The Silver Lining For Advertising During A Down Economy

Recently, those that are close to me have noticed a new obsession.  I’ve always been tethered to my Blackberry reading e-mails, twitter, blogs and other online fodder as I’m on the road (and, I shouldn’t admit, while driving – watch out for me on the road). But recently I’ve found a new item to look at. I’m obsessed with the Dow Jones Industrial Average. I type in “djia” into Google on my mobile phone probably  4-5 times an hour when I’m on the road and more when I’m in the office on my computer.

Basically, I love a good drama, and Dow Jones Industrial Average has provided that drama in the last few weeks – although this story definitely has more tangible implications than the flicks you catch on a Friday night at the local multi-plex. And this economy will definitely affect search, but if history is any indication, not in the way you think it might.

Back in 2003, the economy was depressed. Granted, the markets were not  in as much turmoil then as they are now. I knew that my bank would be there tomorrow and would have the same name as it did yesterday. Charts for the Dow didn’t resemble the topography of the Grand Canyon. And search marketing – especially in large companies, was growing by leaps and bounds.

Let’s face some cold-hard facts. Search marketing at its core is not sexy. We don’t have sexy graphics or witty television commercials with talking animals. We have text. – a 25 character headline and two 35 character description lines in PPC and a title tag of 72 characters or less on the natural side.  When money is flowing, people move to the sexy side of things. But when things get tight, corporations tend to spend on things they know make them money in the short term. Search makes corporations money.

Forget branding. Forget audience interaction. Search marketing hits consumers at the point of the buying cycle where they are opening their wallets and making a purchase. Consumers purchase items during down times. In down times, consumers look for deals. The best deals in the world are found online. And the best way to find those deals is through search. Therefore, companies both large and small will shift dollars from branding initiatives into search during a down economy.

So, amongst the doom and gloom search marketers should be celebrating – but cautiously. Yep, there’s a down side, and a significant one at that.

The symbiotic relationship between branding and search marketing is not often cited except by Google reps trying to sell display ads, but it does exist. Branding drives search volume. Despite the fact that we search marketers would love to claim that search can affect brand awareness (I’m not saying it can’t), television, print and online display do a much better job in this arena. But, brand awareness translates into search volume.

I’ve seen this happen countless times. When my client runs a string of television ads, our search campaigns (especially branded campaigns) perform through the roof.  When the branding dollars dry up, or better yet are shifted in search marketing programs, the volume of search traffic has a tendency to go down. And if this happens, the inventory in paid search is such that you can’t spend the budget allotted to you without dipping into questionable contextual programs that don’t perform much better than television or display or the other places where the money was shifted from in the first place.

So my advice for search marketers during this time? Don’t get too greedy with the proposed budgets. The worst thing that can happen is that you can’t spend the money effectively because of a drop in search volume. Encourage brand managers not to ignore the majority of the buying funnel to concentrate on the end for short-term gains. It may sound like I’m advocating short-changing search. I’m not, I’m looking at the big picture. When this economy straightens itself out, search will most likely have an even larger share of the pie once again. But in order to keep the pie at a reasonable size, we must be vigilant to keep the entire funnel happy. It’s better for us as search marketers to have a reasonable share of a larger pie than the lion’s share a small pie. Remember that next time budget meetings come about and someone is talking about getting rid of the entire television or radio budget.

I’m off to check the Dow on my phone now. Until next time.

Tony Wright is founder & CEO of WrightIMC. The Industrial Strength column appears weekly at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Industrial Strength


About The Author: is CEO and Founder of WrightIMC has spent his career helping businesses of all sizes be profitable on the Web. Wright is a search marketing geek and also has extensive experience in online crisis communication and brand reputation strategy. Wright has twice served as President of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Search Marketing Association, and is a sought after speaker at industry events, including SMX, Search Engine Strategies, Pubcon and others. Find him on Twitter @tonynwright.

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