Internet Marketing Is About Discoverability (Not Yelling)

Ian Lurie

I was listening to Joseph Jaffe’s most recent podcast and one concept blew me away:

Old-style marketing was about interruption. No news flash there. But Jaffe’s statement that marketing is now about discoverability really resonates:

Discoverability marketing
  1. You must be present at the customers’ convenience and request, not screaming at them 24/7.
  2. You must answer their questions when they ask, not when they happen to be watching TV.
  3. And you’d better give them an easy way to ask further questions.

You could say internet marketing is like a good (gasp) conversation. A good conversation is between two willing participants. A bad one has one participant confronting another and forcing them to listen.
So, where customers used to pause for advertising, now the find what they want through search engines, social media and yes, even banner ads.
Internet marketing is particularly suited to this kind of marketing.

Examples of Interruption vs. Discoverability

Search Marketing is About Discoverability


Search engine optimization is the ultimate discoverability medium. You work to gain a high ranking.
Customers search for what they want. They find you.
Even paid search doesn’t interrupt: The user doesn’t have to stop what they’re doing to wait for the ads to go away.
Hence the success of Google, Yahoo and Live (yes, even 1.5% market share is damned good when it’s 1.5% of a gazillion).

Radio Advertising is About Interruption

what the...?

Radio stations make money by selling ads.
Those ads are inserted right into the stream of music, news or screaming pundits.
If you want to listen to the content, then you have to wait for the ads to finish.
That’s interruption.

Television is About Interruption

Duh. Commercials. Need I say more?

Social Media is About Discoverability


If you can get 40 bloggers to review your product (bragging modestly), you’ve increased the chances folks will find you when they start looking.
They may have favorite blogs, and one of those 40 may be one of them.
They have a better chance of finding you in a search, because those blogs will have their own search rankings.
Friends may see the reviews and forward them to your potential customer.

A Different Mindset

Discoverable marketing – internet marketing – requires a whole different mindset: A conversation mindset.

  1. The creative changes. Award-winning creative is fun, but what you really need is valuable stuff: Content (text, images, video, or ??) that makes customers think “Dang, that’s a great idea” and make a note to themselves.
  2. The tools change. No more focus groups. At their core they’re based on interruption. Inline, live testing and revisions done in short, fast cycles works far better.
  3. Analysis changes. Don’t measure impressions or column inches. Measure response and discussion: Traffic, comments and discussion on blogs, sales and inquiries are better metrics.
  4. The ad budget changes. Instead of massive spending in bursts, like on Superbowl ads, smart marketers will spend steadily to increase their visibility through search, social media and other passive messaging tools.
  5. The strategy changes. Stop building campaigns around mind-blowing creative and shock value. Instead, build campaigns around adding value to customers’ search for information on related topics. Build your image as someone who thinks like they do.

Is your internet marketing discoverable? Or are you still depending on interruption?

By the way, you can get my book and/or hire me for consulting work.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Great post. Dave Taylor coined it with different term: findability. I’ve been using another term content marketing. They basically mean the same thing as what you say here.
    Let people find you. But content marketing expands further beyond discoverability. It is also the tool for lead generation, lead nurturing and even as a product.

  2. Hi Hendry,
    Yup. A lot of folks call it ‘long tail’ marketing too, I think, although I think that’s a misnomer. You can get a lot of customers fast this way.
    Main thing is that it requires a bit more patience than old-style marketing. It’s also more efficient, though, so it balances out.

  3. Great post, I think that the concept is dead on.
    I think that the entire field of internet marketing is in a state of flux and I think Ian is one of the people that is onto that.

  4. I like what you said! But, because of the explosion of CGM, with potentially hundreds or more blogs or social networks, discoverability is tricky. It’s easy to find 10-50 bloggers on one topic but more starts to be complex. One could say why more? Well, the latest study on influence shows that it’s not a few bloggers that one need to reach to but many more. The good news is that it can be done, for example we assembled a list of 1500 blogs relevant to personal finance which we used to listen/engage where we could add value.

  5. Brilliant post… The sort of simple story which makes “The changing face of marketing” all the easier to explain. I would suggest however, that marketing has always been about “Discoverability”, yet the tools which enable discovery have become so advanced, the old methods seem very crude.
    The search engine indexes we strive to conquer are the store-shelves & small-ads of old….

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