marketing/sales function and should not be confused with the broad term ‘marketing.’

    “The same analogy holds true for your discussion on search engine optimization/marketing. If your marketing plan includes a strong Web presence and your research indicates that search engines produce customers, then search engine optimization will be part of your promotion mix. A part of, not to be confused with, your marketing strategy.

    “The classic analogy in traditional media is the role of the media buyer (either at an ad agency or performed by some person in-house, up to and including the owner of a small business). As part of an overall marketing plan, a promotion goal is set. Within the promotion budget and goal, various media are assigned a role and evaluated. Buying decisions (inclusion decisions for search engines, pay/no pay, etc.) are part of the media strategy within the promotion budget of an overall marketing plan.

    “SES, or search engine selection, may be the most appropriate term given the narrow (but expanding) field you are addressing.

    “EMA, or electronic media analyst is probably the correct term with the most probable longevity. This person is responsible for link selection, banner or CPA advertising, e-newsletters, search engines, etc. Very large companies might have specialists in each area, but for smaller businesses I think an electronic media analyst is clearly needed.”

  • “I strongly disagree with that term. Say this succeeded in being the term that is used when businesses want to find help with the search engines. I’m sure you realize how many thousands of sites out there are truly marketing-type sites that do email, banner advertising, etc. and do what they call SEO on the side. These sites offer ‘submission to a gazillion search engines’ for $9.95. It is this type of site that would be prominent in any search results if the term ‘search engine marketing’ became widely used and recognized.

    “It is hard enough explaining to potential clients why your price is higher than these types of ‘marketers,’ and if they became prominent in search results it would be a nightmare scene. All of these scams would be grouped together along with the true SEO sites, which would not be good at all.

    “I do not personally have the word ‘marketing’ on my site anywhere and would never have it on the site. There are thousands of sites that come online daily to push their so-called marketing and so-called SEO. We know they are scams. Please do not push that word ‘marketing’ as it is waaaay too sweeping and takes in all the ‘marketing’ sites on the Net.”

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