Why Search Is Special

Advertisers are extremely thrilled when search works because it REALLY works, but baffled and discouraged when it fails. The core misunderstanding of how to manage search and why it should be managed differently is why it fails.

Search is special because:

  • It is technology and media – not one or the other. The reason search works is because there’s a technological machine on the back end of things matching ads to search queries. The reason that large amounts of people come to search engines to find things is because search works. The reason advertisers are flocking to search engines is because large amounts of people are there performing searches. You see, technology + people = media.
  • Search ads must be relevant if they are going to succeed. Revant to the keyword the searcher types in, and relevant to the page people end up on after they click on your ad. You will pay more for search when your ads lack relevancy.
  • Search is driven by intent, therefore the ads have a lot more meaning than in other forms of media. The mom who flips past an ad for a flu vaccine in Parenting magazine is in a completely different frame of mind from the mom who types “baby flu prevention” into Google.
  • With search, more than any other form of advertising, advertisers have to get into the minds of the people they want to reach and out of their own heads.

Agencies: If you’re an agency, a big issue you may face is how to manage search differently from the way you manage everything else. Search must be tracked and optimized relentlessly, with constant client communication and feedback provided. Demographics, psychographics, geography, and most other criteria you’ve ever used to target media (except location and time of day) do not apply to search. Repeat after me, “Search is not media.” Good. Now, repeat after me, “Search is media.”

Advertisers: If you’re a company managing search without the help of an agency, the issues are different. Many companies are unsure how to manage search internally or how to manage it correctly. They don’t know if they should work with their existing media agency to handle search or look for a search-only agency. If it’s the latter, they often don’t prioritize or facilitate communication between the two agencies so search never becomes truly integrated and complimentary with their overall marketing strategy. Search can never be truly integrated with your other marketing initiatives if is managed separately, in a vacuum.