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Keywords Are Not Demographics

(November 20, 2006) 
Business is not binary. Business is nothing like black and white (except in the arena of sales, sales forecasting and simple financial results). Mostly, business is a set of interlocking multidimensional problems.

Sadly, human nature is more oriented to black and white. We seek a narrative with a hero, a villain and a final outcome. Shades of gray and nuance are irritating when we're busy getting to the bottom of things. The tendency to polarize issues into simple alternatives (the parlour trick of lawyers) facilitates decision making. It's usually the enemy of understanding.

The way things are is systemic, organic and ecological. Things are interconnected and interrelated. Yes and no, the binary foundation of computing, is a bad approximation of the analog reality we inhabit.

Running a business, engaging a market and staffing an organization are all conversations. Conversations should be, well, conversational. Black and white distinctions, useful for decision making, turn conversations into monologues. This is how marketing, particularly business to business (B2B) marketing should be conducted. It's a conversation.

We started working our way down this line of thinking after spending a day or so trying on the idea that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a waste of time. We wandered around the Kennedy conference telling industry thinkers that SEO/SEM was a waste of time and energy. We explained that keywords don't really qualify visitors very well;

A conversion rate of 25% (which would be a ridiculously good result...5% is closer to the norm) is a business that is willing to aggressively waste the time of 75% of the people who visit their website. Waste means persuading someone to spend their time on something they are not interested in. We don't know of any businesses (except direct marketing and spammers) who are willing to have that many people end up with a foul taste in their mouths.

Web marketing is better done by building win-win solutions among potential customers. Conversation implies that good customers in the marketplace are peers and partners rather than objects whose time you can feel free to waste. Conversation implies intimacy and trust. Asking people you don't know to visit you without a deeper qualification can work for retail operations in the Consumer space.

The problem with SEO and SEM techniques in the job board, corporate job board and recruiting software spaces is that unnecessary bodies actually waste the time of the receiving website owners. Who hasn't heard of the problem of too many unqualified resumes. What exactly do you think that SEO/SEM produces? Sourcing is a delicate and refined sport in the places where it really matters. More unqualified candidates is hardly what you want.

Being first in the search results (which is how SEO/SEM Consultants measure their success) is hardly a useful measure of results to an organization. Organizations don't need search engine success, they need the right candidates and/or the right potential customers.

Be very careful when you consider optimizing your online operations for search engine results. Make sure that your consultants (and, increasingly, providers of vended software tools) are held accountable to the actual results that matter.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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