Everything I Know about Marketing I learned from Google

Search Engine Marketing 101

August 13, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

I’ve gotten some feedback from people that they expected my book to provide more specific tips for creating and managing search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns. (Including one person who posted a 1-star Amazon review saying he “felt tricked by the title” and to whom I’ve offered a full refund.)

Indeed, I did not set out to write an SEM 101 book. There are plenty of search engine marketing 101 resources out there.

Instead, I wrote a book that dissects Google’s success and shows how others can implement Google’s business and marketing strategies . Along the way, I drop tidbits about pay-per-click (PPC) search and SEO tactics, such as Chapter 7 in which I cover SEO Ranking Factors.

At the end of the day, though, my book is a narrative. It’s not a how-to manual. It has some practical exercises and best practices for readers to put the concepts I discuss into play for their organizations, but it’s meant to tell a story and get the mind thinking.

In other words, as Jason McDonald observed in his 4-star Amazon review, I wrote both a “forest” and a “trees” book.

Nonetheless, I realize that there’s strong demand for introductory SEM material and I’m in a good position to deliver it having been in the space for over 10 years working with some of the biggest SEM spenders and savviest search marketers around.

So, in this week’s MediaPost Search Insider column, I laid out 20 tips for search marketing newbies. And I’ll be sharing 20 more SEMy Lessons in 2 weeks. True to form, I tapped the wisdom of crowds (chapter 2) to come up with the list. And, truer to form, there’s plenty of pun-derful (ad)word play.


What’s ZMOT Got To Do With It?

July 27, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

ZMOT is a new ebook published by Jim Lecinski, Google’s US Managing Director of Sales and Service. It’s also the subject of my latest Search Insider column. Some of what I wrote for MediaPost is regurgitated here but most of the following is original material and incremental observations. (Update: for a “behind-the-scenes” look at ZMOT, be sure to read the 2-part interview between Jim and Gord Hotchkiss in MediaPost.)

I’ve known Jim for quite some time as our paths have crossed repeatedly in the world of search and the streets of Chicago. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to relate to brand marketers and put key principles of Google into a broader marketing context. And ZMOT is no exception.

ZMOT underscores the point I was trying to make in Chapter 4: Mindset Matters. ZMOT is the moment after some stimulus has compelled you to act but before you actually take action. In a shopping scenario, ZMOT is the moment when your decision takes shape of whether or not to buy and, if so, which brand.

In his book, Jim describes a new “mental model” in which ZMOT follows a stimulus but precedes FMOT (a term coined by P&G for the first moment of truth at the store shelf) and SMOT (the second moment of truth when the consumer experiences the product that he/she purchased) before reappearing when the buyer decides if the brand is a keeper and worthy of sharing with friends (or, in marketing terms, lifetime value and word of mouth).

Here are some other ways Jim describes ZMOT:

  • “A moment where marketing happens, where information happens…”
  • “That grabbing-the-laptop moment.”
  • “The moment of highest impact”
  • “‘Before the store’ moments”

So how to make sure your brand is available at ZMOT? Well let’s turn to Chapter 17: Show Off Your Assets. Aptly, in this chapter I recount a meeting with none other than Mr. Lecinski at the Google Chicago office in 2006 in which he preached about the importance of brands digitizing and optimizing all their assets — images, videos, manuals, and even brand attributes.

In my book, I point to Ronald.com as an example of McDonald’s digitizing one of its assets, the Ronald McDonald mascot. But beyond just Ronald himself, McDonald’s took the brand promises of happiness and giving and optimized them for kids around the world to experience in a safe virtual playground.

There’s no question McD does well at ZMOT. (Hmm, I’m hungry, what should I eat?) But it’s not just because there’s a McDonald’s in every major city and most of the not-so-major ones. And it’s not simply because there’s a McDonald’s ad that reaches you when you’re hungry and/or close to one of their locations. And it’s not only because the food comes out fast and there’s a ball-pit for your keys to play in. It’s because of all these things! McD does well at ZMOT because of all the touchpoints they’ve created with consumer and the emotional connections they’ve built.

However, as Jim argues credibly time and time again in his book, all the connections in the world between brand and consumer are meaningless if the brand is absent at ZMOT.

