In Tough Economic Times, Whither Search?

Don’t even think about watching the news. Forget about reading the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times (I get both every day) if you want to keep your sanity. The news and information about our world’s economic conditions aren’t just bad, they’re insane.

The entire front page of yesterday’s Financial Times read like an extended obituary.

Everyone seems to want to know what will happen to advertising and marketing dollars as a result of the latest round of bad news. Is search insulated from our economic meltdown? The short answer: not by a long shot. The long answer is a bit more complicated.

Safety is an Illusion

What does insulation do, exactly? A Kevlar jumpsuit with various components of hard body armor will protect or “insulate” one from all kinds of bad things. Yet, for a whole lot of seemingly unsolvable complications, the occasional piece of shrapnel or stray lead will find soft tissue.

Our situation in the online marketing or search marketing world is no different. We’re insulated from the perspective of traditional marketing dollars migrating to more accountable means of advertising, but there’s still plenty of vulnerable soft tissue.

Accountable means anything that can be tied directly back to a “desired conversion” activity. The running cliché in the connected marketing world is that search is more accountable and therefore immune, safe, or insulated from our economic meltdown.

The truth? If there’s no money, there’s no money. No one is safe and it’s time to re-engineer our traditional thought process.

What Does “Traditional” Mean?

Well it doesn’t mean anything even remotely resembling advertising you can’t view on your computer. It means the shift we’re already seeing in media buying models with auction-based systems will now move faster than it has already been.

It means we’ll have to start thinking with our heads and recognizing that, once again, there are people whose sole focus will be figuring out who to blame for the mess we’re in. But we can’t be those people.

We have to focus on solutions and save the whining for the same snot-nosed, opportunistic, fantasy-money punks that put us here. In other words, it’s time for the interactive marketing world to lead the way. It’s also a great time to quit the “we need our fair share” whimpering.

Invest in Weakness

One of the top 10 pieces of advice I offer clients in the category of “what we can do now” is: don’t spend less, spend smart. We aren’t insulated from the economic meltdown; we just haven’t seen its effects yet.

The average Joe on the street doesn’t know what just happened to our country, he only knows something bad transpired. When bad things happen, re-evaluating marketing spend to be more conservative is only natural.

Those of us with the courage to take a few remaining dollars and invest in emerging areas that will see the kind of growth we seek will benefit tremendously in the coming trying times for advertising. More stable platforms like local, mobile, and auction-based platforms are where your remaining dollars should be headed.

Just like the last time the bottom fell out of the interactive advertising industry, emerging stable areas like accountability measurement were thriving and expanding.

In the end, it’s your choice. You can either wait for the inevitable shortfalls, or plan now for where you want to be when it does happen. You can either be part of the problem, or part of a much bigger solution that just might help your fellow man.

Join us for a Search Engine Marketing Training in Boston, November 6 at the Hilton Boston Back Bay. Not only will you walk away with the knowledge and skills to be a successful search engine marketer, you’ll also jumpstart your career and enhance your professional know-how.

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