Full disclosure: I do not sell marketing services, nor does Alpha Brand Media. However some of my ABM partners do work for and/or own companies unrelated to ABM, that do.
I’ll just put it out there: I think search marketing doesn’t quite get the cred it deserves from the startup community.
I’ve lived and worked in Silicon Valley for 15 years, and I have more friends and ex-colleagues doing the startup thing than ever before. Seemingly everywhere I go, folks are getting their grind on.
Once in a while, as a change of scenery from my home office, I drag my laptop into coffee shops like University Cafe in Palo Alto, a major VC/startup meeting place. Just about every table is humming with industry buzzwords. Seed round. Big Data. Hadoop. “Cloud” this and “mobile” that. It’s pretty exciting around these parts right now.
Although I’ve been in online publishing for five years, I am not a subject matter expert in Internet marketing. Allegorically speaking, I can drive the car, and I know where the gas goes in, but don’t ask me where the transmission is or how to change the oil. When it’s time for some crazy off-roading, I know enough to slide over and let one of my experts take over, or at least let them advise me on what path to take.
So I say this as a search layperson and startup observer: SEO (“Search Engine Optimization”), SEM (“Search Engine Marketing”), ORM (“Online Reputation Management”), etc. all seem to be treated as dirty TLAs in startupland. Best case scenario is they’re as “nice-to-haves” that one scratches down on the medium/long-term checklist. Perhaps pre-launch, there’s some time spent spitballing with a consultant. But search marketing as a whole tends not to be treated as a critical component of early launch plans. From my perspective, this does both the search marketing industry and the startups a disservice.
An exception is made for social media. Startups loves them some Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. Certainly, we’ve all seen the success stories of companies and/or individuals who have done everything from 10xing their market share to finding a job by wielding the power that is social media. And Twitter et al were once startups themselves, so perhaps there is some perceived kinship, as well.
But the line between social media and search is ever blending, and to spend hours on your company’s Pinterest account while neglecting how your newborn brand is faring in SERPs is a bit foolish, in my opinion.
Getting a blurb in TechCrunch is exciting, but it doesn’t count as a linkbuilding strategy. And “viral videos”, ugh. Successful ones that actually accomplish positive things for a brand or a product are equivalent to winning the lottery.
I would argue that a well-integrated search and social strategy should always be considered a key component of early go-to-market plans, and it should be put in play well before launch. Good, basic fundamentals can be accomplished on a budget with freelancers; no glossy agency with astronomical min spend is required.
Perhaps startups dismiss search marketing due to some bad actors that are infamous for secrecy and questionable boasting. It’s true that the industry has its share of scammers and people who are just plain bad at it. But to be fair, so do the medical, legal, and name-any-profession. Perhaps there is an inordinately sized spotlight on our rogue characters, given the inherent nature of what search marketers do. If you want attention on the internet, it’s not hard to find if you know enough to be dangerous.
But search marketing in all its forms is effective, when done correctly. Here’s an example of Google acknowledging SEO in their own Webmaster guidelines (with the standard caveat regarding irresponsible professionals):
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site. Many SEOs and other agencies and consultants provide useful services for website owners, including:
- Review of your site content or structure
- Content development
- Management of online business development campaigns
- Keyword research
- SEO training
- Expertise in specific markets and geographies.
Source: Google Webmaster Tools
I would love to see the search marketing and startup worlds join forces more uniformly and early on. There are so many synergies between the two that it seems strange to me that the tipping point hasn’t happened yet.
Until then, Search Engine Journal has an interesting read about one Internet marketer’s experience working with a startup that decided to launch without a search strategy.
Jenise Uehara Henrikson
As CEO, Jenise manages Alpha Brand Media's long-term strategy while overseeing workflow performance and operations. She also manages select Alpha Brand Media ("ABM") properties and contributes content to ABM publications such as SearchEngineJournal.com.
Jenise graduated from Cal State Los Angeles (BA Sociology). In 1996 she joined Pointcast, a push technology startup where she was promoted to program manager for sponsored channels.
In 1999, Jenise joined Phone.com, a pre-IPO mobile Internet startup. After merging with Software.com in 2001, Phone.com changed its name to Openwave Systems. In 2005 she was promoted to Director, reported to the CFO and managed the Deals Desk, a sales and business ops team that manages a complex sales contracting process.
In 2007 she became CEO of Henrikson Media, a web publisher that was acquired by Alpha Brand Media in 2010.
Jenise has been quoted in ABC News Online, Investors.com, and internet marketing blog Shoemoney.com.
Latest posts by Jenise Uehara Henrikson (see all)
- Introducing Srinivas Rao, Director of Audience Development - March 5, 2013
- Hi, Here’s a video I watched beginning to end. You might like it too. ~Jenise - October 6, 2012
- Brent Csutoras to Speak at SEOktoberfest - August 30, 2012