Digital Buzzwords And What They Really Mean


(By Roy H. Williams) A number of marketing’s oldest ideas are getting repackaged and renamed by the online marketing crowd. Among these new digital buzzwords are transparency, engagement, and the Zero Moment of Truth.

What is transparency, really?

One clothing store says, “We have the biggest selection, the highest quality, the best service, and the lowest prices.”


Another clothing store says, “Sure, we’re more expensive. But looking good costs money. How good do you want to look?”

Which clothing store do you believe?

The more expensive clothing store admitted the downside and won your admiration and your trust.

Transparency = They’re not going to believe the upside until you admit the downside.

Do you have the humility and the courage to let the public see the real you? Few companies do.

None of this is new.

Winning a customer’s attention is easy. Hanging on to it is called “engagement.”

What percentage of your selling opportunities become sales?

This used to be called your close rate. Now it’s called conversion. Yesterday’s “loss leader” is today’s “tripwire.” None of this really bothers me much.

The thing that makes me look at the ground, shake my head, and sigh is the dangerous myth of the “Zero Moment of Truth.” But then again, Google is the new Yellow Pages, so it shouldn’t surprise us that they’ve repackaged and renamed the old Yellow Pages scare tactic.

The old Yellow Pages scare tactic was basically this:

“No one pays any attention to ads until they’re in the market for your product or service. And in that moment — the Zero Moment of Truth — they’re going to go to the Yellow Pages. Consequently, the only advertising you need — indeed, the only advertising that matters — is a huge presence in the Yellow Pages.”

Replace “Yellow Pages” with “Google AdWords, Google Remarketing, YouTube pre-roll, etc.,” and you have the new, updated myth of the Zero Moment of Truth.

The fundamental premise of the Zero Moment of Truth is that the customer is going to go online when they’re ready to purchase what you sell. I have no argument with that. Neither should you.

But the dangerous underlying assumption is that all contenders are equal during the Zero Moment of Truth. That simply isn’t true. The company most likely to get the click, the call, and the sale is the company the customer has heard of and has good feelings about.

SEMrush is a big name in online marketing. They recently concluded that “direct website visits” or “direct navigation” are the single most important factors in determining your search engine results page (SERP) position. In other words, they announced that Google is impressed — and will reward you with higher SERP placement — when people go directly to your Web page instead of merely choosing your name from a list of search results.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Google is effectively saying, “If this is the company people think of immediately — and feel best about — in this category, then it must be the category leader.”

Voila, you and your company are on your way to the top of the search engine results page. All as the result of brand building through radio.

When faced with a list of names on the search engine results page, does it surprise you that even the so-called “undecided customers” will usually choose the name they’ve heard of, and have good feelings about?

Direct navigation is a powerful vote of confidence. Just like it was 25 years ago when customers would look you up in the White Pages of the phone book — or dial 411 for directory assistance and announce your name to the operator — when they wanted to make contact with you by phone.

WordStream is a huge pay-per-click company that works with over a million advertisers. They were the second big name in online marketing that came to the same conclusion as SEMrush, although they traveled a different road to get there. In their case, WordStream became fascinated by a PPC campaign that had a 300 percent increase in conversion rates for no apparent reason.

They had changed nothing in the pay-per-click campaign. They hadn’t changed the landing page, the bid strategy, or the ads. What WordStream finally discovered was that some brand-awareness ads were being funded in another media, and these ads had created a halo effect on the pay-per-click ads.

Here are their conclusions, in their own words:

“Direct visits are fueled by your brand awareness, so building a strong brand image should be an essential part of your promotion strategy.” — SEMrush “Ranking Factors 2.0” report, page 42.

“What we are seeing here is that people with stronger brand affinity have higher conversion rates than people without any, because people tend to buy from the companies they have already heard of and begun to trust.” — Larry Kim, WordStream

The tortoise patiently wins the hearts of the people long before the race is begun. He says he’s “bonding with tomorrow’s customers.”

“Stupid tortoise,” says the rabbit, “he still believes in branding.”

Do you remember how that race turns out?

Make sure your clients remember that story, too.

This Throwback Thursday article was originally published on February 21, 2018. Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. He will be speaking at Radio Ink’s Radio Masters Sales Summit this September. Read Roy’s Radio Ink archives here.


  1. Like so much else in the culture, gullibility and credulity about The Big Shiny Thing are required.
    An’, wouldn’t ya just know it? There’s lots of that around.

  2. Hi Roy. I recently watched a Google Partners video on “getting Google AdWords Certified”. What gets my goat is that they tell people that the “text search ads” are for driving direct sales or clicks or conversions… but they say their Display Ads (the ones with images) are for BRANDING. Eye roll. So, they’re telling people they can help “brand” a business, too.


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