Thursday, August 5, 2004

Search vs. Search Marketing Isn't Easy

The Search Engine Strategies 2004 conference this week in Silicon Valley, the birthplace of search and search engines, was the largest yet for this hot sector. As I listened to Danny Sullivan's keynote speech in the San Jose convention center, the juxtaposition struck me. Only a few blocks away, I'll be teaching a class on online searching to library school students , more specifically, how to find authoritative information online. This information does not advertise, much of it doesn't have links, but it is invaluable for decision making. Search and search strategies mean figuring out sources--government regulations and laws, public records, scientific and medical literature, patents, among the many types of relevant content.

Inside the conference, search really meant search marketing, and even this has split into two camps: "organic" listings referred to as PR, and "paid" listings. The technical crowd dominated the sessions with link strategies, search engine optimization, and site architectures to ensure high natural search engine rankings. The advertising crowd was talking a different language--landing pages, product categories, cost per click and conversion rates. For both, content was good, but secondary to keywords.

A direct marketing manager commented to me that he should have brought his webmaster to figure out how to put all the pieces together, and therein lies the challenge. These share a common technical platform, but the objectives are different. Can an all purpose Google serve the content finders as well as the buyers of goods and services? Or is the future specialized search engines, akin to Froogle and Amazon? My vote is with the niche.
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