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Marketing is dead. Long live search marketing.

As the internet has grown to become a leading marketing platform, so too has the need for a greater understanding of search and a brand's positioning through search terms, with marketers under greater pressure than ever to ensure that their brand is as close to the top of their sector's search terms on the first page of Google. Tom Salmon, marketing director for Epiphany discusses the growth of search marketing.

Hands up if you’re a marketer and believe that everything you do works? If your hand is in the air, you are in the minority. According to Deloitte only 20% of senior marketers believe marketing is truly effective. Is there any other profession where so few senior people believe in what they do each and every day?

This fact, twinned with a financial climate that forces marketers to prove the value of what they do more than ever before and the ready availability of a mountain of data, means that I think it’s staggering that search marketing isn’t at the core of more brands' strategies.

Too many boards are being slow to see the benefits of search. Why? I think it’s down to two main reasons.

First, that many traditional marketers still don’t understand search and have been slow, or unwilling, to innovate and sell the benefit of digital’s rich data sets and analytics to their board. Search agencies should shoulder some of the blame for that, often unwilling to share knowledge about techniques and approaches for fear of SEO and PPC being taken in house. However, a white paper published by the Chartered Institute of Marketing ‘The Future of Marketing’ illustrated that marketers are often culturally their own worst enemy, ‘failing to account for their often considerable budgets, falling back on dull and uninspiring campaigns and floundering when questioned on the financial impact of their strategies’.

Second: many boards are seeing search marketing as a traditional advertising cost. I’d advise any marketer trying to get his or her board to take search marketing seriously, especially creative PPC, to set up a P&L report outside of the organisation’s marketing budget purely to track the ROI on search marketing campaigns. Good search marketing is an investment, not a cost.

Offering measurability, scientific rigour and exact targeting search marketing allows marketers to deploy well established marketing techniques in a new digital context and to measure their success in a way that have never been possible before. PR, creative content, copywriting, market segmentation, web development, social marketing, DM and other marketing staples can all be given a new focus and given a new set of metrics through search.

Mark J. Penn and E.Kinney Zalesne explain in their best seller Microtrends, "People have never been so sophisticated, more individualistic, or more knowledgeable about the choices they make in their daily lives. Yet... it takes intensive, scientific study to find logical patterns that underlie those choices.” This is a point that Duncan Watts of Yahoo! Research picked up on when he said that marketing is going to become a much more science-driven activity. Marketers who fail to adapt to that this shift in the use of data and analytics are going to get left behind.

From the customers’ perspective, search marketing is useful because it doesn’t interrupt their daily life as an uninvited distraction. A search focused brand (being there when the customer is warm to or in need of its services or products) is more useful than one that insists on deploying old techniques to interrupt people’s lives with irrelevant noise. For example, YouTube’s use of skippable ads on relevant video content (only chargeable to the advertiser if they are actually watched) is brilliant for both marketers and audiences. It’s time for search marketing to be a staple item (not to say the only item) in every marketer’s campaign toolkit.

Consumers have instant access to information. That gives marketers a great opportunity to flip the conventional marketing communications mind set. The starting point should no longer be about how you can reach your customers but rather how easy and attractive it is for them to reach you. Marketers have a choice. Be the brand and voice that gives the consumer the information every time they hit the search icon or face irrelevance.

There isn’t another combination of marketing channel and communications approach that allows marketers to be consistently in the right place and at the right time for their potential customers. This is the reason that I find it extraordinary that search isn’t understood by more of the marketing community.

Mobile, social and local are the three buzzwords set to dominate search in 2012. Google estimates that only 17% of UK business sites are optimised for mobile, and yet more and more traffic is coming from non-PC devices (mobiles, tablets, TVs). According to Cisco’s VNI global IP traffic forecast) only 3% of Internet traffic originated with non-PC devices in 2010, but by 2015 the non-PC share of internet traffic will grow to 15%. Google+ also has the promise of customers being able to see sites, brands and services that their friends recommend, bringing a new social dimension to people’s search experience.

Innovative search marketing brings together recognisable disciplines and elements of the traditional marketing mix and reapplies them to twenty-first century screen culture. Good marketing is still about creating useful, interesting and influential ideas but now you can measure the results scientifically. There is no excuse for marketers anymore. It’s time to step up and get accountable, to innovate and get to grips with a new analytical approach to marketing.

Twitter handle: @tominleeds

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