Battling Baffling Search Marketing Afflictions
Ten years of writing op-ed for various publications, well in excess of 15 years working in, around, or at the helm of agencies in the digital marketing sector, and it still surprises me when I see odd behavior in the client, vendor, trade press or demand funnel.
Search marketing has always been its own animal. Abject bad behavior aside, I’ve assembled a short list of afflictions and disorders I’ve witnessed over the years (not necessarily ordered chronologically or by importance) many of which continue to baffle me.
Up Your Own Arse Kool-Aid Consumption (UYAKA)
This is rampant in our industry but in search marketing specifically it has reached pandemic proportions. Of course, finding patient zero is impossible, but I am sure it happened sometime between 2002 and 2004.
In this time frame, search advertising went from being a joke to bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, search is the single biggest line item in nearly every online marketer’s budget.
Search fell in love with itself during the boom period and hasn’t looked back. Solid direct performance metrics, specialized disciplines in management and optimization are all key symptoms of UYAKA.
Many marketers consider search to be an automatic or arbitrary advertising tool. In spite of itself, search marketing remains siloed or shuffled off to the redheaded stepchildren in the business.
Search is — in this respect — a victim of its own success. While it is the largest segment of spend, it takes a back seat to so-called “creative” aspects of digital.
While there is no known cure, you can treat UYAKA’s symptoms by pushing the boundaries of this form of advertising, daring, even, to be creative.
Trade Publication HuffPo Syndrome (TPHS)
Along with the downfall of the knowledge gathering and consumption universe generally — exemplified by just about anything on the Bravo network — I’ve noticed a decline in relevance in our industry’s trade publications.
It seems like some are taking the “Real Housewives” as inspiration for their content creation.
Present publication excluded, what’s with the race to produce tabloid pablum? It’s really disappointing to see the crap that’s rolling off the presses of some industry publications lately — unsourced rants taking center stage along with idiotic, it already happened elsewhere, do anything to make a buck, creatively absent pandering.
The cure is simple. If you want to be a tabloid, be a tabloid. If not, just stop. You can help by no longer tweeting, +1-ing, liking or otherwise socializing idiotic excuses for editorial.
Content Pandering Flu (CoPFu)
A close cousin of TPHS, chronic yet curable, this one is everywhere. Case in point; the “Hitler reacts to” meme. OK, I get it; making fun of Hitler is amusing to some people. The text over images thing was really hysterical the first dozen times I saw it and I give the first half dozen guys who did it kudos.
Hitler as a role model aside, the business of digital content production is being driven by a demand for search dominance. The first victim of this shameless meme-following content environment was originality. Innocence came soon after. I don’t see an end to this rush of monetization-at-all-costs anytime soon.
Google and other engines may actually squelch this one with content quality updates like Panda, Caffeine (Rock Star, Red Bull, etc.) and, as it becomes more difficult to generate revenue, content pandering might just go the way of the email blast.
Chronic Perkolitis (CP)
Perkolitis is common, largely undiagnosed, and the only cure is a significant loss of budget. If you spend enough money (or have enough) you can get anyone to do almost anything.
In the media buying world, you can get conference tickets, hotel rooms, fly fishing equipment, ski trips, all-expense-paid vacations or other things not fit to name in a respectable publication. While I’m certain I’ve yet to see it all, I have seen some really interesting requests come from agencies and even the buy (a.k.a brand) side.
I’m all for eating and discussing business (especially the eating part) but there has to be a line. While accepting gifts is common, expected and even required in some parts of the world, most domestic brands have rules about such things.
The challenge is trying to determine how bias influences spending. Brands can have very strict policies, yet they very rarely ask about vendor policies.
General Disarray Affliction (GDA)
Knowledge is power. Someone possessing only a little knowledge, however, is dangerous.
In the business of search marketing and the digital marketing universe, GDA is a recipe for adversity. Time and time again, I’ve watched as the new kid on the block manages to weasel his way into a job by spouting misinformation and hypothetical chaos scenarios (that would occur if the client picked someone else).
I understand the need to make something one’s own, but going so far as to spread abject falsehoods could mean you’ve contracted GDA.
The GDA plagues many companies and is very simply a product of a young industry. The only cure is maturity.
Say Anything Disease (SAD)
In the ad business, intellectual capital pays the bills for professional services companies, making it tempting to boast of one’s (sometimes non-existant) prowess — a key symptom of Say Anything Disease (SAD).
Agencies have to work harder than they ever have to distinguish themselves, justify the fees and the work. Heavy competition and GDAs have made CP commonplace.
On the tech side, companies need to quit touting vaporware and potential clients need to understand that just because a firm has attracted venture capital investment, that doesn’t mean it’s destined to last.
Pitching business has always been a delicate balance of establishing credibility while avoiding giving away the farm. Salespeople like to close deals. Heck, I like to close deals. Who doesn’t? Lately I’ve seen this one getting out of control and that is just sad. A cure isn’t entirely out of the question, but believing in one requires optimism about the future on the scale of Gene Roddenberry’s.
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