Boy, how I wish this book and the ZMOT concept had been around back in 2005. I remember being in a meeting with the head of advertising for McDonald’s pitching the merits of search engine marketing and getting this objection, “Why should I buy ads on search engines? People don’t buy hamburgers online.”

But then why are people searching for hamburgers online? Why are they searching for McDonald’s? You spend billions of dollars on marketing and you’re willing to risk it all when a consumer acts on your stimulus and can’t find you at ZMOT?

Luckily, the McD ad exec remained open to the idea and, within a year, SEM was a staple on the company’s media plans.

To me, this example is the epitome of what the ZMOT book is all about. It’s 75 pages of persuasion to quick serve restaurants and other verticals (eg, CPG) that have yet to truly embrace SEM.

Now, lest you think this is a fluff read relying on heady ideas and intuition, I should note that, throughout his book, Jim backs up assertions with hard data.

In researching this book, Google conducted an extensive study of more than 5,000 shoppers across 12 verticals in April of 2011, providing a wealth of information about what ZMOT is and why it matters.

Here are some of the key stats:

  • 70% of Americans look at product reviews before making a purchase.
  • 79% of consumers use a smart-phone to help with shopping.
  • The average shopper uses 10.4 sources of information to make a decision. (Up from 5.3 sources in 2010.)
  • 84% of shoppers said ZMOT shapes their decisions. (Based on a mapping done by Google of information sources to Stimulus, ZMOT, and FMOT.)
  • 62% of shoppers search for deals online before at least half of their shopping trips.
  • 54% of shoppers comparison shop for products online.
  • 37% of shoppers find online social sources to be an influential driver when making decisions. (Up from 19% in 2010.)
  • Showing up is 80% in life. (Woody Allen quote used by Jim to encourage people to “jump in” and address ZMOT within their orgs.)

And here are some SEM stats included in the book that I found interesting:

  • 20% of searches across all Google properties are local.
  • 40% of all mobile searches across Google properties are local.
  • Mobile-only campaigns perform 11.5% better on average than desktop-mobile campaigns
  • Recipes make up 1% of all searches on Google.

One of my favorite quips in this book comes from Rishad Tobaccowala (who is quoted extensively in my book as well) commenting on the role of search engines in the buying process. “Don’t call them search engines,” Rishad says. “Call them connection engines.” A great insight and especially gratifying for me to hear as I still remember back in the early 2000′s when Rishad dismissed SEM as merely “math and machines.”

Another great quote comes from Professor Dave Reibstein of The Wharton School in framing word of mouth in today’s society. “Talking over the hedge is one-to-one. Digital word of mouth is one-to-millions.”

And here’s one from Jim that underscores my premise in Chapter 8: Test Everything. “In the world of ZMOT, speed beats perfection.”

I’ll wrap it here and leave you reason to peruse the book for yourself. It’s a great, quick read. Perfect for the too-little-time-too-many-social-networkers and instant-gratificationers among us.And, if you’re Apple-enabled, be sure to grab the free iBook to access multimedia content.

Now go forth and ZMOT!


Bringing the Heat in Chi-town

July 26, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Below is the presentation I gave today at the Online Marketing Sumit (OMS) in Chicago.

In it, I use my patent-pending “Heat-o-Meter” to describe the hotness of various companies, channels, and trends in digital marketing, including:

Companies: Facebook, Groupon, Apple, Google, LinkedIn,  Twitter, Microsoft, Yahoo

Channels: Social, Mobile, Local, Video, Search, Display

Trends: Automation, Integration, Attribution

The deck has 70 slides packed with stats and the last section has some Kenshoo case studies for context on how advertisers are capitalizing on these hot trends. So warm up your fingers are start clicking!

As is becoming habit, I rapped the Q&A portion but only had time for one topic. No video has surfaced (yet) so here’s an audio clip from Brent Payne aka the Bald SEO.


Nonplussed by Google+ (Update: I’m getting Plussed!)

June 30, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

This week Google introduced its sharing (not to be confused with “social”) network, Google+.

Here are some initial thoughts and observations. Will add more as I dig in further.

1. I’m just as conflicted over the name as I was with Google +1. On one hand, it’s short and I get it. On the other it’s a nightmare to toggle between + and “plus.”

