The advent of the pay-per-click (PPC) model produced a new breed of Internet marketer. Instead of the technological expertise required for search engine optimization (SEO), anyone with marketing savvy could set up, manage, and optimize PPC campaigns. Its simplicity and accessibility led to extensive adoption by all sizes of companies, even home-based entrepreneurs. Paid search surged ahead, morphing Google into a financial behemoth expecting 600,000 AdWords advertisers by 2008 (source: 2004 “leaked” forecast on SFGate.com).
But the easy times of PPC marketing are gone. Increasing competition, shrinking inventories, and a proven “black box” revenue model have made paid search increasingly sophisticated, especially on the top search engines.
Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search, and MSN adCenter – representing over 90% of all searches – have moved to complex algorithmic quality-scoring models. The Google Inside AdWords blog (February 2007) introduced quality score to “set minimum bids for keywords based on keyword click-through rate (CTR), ad text relevance, the historical performance of the keyword on Google, and the user experience on the ad’s landing page.” Yahoo! and MSN have similar models.
Keyword CTR, relevant ad text, and landing page user experience have always been influencers for optimizing PPC campaigns, but the solidification of quality score as a driving force shifts the focus to technical skill requirements. Google ramped up its calculation for landing page relevance. Its ad-bot crawler checks for relevant text, <H1>, meta tags, keywords, and descriptions on the landing page linked from the ad’s destination URL. In April 2008, Google added page load times to the mix.
PPC optimization now operates more like SEO, shifting from a single emphasis on writing compelling ad copy for affordable and relevant keywords to a split emphasis integrating landing page technical variables for search engine algorithm optimization. Technology prowess is fast becoming a prerequisite for search engine marketing. Jonathan Mendez (September 2007 blog “Why Mashups are Mandatory for Marketers”) forecast this need:
“The landing page as we know it is dead. The amount of relevant source data from paid search that can be used to deliver relevance dynamically through APIs is astounding. We must also take into account that personalization algos will soon creep into the serving of search ads and display and universal search will soon allow rich ads.”
Today’s new type of marketer must be skilled not only in marketing principles but also in web technology, and capable of persuading through creative (text, images, video, and audio) but also adept at optimal communication with search engines, devices, and platforms.
Andy Berndt, managing director of Google Creative Lab, emphasized this in January 2008 (David Kaplan Interview, paidcontent.org):
“All new platforms give an early advantage to those who can best manipulate the technology itself, the best technicians. After the platform becomes user friendly, when it is opened up to the best storytellers and designers and communicators, they tend to add another level to it. The rare time when you find people who really appreciate both sides of that coin (innovation and storytelling) is where truly amazing things happen.“
As the convergence of search continues and other digital marketing strategies evolve, educational institutions must develop MarTech (as well as MarComm) professionals. Marketers must appreciate innovative web technologies AND persuasive storytelling communications. Marketing budgets will continue to shift dollars from traditional into digital media, fueling the need for this new breed of marketer.