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Perfect Storm, Unintended Consequences, and Sexy Search

Lionseye insights from AC Lion

Article By: Dan Goldsmith (

I was chatting with my long time friend Sara Holoubek, Aspiring Luminary (, about the role of search engine marketing and its respective piece of the pie. She and I sensed late last year that search marketing was lagging a bit maybe hitting a plateau. Companies were not displaying an acuity or clarity to their deliverables and value prop. Mind you, we had no empirical data to go on what so ever. Sara was going on conversations with colleagues in the space and I was going on my never fail leading indicator, “What are the sales pp saying”. If the sales people love what they are doing and have no interest in leaving a company then clearly that company is paying well and on time and there is continued confidence in the company’s future. If however sales people are chomping at the bit to go on interviews then its curtains! Late last year sales people in search marketing were calling me with resumes in hand as they were all feeling marginalized. Simple feedback was that the typical compositions of SEM agencies were becoming more and greyer. They were drifting away from SEARCH and trying to be FULL SERVICE and the sales guys were having a hard time differentiating themselves from the rest. There was less SEARCH in Search Engine Marketing Agencies.
Fast forward to summer ’08 and where are we? The financial markets resemble Elaine’s dance in Seinfeld otherwise known as “….a full body dry heave set to music”. This morning the WSJ reported that America’s 4th largest advertiser, General Motors, is announcing advertising cut backs primarily in Local TV, Print, and Radio. Through it all sales people are now excited about the next 2 years and SEM hiring spec’s say something like “get me the very best sales talent and I will pay whatever it takes”. What gives, all the sudden Search is sexy again.
Here is my .02. The diversification of SEM services and product lines came at the behest of general market confidence and measured risk. A narrowing of services or a “commitment” back to original core competencies would seem to indicate a re-trenching. Combine that with recent data suggesting ’08 to show 26% net growth of ad spend. Or, another way saying it, “As goes GM goes the nation” and as such more and more major advertisers will pull TV/RADIO/PRINT dollars and place them online (how much of that pull back goes online remains to be seen). That said, the first door that NEW interactive dollars stand in line before? That’s right Search – and we all know the laundry list why.
So we have a bit of perfect storm on our hands that is bringing the sexy back to search. Search agencies are narrowing their deliverables as reaction to general market conditions at the same time that major advertisers are shifting BIG dollars away from traditional medium and into interactive which invariable means SEARCH. Proof (as far as this blogger is concerned), search sales pp are hard to find and Search agencies will pay whatever it takes to get the best of the best.
Vive La SEM