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Old 8th November 2005, 01:42 PM   #1
thejenn
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Default Does the World Need an SEM Match Maker?

Over the past six months or so, I've had discussions with several Search Engine Guide readers and professional search marketers about the trouble that companies have finding a search marketing vendor that they can trust. It seems like everyone, especially small businesses have been burned at least once and that many companies are more than willing to hire someone, they just are worried about hiring the wrong someone.

The discussion popped up again this past week in Detlev Johnson's Search Return newsletter. (Quick plug...if you don't already subscribe, sign up now, it's the only newsletter that I actually manage to read all the way through each time it shows up.)

The question here was two-fold...how do we as search marketers figure out who to send referral work to and how do businesses figure out which companies they can trust. You can read through the archives at the Search Return site to get the entire conversation, but here's a snippet of the post that I put in to the mix...


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On my more ambitious days, I think that I'll actually build something out on www.seomatch.com, a domain that I bought earlier this year when I thought it would be interesting to get into SEM brokering. The reality is that the size and scope of this type of project would be larger than what I care to manage. As I see it, you'd need to have a good system in place as far as reviewing and cataloging techniques, skill levels, price ranges etc. I don't see this as a system limited to white hats or black hats; I see it as a system that matches a business up with the best skill set for what they need. That may mean white hat, may mean black hat, may mean big firm, may mean small.

I think if you had someone that was really familiar with a wide range of companies and could confidently send a business off to one of them, you could set up a decent business model. The service could be free for companies looking to hire a vendor, and vendors could pay a referral fee to the service the same way that they would to a salesman.

I see a true need for this type "match-making" service if search marketing is going to continue to grow. While the industry is starting to mature, there are still valid concerns from companies about who they can safely hire. It's not at all unusual for me to hear from business owners that very much want to invest in SEM but that have simply been burned so many times by bad vendors that they're not sure any good ones actually exist.

So my question to our readers is, what do you think? Do you see a need for some type of search marketing match-maker? Would you want this to be overseen by an actual professional organization like SEMPO or SMA-NA? Should it be overseen by someone within the industry, or by one of the popular discussion forums? If you could envision a system that would help you figure out who to hire to do your search marketing, how would it work?

I'd love to hear your feedback. If you've got two cents to throw in on the subject, please post it here...

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Old 9th November 2005, 05:06 PM   #2
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I agree there's a need. No idea on how to set it up, but I'd be happy to assist. I currently employ 7 SEM firms to provide Organic SEO (and link-building and SEO copywriting) for over 80 web sites. I've gone through about 20 different firms, having fired 13 over a 2 1/2 year term. I've also researched dozens more, by contacting them, asking their opinions on different SEO methodologies and mantras, and keeping notes on each. I've narrowed the list down to a collection of great firms at, what I consider, an acceptable rate. I've always thought that my perspective was pretty valid, and if anything comes of this, I'd be happy to throw my 2 cents in.

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Old 9th November 2005, 09:48 PM   #3
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This applies to a broad range of services. SEO, E-mail, web hosting, design -- the whole portfolio of services that beginning businesses of any size must attend to.

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Old 10th November 2005, 09:06 AM   #4
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SEOPros.org is already doing this on some level and I think others have tried it but none really successfully. Of course there is the Marketing Sherpa's Buyer's Guides to SEO Firms and Paid Search Advertising Agencies as well which is a referrer of sorts.

Sure there may be a need but how does the referring agency decide who they are going to refer? Do they require some kind of paid membership and are there any standards they hold the vendors to? How would they enforce those standards?

As the SEM industry is still in its infancy, these would just be some of the challenges they would face. I suppose if a company can follow the steps that other referring agencies have taken such as Improvenet, ServiceMagic and NeedContractor has for the home improvement industry, then they might be successful and fulfill a need for consumers seeking SEM services.

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Old 10th November 2005, 09:33 AM   #5
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Quote:
As the SEM industry is still in its infancy
I think that is a critical factor. As a service provider, I know when I am discussing services with potential clients there are often large variances between what I propose and competitor's services proposed. I've yet to have a client tell me - you and competitor x proposed exactly the same thing and I made the decision based on cost, location or some other clearly known factor. Customers are always comparing oranges to apples when it comes to service, and frankly the industry changes at a pace that there is little opportunity for a lot of consistincy at this point between providers.

There isn't an adequate solution out there, but if there was one ... I invision it along the lines of a matchmaker site (i.e. eharmony). Trying to match up what you are looking for with others based on what they offer - with standards and open communication for evaluation included within the process.

For example, some clients may be interested in a less experienced seo with a track record to keep costs down, versus a larger fortune 50 company looking for an established marketing business providing seo services in coordination with an entire online media campaign. Creating one system that meets all scenarios and allows for fluid communication and qualification (- qualification is really something done by both sides) would be needed.

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Old 10th November 2005, 11:04 AM   #6
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I think Chris makes excellent points here and this is really what I'm going for.

