Sorry, but I disagree with the basic premise that Max Kalehoff is basing this MediaPost column on. He says that it’s more important to think of how you’re marketing to algorithms as opposed to people. Since searches, which compile their results via those algorithms, are how people find brands, products and companies, it’s more important he thinks that you keep those in mind when drafting campaigns and online content.

This is exactly like the thinking that has led to the fall of traditional advertising and the rise of micro-targeted marketing. Agencies and others became so obsessed with how a commercial was going to look visually, what was going to look flashy and high-tech and what was funny and slowly become less concerned with what was actually connecting with the audience. If marketers start getting so obsessed with how metadata-friendly their content is they’re eventually going to forget that the whole point of being found is to reach out to the audience.

This is exactly the wrong direction to be going in. We do not need more focus on tweaking things so they’re found within searches. I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with that being a goal – making the front page of Google results should be on every marketer’s to do list. But that’s something that we need to leave it to Google and other search engines to sort out.

Let me give you an example: Tom Biro is always sending me the Google searches he runs that contain phrases included in posts he’s written. The latest one, just today, was a search for “i love netflix.” The second result from that search is a post he wrote on his blog The Media Drop. Overlooking the fact that this is the kind of thing that just shouldn’t happen, it did happen and it’s not because Tom spends hours pouring over how meta-friendly his posts are. It’s because Tom is a good writer who has developed a following by putting up important and relevant information. He’s established himself to such as extent that his blog is ranked highly by Google and his traffic is representative of that.

That’s what marketers need to be spending their time on, building relationships and their own reputations and not figuring out how to manipulate their content to come up higher in search engines. If it happens, it’s because you deserve it, not because you gamed the system.

One thought on “No, in fact, you are still marketing to people

  1. Chris,

    Thanks for reading my column and commenting, but I think you are misinterpreting my argument. In fact, I specifically did not say “that it’s more important to think of how you’re marketing to algorithms as opposed to people.” Those are your words, not mine!

    I argue that algorithms are increasingly becoming intermediaries in the pass-along of information from person to person – and that concept goes far beyond Google, and your ability to write well and index high in Web search engines. This has nothing to do with gaming a system, and everything to do with understanding the new non-linear communications and decision-making models that are influencing behaviors in a digital world. Yes, you do market to people, foremost. But you also market to algorithms, in order to market to people. Algorithms are intertwined.

    One interesting inference – which you’re forcing me to ponder – is the editorial independence or agenda inherent (or not) in algorithms. Clearly there is a spectrum. You seem to place great trust in the intentions and delivery of Google, whereas I do not necessarily. You seem to think algorithms (at least Internet search) are naturally occurring mechanisms that should be left alone, but I argue they are man-made creations that have inherent intentions and biases, depending on their objective. Your marketing should acknowledge this.

    Take, for instance, the self-diagnostics computer in an automobile. Is it wrong for a manufacturer to consciously attempt to connect maintenance and repair recommendations to drive business back to the manufacturer or its branded service centers? That is an example of consciously marketing to an algorithm, and I don’t think you would consider it gaming. Would you?

    This is a broad topic – a can of worms, to be sure. I agree that egregious manipulation, or gaming, is not a good thing at all. But to blindly leave algorithms to chance or trust is not smart either. And that’s my opinion.

    Now, if I could just get those pesky spam algorithms to stop picking up my column and name on all the spam blogs out there, like here ( and here ( Btw, those two are deriving revenue from a contextual advertising relationship with Google and Yahoo, respectively.


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