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Hey, marketers: What if there was no Google?

Last week, at the Search Insider Summit at Captiva Island, Chris Copeland had an interesting talk entitled, “What if there was no Google?” Chris worked through a number of different alternatives for how to cope with a marketing program where you could not put any of your spending in Google’s pocket–you just drew a line through that Google row in your spreadsheet. Chris made a lot of good points and really helped the audience. But I want to take the question that he asked and think about it a different way. What if there were no search engines?

At first, it might seem like dumb question. After all, we are 15 years into the Web age, and search engines have been part of our experience for nearly all of that time. And it is hard to imagine that any of us as users of the Web could go for very long without missing our favorite search engine.

But I want to ask the question of marketers. What if there were no search engines? What would you do differently?

We’ve all come to depend on search engines to drive traffic to our sites. Sure, we put effort and budget into paid search, but for organic search, most of us don’t do any more than putting the content out there. We assume if we get the content onto the site that it will be found. If we announce a new product, we put out the press release and we put a new product page on the site and then good things happen. All because of Google and company.

And our organic search efforts are disconnected from creating new content, in many ways. We spend time looking at infrastructure to ensure our sites are crawled and we do keyword research to be sure we know what searchers want and we optimize pages to use those keywords. Most of this SEO work comes after the fact–after we’ve created the content.

But what if there was no Google? Clearly you wouldn’t be doing any of these SEO tasks. There wouldn’t even be any keywords to research. What if when you put content out there, no search engine would find it. No searchers would see it? What would you do then?

I suspect you’d spend a heckuva lot more time promoting your content. I think you’d tweet it. I think you’d blog about it to your subscribers. I think you’d post a video about it on YouTube. I think you’d mention it in your e-mail newsletter. I think you’d make very sure that you were promoting it every way you could to people you thought might be interested.

This might seem somewhat unsettling. I mean, do you have this nagging feeling that you wouldn’t want to send out the link to your new product page to all your e-mail subscribers? Does it feel a bit intrusive to blog about that new product feature? If so, then maybe your content is wrong. You should be producing content that you want to tell others about, not boring stuff that just sits out there for the search engines.

But if these promotion ideas seemed perfectly reasonable to you, then you are producing the right kind of content. And then my question would be, why aren’t you promoting it just as I suggested? Why do you need to imagine there is no Google before you start promoting what you’ve got? I mean, all that traffic still counts, doesn’t it? And, do you realize that doing all those things also drives your search rankings? Because there really is a Google, it looks at links to your content. Increasingly, search engines are looking at social media activity, too, as a surrogate for page quality (just as links are).

So, don’t sit back and let the search engines find you. Don’t let Google make you lazy. Go out and promote your content. That strategy will help you with those who don’t search, and it will help with searchers, too. And if you don’t think your content is worthy of that level of promotion, then that’s the first thing for you to work on, because Google probably doesn’t think much of that kind of content either.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital 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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  1. Avatar ed

    Hey, you are absolutely correct!
    Don’t wait for people to find you in the Internet. Instead, look for ways to market your site online.
    Great post!
    Ed of Omaha Website

  2. This was a great article. I never realized how effective it would be if we just stopped thinking about google for once. Also promoting your website in every way possible will be responsible for bringing in more links to your website. Pure genius.

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