Online Exclusive: Which Boxer Is Your Search Like?

Last week was boxer Muhammad Ali's birthday. (He's 64.) Only one week earlier was the birthday of Ali's old rival, boxer-turned-grill salesman George Foreman (He's 57). In honor of those two birthdays in sports, let's ask a very basic search engine marketing question: which boxer is your search like?

The answer to that question will take you back to 1974. That was the year of the “Rumble in the Jungle,” the famed fight in Zaire between reigning champ Foreman and challenger Ali. It is considered one of the most important fights in boxing history, at least partially because it represents the clash of two entirely different fighting styles. (Ali won.)

Anyone who has seen him towering over his lean-cooking grills, or modeling in his own big-and-tall clothing line, or dwarfing a Doritos bag that is larger than the average human head, knows a basic George Foreman truth: He is an enormous man. And Foreman's size was the secret to his wins: He would put all his weight into his punches, pummeling away until his opponents were out on the floor.

Ali was the opposite. Slim, quick, smart and an expert at unnerving his opponents, Ali's main strength was his ability to adapt. In the Rumble in the Jungle, that meant realizing that Foreman was a slugger and using that knowledge to win. Ali rested on the ropes as Foreman hit away and came out swinging once the punching made Foreman exhausted.

Foreman was bigger, stronger and seven years younger than Ali. But Ali adapted to Foreman's style and won. And if that is not a testament to the benefits of adaptability, then we don't know what is.

Of course, this has everything to do with search. Because there are George Foremans in search and there are Muhammad Alis. George Foremans attack each campaign identically, and each keyword identically punching and punching away hard until they win. A George Foreman might apply the same spend across all of your keywords-even if some keywords bring amazing returns, and others give mediocre ones, and you end up underinvesting and overpaying at the same time. Or a George Foreman might create an initial keyword list that is intentionally too big, on the grounds that the keyword winners will outweigh the keyword losers, and that they'll also take out the losers down the road. George Foreman's don't think through each keyword individually, and each campaign individually; they just throw in their hardest punches (meaning a lot of keywords) to get their results.

A Muhammad Ali would do things differently. He would pay more for the keywords that bring more revenue and less for the keyword that bring less revenue. He would be more likely to start off with a fine-tuned, relevant, efficient keyword list from the get-go and grow the keyword list from there. And he'll look at each campaign distinctly and create a distinct approach for that campaign.

We're not saying that every search firm — or every boxer — should try to be Muhammad Ali. You need to be a phenomenal athlete to switch your approach completely for every fight. If you're not, all you're doing is working out good strategies, and then trying to execute them with unrehearsed skills, which will leave you lying on the mat in no time. In search terms, that means using the most powerful, flexible search technology possible.

And we're also not saying that the only Muhammad Ali is the only boxer — or search firm – who has ever won a match. Before he fought Ali, Foreman was the World Heavyweight Champion; years later, at the age of 46, Foreman won that title again. Which isn't a bad place to be in at all. Foreman was an amazing boxer. And a lot of George Foreman search firms do incredible work in search. Meanwhile, all the Muhammad Ali firms use George Foreman approaches if they're relevant.

What we are saying, though, is that if you are in a dynamic marketplace, and you have a sophisticated conversion structure, and you've hit a point in your campaign where maximizing efficiency is crucial as you scale-then you need the Paid Search management that wins every time, even against seemingly impossible odds. When you're in that kind of situation, our money's on Ali.

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