The Bandwagon Effect - SEM Bias Series Part 2

Posted on November 29, 2010

Everyone has heard of the bandwagon effect and most people know what it is. Knowing when something is a bandwagon and stopping yourself jumping on bandwagons is more difficult

The search engine marketing industry changes rapidly so it is important to keep up to date with all the latest developments. However, it is difficult to distinguish a game changing new development from a minor change that does not require throwing away the rulebook.

Google Instant was one such change where I jumped on the bandwagon of people claiming that it meant SEM as we knew it was dead and that nothing would ever be the same again. In actual fact the impact of Google Instant on my AdWords accounts can best be described as “meh”. Not knowing this, I wrote blog posts, tweets and prepared to implement new “partial match” keywords. I did this in spite of reading a post by Latitude which showed that Google Instant would only be shown to about 2% of users.

How would I prevent this bandwagon jumping waste of time in the future? I don’t know for sure, but I think I need to change the way I think about new developments. Rather than seeing it as an exciting break from routine and asking the question “how does this change everything?” I need to also ask myself “what won’t change because of this new development?”. This should be enough to help me remember that most things will probably be the same before and after.

This is not a complete solution because I have not come up with a way to prevent myself from unjustifiable dismissing the “everything is changing” hypothesis. However, I give the “everything has changed all at once” hypothesis a fairly low prior probability and if everything did change I think the extra day or so delay before I reacted to it would not be a complete disaster; there would be enough other stuff to worry about.

This post is number 2 in a series. Read the 0th introductory post on cognitive bias and search engine marketing and see the complete list of biases