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» Display, Google Adwords, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, Systems Thinking » Systems, Search, Honeybees and The King Who Inspired Them All

Systems, Search, Honeybees and The King Who Inspired Them All

Vanishing of the BeesLAST NIGHT I was watching the award-winning documentary ‘Vanishing of the Bees’ about the global phenomenon of the disappearance of honeybees, also referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The disappearance of honeybees has been suggested that the use of systemic pesticides on monoculture crops is one cause the affect of CCD. At the beginning of the segment in the documentary that dove deeper into this causality was a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which read:

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… This is the interrelated structure of reality.

When I read that quote my systems-thinking light bulb went off immediately. And, as I often do, once I began to think about this quote from a systems perspective, I then began to think about how this quote relates to search engine marketing.

Whatever Affects One Directly, Affects All Indirectly

In AdWords it is commonly known that Quality Score is a systemic algorithm. Internally keywords with low click-thru rate have an indirect affect on keywords that have a higher click-thru rate. Externally Ad Rank is generally the result of your bidding strategy compared to your competitors bidding strategy in relation to Quality Score Quality Score resulting in both direct and indirect affects on your paid search advertising’s potential for success.

Expanding this view to include marketing channels beyond AdWords, whichever type of marketing channel is used to pitch products and services to your target audience will most always have an indirect affect on other marketing channels in use. This type of system is more commonly described as ‘following the click chain or click path’ also known as attribution.

The interesting challenge here is that you must know how each channel directly affects your audience as well as how each channel indirectly affects each other. If a clear view into attribution is not understood before making decisions, a decision to directly pause a keyword or pause a display campaign may indirectly affect other channels without you knowing it.

This is the Interrelated Structure of Reality

More so than ever online and offline marketing channels need to be viewed in an interrelated way. When scientists at the Bayer Corporation, the company who developed the systemic pesticides, did their research on the pesticides affect on honeybees, they only looked at its affect in lethal doses. What they failed to look at was the long-term affects of honeybees being exposed to non-lethal doses. Over time, exposure to lower, non-lethal doses along with exposure to other pesticides is a leading hypothesis as to what caused the bees to suddenly vanish.

Scientists at the Bayer Corporation also did their research, which they submit to the EPA for approval, in a laboratory, not in the honeybee’s natural environment. This type of siloed research created a narrow view and did not consider what indirect causes could result in direct uses of pesticides. The most worrisome indirect affect of the pesticides affect on bees is that crops suffer from a lack of pollination which will either cause food prices to raise or, even worse, a shortage of food all together.

So how does this interrelated structure of reality and interconnectedness of all things work within search? Great question but not necessarily an easy one to answer since there are so many moving parts. There are however some things that you can think about and build into your daily practice that can make your various search programs sustainable.

1. Don’t cheat the system. Often times I see SEM or SEO implementations built around trying to out-smart Google. It may work in the short-term but sooner or later it will have a negative impact on your program as well as a negative impact on the perception of other industry professionals.

2. Follow best practices. That might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s true. Google AdWords and Webmaster Central really do give you pretty much everything you need to know to be successful. Be relevant, be descriptive, build a solid website infrastructure and campaign structure. When you do the right things right the first time it does have a direct and indirect, interrelated positive impact on the use of marketing dollars, customer satisfaction and perceived quality of online marketing in general.

3. Be mindful of the way you do business. Similar to the first two points, there is a right and wrong way to practice search engine marketing. When you as an individual or an agency do a poor job it has an interrelated affect on other professionals in the industry that are passionate and dedicated to doing great work. I’ve spoken with a few prospects recently who have had terrible experiences with agencies and hesitate not only working with any other agency, but also fail to see the value in paid search advertising.

4. Look internally but expand your learning externally. Intimately knowing how AdWords or SEO or Display advertising works independently has it’s merits but knowing how all your marketing channels work together is more valuable. If you have your fingers on the pulse of all channels take learning from one and see if you can apply it to another. Conversely, learn something new from another industry or take inspiration from a book or movie or sporting event and see if you can apply it to your search practice.

And the list could go on forever… Like it or not we are all in this together. Good and bad campaigns, SEO implementations and search professionals are interrelated and what affects one directly affects all indirectly. It might be difficult to think about your work in this way throughout the course of a fast-paced day, but try. Or at least be aware of your actions as they relate to others. If you agree (or do not agree) I encourage you to leave a comment as to how you view the interconnectedness of our industry.


Vanishing of the Bees

Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Sustainability Institute – Thinking in Systems

Filed under: Display, Google Adwords, Online Strategy, Search Engine Optimization, Systems Thinking

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