That was a bold perspective I frequently heard years ago while working for Yahoo! This isn’t new insight about Yahoo’s strategy (I’m often wonder what they’re doing); no, I want to share and discuss with you the claim.
It’s ALL about Search
Think about whether or not that is true for a moment and give me some counter arguments:
- What about my website’s user experience?
- What about branding?
- What about TV advertising?
- My audience merely wants customer support
- Wait Paul, I’m in publishing and not selling something so that statement can’t be true of my business
Ignore search engines for a moment, pretend you know nothing about Google and Yahoo; they don’t exist.
Your customer, your audience, your reader is seeking, rather, searching, for something and those that deliver to the greatest majority, are those that succeed. Regardless of your business, your customer wants something better, cheaper, or faster and they are constantly looking (sorry), searching, for that.
What is ‘user experience’ but the ability of a website to deliver on the needs and expectations of the audience? The audience that is browsing, navigating, for something is searching. Why do you think Google’s homepage is such a good user experience? How can it be that the site design that can unseat Yahoo!, as the only player in Search, in a matter of years, is just a search box?
Are you responsible for your company’s brand? I assure you, your brand is dependent on how well that brand is found and how well the brand fulfills what customers are seeking (its like a freudian slip isn’t it? I mean searching).
Your TV commercials, so good for branding and creating awareness? Clearly, that’s not about search! Put your self in the shoes of your audience and Search is what makes that TV spot reach people. A funny commercial hits those open to and seeking humor, branding really only affects those in need of something the brand or its message delivers, and a promotion appeals only to people who what it. Otherwise, a great TV commercial is that which reaches people who are searching for something.
I always enjoy the fading discussion of targeted advertising and the invasion of privacy that proceeds that capability (“fading discussion” in that fewer are concerned with privacy that years ago). Keep yourself in your customer’s shoes, you hate hearing those Sleep Train mattress sale ads on the radio because you aren’t shopping (searching) for a mattress, the car dealer commercials on TV are a waste of space if you aren’t in the market for a car. Targeted advertising is about search in that it holds the promise of delivering to you what you seek (er.. search).
My long time readers know by now that my expertise lies in three things: Search, Comparison Shopping, and Affiliate marketing so let’s take a shot at making those correlations too. The audience at a comparison shopping site is searching for product recommendations, pricing information, promotions, and the ability to compare. Affiliate users? Deals, discounts, coupons, loyalty points, etc. I’ve written about this before, maximizing the value of a CSE requires including all of your products in the feed to deliver to any possible search, any possible customer.
Everyone is searching and your job is a marketer is to understand that because the audience you want to reach is the one searching for you, your product or service, or something that you can deliver. Understand search.
Let’s bring it back to our day job. What I’ve learned from this is that to maximize Paid Search you must think of anything and everything someone might be looking for related to your company. It is all about search so acknowledge that everything is integrated with search; customers will look for anything they hear, read, see, or conceive of being related to you; good and bad. The price of not doing this? Someone else will. Have some bad PR? Someone will take advantage of it by responding to that audience that you have failed to acknowledge (at the very least, YouTube will do this as they’ve done with Jeep).
Understanding that, every company in the world should constantly maintain a keyword list of thousands of terms. Agencies and vendors (heck, even your peers) who tell you to eliminate keywords that don’t perform simply don’t know what they are doing. If someone searched on a poorly performing term and clicked on you, that term is relevant and important; it is up to you to figure out how to make it perform. That is, your responsibility is not only maintaining keyword lists that respond to every whim but responding with the most relevant message possible.
And it is with that concept that I hit a roadblock with search advertisers.
Many companies have so many competing objectives or different audiences that they can’t figure out what to promote. They want to brand and market direct to drive sales. They want to push consumer products and enterprise B2B solutions. The fact is, to maximize the benefit of search you need to respond to every conceivable search AND do so with the most relevant message possible so as deliver the best performance/results/ROI, allowing you to funnel those efficiencies back into doing more.
Say you provide a service and sell a product. 8 out of 10 buy the product when searching, 1 wants the service, and the other is looking for customer support, what would you promote? For the most part you are allowed one result in Paid Search, don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to deliver to everyone. Your backend performance will suffer, ROI will go down and you’ll lose the opportunity to even reach everyone let alone make sure you respond with the most relevant message.
When that TV commercial runs, do you think it won’t have some influence on what people search? Arguably, your customer’s behavior would change with a TV commercial promoting the service, at least one more of the 10 should respond to your service instead of the product. There’s an interesting thought, the change in search behavior can be used to measure the effectiveness of the commercial? Hang with me a second, I’m going out on a limb…
What if more searchers suddenly respond to customer service (say 7 of 10 respond to IT support, 2 buy, and only 1 wants your service), obviously, promote customer service but take that learning back to the company as evidence you have a bigger problem with your brand: Everyone is looking for help. As the pattern changes with more or fewer searching for support, what have you done to affect that?
Still wonder if it is really all about Search? Try this on for size. Having reached everyone who shows an inkling of interest in your company and delivered to the majority that for which they are searching, you now have the largest focus group on earth with which you can try different messages, product names, services, or offers and know immediately what resonates with your customer. Not sure whether or not to call your cool new product a Widget or a Gadget? To which name do they respond?
In the new world, search even replaces your focus groups, brand awareness and engagement studies, and surveys; consider the savings! Be sure to spend it on Search.
If user experience, branding, performance, and insight is all tied to search, it must support all things to all people. It is all about Search
Think I’m wrong, tell me why. I’ll bet you have to search for the reason.