How Google created zero-sum marketing


Ok, I won't steal Ian's title that is supposed to drive many people to his article :)

How Google ruined marketing is an awesome insight into how Google ruined "balance" in marketing:

No other marketing channel has the same winner-take-most structure. If your competitor bought a TV commercial, you could buy one, too. If they bought radio time, you could buy radio time 2 minutes later... There was always a way to balance out share of voice.

Now, there’s no way to do it. The #1-ranked site gets twice as much traffic as the #2-ranked site. That makes #1 the winner, and everyone else the loser.

And, it’s getting worse: As Google works to insert local listings, shopping listings, paid product listing ads and who-knows-what-else into the rankings, rankings below #3 get pushed further and further down the page, below the fold, and into click-less oblivion.

Welcome to the age of zero-sum marketing, everyone.

zero sum game

Well, personally, I could argue that none of my pages have ranked #1 for any serious search term (ok, I said that!) and still I was able to build a tiny business and create a company. But I do realise that's a poor example...

So how much do you agree! Make sure to read Ian's article in full!


Ian is right, but I think the perspective is misguided

Firstly, I don't think that being #1 in organic gets you the most traffic. Since google has been encroaching into search verticals, over the last couple of years, you have to take into account that the sponsored listing, if Google is doing their job with serving relevant ads will likely get the click. The fact is, just in terms of layout, even organic gets last clicks.

I also think that the article over simplifies the number 1 & number 2 some verticals, especially ones like car buying...aftermarket part shopping..people will comparison shop and they are more likely to look at a large number of results.

My point:

Although SEO is a zero sum game (technically, I guess), the notion that Google ruined marketing marketing by making it a zero sum game is totally false. There are plenty of ways to get great earned media that helps build brand and drive conversions. If you're relying on only google (and especially google organic, which has *always* been volatile; remember Florida? - as your only source of getting leads for your business....then you have a mal-adaptive marketing strategy....

There are more people online than ever, and on more there is more VOLUME than ever to reach prospective customers....I think that is enough to challange anyones creativity...I think that people need to start thinking about integrated marketing...instead of clinging to just one marketing channel

Google DID ruin marketing - and strangled the ppc golden goose

I disagree with you, white rabbit. For some businesses I have worked with, the difference between being first and being second is a 70% drop in sales. (Lesson to be learned: don't sell products that buyers perceive to be all about the same priced all about the same.)


AdWords won't save you, either. In the early days if you sold something unique you could buy clicks inexpensively and easily make a profit. The more they broad matched to force everyone to bid on the same keyword phrases, the lower your profit. Eventually, that made it feasible to advertise only expensive products.


Here's an example. My friends manufactured oval gazebos. Almost no other manufacturer or reseller even makes them. Early on we could rank for that. Later and today, the only way he could rank for oval gazebos was to to outbid every other gazebo manufacturer to stay on page one. (Hint: there are a LOT of them.)


So where originally if he was the only one actually selling oval gazebos, unless the other sellers specifically bid on that phrase he would rank, clicks were inexpensive, and buyers found what they wanted.  Under that model, all businesses could carve out pieces of the gazebo pie.


Now, buyers would have to visit every gazebo seller's site and try to find what they don't even sell. And he refuses to pay the top bid cost to outbid them all, even on that phrase - although that would make financial sense. He just doesn't want to raise the price because he wants to give his customers the best price he can. (I know, I know...I tried to explain that it was for their own good that he raise the price so he could bid higher and they could find him - but to no avail.)


Google could make ten times the money NOT broad matching everything and NOT commiting distribution fraud - but they would rather price small businesses out and put them under. Nothing we can really do about that.


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