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Imagine the world 10 million years ago. Two caves could be separated by only a few miles and yet lead totally different lives. One cave, for example, might have figured out how to use the wheel, fire, maybe even metallurgy. The other might still be gathering berries and eeking out a meager existence.

This analogy, in essence, is a good depiction of search engine marketing today. There are companies that have (or are) developing amazing technology – from bid algorithms, to landing page optimization, to multivariate ad copy testing – and there are also companies that research new keywords, create ad copy, manage bids, and develop landing pages entirely by hand!

Right now, both strategies can work. In other words, even if you are light years behind your competitors in terms of search technology, you can still survive and perhaps flourish. I personally know of companies that make millions in paid search each year and have no technology other than very rudimentary tracking systems.

Can you imagine two car manufactures – one with the latest computerized assembly line, the other still making each car by hand (and I mean consumer cars, not Lamborghinis)? Such a scenario may have been possible in 1910, but ever since Henry Ford unveiled his Model T assembly line, the “arms race” of technology and efficiency in the auto industry was in full swing.

And it should be noted that Henry Ford – who’s technology at one point gave his company a huge advantage over his competitors – has gradually been passed by companies with better innovation, cheaper production costs, and more efficient management.

So, getting back to paid search . . . today there are maybe a few SEM players who are constructing their Model T assembly line. These companies will no doubt gain a huge advantage over the “do it by hand” teams. Two years from now, though, the Model T assembly line will be obsolete, replaced by even better systems.

In sum, constant innovation and investment in technology development is the only sustainable strategy for any paid search company.

First one out of the stone age wins!