Five questions for a digital insider: Barbara Coll, CEO, Inc.

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Barbara Coll
Barbara Coll

Barbara Coll, CEO of, sat down with DMNews at the 2009 Search Engine Strategies Conference to discuss the latest trends in search marketing. In our five questions, Coll covers why you can't do search in a vacuum and the reason search needs to be a strategy rather than a tactic.

Q. What's not working these days in search?

A. You can't count on results anymore as a [search] agency or as a brand manager. You need to be relevant to each searcher as opposed to keyword relevancy. It's a challenge for the brand, it's a challenge for direct marketing and certainly a challenge for search agencies.

Q. Even though search is basically direct response on steroids, search is not part of the direct response budget? Why is that?

A. Everything having to do with marketing should be under same person. Search has always been right in middle. Most people I work with are pulling budgets from all sorts of places, including direct response. The people handling Web demand generation are responsible for leads coming off the site. They are part of the Web marketing team. Direct response seems to be in a different money bucket. If you have a fixed set of keywords that represent your brand or company, then those keywords need to cover all the different goals of the company. If you have a word that is a converting keyword for your e-commerce, but it's also a brand keyword, then splitting the budget occurs and companies need to be smart and aware of who gets what keyword when.

There is a strategy behind search. It's not just a tactic. Despite that, search doesn't get its place at the integrated marketing table. Companies don't tend to think of it as strategy.

Q. What do clients misunderstand about the medium?

A. You can't do search in a vacuum – it needs to be part of the overall marketing strategy for the company. Also, there are a limited number of searches for category words. You can increase the search volume on brand words by news releases, other Internet marketing work, and offline marketing, but it is hard to increase the volume of searches on category words. The idea is to capture the maximum number of searches for any chosen keyword/phrase.

Q. What is the future of search?

A. My son is 15. He has never hit Google's home page. He does all of his chat, messaging, planning and search through Facebook. When he does research, he goes to Wikipedia. Microsoft owns 5% of Facebook. What if Facebook searches start including search results from Bing? I expect it is being tested.

Q. What keeps you up at night?

A. The term “social media.” In this economy, it is so important to all of our clients that all search marketing dollars create a direct response, whether that be a sale or lead. Advertising on social media sites has not proven to be a direct response vehicle.


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