Back to SEM Basics

My dad has been in the oil business for 37 years, and a few weeks ago, I talked to him about the BP Gulf disaster. Although he works for a large oil company with wells in the area, it isn’t the embattled British petroleum giant. My basic question to him was, “How could this possibly have happened?”

I would imagine it’s a pretty common question and one that will likely never be answered in any sort of satisfying way. His answer, though, was quite interesting.

“Well, son, it was, quite simply, due to a lack of fundamentals.” I haven’t heard anyone else say that, so I pressed further. “There are basic things you do when you’re drilling a well at that depth. There are certain measures you take to ensure safety. They did none of it.”

We, as online marketers, aren’t doing anything in our day-to-day with the potential to have such dire consequences, but part of me thinks our industry can relate to his message. More specifically, there are four areas where our industry is straying from the basic fundamentals of good marketing.

Customer Focus

Many digital initiatives these days are focused on nothing more than revenue. ROI is king and nothing else matters.

This has always been a toughy for online, because ROI is how we got our start; the value we brought to the table was accountability of spend. That hasn’t changed; we’re still accountable.

We could, however, do a better job of ensuring that our interactions with customers bring value to them beyond simply an opportunity to buy a product. Whether it’s customized landing pages, in-depth product reviews, or sparing the customer from 40 retargeting impressions per day, put their needs first.

Key Channel Focus

It’s inevitable with all of the rapid changes that occur daily in our world that our minds will be pulled in a million different directions. Our ability to focus on key channels is paramount to a good strategy.

Now, we all shouldn’t stop testing new ideas. However, we must ensure an ability to succeed in new channels and a good strategy for doing so before jumping in.

The social world is the prime example. Think before you leap. Make sure you have the necessary human resources, a strategy for creating value, and a plan for implementation.

Messaging Consistency

Promotions are a powerful tool, but we as marketers have gone overboard. Don’t run with messaging featuring every single offer out there for any given client. It’s confusing and has the potential to completely alter the image of the brand — often, negatively.

Give the consumer a clear and concise picture of who they’re dealing with and what they can expect. Make sure messages across different media are similar and echo core brand values. Nothing is more confusing than different brand identities across different media.


Specifically for the agency side, training is a huge fundamental that is often overlooked. It’s no secret that the agency world is a young world, and if anyone needs adequate direction and training, it’s young people.

An in-depth formalized process for training new hires is an absolute must, and an ongoing training program for legacy hires is equally important. Don’t let anyone tell you that they know everything — all you have to do is take one look at any digital news site to know that it takes little time for knowledge to become outdated.

Now this may all come off as a bit preachy, but that certainly isn’t my intention. What we do has a profound impact on the consumer and how they perceive our clients and our brands. Let’s revisit some of the fundamentals and make sure that we’re not in danger of contaminating the environment.

Related reading

The middle ground for single keyword ad groups (SKAGs)
Five ways blockchain will impact search marketing
New visual search innovations tap human emotions and biological buying triggers