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There’s too much Internet in Internet marketing

Tomorrow I am going to drive for a few hours to install a new computer for my in-laws. We ordered it delivered to our house. My wife installed all the software and moved all the files. Tomorrow, I will install it, because I don’t think they could even transport it and plug it in. Well, that’s not true. I think they could do that, but I have no confidence that it would work. There would be something we overlooked about their Internet connection or some other difference that we couldn’t simulate at home that will scotch the whole deal. Technology is still too hard for the average person.


We’ve all heard the stories of people asking why you press the Windows “start” button when you want to turn off the computer, but my mother-in-law had an equally interesting question: “Why do they call it wallpaper if you put it on your desktop?” I had no answer for her.
But the real answer is because we love to make things complicated. Things remain difficult because we allow them to be. We put up with it. I do, too, which I was reminded of on Friday when posting to the Search Engine Guide blog.
First, some background. Bill Hunt and I wrote our book on search marketing in 2005, and a centerpiece was a way to project the real business value of search marketing. One of the linchpins of that process was the Yahoo! (nee Overture) Keyword Tool, which provided the monthly demand of any search keyword for free.
Fast forward to 2007. Our book is broken. Yahoo! first stopped updating its numbers and then allowed the URL itself to die, throwing up 404 pages instead, all with no official announcement. For a while, Bill and I thought that it was just a mistake, but after a while we realized that we needed to come up with an alternative tool.
But there wasn’t any. We contacted several companies with paid tools to get their help, but all were either unwilling or unable to help. Bill’s team eventually developed an arcane procedure that turned free click estimates from one of Google’s paid search tools into estimated keyword demand, which I posted a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t perfect, but it was free and it was better than nothing.
Then. a commenter pointed out that the long, convoluted procedure we outlined was in many ways unnecessary, because Google had a free tool that directly predicted clicks, without all the steps we had shown. Google was not in the habit of making traffic estimation easy, so both Bill and I wondered if this was a mistake (and would be taken away), but then Google announced it was committed to helping people estimate keyword demand, so I made a note to simplify the procedure, which I did on Friday.
But in my haste, I hadn’t noticed that Google announced something far better than I had dared hope—it was providing not just click data but keyword demand data, with none of the calculations needed before. And it was all free.
But we had spent so many months ripping our hair out trying to find this kind of tool, that I didn’t even recognize it when it fell in my lap. So, I dutifully posted the simplified procedure I intended to all along, totally missing what Google had really announced. I was so used to things being difficult that I couldn’t even recognize it when they became easy.
I was accustomed to it being difficult. I had accepted that no one was going to help.
Well, the great thing about blogs is that someone pointed out my mistake immediately and I corrected the procedure to the new, easy way today. I apologize for my carelessness in missing what was going on, but it’s fixed now.
But I realize that I have been too accepting of all the complexity, too willing to deal with the pain and difficulty instead of demanding better. I don’t know if I can change overnight, but I am resolving to expect more and to reward the companies that deliver it. Just because I am an engineer doesn’t mean I like to work harder at technology than anyone else does.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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Discussion

  1. Avatar Frank Reed

    Ok, Mike. I have been wondering about this myself now for the better part of a few months. Have we as search marketers muddied the waters SO much that we have effectively scared small and medium biz (SMB) owners / marketers into inaction regarding search marketing? Are they still doing some of the same old tired tricks just because there is no “easy” way to do internet marketing as a whole? I have been banging my head against the wall now for too long (and it is really beginning to be uncomfortable) about this and I just want to say to everyone just “Try It, You’ll Like It” but I think we made them afraid of the voodoo and witchcraft necessary to do internet marketing. It can’t be that hard now can it, even with the shortage of good reliable tools? Your thoughts? I’m out.

  2. Avatar Mike Moran

    I think you’re right, Frank. I believe that a lot of otherwise capable marketers are flummoxed by the Internet, and it’s not just small companies. I’d like to think that if people like us keep explaining things in a simple way, perhaps it will start to make a dent.

  3. Avatar Lamaan Whyte

    For the benefit of your mother-in-law: ‘wallpaper’ was invented back in the late 70’s or early 80’s when wallpaper of the stick-to-walls variety was very cheap, and used by impoverished IT students to cover up and beautify otherwise-grotty work benches (also called desktops). Hence: wallpaper on desktops. Obvious to anyone old enough to remember punched cards.

  4. Avatar Mike Moran

    Thanks for that stroll down memory lane, Lamaan. I happen to be old enough to have worked with punch cards but I was never a computer science student, so I guess I missed the whole floral desk movement. Given the wallpaper of the ’60s, I count it a blessing…

  5. Avatar Stadia Studio

    I also feel like we’re fighting the ghosts of the past, like so many other industries, that have taken advantage of poorly informed small business owners. It’s now a challenge to demonstrate competency and duplicatable success.

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