Paid Search Follies
Rick over at the Barbarian Blog touches on something that I’ve found confusing and disappointing lately. There have been some recent articles, most notably this one, about how creative agencies don’t often utilize paid search. The thrust of the articles is that it is somehow surprising that agencies often recommend paid search to their clients, but don’t practice what they preach. The supposed lesson here is that these agencies are making a grave mistake.
Idiot alert! These sentiments are a bit bewildering. As Rick puts it, “Like does anyone even GET search? Seriously?”
Here’s a newsflash for the authors of these articles: smart agencies know their business and their clients. They know where their potential clientele reside and they know how best to reach them. They also know how not to reach them.
Paid search is an excellent choice for a retail enterprise. It’s perfect for many businesses and it’s vital to many marketing efforts. But one must not discount context when considering paid search. For many entities, and most good agencies, paid search is useless and it could even be a mistake.
For instance, Unit Interactive is a young design agency and we’re still building our business. If you remove context from the equation, it might seem like we’d be silly not to utilize paid search. But context is important. As designers, we’re supposed to be experts in understanding context and at making contextually appropriate decisions. So that’s what we do.
Our potential client audience is not looking for us on search engines. We survive on word-of-mouth recommendations. Our audience is interested in something specific that we offer and word gets around to them through people or articles and we run our project to ensure that the results are worthy of recommendation. Our audience is not looking for “Web design Dallas” or “Texas Web design agency.” Instead, our audience is looking for the specific skills, factors, or experience that we bring to projects. They’re interested in us, specifically, not in just any agency that’s in or near their city.
In fact, we specifically want to avoid that audience that does not know anything about us or does not know what we bring to our projects. That’s likely a bad client; that’s a client who does not know what they want. That’s a client that is uneducated and likely uncaring about the factors that set us apart from other agencies. That client will not likely allow us to do our best work for them, so we don’t want to talk to that client. By avoiding paid search we avoid many useless and fruitless contacts.
Smart agencies avoid making bad decisions. We think we’re a smart agency and I think that there are lots of smart agencies out there that, like us, know paid search to be a bad choice. If you’re an agency owner or principal, do you utilize paid search in your marketing strategy?