Kevin Lee on the Lee-ching Effect of Search

Kevin runs a great column on a topic I explored awhile ago in SearchInsider: are search engines leeching value from the web? Kevin approaches it from a slightly different angle than I did, but the conclusion was similar. Vendors are beginning to resent having to pay for every search generated touchpoint with a consumer. Kevin’s point, which I share, is: Get Used to It!

Here’s the 10 second summary of the idea, but please take some time to read the column. Consumers continue to turn to search to connect with an online vendor, even after the initial introduction. The vendor has to either maintain a prominent position in the sponsored ads, or, in some cases, pay an affiliate who is maintaining a high organic position (this reference is somewhat ironic, coming from the company that says SEO is simple enough that these affiliate sites should be cut out of the ecosystem). The vendor resents having to pay this recurring toll every time the customer visits them.

Having to invest to maintain share of wallet with a consumer is nothing new. It’s just that the new power of online and search in part makes this investment more focused than it’s ever been before. It used to be that maintaining enough top of mind to ensure a continuing connection with a customer was spread out over a number of marketing channels. Somehow, advertisers would accept this. But now, with the focused use of search to navigate the web, including return visits to a particular site, the cost is being concentrated in one channel. If anything, this introduces efficiency into the marketplace and could potentially save the marketer money, but all they see is a growing cost they have to pay to one channel to keep customers they thought they had already won. The missing piece here is solid data about the shift of influence from more traditional channels to the new search one. The marketer doesn’t know whether they have to maintain all the previous marketing activity, or can they confidently begin moving budget to the new one, namely search.

Read Kevin’s column, and then take a look back at my view. It’s a thoughtful look at an interesting shift in marketing dynamics and is a refreshing change from some of the other opinions currently coming out of Did-It.

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