My Occupation

January 12th, 2011

Since one of the most common questions in America is “What do you do for a living?”, and my profession is one of the most uncommon in America, I thought I’d write a little on my career (it will help me remember, too).

I work for an interactive agency (and occassionally own my own) specializing in search engine marketing. Yeah, you know, like “the Google“. In recent years, search has become a multi-billion dollar industry that businesses can use to increase brand awareness, promote a product or idea, start nasty rumors, etc. You may have even seen Pontiac’s latest television ad campaign where they ask you to “Google Pontiac” to learn more. Businesses now understand that there is more value in a consumer interacting with a website rather than passively watching a commercial.

So what do you do exactly…?

I help businesses position themselves on the web in order to maximize their exposure on search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN). When you perform a search on the web, the results returned are there for a reason. When I search for book reviews, Google is essentially saying, “Out of everything we know about the pages on the web, how those pages interact and what those pages say, we think this list of linkswill help you most”. I’m sure you can imagine the potential for those businesses who appear for terms like “Dallas Realtor” or “Buy Nike Running Shoes”. I’ve literally seen search marketing programs cause businesses to explode, growing from a one or two man shop to a significant industry leader, simply through exposure on the search engines.

Two Types of Search Listings…Opposites in Every Way

You may already know, but when you perform a query at Google, Yahoo, MSN or any other major search property, you’ll likely see two different types of results: standard web listings and sponsored results. These two categories of results, while appearing next to each other, could not be more different.

You are probably most familiar with the standard search results, which are returned in white on the main section of the page. These listings are provided algorithmically by the search engine as a service to its users. As search engines scour the web following links, they maintain an index of everything found. When a user’s search comes in, the index uses multiple complex algorithms to query the index and attempt to determine which pages will be most relevant for the user. A search result is returned, which may be one page or millions of pages, in order of each page’s assumed relevance.

Sponsored listings are just that, ads provided by advertisers looking to get the attention of a user searching for a specific product, service or information. These listings are sometimes known as pay-per-click ads, or PPC for short. An advertiser does not pay until a user actually clicks on the ad. Advertisers choose words or phrases for when their ad should appear. If I sell guitar strings online, I would only want my ad appearing when users searched for guitar string phrases. Advertisers can also target specific geographical markets, so if deliver coffee and office supplies in the Kansas City metroplex, I can specify that my ads should only appear to searchers who reside in that market.

These two practices known as SEO and PPC individually, make up Search Engine Marketing as a whole. It has become a multi-billion dollar business in just a matter of about a decade. Companies large and small invest in search engine marketing as a viable means to connect with customers in the information age. I’m now with my second agency and I’ve been fortunate enough to work for brands such as La Quinta, Compass Bank, Fastsigns, Experian, and many others. It’s also been a joy to work with directly with many small business owners; ones who can feel and experience the impact of search marketing on a day to day basis.

It’s certainly an exciting field to be a part of…one that changes almost weekly in one fashion or another. I’m going to leave this page open for comments in case any of you would like to comment. As always, normal comment rules apply, so if your comment doesn’t appear right away, I just haven’t approved it yet.

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