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The Subjectivity of a Search Engine Marketing Recommendation

The Subjectivity of a Search Engine Marketing Recommendation

Or why good information can still lead to bad results

There’s clearly a difference between making a search engine marketing recommendation and implementing that recommendation, be it onpage search engine optimization, social media strategy, PPC ad copy, etc etc. Not only is the direct recommendation subject to varying degrees of interpretation, but so are the moving parts that are related.

A quick example:

  • Create HTML Titles Tags with a Keyword Strategy In Mind
    Let’s assume we’re targeting “holiday greeting cards” and “Christmas”

    • What I envisioned: “Holiday Greeting Cards for the Christmas Season”
    • What got created: “Holiday Greeting Cards, Christmas Greeting Cards, Holiday Cards for Christmas”
    • What else was suggested: “Holiday Greeting Cards Christmas”

    …the list can go on and on. Are any of these bad, good, average? Each person will have their own opinion.

Another example:

When I first started sending out link requests, which evolved into pitching content to bloggers, other website owners, companies etc, I had no formal experience or education to base my strategy on. My logic was as follows:

  • I knew my message had to get past spam filters and immediate deletion (i.e., create a good subject line)
  • I knew I would have about 5 seconds to keep the person’s attention (i.e., get to the point quickly)
  • I knew that once I got that far I couldn’t spin crap (i.e., clearly define why “whatever” it was I had may be of value)

As sad as it is to admit, it wasn’t till less than a year ago that I started realizing that the art of “pitching” bloggers, editors, media folks etc was a standard practice in public relations. While I am clearly not hitting my targets at a 100% success rate, I am also not firing blindly into space, missing my mark 99.9% of the time.

But it’s important to realize that all three bullets above could easily be misinterpreted or mishandled/screwed up individually, impacting the entire objective in a negative manner.

Getting Clarity Before Implementing a Recommendation

Search Engine Optimization is easy when your simply marking off from a checklist of SEO ranking factors or following suggested “best practices””. The reality is that there is a subjective nature of what a “good” anything is and one version of  “good” may have no chance whatsoever if someone else (your competitor) is doing it “phenomenally“.

And if you’re not getting the basic elements of SEO implemented, it’s even more difficult to jump into more advanced strategies or specialized tactics.

Lyndon Antcliff writes the following in his post, “Why You Need A Social Media Consultant”:

You can read all there is about a social bookmarking site like digg and still not get it. You have to get down and dirty and start using the sites as a regular user, it takes time, … before you have a grasp on things.

This can be said about almost any facet of search engine marketing; now more than ever as the SEM industry has evolved to incorporate inflections of public relations, copywriting and website usability as well as continued development in web technologies, search marketing tools and overall industry awareness (more competition).

A Suggested Evaluation Process

Consider the following steps when taking into account recommendations for your search engine marketing strategy:

  • Do I understand what the recommendation means?
  • How are others in my competitive space using this recommendation already?
  • Are those that are using the recommendation using it good, bad, average? How can I do it better?
  • If no one is using it, is it even applicable? Or will I enjoy the benefits of being a first mover?
  • How will the intended audience interpret this once it is delivered? Should I get feedback prior? (I highly recommend this)
  • Who is the intended audience? (Remember that a link request is intended for someone different than your implementation of a content development strategy)
  • Am I taking into account how this recommendation will impact related (and possibly unrelated) facets of my SEM strategy?
  • Once implemented, am I getting the results I had wanted?
  • Perhaps more importantly, what are the expected results and are they realistic?

Of course some people and organizations can do this faster and more efficiently than others and maybe some people just get lucky and stumble into the right decision on the first try (I prefer to believe the former). The important thing to realize is that a recommendation is only as good as how successful you are at implementing that recommendation.

Final Thought

It’s not just the party implementing that is solely responsible. If you’re paying good money for an SEM/SEO consultant to handle your business, your “expert” is just as responsible for making certain that the clarity and understanding is there. In the perfect world, not only do they understand how each strategy (they are recommending) relates to search engine marketing, but they understand how to deliver and implement a strategy designed to give you the competitive advantage in your particular space.