When I first started in search marketing, there was no hand-over, in-house expert or all round rock star that I could turn to. Rather disappointingly, I was it. So I pulled up my sleeves and blindly set forth on the journey to enlightenment.
If you are new to search marketing, or if it is a part of your wider marketing/communications role, then here are a few tips to get you started. In this post (Part 1 of 2), I cover essential reading on the book front. Everyone has to start somewhere, and although reading academic books can suck sometimes, being clueless sucks more.
Commonsense Direct Marketing (Drayton Bird)
What does direct marketing have to do with search marketing? A lot more than you may realize. The classical direct marketers, particularly those within the catalog mailing world, are masters in their field. Why? Because they test, they measure, they apply... and then they test, measure and apply, again and again.
Data is used to continuously improve results by tweaking headlines and copy, optimizing layout and reply coupon placements, sending response rates and ROI figures through the roof. Data and measurement are key in the direct marketing field. The same can be said with Pay-Per-Click search marketing, but instead of responses and responses rates, we measure clicks, click-through rates and quality score (and if we are really lucky, then revenue and net profit). The added advantage is that testing and tweaking can be done a lot quicker and cheaper. That's one of the great things about search. In the wise words of Mike Moran: It's ok to do it wrong, but make sure you do it wrong quickly and learn from your mistakes so you don't do it again!
Drayton's book "Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing" is now in it's 5th Edition. He may be an old bean, but this old bean knows what he's talking about, and he's a master copywriter; the last of a dying breed. This book also contains everything you need to know about writing good copy. Afterall, you can't write good, optimized search copy, without being able to write plain old, good copy first. This book will help you on your way.
Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (Mike Moran and Bill Hunt)
This was the first (and still the best) search-specific book I've bought. It provides a step-by-step guide to setting up and managing a search campaign. Straight to the point and easy to read, it could easily be re-named, "A Fools Guide to Search".
Groundswell (Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff)
I'm still shocked at how many people in the marketing/social field haven't read this one yet. It's not specifically search, but essential reading if your role also involves social media - which is becoming a lot more common due to increased awareness about the link between search and social (it's about more than just link juice).
What makes this book different to many other social reads is that it focuses on setting the objectives and framework around your social strategy first, and then figuring out the tools to make it happen. This is what helps to make this book timeless - tools may come and go, but what you want to achieve, and why, remains. So the next time someone asks you, "What's your Twitter strategy?", you can tell them with confidence that Twitter is a tool, not a strategy. Let's talk goals first, not tactics.
So that was my Top 3 essential reads. If you have any other recommendations of books that have helped shape the way you approach search (or social), I would love to hear about it.
In Part 2, I'll be sharing some smart ways that can help you learn and stay up to date in the search and social field. In the meantime, here are links to each of the books:
Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing
Search Engine Marketing, Inc.