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Old 13th January 2006, 03:04 PM   #1
thejenn
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Default How the Search Marketing Industry Shot Itself in the Foot

Authored by: Jennifer Laycock

Full Text: http://www.searchengineguide.com/laycock/006521.html

While top five or even top ten rankings could be achieved by skilled SEMs for almost any keyword phrase, the day is coming when the industry will grow to levels that make phrases so competitive that even the most skilled search marketers will have difficulty attaining top rankings.

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Old 14th January 2006, 09:26 AM   #2
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SEMs that are going to evolve and survive in the coming years are certainly those who are going to be concerned with the big picture. While it is usually assumed that if you have top rankings for a set of keywords, that you will see a lot of conversions, this is not always the case.

In fact there were a few projects last year where positioning was easy enough to obtain but then we either had to make many changes to the site or do a complete redesign in order to improve user experience and increase conversions or the great positioning would be for nothing.

Great article, Jenn!

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Old 14th January 2006, 01:33 PM   #3
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excellent article Jenn. I think using the phrase "search engine marketing" contributes to this problem. I've never thought that this was good terminology for our industry (nor "search engine optimization" for that matter) as it really is about website marketing. Usability and converstions have absolutly nothing to do with search engines. Search engine rankings are just a means to an end.

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Old 14th January 2006, 02:11 PM   #4
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Yes, but don't miss the greater point here.

Search engine marketing is, in fact, a different thing than usability and on-page conversion optimization.

What I'm saying is that you don't have to rank in the top five for "these ten phrases" to run a successful search engine marketing campaign.

As we start to see the impact of the Long Tail, all those phrases that you never really plan to rank for, but do anyway because you've got great copy...I think it proves the point that it's an overall process. Also, you can have a #2 ranking for one phrase and drive very little sales while a #21 ranking for another phrase could actually drive a ton.

It's about increasing sales and qualified traffic and that's not always as closely tied to rankings as people think they are. Again...there are only ten top spots, but there's room for more than ten companies to succeed in a certain area.

Make sense?

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Old 18th January 2006, 08:01 AM   #5
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Default Conversions

Great post. We are just too good at our jobs.

The future has to lie in conversion tracking as a route to assessing ROI - and SEO quantified & priced by the same criteria. There is already talk of PPC pricing on a cost per conversion basis, and I reckon Google's new Analytics (previously Urchin) is the first step in that process. We've been selling Urchin products for a while as a complement to our SEO & PPC because it has the best tools for tracking conversions. From there you can tell a client why it doesn't matter that we can't guarantee them "No. 1 on Google for [travel]" when instead we can guarantee them an increase in visitors that convert to sales/leads.

If the industry as a whole starts selling Search Engine Marketing as Search Engine ROI Increasing/Conversion Tracking/Customer Keeping/Money Making then I think we can continue to grow.

Roll on holistic SEM - now we just need a new snappy TLA.

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Old 19th January 2006, 03:33 PM   #6
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"The future has to lie in conversion tracking as a route to assessing ROI - and SEO quantified & priced by the same criteria. There is already talk of PPC pricing on a cost per conversion basis, and I reckon Google's new Analytics (previously Urchin) is the first step in that process."

Great comments, Jim. But I want to first ask everyone's opinion on this: 1. Will the cost per conversion basis of PPC help with click fraud? If so, how much?

2. SEMPO's 2004 report stated that there was 492 million in organic SEO. For 2005 it was 643 million. While that is a nice big gain, it only amounted to 11% of the total SEM spend "despite its demonstrated effectiveness".
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscr...le.php/3575921

So, my question is this. Besides the great points you made, Jennifer, in "How the Search Marketing Industry Shot Itself in the Foot" (especially this one: "This is where the search marketing industry finds itself facing a challenge. They need to educate businesses to help them toss out the old "top ten rankings" philosophy in exchange for the more realistic and sustainable "positive return on investment" philosophy. Otherwise, the entire industry runs the risk of imploding sometime in the next several years."), what else can be done try to motivate search marketers to invest more in SEO so that SEO attains a greater percentage of the overall SEM investment?

Thanks .

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Old 20th January 2006, 08:40 AM   #7
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It's not getting SEOs to invest in organic search marketing that's the problem, it's getting their customers to buy into it.

