When search goes wrong

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A lot of things went wrong this weekend. What started as a three-hour, non-stop flight eventually unraveled into an odyssey involving hours on the tarmac, a cancellation, lost luggage, a new itinerary, two rental cars and almost 48 hours without sleep or food. This is what happens when even the best-laid travel plans go wrong.

And while I still hold search high as the best means of reaching a targeted customer, I must admit that there are moments when it seems that search can go wrong. Terribly wrong. Before you grab your pitchforks and scythes, remember that no medium is perfect, and it is ultimately humans who decide how to resolve the challenges below.

When vendors over-promise and under-deliver. Have you ever heard the words "Search is a scam" or "If you want to blow a lot of money fast, put it in search"? That usually comes from the mouth of a chief marketing officer, and it is classic proof of picking the wrong vendor. More than once I have met a frustrated interactive marketing manager still licking his wounds from some fateful vendor experience.

Click-fraud: the most popular issue that is no closer to being solved. One would think that between lawsuits and the rise of click fraud detectives that someone, somewhere, would have moved the issue closer to resolution. Yet, I have not heard of a single marketer who claims to have a better handle on click fraud.

Keyword inflation forces some out of search. Earlier this year, I met a man who has been running in house pay-per-click campaigns for his printing business since the GoTo days. As his business runs on a very slim margin, search was his savior. Today, he literally cannot afford search. While search is still a very efficient means of driving traffic, these scenarios signal a trend I cannot ignore. Today it is a printing business, but tomorrow it could be a Fortune 1000.

Search is hogging the credit. Some point to keyword inflation as a sign that search unfairly gets full credit for conversion. If we were to know how well a consumer's interaction with other media influenced that final search, perhaps the price might be lower, and the price of other media would rise slightly.

So should we throw in the towel and forget about search? Of course not. One bad flight should not dissuade you. If anything, it should inspire someone to come up with a few answers.

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