Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Companies

If you are looking for a Search Engine Marketing Company, you must know by now that there are many to choose from. However, to ensure that you hire the right one, you must consider what your goals are. Ask yourself the following key questions:

  1. What would I like to be able to say about the performance of my website one year from today?
  2. What do I want in sales and profits (net of all expenses) in the first 12 months? In 3 years? In 5 years? Be specific!
  3. How much of an investment am I willing to make to achieve these sales and profitability goals?

There are plenty of additional questions; however these questions must be answered first by you. Without the answers, you can’t possibly make a well-balance decision. The thing in common with these questions is that they are all about one thing: RESULTS. If you are looking for results, it should seem blatantly obvious that the Search Engine Marketing Company you select should also be focused on YOUR RESULTS. But it’s not so easy to find one as interested in your bottom line as they are in theirs. Here are some points to consider that can help you make the necessary distinctions so that your final choice of SEM Company ends up being the right one:

  1. SEM Companies are not always focused on the key results of sales and profitability. Instead they focus on PPC (Pay per Click) Advertising without considering your budget. This includes the click-through rate (% of ads clicked) and the conversion rate (% of clicks resulting in a purchase, lead form, etc). Or, they might be solely focused on organic search engine rankings. While this is critical, #1 rankings by themselves don’t yield conversions if they don’t lead to a well-constructed, easy to navigate website.
  2. SEM Companies often stipulate that they get paid whether or not they actually achieve even the visibility objectives they tell you they need. As such, they share none of the risk burden you are undertaking, which means you are ultimately paying for services, regardless of the outcome; you are not paying for performance.
  3. You need to find out how they define SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
    • Are they talking about PPC or true Organic Search?
    • If it’s Organic Search, how do they define and describe the sub-specialties that are part of their SEO service? The following must be included in the service:
      • Social Media
      • Social Bookmarking
      • RSS Feeds
      • Copywriting Services
      • Online Syndication
      • Industry-specific backlinking
      • Multi-media submissions
  4. If they mainly speak in terms of meta tags, title tags and internal structure, it’s a bad sign. These are only basic issues in Search Engine Marketing.
  5. They should emphasize both keyword and competitive research before they make any prognostications for your Search Engine Marketing program.
  6. They must consider conversion rates as part of their service.
  7. They must be able to demonstrate existing client visibility and conversion in competitive markets.

I hope that the point is clear. Your results are not achieved unless sales are made and at profitable levels. If the Search Engine Marketing Company takes no ownership of the results of a marketing campaign, as measured in CONVERSIONS, then you are not speaking with a company that has its goal aligned with yours.

TACTICS VS. STRATEGY

Goals require well coordinated strategies. Strategies can include tactics but tactics in a vacuum are rarely successful. The strategies must be focused on return on investment (ROI) and on the coordination of services necessary to affect a successful campaign. For instance, we rarely employ a PPC strategy by itself to achieve a client’s sales and profitability goals. Rather we use PPC as part of a coordinated Internet Marketing Strategy. The role of PPC is not long term in our model; rather we use it as a bridge to achieve immediate results while longer term, longer lasting and improved ROI strategies are taking shape. In other words, different components of a strategy have different strengths and weaknesses.

Even if you are speaking to a potential SEM Company and the discussion is revolving around an array of Organic SEO strategies, that may still not be enough to ensure that you will achieve optimal results. You also need an adaptable company who will change with the technology and environment, so you don’t end up paying for outmoded services. In essence, many believe organic SEO is really all about Google. Let’s say the SEO is highly successful and you are getting 80% of your traffic from Google or the major search engines. But, what if Google changes the “tools of game” for some unforeseen reason (like a merger or new innovation) and that visibility and its associated traffic are instantly gone? This is a case of putting all of your eggs in one basket, and we all know those risks. So, it is important for the Search Engine Marketing Company to really be an Internet Marketing company, with a broad approach to online marketing. The social media and viral marketing are just two additional components that must be pursued as part of a successful Internet Marketing Strategy.

So, it takes more than leafing through websites for a Search Engine Marketing Company. You need to know what your business objectives are so that you can select only those SEM’s that are focused on the same ROI objectives you are. In addition, the SEM must share the marketing risk by tying a significant piece of their compensation to actual performance, as measured in search engine rankings, website traffic and website conversions. Without this, the company and the SEM will be out of step from the start.

By selecting the right Search Engine Marketing Company whose goals, activities and focus are aligned with yours, you will have done yourself a great favor. Contact us if you require assistance with your Search Engine Marketing, we can help.

September 2, 2011