SEO and SEM do not replace a marketing strategy

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

It is quite funny to hear marketing people and business owners talking about their plans to grow their business online. Most of the time, they are disappointed and frustrated with their late 1990's website generating only a few sales. They are even more frustrated when they read or heard that some companies have dramatically increased their online sales with these new, fancy activities :SEO, SEM, Affiliate Marketing.
And now, these weird acronmyns quickly become are the solution to the past challenges of selling online.

Now the fun quickly turns into frustration, when you try to explain that SEO and SEM will surely bring traffic, but sales is a different story. In the same way as people do not always buy a product if they go to a physical store, people wont always buy because you drive them to your website! People will buy your products because the product will fill their needs and deliver a superior value than your competitor's one and this value is shaped by your business marketing strategy. If SEO and SEM are relatively new, the concept of competitive advantage and Unique Value Proposition have been around for a while and everybody knows about it. However it seems that when executives are dealing with online, they tend to forget about it.

The Never Ending Story

It all started in the early 90s with the emergence of the internet and its promises. Success stories of teenage entrepreuneurs, who received million of dollars from venture capitalists, experts forecasting trillions of dollars in revenues as well as the overwhelming media coverage contributed the the common belief that internet , and more specifically website, will be enough to sell anything!
Following the common frenzy, many marketing execs and business owners jumped in the bandwagon and built a website thinking that it will be the solution to business growth!

He worked for those who had strong basis, but for most the early 2001 dot com crash smashed the beautiful promises. The golden child became the black sheep. Marketing execs lost faith in websites, which became accessories.

Since 2003, the strong growth of online marketing reinforced by a large amount of media coverage fed by success stories such as Google has revived the dream with another "promising belief". This time, the answer to online success is more rational and makes more business sense. To be successful online we not only need a website, but we also need to do some promotion to attract traffic and sales using SEO, SEM PPC Advertising and more.
Well we are getting there, but the bottom line has not been grasped yet. The story continues and it is likely that the crash frustration will be revived too.

Think about Strategy and then Tools, not the opposite

One of the biggest misconception around SEO and SEM is that they are very effective tools, but they do not replace a strong marketing strategy and especially a strong value proposition.
Using SEO and SEM, you will be able to increase your brand visibility in search engines, but then why would people click on your listing?
Well they will probably click on your listing because you have something that they are looking for and they will get value purchasing it from your site. If your product is 10% more expensive than your direct competitor (accessible in a click)and you do not offer anything else they probably won't click on your listing or if they do, they won't probably buy.

Even if you do get some sales from these, the money invested into SEO and SEM won't probably deliver the expected results, the frustration will come back and the internet medium will be blamed. Could this lead to another crash?

Do SEO and SEM make sense for every business ?

Following a slightly different perspective, we could even ask the question:

Should every business use SEO and SEM?

Well in theory, it will depend on a business ability to generate competitive advantage over its competitors and deliver value to its customers. A business falling to do so, should invest some money in improving its offer rather than spending money on SEO and or SEM.

This trends could also have an impact on the way search agencies are conducting business. As mentioned earlier by Jeff Quipp, search engine agencies could only select clients with strong business models? The future winner in the search industry could also be search agencies , which offer an integrated approach including marketing consultancy and search consultancy?


jquipp said...

Thanks for the mention. Someone left a comment in response to my post that drove the point home even further; its not just about how sound the business model is, but how efficient the business processes are. Efficient business process are as crucial as a sound business model.

Anonymous said...

Too many times I've found myself telling a client, SEO is not a marketing strategy. It's one piece of the pie, not the whole pie. But they don't like to hear that because they've already decided they are going to do SEO and once their website is first all of their problems will be solved.

I agree with your comment suggesting future search agencies offer an integrated approach to marketing. I think it's the only way to protect our reputation, as more non-understanding clients blame SEO or SEM for not making their sales.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally agree with the things you have discussed here....
It is really a never ending story, it always goes on..
When you stop doing that, you will be left behind in this competitive world.....

Thanks for sharing the nice post...

Anonymous said...

Very nice and clear post describes useful information. Thanks for sharing..

Mike Tasner said...

This is the era of value content... it's always been a bigger piece of puzzle. SEO and marketing are the factors that can give a boost in locating your website, but content will still determine your credibility online.