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November 18, 2009

A Competitive SEO Advantage in Studying the Times – SEM Synergy Extras

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On today’s episode of SEM Synergy, I speak with my guest Bas van den Beld about search marketing in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What does the Berlin Wall have to do with search marketing, you ask?

Bas is a Holland-based Internet marketing consultant, the co-host of the internationally-focused SearchCowboys podcast (live Tuesdays at 2 pm Eastern/11 am Pacific), the editor of Europe’s most popular search marketing blog, and (perhaps most intriguing of all) he was an historian in a former life.

colorful reflection in rippled water
CC BY 2.0

In an article on Search Engine Land, Bas indulges his inner historian by looking at how tearing down the Berlin Wall shaped the face of global commerce and, in turn, search marketing as we know it today. What do you think the world would be like without the European Union, a single European currency and the spread of wealth that resulted within a unified Europe? A very different place indeed.

Many search marketers find a competitive advantage in keeping up with the latest news in search and online marketing. There’s a lot to be gained from analyzing how things that happen today can affect tomorrow.

From new FCC regulations to changes in Google’s terms of service, today’s events send a ripple straight through to the future. And so, we continually polish up our crystal balls, hoping to foresee what’s coming down the line.

In a similar way, there’s much to be learned by looking back on the past. Understanding the catalyst of a chain of events or finding patterns in human behavior and psychology is just as potent a power as seeing into the future. Well, mostly because the latter isn’t possible, as far as I know. Our analysis of the past and present is all we have to go on to improve our future.

Today there’s this heightened awareness that what’s happening now, what happened last year, and what happens tomorrow will greatly affect the political, economic, and emotional future. And the current upheaval of the global economic crisis has made a serious imprint on consumerism in the U.S.

binoculars
CC BY-SA 2.0

In a post on the SageRock digital marketing blog, Joanna Orcutt shares a story of how her father’s perseverance through tough financial times shaped her own work ethics and lifestyle. I can share a similar story about my grandpa, who was raised during the Depression and who forever after, no matter how much money accumulated in the bank, considered himself a poor man. There’s no denying the domino effect.

Looking through an historian’s lens, there are already patterns that have surfaced in the wake of the latest recession. In her post, Joanna points to a study about the four main consumer segments that have emerged.

Steadfast frugalists, involuntary penny-pinchers, pragmatic spenders and apathetic materialists display very different behaviors when it comes to spending and consumption. And different strategies will need to be created to target each of the different groups.

At the same time, according to a study by Lightspeed Research, these four groups are unified by a desire for information. In a difficult economy, a critically important brand offering (outdone only by the desire for discounts) is news analysis, new ideas and new ways of thinking.

And maybe, with this appetite for fresh and intelligent thinking, there’s something we marketers can take away from consumers. It’s not too early to start looking toward the future through the fading light of today.





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