From the Archives: Search

July 7, 2016

Integrating Brand with Search Engine Marketing

Digital marketing moves at breakneck speed. In the last seven years, we’ve seen new search engines launch, social media explode, and mobile marketing completely take over the landscape. It could be argued that no marketing discipline has changed more than Digital over the last decade, and as marketers, we’ve had to adapt and quickly learn new rules as they evolve, for better or worse.

Still, while the tools seem to change daily, the strategy hasn’t changed much at all—and I can prove it.

If you’re new to this “From the Archives” series, the premise is simple: A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a stack of white papers from 2009 written by COHN leadership. Surprisingly, while much of the tactical aspects have evolved since publication, the brand marketing strategies are still very relevant to today. Like the stalwart Evergreen, intelligent strategy endures the seasons of time.

In this installment, we’ll look at the 2009 white paper on search marketing. Below are a handful passages that still hold weight to me and should be at the forefront of today’s conversation on search marketing.

Building Online Momentum Your Brand Via Search Engine Marketing
By Steve Chitwood, Director of Digital Strategy
(Editor’s Note: Steve is now the Sr. Director of Digital Business Practice at an IT services company.)

“For the marketer new to SEM, navigating the waters of effective search marketing can be tricky. So how do you effectively leverage this predominant beast? Think strategically. Clarify your objectives. Know your audience. Develop a comprehensive strategy that engages appropriate tools effectively over time, execute your plan methodically, analyze your successes and failures meticulously, and adjust your targets regularly.”

This comprehensive passage speaks for itself, and it’s the type of timeless wisdom that will be relevant in 2040, too. What I like most about Steve’s search marketing manifesto is that strategy leads and directs everything else. Digital marketing in 2016 is a revolving door of tactics and flavor-of-the-week tools, and the only repeatable way to “navigate the waters of effective search marketing” is to start with strategy.

“Traditional contextual link-building efforts, such as public relations efforts, relationships with local and trade organizations and business directories… can be of great value.”

Link building is every bit as important as it was in 2009, and Google gets smarter every day. Long gone are the days of gaming the system to influence search results. Your best bet as a search marketer is to create the best possible user experience, with clear and direct headlines, easy-to-navigate architecture, and third-party validation via link-building. Better yet, partner with an agency that knows how to best influence search ranking, and let the experts do their thing.

“Arguably, the greatest value of search marketing…lies just beneath the surface. [The online channels] offer an unparalleled ability to track and analyze each activity; to accurately evaluate the success, failure, cost, and benefit of individual ads and campaigns.”

And here’s the defining argument of search. It was true in 2009, and it remains in 2016: No other marketing channel offers such detailed data so quickly, and that leads to better decisions and better use of budget.

If you’re interested in upping your Search game, Steve’s white paper still holds some valid and valuable nuggets for the DIYers. Better yet, do your company a favor and partner with an agency that knows how to best influence search ranking. Let the experts do their thing, so to speak.

Either way, I highly recommend reading Steve’s full white paper. My favorite part: Steve mused in 2009 that online marketing spend would top 55 billion by 2014. What actually happened? In 2014, Google alone made 59.62 billion only from AdWords; they claimed 67.39 billion in 2015.

Download Steve’s 2009 white paper here.

The “From the Archives” series concludes next week with a 2009 white paper I found on the COHN servers about the rise of social media. In my opinion, it’s the most fascinating retrospective of the “From the Archives” series, because it examines social media in its infancy.

Until then, check out our post about Robin Richards’ 2009 white paper on crisis communication and social media, as well as Ali Lego’s 2009 perspective on client relationships.

See you next week!

From the Archives: Client Relationships