Monday 18 February 2019 10:11 am

It’s search and rescue time for the future of marketing

Search marketing is all about making your brand easy to find on the internet. It accounts for half of all UK digital ad spend, and is worth over £3.1bn.

Given all that, you’d expect that marketing degrees would devote some course time to this subject. However, it’s pretty shocking that none of the UK’s top 25 universities for marketing teach search.

When I’ve quizzed lecturers on this oversight, they worry that search marketing is too fast-moving and that anything they teach would be swiftly out of date. This seems like a cop-out: while tactics change frequently, the basics of search marketing remain stable and must be taught.

Search marketing matters – it allows people to find what they’re looking for when they use Google. If brands don’t have their search nailed, they risk wasting the rest of their advertising investment.

Your ad campaign can snaffle all the awards going, you may have gone viral on social media, and journalists can be fighting to cover your product – but all this risks being squandered if people can’t easily find what you’re offering.

Marketers like to talk about the sales funnel. Courses spend a lot of time focusing on the top of the funnel, which is all about the big, sexy brand marketing investment that drives awareness – TV ads, out-of-home posters, PR, social, and all the rest. Of course, these things matter, because familiarity fosters trust, and people prefer to buy from a company that they know, hence the need for brand marketing.

But it’s not the whole story.

When people want to buy, they need to be able to find your product quickly. This is where search marketing comes into its own.

The fact is, if you don’t have a robust search strategy, you risk undermining all your brand work. A competitor will snatch the advantage, bidding against your key search terms and ensuring a stronger Google listing result.

Right now, with university fees running to over £27,000 a course, marketing education isn’t fit for purpose, because search isn’t covered.

You don’t study medicine without learning how to read an X-ray. This is a similar oversight: search marketing offers key skills such as measuring marketing success, and how to adjust and optimise a campaign.

If new entrants to the profession aren’t aware of how search works and how it benefits brands, they’re already starting behind the curve. Recently, I ran a seminar at Surrey University and asked 100 students if they’d heard of search marketing. None of them had.

I was so shocked by this state of affairs that I’ve approached universities to offer them support in devising their search marketing curriculum. To their credit, several course leaders have asked for my advice or for me to come in and deliver a lecture.

Let’s hope that those training the marketers of tomorrow will stop neglecting this pivotal aspect. This search and rescue begins now.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.