It’s Getting Very Complicated Out There

I have been going to search engine conferences on and off for the past decade or so. In 2000 I attended what later became known as “PubCon” mostly because they used to hold them in the upstairs meeting room above a London Pub. It was a couple of dozen hackers and spammers getting together to tell war stories and discuss strategies to get their clients to rank on search (by all and any means possible). How times have changed. Search is now a multi-billion dollar industry which is being driven up half crazy by the explosion of social and mobile. End users are abandoning the desktop for mobile devices and spend as much time interacting with apps as they do clicking on browsers.

A few years back I saw a demographic transition from the hacker-nerd mix of the early days to a more traditional mix of web guys and mainstream marketers. As the whole search marketing space evolved so the big search engines came up with tools and data to allow marketers to more efficiently spend their dollars with them and in parallel a small ecosystem of technology companies emerged to service the busy marketers…..then something bad happened….

The problem for the traditional marketing persons point of view is that social media doesn’t play nice because it’s much harder to control people than it is to buy media. Mobile makes life harder because although it delivers fabulous location information it does it on relatively tiny screens with much less real estate to target and apps have exploded and are taking users away from engaging with browsers and make content harder to get at from the search engines point of view. Along with the continued fragmentation of traditional media the explosion of online channels and the data they generate is making the typical marketers head explode.

For example at SES this week I took part in several “Meet the Experts Sessions” where the audience gets to ask “The Experts” anything they want. I was on the Local/Social table. A very nice and very well dressed agency lady who runs marketing for a major gaming platform wanted to know how to “impose their brand strategy on Social Media”….my short answer was…”you can’t.”

There is a whole new category emerging in our industry….broadly speaking it’s called “Big Data.”  To get at it you need to be able to build APIs and to understand it you pretty much need a double major in statistics and higher math. They don’t teach that at MBA school…..life is getting more complicated and in general terms harder and harder pretty much month by month. To make matters worth the kinds of people who do have the technical, stats and marketing mix needed to wrestle this mess to the ground are both few and far between and highly sought after …and retirement is still a long way off for most of the folk currently in it. Raising goats can seem an attractive option sometimes.

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