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Go Ahead, Place All Your Bets on Search – I Dare You

Will Davis | February 23, 2010

Search marketing is one of the great tools in a marketer’s arsenal.  We help our clients with search and find it’s often one of their most effective lead generation vehicles.  That being said, I’m going to take a few minutes and pick on pay per click search here because, in so many cases, businesses are getting sold on paid search as a “full marketing solution” — and they’re believing it.  In these cases the reality is it’s usually being sold by salespeople disguised as marketers who only really look at the media side of marketing (Yeah, you know who you are!), and not all the other facets.

I could have chosen social media, broadcast or a host of other channels – it’s not this specific channel that I have an issue with as much as the focus on any one channel as some sort of magic bullet.  But, for some reason we see this in the search channel far more than any of the others.  Likely this is because the ability to so directly track — spend to searches to clicks to leads/sales to CPA — creates such a clean picture that it’s tough to argue against continuing to feed that success until it’s maxed out.  And once maxed out then, and only then only then, moving on to another channel.

The problem with that single channel focus, however, is it is incredibly risky.  Not Shaun White, Half-Pipe X-Games Cool risky but Russian Roulette Foolish risky.  The reason is simple – all of your eggs are now firmly placed in one basket.  And we all know the rest of that cliché.  And we all also know this – the marketing landscape is constantly changing, and now more rapidly than ever before.

So, maybe paid search is knocking it out of the park for you today, but what happens if Google adjusts the rules of AdWords again?  Or when Yahoo and Bing unify their platform in the near future with their deal now having cleared the biggest regulatory hurdles?  Or with just the fact that the amount of competitors you’ll find in paid search now looks to be far greater than even 2 or 3 years ago with later adopters coming to the table, the growth of automated platforms, locally focused management tools and a host of other reasons.  By now you can certainly see where I’m going with this.  It’s incredibly likely that no matter your industry, there isn’t just one magic bullet but an integrated mix of tactics.

Rather than getting sold on pouring everything you have into paid search, the better move is to diversify your tactics.  As Mike often says, think of your marketing approach like a stock portfolio.  By investing in and testing multiple channels, and adjusting based on which ones succeed and fail, you’ll have multiple sources of leads/sales and not be exposed to the risk of just one channel.  Certainly include paid search in the mix, but don’t make it your only ingredient.  Because that doesn’t make you X-Games Cool, it makes you Russian Roulette Crazy.

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