Why Search is Such a Powerful Marketing Channel
Search engines take advantage of reverse broadcast networks to help save time and money. They are instant answer systems that provide ultra-targeted advertising.
While normal advertising interrupts people, search allows you to sell what your customers want, when they want it. Search is not intrusive, and does not look or feel like any other form of advertising.
Old Targeting Techniques
I had just finished reading Permission Marketing by Seth Godin when I became engaged in one of the most interesting chat sessions of my life. A random kid from California instant messaged me to say hello. In much the same way as other marketers do, he scouted the web to find his ideal client. This guy searched through Yahoo! profiles and found that on my profile I wrote that I collected baseball cards.
He wanted to know if Barry Bonds was my favorite player. He told me he had over 16,000 Barry Bonds cards. I told him that I had an autographed serial numbered Barry Bonds rookie, but baseball cards did not mean much to me anymore. I asked if he did business over the Internet. He, of course, said no. It was clear to me why. He had no way to display any of his cards, and he was using spam to contact people. I asked him if he wanted to have a website on which to sell his cards.
He told me he couldn’t afford it; he said that it was too expensive. But, I thought, what is a fair price for limitless distribution?
Baseball cards, like many collectible commodities, usually drop in value rather sharply once a player retires or that collectible goes out of fashion. Not only does the price drop, but demand plummets. It’s a logarithmic loss of value. I have picked up Robin Yount and Dave Winfield rookies for $5 and $8 each; both cards went for $100 or more in their heyday.
Target Your Market
This kid wanted to buy my autographed Barry Bonds rookie card to add to his 16,000 Bonds cards. Even though he‘ll never sell them, he thought he was doing business. I sold baseball cards back in high school, and I knew how to do it well. But I did not know it well when I started. I was trying to sell expensive cards to people who did not want to spend much money. What did I learn? Sell what your customers want, when they want it.
Public Relations Builds Links
Public relations works, so I still displayed some of my $400 and up baseball cards, just to get the “oohs” and “ahhs.” I learned that once you have a crowd, many people follow just to see what is going on, and then you can make sales. I knew I would not sell these cards. So what did I change?
Organization & Personal Relevancy Build Profit
I created a display case with stacks of all the major stars and local popular players. Each card was $1.00. It did not matter if the card was worth twenty-five cents or four dollars; I just put $1.00 on each of them. I kept up with whom was doing well and would buy up cards of players that were about to become popular. Buy-price ranged from three cents to a quarter a card. Most of the cards I bought were considered ‘junk’ by the sellers, yet I re-sold most within a month or two.
By taking the time to go through their junk and making ordering simple, I made money. That $1 display case was a gold mine. Usually, that case sold more cards than my good cases did. Also, I had very little invested—other than taking the time to organize the cards.
Bad Marketing Wastes Time
So, I decided I would do this kid a favor and send him a free book on marketing from my favorite author. When I asked him if he wanted a free marketing book, he got angry, even though I was trying to help him. Instead of considering my offer, he spouted off Eminem lyrics, telling me that “[he'd] rather put out a mother****ing gospel record.”
All of his frustration, all of his anger, and all of his wasted time were unnecessary. That is why search is powerful. You do not hunt for your customers, they hunt for you. You pick the keywords, and the customer picks you. You not only sell what your customers want, but you also sell it while they are actively looking for it.
How Content Creates Revenue
The $1 baseball card case is a good analogy for effective search engine optimization. Imagine the cards in that case as being web pages. It is great to rank well for a term like SEO, but by ranking well for various small volume searches you may be able to make far more money in the long run. Longer search phrases have more implied intent, thus are far more targeted, and convert at a higher rate.
Featured Content Plays the Role of Public Relations
Including social elements in your site or business is like having the $400 baseball card in the case. The people who reference the interesting parts of your site build your link reputation and authority. Based on that authority, search engines learn to trust other parts of your site and send visitors to those pages, as well.
You can think of web traffic like my baseball cards. Due to the vastness of the market and market inefficiencies, there will always be many ways to make money. If you learn how to spread ideas and build an audience, you can make a windfall of profits.
Interactive Elements & Suggestions
Godin, Seth. Permission Marketing. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
- List five problems your product or products solve. Which of these problems are most important to your target audience?
- Is there a problem your product solves that no other products do?
- Do you have a UNIQUE value proposition that will help you stand out in the crowd? (This could be being better targeted, more up-to-date, faster, more reliable, safer, biased, unbiased, etc.). What do you do better than anyone else?
- List ten terms or phrases your target audience would search for to find your products.
- Calculate the time you spend prospecting clients and the value of that time.
- Calculate the money you will save if you cut that time in half by ranking well for a few of the terms you listed.
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