2. They key to social (and sharing) is scale. The more people in the network, the more valuable the network. Google has a lot of people. Now it just needs to connect them. Google+ should help.

3.Advertising opportunities in and around Google+ will likely be less about new units or formats but rather advanced targeting. This is another way for advertisers to more finitely target and reach the folks most likely to be interested in their message. Whether that message appears on Google+ or another Google owned, operated, or connected property is TBD.

4. On Google+ are Friends, Family, and Acquaintances. I’m surprised Business or Work is not a standard classification. Would help Google compete with LinkedIn just as much as Facebook and Twitter.

5. As a user, I love the circles concept. It’s intuitive and the fact that Google+ is new allows me to start fresh by categorizing my connections and sharing only the appropriate stuff with the appropriate peeps. Wish I could have done this on Facebook from day 1. As it stands, I end up sharing less on FB because I don’t want to bother my personal friends and family with work-related stuff and don’t always want my industry colleagues to see my personal stuff.

6. I’m surprised that the search box isn’t more prominent on Google+. In fact, I don’t see one at all. Goes against my premise in Chapter 5: Be Where Your Audience Is. They must be counting on people using their toolbars and browser defaults to Google things. Sure seems like a missed opportunity though, especially given how many search queries originate in Facebook. (See update from July 2 below.)

7. The privacy police will be watching closely any little screwup will fetch headlines.

Update July 1, 2011:

8. Been thinking more about why Google rolled out a sharing network rather than a social network. Now actually seems pretty obvious to me. Contrary to #6 above (which I do expect to be remedied in short order) this IS about improving Google’s bread and butter product and monetization engine — Search.

Every share that happens within Google+ gives a critical signal to Google of the value and context for a specific digital asset – website, video, image, etc. It also allows Google+ to see who the real influencers are on the web based on number of shares and +1s. Pretty soon Google will no longer need to rely on links created by webmasters as its primary method of determining quality and authority for search rankings.

More on this line of thinking:

Like vs. Link and the Future of Web Ranking

Why Google Needs a Social Network

Why Google Me

9. Yes, I’m happy the name of this project is Google+ and not Google Me so I can keep on wearing my shirts with no fear or trademark violation. No, I have no plans to create Plus Me shirts. :)

Update July 2, 2011:

10. Regarding point #6 above, perhaps I was a bit hasty in saying that Google isn’t “being where its audience is.” While I still think incorporating a search box into the Google+ UX is a no-brainer, Google has brought its new sharing network to where its audience by integrating it into the nav bar atop Google.com, Gmail, and other Google properties and framing it in a block box to really stand out. See screenshot below. I find myself constantly coming back to Google+ because of the not-so-subtle reminder of its existence and the fact that notifications appear there as well.

Update July 13, 2011:

Today I published a column in MediaPost’s Search Insider titled, “Google+ Adds Up.” In it I outlined 10 key takeaways from Google+ to date including some of the observations posted here.

Update July 14, 2011:

Yesterday I was asked what impact I thought G+ would have on LinkedIn. In composing my thoughts, I stumbled upon a key insight from Google’s foray into search that very likely may have dictated its (most recent) approach to social. Read on…

I don’t think G+ will eat away at LinkedIn. People use LinkedIn to connect, not share. G+ is for sharing. That’s why it will hurt Twitter. Twitter sole purpose is sharing and the experience/UI is not very intuitive (especially when it comes to controlled sharing).

Same reason I don’t think G+ will eat at Facebook. While sharing is the #1 activity on Facebook, it’s use as a full social network is broader and includes that connecting aspect of LinkedIn. It’s about making new relationships as much as sharing with current ones.

Google dominated search because it had the luxury of not being first mover. It saw what Yahoo and Alta Vista and others did and took the key functionality and made it better. Rather than a portal with a bunch of links and content, it just stripped out the search.

Same now for social. Google had luxury of seeing FB, Twitter, LI, etc. And now it realizes sharing is the most vital aspect of social networking. So it’s stripped that out and built a whole experience around just that.


Google Alphabet Soup

June 16, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Check out the Search Insider column I penned this week for a rundown of everything you need to know about the Big G from A to Z.


SMOC Keynote and Rap: Social Media Advertising vs. Search Engine Marketing

May 24, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Today I kicked off Day 2 of the Social Media Optimization Conference (SMOC) with a keynote presentation and, of course, a rap.

