Search Marketing Isn't Just Math & Machines

Search is all about math, right? Throw everything into a black box, let the ad management systems run, and you can forget about creativity. I don't buy into that at all. Yes, search -- especially paid search -- has a strong analytical side. But to think it's all about math and machines is dead wrong.

Did the machine take into account:

  • Actually crafting the advertising copy you want to test?
  • The idea you might be after brand lift, rather than conversions?
  • The general accessibility of your site for free listings?
  • The need to generate good PR in search results or counter-act bad results?
  • The increasingly diverse types of listings you may wish to have: local ads, local organic, shopping ads, shopping organic, map listings, video ads, video organic and so on?

Those are just some examples of how search is far more diverse than you might think. Automation and machines are important, but they aren't replacements for the human element.

Paula, Pedro, and the Right Brain of Search from MediaPost today has David Berkowitz looking at this issue, scratching his head after a OMMA conference keynoter last week said that unless you work for Google, you shouldn't work in search at all.

"It's all math and machines," said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief innovation officer at Publicis Groupe Media. Oddly, however, another take on his speech has him also saying creative individuals are needed. Hmm. Maybe they just aren't needed in search.

If Tobaccowala's comments sound familiar, that's because you may have heard them before. Right-brain, left-brain advertising over at MarketWatch from the end of last month explores a similar idea, that search advertising is so complex that only machines can keep it harnessed.

No doubt, practically anyone needs to be using some type of automation, something that will become even more required when MSN's incredibly complicated paid ad system rolls out, completely with many ways of targeting people.

The math will be important. The math is important. But my gut tells me creativity isn't going to die. In fact, it ought to be one of your distinguishing factors. If everyone's using math to be efficient, the playing field levels. So what moves you higher? Getting beyond the math :)