Friday, February 24, 2006

The Search Engine Pickle for Marketers

This search engine optimization stuff is driving me nuts.

We've done all the obvious things like optimizing pages in our Cincom website for keywords, adding metatags, adding keywords to alt text, putting key words in page headers and URLs.

But there are techniques to drive performance that seem to change every day. With a relatively small web team, we struggle with making all these tricks work ... and when we get something working, we learn the engines have figured out how to negate what we just did.

Amidst all the SEO issues, there is also this swirl of controversy over the fact that the search engines are basically making huge profits by stealing our content. As a user, search is a great innovation. We can hit Google and get back links to a lot of useful information ... but when I am doing serious online research I invariably have to use my subscription to HighBeam to find material that seems never to be visible on Google. But as a content producer, I would rather get the value from producing my content than giving it all away to the search engine firm ... but even as a content producer, they do me a service by steering readers to me. But that's only true if I spend as much time tweaking my SEO as I do on producing the the content. Not an easy pickle to be in.

Then there's the bit where as marketers we purchase key words to generate sales leads:

A MediaPost newsletter carried this thought-provoking comment about another marketing pickle -- the better we as marketers get at optimizing our use of online ads, the faster we ourselves drive the prices for those ads higher and higher. Here's what Jakob Nielsen said on MediaPost:
In a somewhat ironic twist, Nielsen illustrates how improved usability can be a big factor in driving up bid prices. When a new online search market emerges, bid prices usually settle out based on the relative conversion performance of the main bid contenders. Based on their current conversion and closing rates, the smarter search marketers determine what they can afford to pay per lead. But let's say that one of the contenders suddenly makes its site a better conversion vehicle, doubling their capture and close rate. Suddenly, that marketer can bid twice as much and still end up with the same per unit ROI. It becomes more aggressive in bidding, and eventually, its competitors wake up, figure out what happened and launch their own improvement cycles. Bid prices escalate as marketers optimize every aspect of their campaign, and the search engines double their revenue by doing nothing. In this scenario, not only are engines leeches on the content of the Internet, they're also sucking the blood out of the entire search marketing industry. The better we get, the more money they make.

So I am off to New York to attend an SEO Conference next week.

I will share my learnings when I get back ... but be aware that I will be offline next week.


At 12:44 AM, Anonymous James Robertson said...

The "tricks" don't work, not in the long run. There's really only two ways to drive traffic:

1) Have a product/service that people want. If that's the case, they'll visit your site for information

2) Create fresh, compelling content on an ongoing basis.

"tricks" are just that - tricks. They don't actually get you where you want to go. The real answers are clear, and not that hard. They just require constant commitment.


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