I had originally intended to introduce the acronym SAM (Social Advertising Marketing) but switched to SMA (Social Media Advertising) to keep in line with the theme of SMO (Social Media Optimization). While SAM certainly has a better ring to it, SMA seemed a better contextual fit.

Speaking of context, seeing as how SMOC was in San Francisco, I likened social media to marketing “without a net” and drew upon the Grateful Dead as my influence for the improvisational rap that followed my presentation.

Here are the slides I ripped through. Below that is a video of the last 5 minutes of the keynote and a 90 second social media rap. And after that is the rapping Q&A session in which I coined the new buzzword “dinterest” (digital interest) after not being able to think of anything that rhymed with interest. Could’ve used some “Help on the Way…”

Keynote and Rap:


Check check, check check it out…
This one goes out to my peeps at SMOC.
I go by the name of Tha Lyrical G.
They also call me the PPC MC,
But today I’m just here socially.
You see.
I came to give these trends another look.
Social Media, ya call it Facebook.
I think their ad model’s gonna catch on,
And I’m gonna rock the mic til the breaka break of dawn.
Now don’t just sit there and be bitter.
You’ll make money someday too, Twitter.
And while y’alls tweetin’, use hashtag SMOC.
And if you’re online, won’t you please Like Me.


Like Me. C’mon.
Like Me. C’mon.
You Like Me Now.
How Ya Like Me Now?
Ya Like Me.
Ya Really Like Me.

I can keep goin’,
I can keep flowin’.
But these rhymes, they just keep knowin’ that,
Social Media, you operate without a net.
What you’re gonna give is what you’re gonna get.
So, take some money, put it into ads.
Next thing ya know, it’s more than a fad.
Facebook’s makin’ that real cash money,
And I’m gonna take it out cuz it’s sweet as honey.
A shout out to all my peeps at Kenshoo,
They’re sittin’ over there and they’re wearin’ blue.
And I just came to do this one thing here,
So let me make it very very clear,
That I’ve got nothing else to say to thee,
But, yo, shout out… SMOC.

Update May 26:

Here are some action pics from Mediabistro. The last one is with Day 2 host Todd Tweedy, who served as a great hype man to get the 9am crowd into and even did a little beat boxing.

All flickr photos copyright mediabistro


Personalization vs. Privacy and the Impact on Advertising

May 6, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Here’s the video and slides from today’s presentation at the Search Insider Summit. Remind me not to chug 5 Hour Energy before getting on stage next time. Although I needed it to rip thru 35 slides in 15 minutes!


Live Rap Battle: PPC MC vs. SEO Rapper

May 5, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Check out the video below to see how it went down today. Chuck was crowned the winner but I think I held my own and am already working on getting a rematch!

As Rob Wilk from Yahoo put it, “If it’s any consolation, out of the 100 people in the room, you were the second best rapper.” (To which I replied, “And if it’s any consolation, Yahoo is  the second best search engine.”)

FYI, you can watch the 12 minutes leading up to the freestyle on the MediaPost Facebook page.

And make sure to peep the Round 3 video I debuted on stage before the live battle.


Round 3: PPC MC vs. SEO Rapper

by Aaron Goldman

Debuted this vid just before the live SEO PPC Rap Battle at the Search Insider Summit today. Had intended to get it out last week and give Chuck some time to respond but work and family got in the way of my rap. Damn priorities!

Big ups to my main man Will Crew for the backing track here.

Lyrics below…

Check it out, I’m back, picked myself off the mat.
Thought you had me knocked down? I ain’t goin’ out like that!

I came to bring the pain, can you feel it mayne?
And speaking of mayne, what’s up with rhyming everything with mayne.

You’re like Snoop Dogg, mayne, except he’s got the izzle.
Put it at the end of each line to make it rhyme in a tizzle.


Lyrical G.
He’s so lyrical.

You got one move, you’re totally mono.
But I’m versatile. Don’t like my shades? Call me Bono.

Your rap’s overproduced if you know what I mean,
Tryin’ to cover up broke rhymes by flashing words on the screen.

Wearin’ a Google Me shirt, man you like hell.
Had to make your own cuz they don’t sell quadruple XL.

