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Deserving to Fail: The Fortune 500

Crushing defeat of Fortune 500 companies

I know it sounds bad. Telling anyone that they deserve to fail could be considered short-sided and curmudgeonly.  Perhaps, even downright sadistic. But I’m a firm believer in the concept. You can only provide sound advice so many times, lead a horse to water, before it wears thin on you and them.

The truth of the matter is that Fortune 500 and their counterparts deserve to fail.  Sometimes, it’s the only way people learn: by having smaller, more agile, and receptive companies kick your ass down block.

This all stems from the Conductor study that tracked the paid and organic efforts of several Fortune 500 companies. The whole study was infuriating, but in particular, this stat:

25% of their combined targeted paid keywords, totaling a daily spend of $3.4M, ranked in the top 50 natural search results.

And here’s how Conductor’s study says how Fortune 500 companies do for their Paid Keywords in Organic Search [in total]

conductor organic study of Fortune 500 natural search

You Still Don’t Get it? (After all this time?)

The Fortune 500 Not Quite Getting the Whole SEM yet.

What? Me Worry?

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s obscene and grotesque. And it’s cause for a giant kick in the ass. Why don’t these Fortune 500 companies just set their money on fire or flush it down the toilet, rather than piss it away on a technology and marketing channel they clearly don’t understand.

The search marketing industry may still be in its toddler-hood, but consider that this toddler is an 11 year old. That’s plenty of time to “get your arms around” this whole internet thing. At this point, it’s your own damn faults. So the real question I have to ask is, why are you failing?

Your Brand Isn’t Carrying the Water it Used to

Let’s start off with saying that traditional media still has a role. That’s a fraction of this argument: dumping mindless amounts into ad spots, radio spots, and other traditional media that can’t be measured.

There’s still an old guard, both figuratively and literally, in these companies that still think media is stuck somewhere in the 1970’s, where the mentality was to pound the airwaves with your brand until people stood up and took notice.

Right. There’s this little thing that became commercial back in the early 90’s, perhaps you’ve heard of it? The internet. And it’s clear you know it is exists, based on your PPC spends.

And, I’m sure if I examined those campaigns, I’d seeing nothing but brand-related garbage in there, without so much as a thought toward negative keywords. People care less about brands and more about price and quality, considering the web’s ability to offer alternatives at a moment’s notice.

The fact is, your brand is carrying a lot less water than it used to. It doesn’t do the heavy lifting anymore. You need to be where the consumers are: at the keyword-level.

How to Un-Fuck Your Situation

Moving the corporate iceberg

First things first, let’s acknowledge that decision making in large corporations is like trying to move an iceberg. 10% of the people associated to the decision will ensure that it is disseminated quickly and adopted, 90% the decision’s carcass will be left to rot in the desert, picked at by people who happen to stumble across it.

Second, hire someone at a C-Level marketing position who actually has experience with the web and has marketed in the channel before, and has a 30,000 ft vision of where search marketing can go for them. Yes, that might even mean tying traditional media endeavors to web for measurable results (gasp.)

Third, is start shifting your budgets from passé traditional ad agencies with a sub-par interactive side (really only specializing in flash web development), to search firms who grasp the concept of traditional media feeding your web endeavors. Yes, that means cutting down the number of TV spots you run, national press and radio ads, and allocating that budget toward search marketing channels.

Or Maybe You Don’t Have To Do Anything at All

Perhaps the Fortune 500 know a big secret that I don’t. Perhaps they’ve got the engines in their pockets? Let’s not forget the Vince Update for Google, the more publicized of these types of updates, that gave brands and big corporations tons more leverage in the SERPs.  Was it a reasonable update? Sure, if it was based on trust-factors. But, all it really did was give these brand dinosaurs another leg up and another chance to save their sorry asses.

And, with all these gifts from Google and other search engines, they’ve still managed to squander it. Any small business would love to be able to have your advantages.

Why Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Do Better

Most small and mid-sized businesses perform better organically and at paid search. Every move they make is crucial because budget matters, and because they know in order to move business away from you, they have to kick your ass where you don’t have a clue. The web.

And, it’s not that SMBs are vastly more knowledgeable about search marketing than Fortune 500 companies. They just know where the battle is really being decided: the SERPs. They know consumers are using keywords and phrases to solve problems they have.  And they trust us, SEOs and SEMs, to put them out in front of you. SMBs have:

  1. Reduced traditional media spends drastically over the last 3 years
  2. Built websites that are conducive to ranking well
  3. Paid top-notch professionals to create a search marketing strategy, give advice and consultation, and implement

And, they’re even getting better in the one area you Fortune 500’s have traditionally blown them out of the water: Social Media. Your budget allowed you to engineer campaigns that were spectacular, but were so unfocused that the sheer abundance of the message pushed them to success. SMBs, with great professional help, have studied and are taking you to task now.

The guard is soon to be changing Fortune 500’s. Better get with the time, lest ye’ wish to shoveled into the graveyard of relics.

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