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From the Trenches

Search Engine Marketing: Product or Service?

Mike Sweeney | March 11, 2009

Over the past 2-3 years we’ve seen an explosion in the number of software solutions that promise to automate corporate search engine marketing efforts, particularly in the category of pay-per-click search engine marketing.  These software solutions range from terrible to superb, but all have one thing in common: they can’t provide the level of service necessary to launch and consistently grow a successful search engine marketing campaign.

Some of the folks that peddle these solutions promote them as “turnkey” or “completely automated” or “self-optimizing”…ugh.  That’s just not true.  Don’t get me wrong here, you can use one of these solutions to launch your PPC campaign in as little as five minutes.  You may even experience some nice initial results, and see some “automatic optimization” of the campaign occuring in the first month or so.

However, you cannot use any of these automation platforms – by themselves – to achieve long-term success and constant improvement in your campaigns.  This isn’t like buying a Yellow Pages advertisement where your primary decision is whether to take the half-page ad or the quarter-page ad.  This isn’t a traditional media buy, where the goal may be to drive the most eyeballs at the lowest price using creative that reflects your company’s brand or offer in the most appropriate way.  Search engine marketing campaigns contain a whole lot more moving parts – landing page development, ad copywriting, conversion tracking, integration with web analytics and CRM systems, bid management…you get the point.

A good SEM campaign ties right back into the corporate marketing plan that every organization should have.  Can an automated solution interact with your Marketing Director to discuss which leads, from which keywords, are converting into sales?  Can an automated solution help you refine your SEM strategy?  Can an automated solution identify the slight nuances in keywords or keyword phrases that are only recognized by category experts?   No, no and no.

Search engine marketing is a service. Software products are very helpful, and can and do help companies and agencies manage campaigns more efficiently.  They should not, however, be considered as stand alone solutions for your search engine marketing campaign management.

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