Back to round 1 when you were rappin’ in your crib,
Man your rhymes were dribblin’, you needed a bib.

Looking larger than life, thinkin’ that you’re winnin’.
Man, you’re so big you made that hoop look mini.

And then in round 2 you found a brick wall to mess with,
Hope you had that ceiling checked for asbestos!

Lyrical G.
He’s so lyrical.

And speaking of bricks, how you gonna call me out?
I own Chicago, mayne, so don’t make me shout.

Damn right I was all state back in the day,
When MJ was winnin’ rings, I was making hay.

Check out these hops, that’s my high school musical.
You can’t get off the ground with your 1 inch vertical.

Now I’ll spare you the rest of my greatest hits,
Just call me the champ. Hey, if the shoe fits.

Size 14 baby, you know what they say,
The bigger your paycheck, the bigger your pay.

We ain’t even in the same league, you call that lyrical abuse?
Man if I’m on tiger blood, you on kitty cat juice!

Lyrical G.
He’s so lyrical.

I’m CMO fool, got no time to produce vids,
Tryin’ to keep battlin’ you and raise my 3 kids.

No way I’ll take off my visor and bow to your Astros hat.
Hey, let’s hope your bros can come wake up the bats.

When this video comes out, your first 2 will be rated flops,
My production may be amateur but I got more props than Carrot Top.

You’re all sizzle, Chuck, time to show me the steak.
Step out from behind the computer if you ain’t a fake.

Callin’ yourself the SEO king…
You ain’t even on page 1 if you know what I mean.

But you can Google me and you will see,
I even got people bidding on me!

Lyrical G.
Cuz I’m so lyrical.

Don’t talk to me about ad groups and other PPC tactics,
My quality score’s so high, I don’t even need practice.

I launch right out the gate and Google knows,
My ad copy is tight and my landing page flows.

I scream relevancy from my head to my toes,
And my rhymes are tight too, like a poet’s prose.

It’s prophetic… Ya get it?
PPC’s so sexy that you Right Said Fred It.

SEO keeps you waiting while traffic lags,
As you toil away over meta tags,

I make it rain at the register with instant clicks.
While you tryin’ to catch fire by rubbin’ 2 sticks.

Lyrical G.
He’s so lyrical.

Now I ain’t sayin’ SEO don’t have its place.
But I am sayin’ if you wanna win the race.

Sometimes ya just gotta pick up the pace.
So sit back while I bring these rhymes to your face.

Bad reputation you wanna erase?
PPC is instant, it’s like mace!
SEO like’s the thrill of the chase.
But PPC eliminates all the waste.
So, if you want results you can taste.
Then, get hip to PPC with no haste.
So there, I think I’ll rest my case.

That’s my lesson for today, no need to thank me.
I don’t use link farms so Google won’t spank me.

In fact they’ll reward me with all kinds of tchotckes
It’s like 8 days of Hannukah and I got the latkes.

Lyrical G.
He’s so lyrical.

When we’re down in Florida for SIS,
We will settle the score, but if I’m taking bets.

It’ll be PPC MC 1, SEO Rapper 0,
I’ll walk outta that joint an SEM hero.

You’ll catch the early flight back to H-town,
While I assume my title and don my crown.

You’ll be left with your lame moves, call it the page rank.
You’ll wonder what went wrong when your street cred tanks.

So here’s the deal, crowd will vote for the winner.
The loser does the other’s dance at dinner.

If you win, I’ll get on the table and do the page rank.
But if I win, Chuck, you gotta take the Google spank.

Lyrical G.

We got a deal?
You know I’m for real.

Cuz I’m so lyrical.

Just won round 3.

So next time we’ll see you in Captiva, Chuck.
I wish you luck!


Power to the People

April 12, 2011 by Aaron Goldman

Today I participated in a session at ad:tech San Francisco called, “Connecting the Dots with Paid Search” moderated by “Marketing Pastor” Melanie Mitchell.

My presentation focused on a new approach to search engine marketing that can not only help improve performance within the SEM channel but across other channels as well. The idea is focusing on the people behind the keywords to get a sense of their true value to your business. It’s not rocket science. It’s people science.

Here’s my deck:

McGraw Hill Professional Amazon
Amazon Canada Amazon United Kingdom