lady-screenIf you pay attention to seminar speakers (and anecdotal chatter) it’s quite obvious that many advertising agencies are grappling with (and feeling threatened by) the ubiquitous evolution of search marketing.  The new Internet marketing is about a constant stream of recurrent content published on SEO savvy platforms. The days of set it and forget it static pages are over…gone the way of meta keywords, and other antiquated SEO attributes.

Making the situation more confusing for agencies is the reality that advertising agency clients have heard about search marketing, they know they need it, and they ask agencies directly about it. This puts (formally full service) agencies in an awkward position including but not limited to the possibility of missed revenue opportunities. Agencies in our area seem to give their clients the stock answer: “we don’t offer those services and recommend working with a firm that specializes in SEM.”

This post begins a series of articles aimed squarely at advertising and PR agencies with the intent of demystifying the SEM process.

Old Information is Cheaper
This is especially true in second and third tier markets where engaging an “SEM firm” often means paying too much for second or third tier misinformation or web 1.0 advice (in a web 2.0 world). Unfortunately the current environment of great demand and fast profit for SEM wanna-be-companies breeds “SEM firms” that are actually last-generation website building shops. Hiring a design/build firm to market a website costs less in the short tem and you get what you pay for-less traffic and sales over time.

SEM is More than a Media Buy.
It is true that, among other services, an SEM firm functions as a media buyer. However traditional “media buyers” did not have seat at the table as demographics were identified and fundamental creative strategies to exploit target markets were hatched. SEM firms should and do participate in determining core creative for many of the world’s most prevalent brands.

Agencies used to gather essential market and demographic research by methods born of smaller samplings like surveys and focus groups. Your SEM firm is the modern team member with definitive marketplace data in the form of keyword research. One database we use samples 38 billion searches annually and is broken out by season. Other tools sample smaller databases which are “purer,” meaning they are less skewed by certain types of searches.

Keyword Research Early in the Creative Process
With Internet penetration so high in the United States keyword research is literally the holy grail of marketing. Never before in the history of marketing has such authoritative data been so available to measure a marketplace. The research translates to the physical world. For instance one hotel management client we have sees a total correlation between search volume in their keyword universe and weekly sales. Let’s face it, the customer searching on the Internet is the same customer that is walking around the mall, staying in hotels, shopping b2b, and purchasing consumer electronics. Even if you don’t plan on Internet marketing consider procuring definitive market research by hiring a qualified search engine marketing firm.

A good place to start when engaging an SEM firm is by requesting sample keyword research projects. While there are a number of free and commercial keyword research tools out there, a qualified SEM firm leverages multiple resources. They are adept at analyzing niche’ spaces by subcategory while identifying marketplace opportunities and liabilities. I’ve been doing keyword research projects for businesses for nearly 10 years now and the insight in to any marketplace aimClear brings to the table transcends monthly search volume data for fat short tail keywords. The proprietary suite of tools we use is more advanced than any public domain keyword information.

  • Peter Provost

    I have enjoyed both segments of this so far. There are very few “Actual” functioning agencies in Duluth. There are a bunch of them that claim to be but they do not provide either the vision, knowledge of the new , effective and essential technologies and the willingness to pursue the extra “separators” for their client base. They function strictly in their comfort zones which lie firmly in the old models and that does not bode well for the clients. The progressive firms in nearby midsize and large markets will have a field day in Duluth in the very near future.

  • Marty Weintraub

    Thanks for the comment Peter. You bring interesting perspective.

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