Change is a popular word lately, and living in DC area the theme is practically unavoidable. You can even buy (a shiny version of) change at the mall. I walked through a Macy’s department store last week and passed a large rack of sparkly “Change” pins for sale. Change is everywhere.
When I started doing in-house search in 2000, not many companies realized the importance of search marketing. Today, it seems that almost all companies do. But getting a search marketing campaign off the ground is daunting for many companies, especially smaller businesses.
Using search agencies
Many companies that I talk to still do not have in-house search experts, but are interested in hiring. In-house talent can be hard to find, and may be harder to find in some cities than others. In lieu of in-house search marketers, companies often work with search marketing agencies. (Even when working with the best search marketing agency, I believe that having an in-house expert to manage the agency relationship can increase return on investment.)
It seems to me that there are more search agencies today than there were in 2000. Sometimes companies ask my feedback on search plans that were developed by agencies that they’ve chosen. I’ve seen a couple of great plans, and unfortunately an equal number of bad (as in cancel-the-contract-now) plans. As long as search agencies have existed, it seems there have been both good and bad ones.
It’s a good idea for any company to do their homework before signing on the dotted line. In 2001, MarketingSherpa published a buyer’s guide that included search agency reviews and ratings. It was highly controversial, triggering legal action in at least one case. (Am I the only one that misses that kind of scandal?)
Using web analytics
One change that has greatly impacted in-house search is the increased adoption and accessibility of web analytics software by companies. As more people research and shop for products and services online, understanding their behaviors and patterns is critical for growing a company’s online. Most companies today seem to understand this. With the availability of free analytics tools like Google Analytics, there is almost no reason for a company to not understand their web site traffic.
In 2000, the dot com where I did search had no web reporting software. Instead, the company pulled the (really large) referral log files and parsed them manually. Each month I received a Microsoft Access file that contained the previous month’s search referral data. Needless to say, search traffic analysis then was a lot more time-consuming. On the plus side, I learned Access and the log files provided great traffic data. But the company missed out on a lot of the data that is available through web analytics packages. (The company has since started using web analytics software.)
Change is more
There are more search resources available today, and as is often the case with more choices there is a better and wider variety of search content available. More sites, more forums, more conferences, more tools – more of all of it. That also means more to sift through, and increased filtering of what content is most useful (and credible).
There are clearly a lot more search marketers today than there were in 2000. A lot of the search marketers who I met in the beginning are still active in the industry. I will be active in the industry for many years to come, and always look forward to seeing familiar faces – and a lot of new ones – at the next SMX conference.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.