Search engine marketing and orchestras: part 1

This week, I started my second class in the Integrated Marketing certificate program at the University of Chicago’s Graham School. This one’s on search engine marketing, taught by David Gould of Resolution Media. Last night’s class delved a little into natural search and search engine optimization and there were some interesting points that I wanted to share while trying to put them into a cultural environment. Where needed, I’ll mostly take the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as an example, for old time’s sake.

  • Search is someone telling you what they’re looking for. And for a marketer, that’s pretty powerful stuff.
  • Check your organization’s Web site without images and JavaScript enabled. This is roughly the view that the search engine spiders see. What do you see? Here is a Wordle of the Chicago Symphony’s page:
CSO Keyword Wordle
CSO Keyword Wordle
  • The Long Tail of Search and the 80/20 rule. About 80% of the search volume comes from 20% of the keywords. The other 80% of the keywords are very specific keywords. But the specific keywords usually are much more likely to be associated with an action and are much more likely to end up as a sale. For example, a major keyword could be “classical music,” whereas a specific keyword sounds more like “Chicago Symphony Orchestra tickets.” In other terms, the major 20% that drive 80% of the volume create awareness; the specific 80% that drive 20% create actions and sales.
  • A quick word about paid search. You can clearly see the difference in paid search: the New York Philharmonic has bought certain keywords, whereas the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has not. In fact, searching for the CSO results in sponsored links to the Lyric Opera and the Goodman Theater! Those organizations must assume that if people search for the CSO, they must also be interested in other forms of cultural entertainment. In terms of natural search, both orchestras see heavy competition with third-party sellers. Looks like they need some optimization!
  • Another important lesson is that natural search is more than just optimizing your own site. It’s optimizing your content, including content on social media sites such as YouTube and Facebook and even Yelp. Both the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony’s social media efforts are appearing below the fold and in some cases not even until the second page. Organizations need to optimize so that their social media efforts appear above the third-party sellers, at the very least!
  • Search engine marketing does not work as a silo. Look at it as part of your integrated marketing efforts. Online, including banner ads, and offline, including radio spots, television spots and print ads. Integrated efforts are proven to be much more effective.
  • Perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that 80% of Web browsing starts with search and those searches are spurred by offline stimuli, including your offline marketing efforts. Be sure to streamline the two.

There were more lessons and more takeaways and the class has just barely started. Future classes will lead to future posts, but let this conclude part 1 of search engine marketing and orchestras.