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Fear, Reverence And Drama: The Enemies Of Integrated Search
In one eye-opening moment recently, I was thinking about Search Marketing in the context of our industry — and the collective programming of all the conferences, roundtables, panels and workshops that take place.
Thinking about how search is reflected in these environments, I found myself looking back over the past two years and realized just how many times I’d been led to a table to facilitate, walked into a room to participate, hopped on the phone to contemplate or stood in front of a class to illuminate — the merits and practices of integrated search.
Yes, search, in its various forms and fashions has been around since the 90s. So, admittedly, almost every time this conversation comes up, and eyes widen around the table or throughout the room, I have a private inside-my-own-head moment of, “Are we really still questioning this? Come on, people. Stop pondering all those what-ifs, and get on with it.” But, it hasn’t always been OK to say so, out loud. So, we have the conversation. Again.
Pondering these cycles in industry circles, I found myself trying to boil down the collective stalling-in-our-own-tracks to the few most tangible obstacles or hang-ups to integration. And, then, further pondering, what is the one market reality check, in each instance, that should compel us forward — and help us stop being stuck?
1. Fear Of The Clean-up
You hear this one a lot in the instance of a marketing manager who has entered a cross-divisional organization, where different points of ownership often conflict. She says to herself: “I have inherited a mess. To do this right, there is too much clean-up involved. So, I will keep my eyes on the road immediately in front of me.”
The issues are everything from bad legacy site optimization to shoddy enterprise keyword arbitration on the paid side. To derive an overarching strategy and a centrally orchestrated master plan when it comes to search in this very typical situation is practically and often politically daunting to many.
So, such a person or team focuses on what is simple and clear to execute — a modest branded keyword paid campaign, a little SEO — with no serious regard for the perils of their own poor or damaged foundation.
The Reality Check
This is typical. You are not alone. Do the work. There are case studies in progress — large enterprises and even small hectic enterprises who are on their way to getting it right.
Your clean-up does not have to be flawless. It is absolutely worth taking the time to get the appropriate people in the room — corporate, marketing, site, branding and performance stakeholders, as well as any engaged agencies — to get reasonably on the same page. How much deeper will you make your own mess, how many layers will you add to your own hindrances, just because you are not up for cleaning up?
2. Crippled By Paid Search Reverence
Most search-inclined marketers continue to applaud or celebrate the prevailing use of paid search within the marketing mix. Year after year, it’s considered the top digital performance media. Media planners reserve a large share of budget for it. The percentage of our industry spend going to it keeps trending up. And, we know that consumers prefer it as a means for demanding and finding what they want.
Look at any eMarketer chart, and all these trends are illustrated. But, cursory use of that preference data in our planning leads to myopic marketing. We must look further.
The Reality Check
Your company’s brand or product website is a close second to search — for consumers searching directly for information on brands and products. It’s true. Yes, there has been a lot of pressure for companies to stop regarding their branded website URL as a destination — and think of their environment as more cross-platform. And, that they should. But, never at the neglect of that branded site itself.
In Fleishman Hillard’s 2012 Digital Influence Index, a global study, we are reminded that although consumers prefer search for finding what they want online (thus, making it a mandatory for marketers) — in every country around the world — the branded site is next.
Yes, paid search is powerful — and so is the optimization of your site. But, beyond making sure it is discoverable and obstacle free, make sure that its content is tuned to your consumer and your business and marketing goals. Make sure that it is an environment that services exactly as it should, on its own.
Consumers are coming directly to it. It matters. So, free yourself of your tunnel vision on search. It’s more than OK — in fact it’s vital — to tend to your brand or product website.
3. Over-dramatizing Organization For Integrated Search
Most of the folks stalling out on the point of organizing for integrated search seem stuck in one of a few ways. One, they feel that truly integrated search — running a robust paid plan closely aligned with environment optimization strategy; concerted, organized optimization of all multi-media or video assets; execution of appropriate social or mobile pushes — requires too much bandwidth and cooperation of resources.
Or, two, they are engaged with multiple outside agencies or consultants who are working independently from one another, and often at odds with each other and therefore, guess what — with their objectives for success. Time to take a deep breath and get over it.
The Reality Check
You have to be organized to succeed. Don’t make getting organized or the prospect of holding your leaders and agencies responsible for working together into an operational drama. Just do it. Thoughtful cooperation will never be counter-productive. It creates a shared view and moves you forward, one way or another.
While we would like to believe that integrated search is a foregone conclusion, it is clear by the cycles of industry dialogue that it is not. I have come to suspect that we may be belaboring current obstacles or organizational scenarios — rather than encouraging each other to take a blunt look at what’s required, and doing what it takes to progress.
Fear, reverence and drama have a tendency to get in the way — in search, as in life — of clarity and action. As we move into the next era of integrated marketing, and certainly of search, may we collectively let go of these ties that bind us to the status quo.
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