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Search marketers think YOU know it already. Do you?

As with any business, it can be important to step outside of the business, so to speak, to see what might actually be going on. That’s why consultants exist. Good ones allow you to get the objective position from the other side of the desk so you do not lose perspective on what the market is actually asking for, or even how you may be perceived in the market. Search marketing is a classic industry for this kind of approach because it’s very easy to assume that everyone knows a lot about search. I am beginning to think I could be a bit off.

So, since this is Frank Friday, I am looking for some honest opinions. I spend most of my waking hours playing at this internet marketing thing. Even more to the point, I work on the search engine marketing side of the coin. As the marketing/sales face of my company (you can see my picture in my bio so tell me if I should take a back office position), I encounter every type of small and medium business owner and employee that you can imagine. From the solo insurance salesperson to the landscaper with 50 employees to the online entrepreneur to the traditional manufacturing business, and everyone in between, I talk to them all.
Business people are often hurried, overworked, stressed, and a bit scattered. As a result, many end up with a business knowledge that is a mile wide and an inch deep. They need to know a little about almost every aspect of business from accounting, sales, HR, janitorial, marketing, public relations, accounts receivable, and on and on. So why should I expect them to have any true understanding of search engine optimization, pay-per-click marketing, and blog marketing?
I am starting to feel like I have become a bit myopic in my view of the SMB marketplace and the profile of the average owner. I have convinced myself that most if not all of these folks are at least aware of search marketing. Then I actually go a step further and suspect that they would know some of the basic precepts of this important part of their marketing mix. If I am really “buying into” my own stuff on any given day, I may actually get a little self righteous about their absolute NEED to be involved in the greatest marketing tool since the dawn of commerce. Then, if I get what I deem to be an inappropriate response (read: a “no”), then I am sure to wonder how that company will survive through the next quarter, because they refuse to do what I know to be absolutely right for their business.
You see my point? I think I have been on the service delivery side of the ledger for so long that my view is truly askew when it comes to the marketing needs of the small-to-medium biz folks out there.
So here’s where I need your help. If you are an SMB owner/operator reading this post, tell me what you truly feel (or even know) about search marketing. Is it a mystery? Is it hype? Is it even necessary, in your opinion? Please be sure to explain your answer so that I can learn here. I’m depending on you!
For you fellow search marketing providers out there: how do you think you are perceived by your clients and prospects? What do you think the reputation of the search marketing industry is in its current state? Are there changes needed and, if so, what might they be?
I suspect you came here for some nugget of wisdom but I am asking you for the assist here. What does it look like from your side of the street? I am interested to know your POV (point of view) because I think mine may be just a little too biased. Excuse me now, though. I am going to Google to search for an answer to this question. Would you expect anything else from a search marketer?

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  1. Avatar Frank

    Yours is a great question and I’ll be glad to give you more than $0.02 worth.
    I am currently in the process of attempting to create “internet launch buzz” for my own site. And I will admit freely that this concept is new and foreign to me. However, I can say with confidence that it is not hype. I had no idea that so much effort would be required to get my “name” to the top of search engine lists – or to even appear on any list!
    Is it necessary you ask – well not for everyone. I know of many companies who are relatively young (10 years or less) which put virtually no effort into search marketing and are successful beyond any reasonable expectation. However, what they don’t do on the Internet, they do with great effort on the street, and particularly in their geographical region.
    I know a business owner (personally) who heads a medium sized specialty contractor business dealing in: voice/data cabling, commercial security, high-end audio visual, telecommunication etc… This guy doesn’t even have a computer on his desk. In fact, he doesn’t even know how to check his own email! Mysteriously, he is able to have the lion’s share of the market in his chosen geographical region.
    On the other hand, I do not possess his skills in personal networking and have chosen to use the web as a tool to enhance this ability. For me, it is obvious that it does matter, and I’m committed to learning as much as possible about how to improve.
    Hope this helps your learning quest.

  2. Avatar Nextiva

    About three years ago (maybe a bit less) there was a huge cloud above the search marketing industry and many people perceived it as something that only a few people have access to and really understand. In recent times, and this is changing every day – companies like Google are making it more simple for the average person to handle their own online marketing. Agencies still possess value although search engine marketing has lost its perceived complexity and it is very interesting to see what will happen in the coming months. This is a great blog and you make wonderful points.

  3. Avatar Suzy Teele

    Hi Frank,
    I’ve spent the past 10 years (as a consultant) helping SMB’s increase sales and what I have found in my own little world is that most of them don’t even understand marketing. So expecting them to get search marketing may be a bit of a stretch unless they are selling internet based products or software.
    What they don’t understand is the strategy of marketing — knowing who your customer should be, what your product’s unique value is, and how to attract a customer. They don’t understand that when you know this information, then you can select and invest in the right marketing tools/programs to get the best return and grow sales. So because many of them don’t understand this, they “pick” disjointed programs based upon advice from folks who may not be strategic marketers, and they end up with “shot in the dark” programs that invariably don’t produce results and even more unfortunately, sour them on marketing.
    In re-reading my post, I realize that I must sound crabby. I’m really not, and I enjoy the consulting work that I do which helps these business owners understand and appreciate marketing and where search marketing fits into the picture and cand add value. But the strategy part has to come first before anyone can place a value on the search marketing component of it.

  4. Avatar Levert Marketing

    Many companies don’t understand the value of having a SEM director on board. They rely on their marketing director to take decisions and in many cases, they are underachieving. I’ve seen cases of companies that were spending 3 times more on their PPC campaign prior to hiring a SEM specialist for the same results in terms of sales so is it necessary, I would say yes if you really care about where you spend your marketing budget.

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