Search Marketing and Higher Education: A Report Card

Oneupweb’s director of client services, Rod Call, came back to the office one day so despondent from a ho-hum marketing class that he was compelled to write the following. I have a feeling he’s not alone in his frustration.

Keyword research. Algorithm changes. Paid versus natural. Analytics. Did I really expect to learn about these topics in a place of higher education? No, not really. OK. Maybe I expected a few minutes of online marketing methodology, or, at the very least a passing mention of search engines. But no, it was just the same ol’ marketing speak that has been recycled from semester to semester. Blah.

I enrolled in a marketing class at a nearby business college to learn “up-to-date” educational marketing knowledge. The school is an accredited university, specializing in business and technology degrees. The instructors have master’s degrees and real-world marketing experience. This particular class was a high-level marketing course made up of graduating seniors.

As the semester moved forward, I continued to be surprised at the topics of discussion: CRM, Just-in-Time Inventory, the 4 P’s (product, promotion, price, and place), marketing mix strategies, customer behavior and case studies dating back to the early 90’s. All the discussions revolved around the basic acronyms and concepts you learned in Marketing 101.

So, I began to wonder: Is search engine marketing still that young of a marketing channel? Is it too technical? Too complex? What’s going on here? According to JupiterResearch, paid search alone will increase from $2.6 billion in 2004 to $5.5 billion in 2009. I think that warrants a mention in class. Don’t you?

I know what you’re thinking: SEM can’t be taught in a classroom.

I agree. But it can—and should—be introduced. It’s time to stop the monotonous regurgitation of traditional marketing practices, and SEM should be given its rightful place within the syllabus of marketing courses everywhere.