I was asking him how Fathom and other SEO orgs wouldn't be automated out of existence when Google finishes refining their bid management tools and someone comes up with a simple off-the-shelf site metadata injector for websites that links with your bid management tools to allow a steady yin/yang of effective paid terms being morphed into cost effective organic inclusions (anyone? anyone?).
Jim suggested Search could never be fully automated, because beyond cost effective PPC management, you need a human being ensuring that search efforts link strategically to the umbrella campaign concepts, and that your efforts don't fall victim to technical glitches (e.g., that you don't burn your month's paid search budget in two days and go dark for the balance because of a typo or checked option box in the bid tool's system). And I buy that, to a degree.
As an example where automation falls to heck, Jim used paid search as a Crisis Management tool. As in "my [misunderstood] company just f-ed up", or "they just found ebola-laden ground monkey brains in my multivitamins-for-children-product". Getting into the engines with a quick paid search effort around hot button terms may help you prevent a 'disaster' from going 'catastrophe' by reason of neglect or delay - while you look for all the telephone numbers of "influential bloggers" who need their feathers smoothed and nests lined (assuming the flap is just a mistake).
So it's pretty easy to envision a microfragmented Search specialization market - content seeding, product release, crisis management, etc., as there is revenue to be generated there, and few agencies, clients or PR shops are equipped or trained to deal in this space pro-actively and dynamically. Not all specialty search shops are either, to be honest.
So here was the last thing we discussed, and I'd welcome any thoughts on this -
Search seems to have landed on the media side of the revenue equation. Probably because the media teams spend real money, enough to justify Google's $158 B valuation and MSoft/Yahoo's woozy mating ritual going on now. Or else it comes from a special budget set aside for the purpose and a specialty shop gets the nod.
But while profit may be in media, client mindshare is often still in creative. Because a campaign lives or dies on the strength or weakness of its ideas, right? But that's NO EXCUSE not to consider search creatively.
Top notch media planning and buying, as well as search, should be as 'creative' as the 'creative' it's put into service for. A great brand experience, not delivered brilliantly (via execution AND distribution), isn't great. It's compromised. An almost.
Jim suggested we need an "Effie" for search to prove it out as an ad tool, not a DR crutch - but my argument is that Google @ $158B is pretty effing-effie as far as I'm concerned. The problem I see is that search seems too often to be relegated to wonks when it should be as fluid a part of the brand experience as any other creative treatment.
Search shouldn't be a doormat, it should be another guest at your brand party.
Our goal is to put together a Cannes-winning engagement scenario that uses search as creatively as any other tool in the box.
Depending on whose numbers you use, 50 to 80% of online sessions begin with a search. Search, as the first taste of your online efforts, is the chance to have them at "hello".
If you (agency, brand, whomever) aren't leveraging search every bit as creatively as every other tool in the kit, you're wasting opportunities. Are you letting competitors buy up your brand's campaign-relevant terms, to drink the sweet sweet nectar of the traffic you worked so hard to generate?