Any SEO/SEM firm worth its salt understands that organic search optimiation is far more valuable to a client in the long term, but there are two problems...

1.) They make more from paid search advertising.
2.) Clients are more accepting of paid search advertising.

Those are pretty steep hurdles to overcome. The reality is that people want "guaranteed results" and paid search listings are the only way to guarentee them.

The problem with this is that it doesn't fit with any other form of advertising. No one would tell their PR firm that they have to guarentee a story placement in the NY Times or the Washington Post. No one would tell their direct mail firm that they must guarentee X amount in sales. You just can't do it. But, because of that initial focus on rankings, that's what companies are still looking at as a sign of success.

There's also another issue at play...

Companies are used to advertising as being something clearly defined and tangible. They may not have the creative ability to come up with it, but they know how it works. Organic search engine optimization is still quite difficult for many to understand. There are too many variables involved, too many unknowns...it's still voodoo to your average business owner. That makes it a tough sell.

You've got to think of it like this...

Pay Per Click = Direct Mail, TV Ads, Billboards, Web site development

Fairly easy sells, you can see the results immediately, you see your ad out there, it's where you want it to be, you control the cost. It's an expense.

Organic Search = Branding, Usability Testing, Viral Marketing

Hard sells because you can't see any of the results immediately. They are not seen as "expenses" but rather as an investment with an unknown time frame for results. That makes all of these things more difficult to sell.

But, in much the same way that companies that embrace things like branding and usability testing will find themselves moving ahead of the competition, the companies that embrace organic optimization early on will find themselves able to cut back on some of their other expenses (re: PPC) while still enjoying greater profits and sales.

It's just going to take time for people to "get it."

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Old 20th January 2006, 10:42 AM   #8
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Default Long Tail !

Thanks Jen, (and all other contributors) for more quality reading material.

I like the idea of the 'long tail' - I've just checked (site stats) and it accounts for more than the 'fat head' of targeted phrases. Again, good stats prove really useful.

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Old 20th January 2006, 10:49 AM   #9
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Default Great Points, However....

"But, in much the same way that companies that embrace things like branding and usability testing will find themselves moving ahead of the competition, the companies that embrace organic optimization early on will find themselves able to cut back on some of their other expenses (re: PPC) while still enjoying greater profits and sales."

We are in total agreement on that statement, even if "cost per conversion" does cut down on PPC Click Fraud!

Also, thanks for the kind correction on the definition of "search marketers". I think, though, that I've actually seen SEO's write about SEO clients, and call them "search marketers" because the clients are using search to market their company's products? Anyway, I believe your definition is the correct one .

"1.) They make more from paid search advertising." = Is that because of the way PPC campaigns are usually priced by the SEM, or because advertisers are just putting more money into PPC?
"2.) Clients are more accepting of paid search advertising." = Agreed, so how can the Search Marketing Industry speed up the process of "It's just going to take time for people to 'get it.'" besides "education"?

"The reality is that people want "guaranteed results" and paid search listings are the only way to guarentee them."

Outside of the obvious, logical reasons why everybody wants a guarantee on whatever it is that they buy, why do you think wanting a guarantee of rankings (or whatever metric of results) is so prevalent with prospective SEO clients when many of them know that SEO's don't control the search engines? As for PPC, correct me if I'm wrong as I'm not that familiar with PPC, but isn't it harder these days to "guarantee" at least "ranking" of PPC ads due to Google looking at click through usage and landing page relevancy to help determine the top ranking PPC positions?

"Organic Search = Branding, Usability Testing, Viral Marketing" = It's just my opinion, but I believe that while organic SEO may not be as "clearly defined" to the SEO prospect, it is more "tangible" and accountable (for online sales and actions vs. offline sales) as compared to "branding". It sure does help with "branding", IMO, too.

Organic SEO is the best long term strategy for online marketing efforts, as opposed the the alternative of "offline" (which I feel should be done in addition). What you say here: "We need to talk about achieving a positive return on investment." is the "bottom line" for both online and offline marketing efforts!

Great article, Jenn! More articles relating to the overall health and growth of the Search Marketing Industry need to be written. I just don't know where you get the time to do all the things you do (same, for many other search marketers)! My "hat is off" to all of you .


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Old 20th January 2006, 02:05 PM   #10
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Welcome to the forum, Jim!

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