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November 10, 2008

Lucky For Us, the Economy Stinks!

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Over the last several weeks I’ve been compiling a list of links related to the Internet marketing industry and the economy. I think the time has come to share some of these fiscally-related finds, not because of a change in the economic situation, but because of a recent company achievement.

Last Wednesday I had the honor of attending an awards ceremony presented by the San Fernando Valley Business Journal in recognition of the 50 fastest growing companies of the region. I was struck by the fact that three of the companies honored offer search engine marketing services. Well done, SEM companies, well done.

This got me thinking about how Internet marketing firms have fared thus far in the dampened economic environment. As Bruce noted in a press release, the strong performance by SEM companies goes to show that the value provided by search engine optimization and paid search marketing is lasting. And due to our fearless leader’s predictions at the beginning of the year, we were poised to position our offerings as a measureable and rewarding, even in the most uncertain times.

Now that we find ourselves in the midst of the economic meltdown, a number of astute marketing professionals have gleaned valuable lessons through the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Many of these lessons have been shared through articles, reports and blog posts. Here are a few of those observations.

SEO Bailout or Digital Initiative

Our own Chris Hart gave us some things to think about when adjusting our Internet marketing strategy to fit the current economic climate. Comparing a search marketing campaign to federal government’s economic bailout, Chris explained the importance of organization, communication and education.

To Survive, Net Start-Ups Slow Their Metabolism

The New York Times reported that, unlike the companies that faced the dotcom bust, tech start-ups today are trying to stay on the down low to weather the down-facing financial state. Rather than running full-steam ahead, tech companies, especially start-ups, are taking things slowly, with the aim of mere survival. While not ideal, this is a smart strategy considering the challenges of the day.

“In this downturn, say investors and entrepreneurs, start-ups are adopting a strategy that they hope will let them hang on instead of flame out.

To preserve cash, many tech start-ups are rushing to lay off employees and cut expenses. They are shelving their dreams of Google-size riches and getting small, humble and thrifty, all with the more modest goal of surviving the coming economic winter.”

Hard Times are Prime Time to Build Brand Awareness

A report from MarketingSherpa tried to answer the question: How can you take advantage of a time when resources are especially precious? They found that a time of low resources is actually a good time to build brand awareness because brand impressions are cheaper as competitors have withdrawn from the marketing space. The report also explains that companies looking to reallocate their budget would be unwise to bring brand advertising to a halt:

“There’s a symbiotic relationship between brand and lead generation. For example, print campaigns spark searches and, most importantly, brand builds awareness and trust — vital elements for your business in a downturn.”

The Silver Lining for Advertising During a Down Economy

Over at Search Engine Land, Tony Wright explores how search marketing reaches consumers looking for the best deals: “In down times, consumers look for deals. The best deals in the world are found online. And the best way to find those deals is though search. Therefore, companies both large and small will shift dollars from branding initiatives into search during a down economy.” The caveat: search marketing is tied to branding. The lesson? Don’t get too greedy with the search marketing budget so that other marketing channels suffer.

Wagging the Long-Tailed Dog: Search Behavior and the Economy

Also at Search Engine Land, Lance Loveday recalls the lessons he harvested over the last few months. He noticed that while the overall search volume remained on the upswing, the nature of the searches have changed from purchase-related queries to information- or entertainment-related queries. Some of his key takeaways — explained in further detail in the post — include: search is a pull medium; searchers are in charge; searchers are people; and people are irrational. What can you do about it? “Focus on the things you can control.”

Staying on Top in a Downturn

A steady source of marketing insight, MarketingProfs took a look at Jon Miller’s tips for B2B marketing during an economic downturn. Build and optimize landing pages and use lead management to maximize the value of each lead are just two of the tips. They’re all rather logical and to the point, but these seven tips can help you stay on track when it feels like everything around you is crumbling

I’ll admit that I purposely exaggerated in the title of this post. While no one — save debt collection agencies — benefits from watching the global economy struggle to pull itself out of the drain, I think it’s safe to say that our industry will be here when the Liquid Draino finally clears. In fact, we may find that brick and mortar stores, not wanting to buy TV ads or space in other marketing channels, turn to online marketing. Through ethical practices and transparent client relations, my bet is that the Internet marketing companies that make it to the other side will be stronger than when they started.

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