December 12, 2017

It’s Not Always About SEO

seovenn

I’m sure everybody’s familiar with the old adage about all problems being nails if you only carry a hammer. Sadly, that thinking doesn’t just apply to carpentry; it also runs rampant in the SEO industry. Many SEOs become so focused on search that they often ignore the other tenants of marketing – or worse, they never bother to learn about marketing in general.

I’m a big proponent of being well rounded. Just as it is extremely important for an SEO to know HTML and CSS, it’s equally important for an SEO to have a basic understanding of marketing and business. Unfortunately, not many SEOs bother to stray from their main focus. It’s too bad.

Jennifer Laycock has a nice retort to Rand Fishkin’s piece about using Google personalized results in advertising.

In my opinion, they both slightly miss the point.

Rand talks about the famous 2007 Pontiac super bowl commercial where they say “Google Pontiac” and “discover for yourself…”

Put aside the irony of using a now defunct company to talk about successful advertising and let’s dive deeper into the ad.

Rand uses this example to talk about personalizing a user toward a domain. Jennifer points out why that strategy isn’t really optimal (Seriously, go read both articles…They open in new windows…. I’ll wait.)

They both make great points (even though I’m going to side with Laycock here) but they both fail to understand the real purpose of the ad.

See, car industries operate in multiple tiers of advertising. They have their top “brand awareness” tier, a “competitive conquest” tier, some middle tiers like credit and owner programs, and the lower “dealer focused” tier. None of these are official names, and I’m certain they differ from car company to car company, but you get the idea.

Believe it or not, most car ads are targeted toward a specific “persona type” who is likely to be in one of the tiers. This is all marketing 101 and clearly covered in marketing for dummies.

Different ads are shown to users based on where they are in the buying process. It starts with brand awareness, changes once the customer has a vehicle in mind, and changes again once they actually want to purchase it. Then there’s the whole idea of marketing to your own customers.

So imagine you have a 30 second super bowl ad. Who do you go after? Do you introduce a new model car, or do you focus on conquest by comparing that car to a competitor’s model? Do you simply build brand awareness? What about the current offers and incentives? You certainly can’t fit it all into a 30 second commercial.

Or can you?

pontiac

If we look at the screen shot above, we can see all of those tiers clearly represented. The search results not only offer to take me to the Pontiac home page, but I also get results for local dealers where I can go test drive one. There’s a build and price link right there, and there’s also an option to view offers and incentives. All of the bases are covered.

Unfortunately I don’t have a screen shot from the 2007 super bowl, but I’m willing to bet that there were multiple paid campaigns running at that time to address the different segments as well.

From a non-SEO perspective, the marketing strategy was twofold. First, they was a subtle “hey, don’t take our word for it, go look on Google” theme to build trust among the users. Second, they managed to throw a broad ad out there that appealed to all of their pre-defined marketing personas. By going broad Pontiac was theoretically able to capture a larger segment of viewers. If they had gone the vehicle specific route and chosen a sedan, then they would have instantly cut the potential reach of their audience (as those interested in crossovers would have been lost.)

The “Google Pontiac” ad (to me) was nothing more than a shotgun in the dark approach. It was all about maximizing that 30 seconds to reach and captivate the largest potential audience – an approach that can be hard to understand when you only look at Google from a search marketing point of view.

Let this serve as a good reminder that occasionally we need to take off our SEO hats (white or black) and look at things from a general marketing and branding point of view as well.

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com