Authors Of Search Engine Marketing Talk

    October 8, 2008

SEM Inc.Mike Moran and Bill Hunt, authors of the new edition of  "Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site,"spoke to WebProNews about some of the changes they have seen in the industry since their last book in 2005.

How has social media impacted search engine marketing?

Mike Moran: It’s interesting because all the consultants that dove into search marketing a few years ago have now made the trek into social media marketing. I think that the basic idea that you can get attention from doing things for free that resonated with search engine optimizers is the same idea that makes social media so appealing.

The same people who liked the idea of crafting a good Web page to be found by search are excited at the prospect of a blog entry that attracts subscribers. I think that the public relations skill of knowing how to tell a story is the common thread between organic search and social media. If you know the kinds of things that interest your customer, you can create those stories so that search engines find them, but your customers will pass them along as well.

I think that social media has made search marketing more interesting because it’s provided another way to get value from the good content you needed to create for search marketing anyway.

 Do you see value in SEM and social media?

MM: Nah, I think it’s all a fad. Oh wait, we wrote a book about it, so we probably think there’s something going on here. Over the last few years almost everyone has discovered the excitement of getting qualified Web traffic without having to pay for advertising (with organic search and social media), or by paying much less than with other forms of advertising (with paid search).

But the real fun begins when you combine social media with search marketing. You can use your search-savvy techniques to get attention for your social media and, in turn, your social media success can bring you links to your Web content, which helps search marketing. I would go on to describe how your now-improved search marketing might further help your social media, but I’m concerned you might get dizzy.

Bill Hunt: Mike nailed it, many are looking to it as the new "it" technique and are moving on past search.  The reality is the better you optimize your content the more it will be found in the engines and the repositories for the different media types.

If you look at the whole chain of events you can see the linkages of the two.  For example, we recently worked with a client on a press release that had wide distribution and was picked up by a number of bloggers which reviewed the product. This was followed by a TV commercial that was added to YouTube. The aggregation of all of these has a cross-link value as well as creating nearly 1,500 new doorways into the site.

What do you believe are the best social media tools for SEM?

MM: I don’t think that any tool is the best in all situations. In the new chapter of the second edition of Search Engine Marketing, Inc. that we devoted to social media, we tried to cover a wide range of tools so that you could choose the ones that work best for your business, which you’ll find out only through experimentation. Most companies can benefit from blogging and microblogging (Twitter and friends), because those tools get your expertise out there front and center.

The things that you know are usually more interesting than that page from your sales catalog, so that kind of content not only develops a following for your company, but also attracts more links than the average Web page does. If your people are the key to your business, such as in consulting, using Facebook, Linked In, and other social networks might be a great way to show off your people.

But you might safely ignore social networks for a product business, where trolling message boards to help unhappy customers might have the most value. In short, the best way to use social media is to make it a platform for what you know and give away your expertise on subjects your customers care about. Whether the best way to do that is with Blogger, Twitter, social networks, message boards, podcasts, or YouTube depends on you and your business.

BH: The best tool of social media is not a tool but contextual relevance of your content.  I think too many marketers get excited about ways to push their message into the market and not let the market push it.  I am seeing way too many large ad agencies showing companies how to buy ads on social media.  The other is people trying to force their way into the discussion rather than enable it.

Do you see social media as a major game changer in SEM?

MM: To me, search marketing is still working very well and doesn’t need the game to be changed. But the Internet doesn’t stand still and there are several game changers out there, including blended search and personalized search, but social media marketing is certainly one of them.

As more and more companies discover the power of search marketing, it does become more difficult to get attention for your message. By taking advantage of social media, you can get people to discover and pass along your message, which then bring links into your social media message and your Web site.

Those links are the way that search engines decide that your content is of high quality, so the more links you have from the most important sites, the higher your search ranking. The most forward-looking companies are reinforcing everything they do within their Internet tactics so that each feeds the other, and they are trying to achieve the same kind of benefits with some of their offline marketing efforts, too. Soon, the distinctions between each of these tactics will become less important and the overall effect of the holistic campaign will be what people pay attention to.

What are the most important trends you see in SEM?

MM: To me, personalization is the biggest story. The idea that each person will get his/her own set of search results is very exciting for search marketers. First off, it allows you to truly segment your customers at levels that go beyond the keyword. Second, it makes the whole idea of spamming a lot harder, because spam must cut across many demographics.

So search marketers that are truly attempting to provide the right information for each person will benefit greatly from personalized search results. But search marketers will need to adjust to the search engines having even more power, because the search engines alone will know where your site ranked for each person’s keyword.

The idea that your site ranked #1 for a keyword will disappear, to be replaced by questions only search engines can answer, such as: For what percentage of searchers did my site rank #1? What was the average rank for my site yesterday? For which demographics does my site rank the highest?

BH: I really like personalization but not as much as the global impact.  I have heard Google state publicly that as much as 70% of their search traffic is from outside the US.  I have been to a number of countries this year and the growth I am seeing in markets like Russia, Brazil and China is significant.

The majority of the top 5 countries are from Asia and while they are not necessarily jumping to buy from the US they are buying and researching locally. I have found this to be a boon for both small and large companies.

Anything else you would like to add?

MM: Yes. I’d like to request that each person reading this buy three copies of our book for themselves and their two closest friends.

BH: I totally agree with Mike 😉