September 24, 2014 | Sarah Danks

…or is it?

This morning I was intrigued to run across a blog post from SEMpdx questioning the use of the word “search” (and “search marketing”) in today’s world of online marketing. The debate here is whether or not those of us who offer search engine marketing services should change that terminology, since the definition has changed to include so much more than in years past.

hello my name isBack in 2005 when I first dipped my toe into the search world, I was called an SEO specialist. The Big Box company I worked for at the time didn’t offer any type of paid search, so using “search engine optimization” was just fine (although, to be honest, what they did back then — and now, from what I’ve heard — wasn’t true SEO…but it was close enough). Once I wandered into PPC, I then became an SEM specialist, because with the addition of paid search I was no longer “just” an SEO.

Well…now people in the search marketing world seem to be at odds about whether or not “search engine marketing” still encompasses what we do. Why? Because they don’t think SEO, analytics, content marketing, inbound marketing, digital strategies and even social media can be included in the umbrella that is search engine marketing. I mean, SEOmoz has changed to plain ol’ Moz; Search Engine Strategies (SES) is now ClickZ Live; and now SEMpdx is considering dropping “search” from their SearchFest events.

But why all the hooplah about this? Isn’t what we — search marketers, for I still consider myself to be just that — do? Sure, “search engine marketing” has grown to include a wider range of services (including social media, though I’m loath to lump that into marketing most of the time). But is that really cause to change an entire industry’s backbone terminology?

I don’t think so.

It’s reminiscent of all the myriad of times people have cried, “SEO IS DEAD!” But SEO isn’t dead; it’s just evolved. Like SEM is evolving.

In the SEMpdx post, Todd Mintz puts it best:

“I think the brand recognition of our name in the eyes of the public (both for SEMpdx and SearchFest) outweighs the changing connotations of what ‘Search’ or ‘SEM’ actually means.”

Ding ding ding!

Not that this issue should be all about what a few search conferences call themselves; it seems like this idea is gaining momentum, though. And, do we really have to re-brand as an entire industry just because said industry is evolving?

Todd goes on to further explain:

“It’s true that search is much more blended into general marketing and will continue to evolve that way. However, the focus of what we all do still involves the act of making it easier for a merchant to connect their goods or services with their audience. The merchant is still ‘searching’ for customers and even if our bag of tricks is less focused on technical wizardry and more focused on marketing, it’s still focused on getting the merchant found when a relevant consumer is searching for them.”

And, in this SEM’s humble opinion, it’s not just about that. Yes, the online consumer is in a search for a product or service. But it doesn’t stop there — we as marketers are ALSO searching. We’re searching for eyeballs to see our content, for share-ability, for the best version of the landing page we can possibly create, for conversions, for digital strategies…the list goes on and on. That’s the beauty of the online world: anyone can find anything. At any time.

Should we remove the word “search” from our business cards? Nope. Because search engine marketing isn’t dead — it’s just changed. And that’s okay! That’s why we — online marketeters, or whatever you want to call us — do what we do: because it’s a big, dynamic world and we love change. Embrace it, even!

cheersSo, here’s to search — as the Spanish say, “chin-chin“! — and its ever-evolving nature.



What’re YOUR thoughts about all this?



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