BtoB recently spoke with two search marketing experts, Mike Moran and Bill Hunt, authors of “Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site” (IBM Press). Moran is an IBM Distinguished Engineer with more than 20 years of experience in search technology at IBM Research, Lotus and other IBM software units. Hunt is the founder and CEO of Global Strategies International and has led large scale search marketing projects for clients such as IBM, AT&T and Intel. (The following transcript is a part of the interview, which will be available on btobonline.com as a BtoB Talking Tech audiocast within a few weeks.)
BtoB: Search engine advertising is predicted to grow 26% this year. Is any b-to-b company not using search these days?
Moran: Many of them are, but I don’t run into companies every day that aren’t. A cheeky answer would be that most of the good ones are. Our experience at IBM was that several years ago we weren’t looking at search marketing as an area we should focus on, and over the last five years, we’ve improved the percentage of visitors coming to the site [via search] from 1% of all visitors to 22%, and the average is around 7%.
BtoB: What about the use of search among technology companies?
Hunt: I think they’re starting to really get a handle on it. Google has a technology council that meets quarterly and its participants are some of the bigger b-to-b technology companies, and I think most are dabbling in search in some way. Some are actually doing it exponentially more.
One statistic I use as a barometer was the last statistic I saw in Google [which] showed that 244 of the Fortune 500 have an active paid search campaign. So that leaves a pretty big chunk of people who aren’t using search.
BtoB: What’s the trickiest part of search marketing? Where do marketers go wrong in using the tactic?
Hunt: They don’t take it as seriously as they should. They throw a lot of money at it. They throw some resources at it, but I don’t think they understand some of the strategic implications, and that leads into managing the team. Search is one of those things that is almost like a revival meeting or a family reunion where you get all these people together from all different walks of life, all different areas. Mike calls it ‘cooks for the broth.’ Something most companies make the biggest mistake on is not taking it seriously enough and not integrating well across their teams.
I can’t tell you how many times I go to a company, sit down with them and just watch a technology person go to a marketing person, introduce themselves, give them a card, and then after that meeting, it’s like, ‘We should’ve talked years ago.’ Here are two people that should’ve been talking all along and have never even met.
Moran: The huge error that companies make is they get fixated on the wrong things. They’re looking at getting the No. 1 ranking for something, or they’re focused on traffic to the site. Those things are important, but they’re a means to an end. The place they fall down is they forget search marketing is more about marketing than [about] search. They focus on the technical arcana of turning this dial there and pushing that lever and taking all the advice of these really low level things that you have to do, which are all important, but they forget the main reason that they’re trying to do this. They’re trying to sell more. They’re either trying to sell more online or offline. They have to make sure the traffic they’re driving to the site from search engines is really converting, and I think they lose track of that sometimes in the midst of all the detail.