Frostblog II: SEM – “The Lazy Man’s Option”

This morning, Intuit Inc’s Avinash Kaushik lashed out against paid search. It created a bit of a stir in the room, with most of the questions after his talk on measuring online strategies directed at his SEM jabs. Most biting from Kaushik was him calling SEM "the lazy man’s option" for marketing.

While I disagree with the extent of his criticism, I see where it’s coming from. Here’s my take on what’s eating him (Avinash, given that you now have the link to my blog, feel free to respond with your own take and continue the conversation):

  • Most marketers do not properly measure SEM. It’s dangerously easy for the "lazy man," but if you’re lazy with paid search, as with any kind of marketing, you won’t do it well.
  • SEM is a tremendous acquisition tool, but focusing on retention and improving the experience for returning experience to your site can be far more profitable. (SEM can still play a role in retention; more on that another time.)
  • Landing pages are hot, but general web design is often neglected, when the latter can be more valuable and cost-effective. I have been a proponent of web design; my first MediaPost column on SEM focused on it. Granted, I tackled the landing page angle. Cut a little slack; it was my first baby.
  • More exciting in that conversation on landing pages is the issue of overuse of personalization. I came out swinging against hyper-personalization last April. It’s worth revisiting in a future piece.

Much more to write.

7 thoughts on “Frostblog II: SEM – “The Lazy Man’s Option”

  1. Maybe we can simplify this a bit. I know Avinash is a wiseacre, so we can let the SEM cracks slide.
    SEM isn’t lazy per se, buying randomly into a channel without packaging a message, understanding significant prospect segments, or having a strategy for tuning is lazy.

  2. Blogs, SEM and SEO

    Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization seem to be all the rage no matter where you go and no matter who you are talking to about the future of advertising, marketing, and PR. The topic always seems to be the foremost on every busi…

  3. Leave it to the journalist to get a few things wrong. More like taking things out of context.
    One of my favorite topic areas is SEM in the context of everything else: web design, email, rich media, blogs, and of course all traditional marketing channels. I write the Search Insider, but it’s erroneous to put SEM in a silo. That can be a dangerous path indeed.
    And as to Jeremiah’s point: yes, instead of saying, “We need to get into this search bandwagon,” the better question is, “Here’s our set of goals. How can SEO, paid search, etc fit into that? Where don’t those tactics and tools make sense? How can those tools be used in relation to our other successful programs?”

  4. I see where Avinash is coming from, the big theme of his presentation is trying to relate that web analytics is helping tell the user story, and is ‘part’ of telling the user experience.
    I talked about this with him later, regarding the real value of tools vs the benefits they bring.

  5. I cringe just a bit at “lashed out” 🙂 perhaps I should watch my words, especially because my talk was about “holistic” understanding of customer experience (quantitative and qualitative). But people are into SEM because everyone they know is into SEM, and even then they don’t do it right. SEM as a part of a suite of Internet Marketing options is ok, but if you find you are just doing SEM you are going to run out of money soon and not have much to show for it in the long term. Options: Consider expending effort in truly understanding who your customers are and then evaluate if your website is serving their needs. If you just want traffic consider other options like partnerships with other like minded (industry, area specific) websites. You probably have a “house file” (Direct Marketing term) of your customers, consider mining it to create offers/invites/value propositions for your customers to come to your sites (to interact, sign up, download updates, buy stuff etc). Consider SEO, please please please make your websites easier for robots to crawl so you get organic (read free) traffic as well. (Random Rant: It is amazing how many people spend huge sums on SEM but have sites that don’t even do basic SEO 101.)

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