I have about half a dozen companies that I'm currently willing to refer people to, though the majority of my referrals go to two of those. I know the style of SEM that these companies use, I know their experience level, I know their price range.

Sometimes I run across a company that I know will perfectly fit with one firm when it comes to experience, philosophy, personality, price, etc... So I only send them to one place. Sometimes, I know that they still haven't defined what they need, so I refer them to a few firms.

Every now and then, I run across someone that IS willing to go with a less experienced vendor because they are short of cash and/or in a non-competitive industry. In those cases, I tend to send the referral to the smaller, newer shops that I know.

The problem is that for something like this to be effective, you would need to have a person, or team of people that could actually keep up with a large number of firms. Visit them on site, understand their work philosphies, know their track record, etc... Then that person (people) would have to be trusted to make the best decision for everyone when making a match. That's why I use the word matchmaker, because I really envision this as what the old style matchmakers did in looking to hitch people up.

At the same time, I also think there is great value to the idea of a company or service that creates RFPs. I'm seeing this as an extension of the matchmaking service. Basically, someone that would come in to your company and would spend time figuring out what you need to have done. Then would write up the requirements, guide you through the process of selecting a firm and then walk away before the work starts.

I dunno, think of it as a realtor for SEM?

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Old 10th November 2005, 04:21 PM   #7
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A little something that fits in with this discussion...

Eward Cowell and the crew at Neutralize have set up an interesting site that lists all the Google Advertising Professionals they've found so far. At this point they have 211 listed.

The site is called whoisaGAP

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Old 24th November 2005, 09:10 AM   #8
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I really like Jennifer's quick breakdown of of key factors involved in the match-making process: "...when it comes to experience, philosophy, personality, price, etc..." My personal favorite (not necessarily the most important to everybody) is "Personality". The reason is that "people buy from people", or at least they want to, in trying to achieve a long term relationship.

Arnie's tremendous amount of time (within a 2 1/2 yr. term) and effort with only 20 (keeping only 7) out of whatever the total number of small, medium, and large SEM firms there are in the U.S. alone, Is surely a good indication of how challenging, time consuming, and expensive the match-making setup and implementation could be. This, also, doesn't take into account all the new SEM firms that are, and will be, setting up shop in the future as the industry grows and matures into a more vertical taxonomy of specializations.

I believed you "nailed it" Jennifer, when you said "Then that person (people) would have to be trusted to make the best decision for everyone when making a match." This is a "TALL ORDER", and in my opinion, is worth more than what you describe here: "The service could be free for companies looking to hire a vendor, and vendors could pay a referral fee to the service the same way that they would to a salesman."

I know of one SEM who pays a $250 referral fee to anyone who only just refers a new client of any of his pricing points. But, he is willing to pay 10% of the first six months or one year pricing points if that person continually saves him a lot of time in gathering information initially, and then acts as an intermediary throughout the entire time of the SEM contract. However, that SEM is NOT willing to continue to pay anything (even a reduced percentage) beyond that first six months to a year, so that the "match-maker" loses any "longer than a year" term benefit.

I am here to learn, so here is my humble question to every SEM in this forum: What is it worth to you (percentage of whatever revenue you actually do receive vs. contracted for, and only paid to match-maker/broker/intermediary right after you get paid) to gain a new client of any price point or term of contract? Please say if you are willing to also pay a reduced percentage after one year for "reduced intermediary services", if that is, in fact, all that is needed to keep the client. Let's not get into any "refund to clients" scenarios, due to "guarantee's" of any kind, for now.

Thanks for your input .
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Old 29th November 2005, 11:32 AM   #9
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Customers are always comparing oranges to apples
I agree, it can be very difficult to compare SEO firms. Even when some things sound familiar, such as "link building", most potential clients don't know what quality link building is, or even if they do, that there are several levels of quality link building, all requiring different levels of pricing.

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What is it worth to you
If it's a monthly contract, the first month off the top. If its a one-time service anywhere from 10-20%.

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Old 29th November 2005, 01:04 PM   #10
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Stoney, I agree with everyone's comment on how clients "compare apples to oranges" in evaluating SEO's. "Linking Strategies" is just one more intricate layer in the immense educational challenge that clients need to meet, so they can both require and understand the specifics of an SEO proposal.

Thanks for the input on my "What's it worth to you" question. As you already know, I am NOT trying to start this business model, but I want to make sure I understand your response: "If it's a monthly contract, the first month off the top. If its a one-time service anywhere from 10-20%."

So, if it is a monthly contract, you are willing to pay 1/12th of say a 12 month term, with no expectation of really needing that "SEO match maker" to help you keep the client after whatever number of months he stays with you, correct? I'm not judging your answer in any way. I just want to make sure I understand it.

If it is a one-time service (I assume you mean that the client just wants his people educated, or they are foolish enough to not want ongoing maintenance and analytics evaluation), does the total amount of the one time fee determine the exact percentage? If so, can you give me an approximate dollar fee breakpoint between the 10% commission and the 20% commission for say a 15% median point? Thanks.

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