Looking at companies such as Microsoft, Google, WPP etc investments in the area of search it’s obvious that it’s more than a big deal to them to get it right.
Within media now, it’s probably the most discussed and debated topic. If it’s not around investment in kit around search or mergers and acquisitions, it’s around search and its role in taking revenue from the old content providers (many of whom believe, astonishingly, that search is actually hurting their businesses).
Anyway, search is an important area – really important – and an area that has great future potential in terms of planning and integration with other media channels. I feel that the next 5 years in the area will be really exciting.
But that’s not what I’m trying to say. So let me get back on track.
Rewind to a world pre search. And I don’t mean the Google/AV algorhythm search … I mean even the old search – the human curated directories model that made Yahoo! famous initially.
Back then, most people had media brands they trusted. Brands they turned to to find out information in the areas these brands were experts in. Be it health, sports, news, world news, current affairs, gossip etc – these media brands were destinations that users would visit every week and read religiously.
They had 2 key things that were hard to erode. Trust and loyalty.
They also had another thing on their side – decent barriers to entry for competitors. It was hard for someone locally to find the resource to set up a competitor, and we had limited access to international media.
Right now that whole scenario has been thrown out the window. Search has changed the game.
Such huge percentages of many publishers traffic comes from search engines. In some categories 40+% of the traffic originates at a search engine. For many, Google is now the universally trusted media brand and the one they turn to to get the information they need.
There’s lots of examples …
1/ Imagine a baby has a fever and is crying at 3am. The obvious first port of call for a mother looking for help is Google.
2/ Imagine a 31 year old male looking to find information on 42 inch plasma TVs that have the best quality picture for sport. He’d start at search.
3/ Wanting to get impartial information on the new Lexus? Search will provide that.
4/ Wanting recipes to cook the ingredients left over from last night – search.
One area I touch upon often in this blog are the user habits around many ‘premium’ web destinations. It always surprises me that on so many sites people generally don’t return within 30 days, and when they are on the site they’re on for 2-3 minutes and consuming 4-5 pages max.
It suggests to me that they’re entering via search – getting what they want – and leaving.
And they probably won’t come back. That is, unless search sends them there.
So what does this mean for advertisers and the perceived value around ‘trusted media brands’? How trusted are these media brands if consumers are turning to search as a first port of call … not the media brand direct?
And does it mean that SEO and SEM is now the most important investment for these media brands as opposed to investing in content and keeping users at the site once they’ve gotten what they came for?
It’s an interesting area to think about, particularly from an agency perspective. Some publishers and providers are extremely reliant on search.
Some publishers and providers are actively buying the search terms of brands that advertise on their sites despite this not sitting that well with the actual brands.
Has the game changed from building up a reputable, established and trusted media brand … to building up strong SEO and SEM and selling pageviews to advertisers for more than you are effectively buying them for through SEO and SEM?
Let’s go back to the two elements I discussed above which have always been important for any media brand – trust and loyalty.
Who has the trust and loyalty now?
I’d be betting for many consumers it’s the search engines.
Back in the early days of the web it was considered that the one stop shop, ‘portal’ destination was the way to go. So far it hasn’t been …
But is Google the best example of a successful portal/one stop shop ever created? Sure, it doesn’t own the content but it determines which content will get the traffic.
Maybe this is what pisses off the content creators so much.