Thanks to Google, ‘search’ has fundamentally changed how products and services are marketed and purchase decisions are made.

In his keynote address at WebMasterWorld last week, John Battelle, Chairman of Federated Media articulated simply what many of us have been struggling for years to get across.

What Battelle nailed is that traditional marketing is all about content – putting your product or service in front of your target audience and hoping that their next purchase decision will be influenced by your message. Advertising on Oprah is expensive, but it works to some degree.

What makes search marketing so powerful, and why more corporations need to pay more attention to their internet positioning is that search influences the buyer at the point of intent – when a purchase decision is being made. At this point, conversion rates are high, and thanks to Google especially, the search advertising models are efficient.

For corporations, successful ‘intent’ marketing means learning how get good rankings in Google and the other search engines and spending a few dollars – nothing close to what ‘content’ marketing costs – on pay per click and other internet advertising.

As a result, the world of SEO – search engine optimization – is exploding and corporations are being forced to adjust traditional IT vs Marketing organization design. Too many companies have turned execution of their internet strategy over to IT departments – when successful intent marketing requires a new set of highly refined technical skills – SEO – and strong collaboration with Marketing on goals, strategies and site design.

While search and intent marketing clearly drive sales, it’s too early to see how they can be used exclusively to build brand. However, there appear to be tremendous opportunities right now for organizations who learn to put the right balance on both.