The Danger of Having A Hammer

April 1, 2010 •

In what has to be a nearly unbelievable set of coincidences, 3 times in the last week I’ve met with a prospective client shortly after they’ve met with a shop that specializes in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  First, let me say that I like SEO, I’m not picking on SEO, and I think that search is a key piece to look at as part of your marketing plan.  Research shows that approximately 80% of Web sessions start with a search – so yes search is important.  And yes, we talk about SEO on this blog a lot too.

What really got me, though, was that in each of these cases the SEO shop had the client convinced that SEO was all they needed – that it was a magic pill for all that pains you and when done right would be the only marketing that you would need.  In two of the cases, the SEO shops had tried to spin the client to believe not only would they do SEO but they were going to handle marketing and product planning and strategy as part of the engagement.  Well, of course, if you engage an SEO shop to do your marketing planning, guess where they are going to recommend you focus your efforts?

As frequent readers of Marketing Trenches know, we preach strategy over tactics.  And while specialists and specialties are always important — whether they be SEO, SEM or the latest hot specialty Social Media “Expert” – the real key is to look at your overall strategy and match these different channels/tactics to what helps you achieve your company’s goals.  And that’s almost always by diversifying and using more than just one tactic.

It’s nearly impossible for a specialist in one area to help you build that diversified plan – they are too close to one specialty to really see the big picture, and too incentivized to push you to maximize their specialty.  In the cases I ran into this week that was abundantly true — The SEO shop that wanted to build the marketing plan was going to push for SEO as the lion’s share of that plan, regardless of if it was the best fit.

After all, as the saying goes, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

About the Author

As Right Source’s chief marketing technology officer, Will Davis oversees the intersection of marketing strategy, consulting, execution and technology for our clients. He focuses first on business objectives and then on helping clients leverage marketing and technology to deliver against those objectives. A recognized leader in content marketing, Will has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park in government and politics and broad experience developing marketing strategies that help organizations reach milestones and grow. You can find Will on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn, or read his other posts.

  • Good post. I agree with that there is this over-reliance on SEO and SEM. But I think that worse than putting all your marketing eggs in one basket, that over-relying on SEO means you may be ignoring the basic usability of your site.

    Often times, the focus is on getting people to your site, and not on what to do with them once they get there.

    My colleague wrote a great post about this. He found that UK market for usability was in the millions, while the market for SEM was in the billions: http://www.iqcontent.com/blog/2010/02/usability-before-search-engine-marketing/

    Like you say, SEO only works if it’s part of a larger whole.

  • Very good point on usability Randall! I think too many people fall into the trap of focusing too tightly only on how a search engine will see the website and lose track of what the actual human visitor’s experience.

    Thanks for your comment!

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