On becoming SEMi-literate

October 6, 2009 at 3:28 am

It’s 3 a.m. and I think I’m beginning to understand search-engine marketing. I already understand optimization, but I was asked to become something of an instant expert on search-engine marketing. That’s like asking a PR guy to become an instant expert on national television advertising. Worrying about ad demographics and buying position just isn’t something I usually do.

But I think I’m beginning to get it.

And you know what: More than ever, I see it as a piece — albeit a big piece — of a larger communications puzzle. If I can get my arms around the idea of trying to predict what people will put into Google to search for something I want to sell them…if I can accept the idea that I have to compete to be first on the paid search returns…if I can understand that the price for the position I want could change every time someone uses that search term…and if I can get the depth of what must be there when I do win the bidding war, then it’s not much different if the customer completes the inquiry on the Web than it is with any form of outreach.

First, they’re not going to use the search terms I think they’re going to use unless I truly understand my audience. Second, even if they see my little ad, unless I have a great reputation — and they know about my reputation — they’re not going to visit my site, or “convert” as they say. And third, if they convert, I’d better be ready to continue the conversation and give them what they want.

Isn’t that the same as placing a release with a call for action to my company? In fact, isn’t it the same as trying to sell a reporter on the idea of doing a story? You’d better know the reporter, know how to pitch the story to him or her by knowing exactly what he or she is looking for and, if you get a hit, be able to deliver exactly what you promised the reporter he or she would get. So what’s new? Just the medium.

I still say that back in the 1940s, there were meetings full of the same angst about something new called television that we feel about search-engine marketing and optimizing our news releases for the Web.

Meanwhile, I’m still learning, so any advice you can give me….

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