Search engine marketing – getting the balance right

Getting the Balance Right
Ever since the infamous Florida update in Google the corporate world has concentrated on pushing its marketing budget into paid search largely ignoring natural search as a driver for visitors. This situation was forced on them in the outset as Florida kicked most of the bad practice employed by the corporate world in their lazy SEO campaigns and thus their sites lost all profile in Google searches.

Prior to Florida, the lions share of visitors were shuttled in to these sites via Google and there was an almost lemming like philosophy that things would never change. The problem was rooted in a complete lack of understanding by marketing directors who were quite happy to throw money at easy to buy link campaigns and incestuous micro site relationships.
When Florida hit, it was like a ‘Virtual Hurricane’ lashing the corporate Internet world, and when it subsided Florida had swept much of this world clean away leaving the big company stat programmes and log files ‘flat-lining’.

Huge retail operations lost their complete natural search profile and it sparked a ‘gold rush’ to buy supplemental traffic whilst somebody figured out what the hell had happened. As the weeks passed the marketing directors realised they had been complacent and offered themselves like sacrificial lambs to the Search Engine Optimisation industry in a bid to rekindle their organic search traffic.

What happened next was comparable to the miss-selling of pensions in the late 80’s, everyone who had heard the word optimisation was suddenly an expert and hundreds of unscrupulous agencies milked the corporate world for all its worth without delivering any chance of regaining their natural listings.

After a few months a number of agencies who had concentrated in ‘paid search’ cornered the market and were able to give marketing directors some level of comfort on their ROI. As time went by natural search became a subject to overlook by the respective marketing departments and as the paranoia grew so did the myth that it was impossible to generate quality natural search profile.

As the industry changed many of the ‘bandwagoners’ populating the SEO industry died as they could not fulfil their promises, this was because Google evolved further and became even better at nailing bad practice. Some scratched out a living in paid search and gradually pushed up the bid prices. In the end medium sized businesses started on the paid search route and prices for generic terms continued to rise and in many cases doubled and trebled. Click fraud became rife as medium size businesses fought for the middle ground and paid search started to become abused as a process.

Landing Page Algorithm
To counter this Google released a new type of algorithm, this one targeted the paid search market to ensure that the user experience was improved and stringent penalties were applied to Adwords campaigns that delivered poor landing pages for visitors arriving through the adverts.

Whilst all this mayhem was going on, a small number of optimisation agencies grasped what was needed to establish a website in Google and get it featured ethically in natural search. These agencies learnt to unravel complex dynamic e-commerce websites and make them search engine friendly. Gradually their work started to pay dividends as these new Google compliant websites gained both profile and publicity.

Before long corporate directors started to ask questions about why their company sites are failing in natural search as they could see some of their competitors were now being successful. Add this to the ongoing paid search issues and a gradual understanding that their paid search campaigns were only targeting a small market sector and the industry had turned a full circle. It is increasingly understood now that the right blend is a good natural profile and the use of paid search as a tactical marketing tool rather complete dependency solely on paid search as the driver of search engine traffic.

Search Marketing
As the wheel of optimisation starts its next revolution there are now real opportunities for marketing directors to ensure they hand pick their Search Marketing agency from the small crop of established ethical companies. These companies will provide a service that will ensure the balance is right and this time round there will be no excuses. Any corporate company selling on the Internet must address the natural search verses paid search balance and select an agency that can deliver on both fronts.