When you stop to consider that search marketing has only been around about 10 years (counting the launch of GoTo.com as the birth date), the industry certainly has evolved quickly.
Instead of only one search engine, we now have at least four legitimate choices (YSM, Google, MSN, Ask), and that’s not including important niche players like Quigo, IndustryBrains, or Business.com.
Instead of one pricing model (cost per click), we also have cost per thousand (CPM) and cost per action (CPA or PPA).
Instead of one distribution option, we now have too many to count, with the big ones being search, content, print, radio, TV, mobile, social media, local, and international.
All of this choice leads me to one question: can anyone really be a total search marketing expert these days? My sense is that it is no longer possible.
The best analogy to draw here is to look at the evolution of the practice of medicine. Hundreds of years ago, there were just medical doctors. Period. If you broke a bone, you went to the local doctor. If you were pregnant, you went to the same doctor. Cancer, flu, mental illness, whatever – everything was handled by one guy.
Think of medicine today. You’ve got neurologists, but most neurologists specialize in a single area of neurology. One might specialize in movement disorders, but most movement disorder neurologists specialize in a specific movement disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease. While it is true that your family doctor might be your first stop, actual treatment is done by the sub-sub-specialist!
There’s no doubt that search marketing is quickly heading down the same path. It’s impossible for one person to stay on top of all of the nuances of search sub-specialties.
Consider content distribution – Google AdSense, the Yahoo! Performance Network, and the like. It was once easy to master content distribution – you bought your keywords, set your bids, and you were done.
Today, content is a better choice for advertisers, but also more complex. You can now set up IP filtering to exclude known poor-quality networks. You can block specific URLs. You can set up site-targeted campaigns for known good traffic.
In addition to text ads, some content networks now allow graphical banners and even video ads. And you can control where on a specific website your ad will show up (e.g., the top of the page, certain sub-domains of the site).
I’m sure if I had the time to understand all of these great features, I could craft a really awesome content campaign. But I don’t have that time. It’s impossible to dig into the details of every distribution type and search engine combination that currently exists.
I predict that this information overload will lead search marketers to specialize in a few sub-categories of search and leave the other stuff to other specialized experts. The days of the generic search marketing expert are over!
This isn’t a bad thing by the way – it’s just a sign that our (no longer) little industry is maturing. Patients certainly appreciate the specialized level of knowledge medical experts have today. No doubt, companies will also appreciate specialized search marketing experts as well.
And, by the way, as medicine has specialized, salaries of doctors have skyrocketed. Specialization leads to complexity, complexity increases demand for experts, increased demand leads to higher salaries for experts.
So be prepared for the day when someone asks you what you do and you reply “I’m a Google Audio Ads expert focused on AM radio in Florida.” Then again, if you want to avoid an uncomfortable pause, you might still say “I advertise on search engines,” but we’ll know you are far, far more talented than that simple statement suggests.