Search Marketing – The Tardigrade of Marketing Channels

Netvantage Marketing opened operations in May of 2008 amid the financial meltdown. While on the surface, this would have seemed to be the sort of decision that would have immediately started hammering nails into our coffin as we quickly became just another company that would burn out seemingly overnight. But this is when we discovered that search marketing is much like a tardigrade – it can withstand just about anything. Not familiar with the tardigrade? It’s a tiny organism that can live in environments with temperatures ranging from -328 degrees to 300 degrees.

SEM image of Milnesium tardigradum in active state - journal.pone.0045682.g001-2

Even in a down economy, you have to keep marketing

But, a funny thing kept happening that first year of business. Nearly every meeting we had, often with businesses who hadn’t done much search marketing to that point, really loved the transparency and measurable ROI that came with search marketing.

Time and again we would talk to decision-makers who were spending money on TV, radio, print, billboards, and other channels that they had little to no ability to track or align with their goals. Our pitch was simple. People are still going to be looking for products and services, you just need to be there when they’re looking.

Spend exclusively on your audience

When it comes to paid search, the real beauty of it, from a sales perspective, is that you can really dial in your targeting. Are you a financial adviser in Chicago? Okay then, let’s create ads that only display when someone searches for “financial advisor in Chicago”. As opposed to buying an ad in a magazine that *might* be read by someone in your target audience, you can choose to spend money only on those looking for exactly what you provide. Can this get expensive? Sure, but you can fill the top of your marketing funnel with perfectly qualified potential customers far better than any form of push marketing.

While SEO is less of a “smart bomb” and can require more time to get the results you want, it’s also more cost-effective once you begin to rank out well for your top terms. So, rather than paying $8.50 for every click, you can scale down or turn off your PPC campaigns and just let the traffic start pouring into your website. Considering that most of your competitors are probably not going to be pushing more money into any marketing channels, it can open the door to making major moves organically while they sit on their hands.

Rand Fishkin nailed it last time around

I was a huge Moz fanboy back when this company started. I specifically remember Rand’s post “Why Companies Are Investing in SEO During the Economic Downturn” which is still relevant today. Let’s run down his eight points and see how they stack up in 2020.

  1. The web outperforms other sales channels. From an ROI standpoint, SEO does the most with its marketing budget – producing on average 14% of leads with 12% of the average marketing budget. I’d say this is still very true.
  2. It’s the right time to re-tool. We’re in the middle of a slow down or outright stoppage for many companies at the moment. While it may be a necessity to shut things down for many companies, for others, it’s the perfect time to take on a new initiative with SEO because all of your resources aren’t as likely to be tied up in other projects.
  3. Paid search drives interest in SEO. For those that have been reliant on PPC, many will have to tighten their belts as income streams dwindle. So yes, it may be time to realize paying for every click isn’t the most viable long term strategy and moving resources to SEO.
  4. SEO is losing its stigma. Well, this might be the one point that’s become a bit irrelevant. But back in 2008, we were definitely still fighting this battle.
  5. Marketing departments are in a brainstorming cycle. From getting new customers to staying relevant, to communicating available services (are you open for takeout, delivery, etc.) are all critical elements that marketers need to communicate and need to figure it out quickly. Experienced local SEOs will know how to utilize tools like Google My Business to help in these efforts.
  6. Search traffic will be relatively unscathed by the market. Of course, our current situation is unique in that some sectors are inevitably going to see a deep decline. Travel, for example, is definitely going to take a short term hit. But certain segments for shopping at home are going through the roof. Overall, even when stuck at home, people are still glued to their computers and phones. Whether working from home or temporarily out of work at home, everyone’s still gonna be utilizing search.
  7. Web budgets are being reassessed. Every budget is being reassessed right now, but as I mentioned earlier, if there’s ANY budget left, SEO and paid search can make strong cases to be where that budget gets spent.
  8. Someone finally looked at the web analytics. This made me laugh way back in the day and it still does. Even in 2020, we will have companies coming to us that may not even have analytics on their websites. YIKES. When everything’s going well I guess it can be easy to make assumptions on what’s driving sales or leads into your business. However, when the broader market starts to take a dive, suddenly it becomes critical to know what’s happening, what to cut and what to keep. Web analytics is critical in making an informed choice here, and more often than not helps make the case that search is a wise investment, even in tough times.

I’ve had a sinking feeling another recession might be coming down the road, but I never expected anything like the current pandemic that we’re seeing. That said, while things have certainly slowed down, we’re still taking business development meetings and signing new contracts here in April because search is still a smart play for many businesses, even now. How this plays out in the long haul is anyone’s guess, but like the tardigrade, I feel confident that our industry and our business will emerge from this in a fairly strong position.

Adam Henige

Adam Henige is Managing Partner of Netvantage Marketing. Adam heads the SEO and link building efforts for Netvantage and has been a contributing blogger for industry publications like Search Engine Journal and Moz.

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