The Quest for Accountability Begins and Ends With Search

Search Engines Know More About Our Wishes, Hopes, Fears Than Any Other Entity

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Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet some of the pre-eminent thinkers on search from Google, Yahoo, and up-and-comers such as This has profoundly shaped my thinking about how the web giants are so much more than big stadiums that aggregate eyeballs. They are an end-to-end suite of brand-reputation management and measurement services -- many of which are free.

Other than perhaps God, Buddha or Jiminy Cricket, search engines know more about humanity -- our wishes, hopes, dreams, fears -- than any other entity, online or off.
Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.

The future for advertising and PR agencies remains in developing and driving the big idea, and the ones that will be most successful in this quest are ones that use the full suite of services the portals offer for: developing powerful insights, baking big ideas, testing them, setting benchmarks, executing programs and measuring it all.

Think of them as all-in-one suites of tools, akin to Microsoft Office or a Swiss Army Knife. They are where anyone can find the magical elixir for driving marketing accountability.

Unfortunately, most marketers don't view them this way. They see portals and search engines mostly as media -- a place to run big buys once the big idea has left the station. As Danny Sullivan noted last week, we concentrate on the advertising services rather than the PR impact of search-engine optimization and the insights we can derive from them.

Marketers that crack the code on search will gain a considerable competitive advantage. Start by exploring how you can use tools that the portals offer and how they can be used, sometimes in unintended ways. These include:

Google Trends and Yahoo Buzz, which are real-time windows into the world's psyche.

Google Reader, an RSS reader whose data can be mined in incredible ways.

Google Analytics and Yahoo Site Explorer, which are places to learn how people find you.

Google Adwords, Microsoft AdCenter and Yahoo Search Marketing -- think of them not as ads but as focus groups for micro testing.

These services and many others are the marketer's essential partner for driving accountability.
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