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Who Has Search Engine Marketers’ Backs? No One – We Need Lobbyists
Did you know that Google spent $5 million to influence politicians just last quarter? And that was doubled from the quarter before and may double again this quarter. Facebook spent a boatload too, but not as much Google. Microsoft spent even more.
Issues like the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA which received so much attention earlier this year, privacy issues, security issues, patent laws and a myriad of other items keep the Google, Facebook and Microsoft DC teams extremely active on Capitol Hill.
In my home state of Texas, over-eager tax collectors are auditing SEO firms for back sales taxes. Nevermind that for years the law has been interpreted to mean that service firms are exempt from sales tax. Oh yea, and thanks to the Texas Comptroller, Amazon will pay a fine and start collecting sales tax in Texas beginning July 1. I’m going to rent a UPS box in Oklahoma, I think.
But can you guess who isn’t paying attention? Search Engine Marketers. Look at the headlines in any of the leading SEM trade magazines. Go to the forums. Read the Twitter streams of prominent search marketers. Most SEM news is about algorithm chasing or new things that Google or Facebook has done to piss us off. We’ve also got tips and tricks and coverage from conferences.
A random announcement by Matt Cutts about his cats will receive more pixel ink in our trades than any legislation ever has. We don’t really want to talk about the laws that are being created to govern our industry unless they blatantly threaten us, or Google and the other technology companies tell us we should care (and that’s exactly what happened with SOPA).
And you know what? I don’t blame us.
Let’s face it, unless there is drama unfolding or we can a see a direct impact on our lives, most of us find the political process slow and mind-numbingly boring. I tell my clients it’s a full-time job just keeping up with daily changes in the search and social media landscape. And it really is. Watching the political landscape for threats to our industry is also a full-time job – a very necessary job. But the question is, whose job is it?
Who is looking out for the interests of search and social marketers on Capitol Hill? As far as I can see, no one yet.
Increasingly, we need timely insight into what is happening in Washington D.C. and with governments around the world. New legislation, like the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and now the new Cyber Intelligence and Sharing Act (CISPA), can threaten our very livelihood.
We have no representation in Washington D.C.
We must rely upon other organization, like Google and Facebook, to make our case on Capitol Hill, and hope their interests align with ours. In many cases, they simply don’t.
In fact, most of us aren’t even aware of the issues that we need to be watching. But as I mentioned earlier, you can bet that the search and social players are spending significant lobbying money. I highly recommend reading this Politico article to understand what’s happening on “The Hill.”
Governments aren’t the only entities that we need to watch.
Recently, Mozilla announced that the Firefox browser would utilize a secure method of searching Google by default. For search marketers, that means our jobs just got a little more difficult. We’ve already seen our analytics regress toward 1999 with the number of Google referrals from “Not Provided” skyrocketing faster than prices at the gas pump.
Then there’s the ubiquitous Penguin update, starting with a cryptic announcement by Matt Cutts at South by Southwest and culminating in an algorithm shift that garnered more mainstream ink than any in decades – even though it purportedly only affected 3-4% of searches (really? like “not provided” on affects 10% of searches?).
Are search engine marketers’ views even considered by these companies when they make decisions? Is the search engine marketing community asked what it thinks about these changes? Do we even completely the understand the rules that we are meant to follow? Hardly.
So my question is, in this day and age, can we all collaborate to find solutions that would benefit users, engines and the SEM community? Yes.
So, why isn’t someone asking our legislators, the search engines and other companies tough questions – and pushing to be part of the conversation?
When we think of lobbying, we think of guys in expensive suits taking politicians out to lunch. But, that’s an antiquated way to view the field. Today, lobbying is about understanding the issues, creating a position on each issue, and communicating your position to those with the decision-making power. That’s not always a government. Sometimes it’s an industry leader.
My conclusion: I don’t have the answers. I have a few suspicions about who should be at the forefront of this conversation – but unfortunately, I think significant action will move somewhat slowly.
Without a hot-button topic like SOPA to fuel the fire, the short-term benefits won’t justify participation by most. But the bottom line is, if we want to maintain our momentum, we need to find common ground and pay for our own representation. I feel like search engine marketers have just earned a seat at the big kid marketing table in the last few years. If we want to keep our seat, we need someone watching our backs.
So where are the search engine marketing lobbyists? I don’t know, but I hope they show up soon.
Image used under license, courtesy of Shutterstock.
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