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Debunking Search Engine Marketing Myths

Paul J. Bruemmer, 5/22/2002

There are many preconceived notions about search engine marketing (SEM), and
some are actually misconceptions that become established myths. The most popular
myths are those about in-house optimization, submission software, traffic
quality, and lead superiority -- not to mention the guaranteed top-positioning
myth. Below are a dozen myths that can lead marketers astray if left
unchallenged.



  1. In-House Optimization Is Cheaper

    Research indicates less than 1 percent of marketing budgets go to SEM, so
    it's no wonder many Web sites will be improperly optimized. Yet SEM pros get
    better rankings faster because they've mastered the complex, technical,
    ever-changing submission process that has such a steep learning curve.
    Outsourcing is cost-effective because the pros benefit from economies-of-scale
    after the initial outlay in personnel, technology, and process development.
    In-house SEM lacks such cost maximization.


  2. It's a One-Shot Deal With Submission Software

    Submission software promises the moon. But how can software get the same
    kind of results reputable vendors provide for a fraction of the cost? There's
    no way software can identify keywords automatically or optimize your content
    and HTML coding. All the engines have specific submission guidelines that
    change like clockwork. It's not one-size-fits-all, and no software program can
    customize and update to the degree required for maintaining top
    listings.


  3. SEM Leads Are Inferior to Traditional Media Leads

    This is the opposite of reality. SEM leads are the most qualified leads you
    can get because people searching for products and services on search engines
    are in "action" mode and ready to buy. Search engine traffic is qualified
    because users initiate the search with a purpose, making these leads targeted
    and more valuable than those from the "broadcast advertising" methods used by
    traditional media.


  4. SEM Traffic Isn't High Quality

    Ideally, it'd be nice to have an integrated marketing campaign with TV ads,
    direct mail, email, banner ads, and search engine marketing, but not everyone
    can afford this. When your marketing budget is limited, the place to start is
    with SEM. A properly optimized site can produce leads and sales within a short
    time period. Case studies have shown that search engine traffic is equal to or
    better than traffic from more expensive sources.


  5. Guaranteed Top Rankings or Your Money Back

    Money-back guarantees are worthless in search engine positioning because
    outcomes are always unpredictable and ever-changing. New submissions are
    always being added to databases, changing rankings continuously. Bottom line:
    technicians simply cannot control the search engines.


  6. You Need Listings in Thousands of Search Engines

    Submission software claiming to "Submit to 1,500 directories and search
    engines" will get you listed in many FFA (Free For All) engines. FFA listings
    are worthless and don't begin to compare to directories and engines like
    Yahoo! and Google. A likely result: Your name gets on email spam lists.


  7. Once You Achieve Good Rankings, You're All Set

    Search engine positioning requires trial and error, and success is
    ephemeral. Today's top listings will change tomorrow; sometimes, listings
    change on an hourly basis. Maintaining positioning requires constant
    monitoring and tweaking. It can't be guaranteed, and results aren't permanent
    once achieved.


  8. SEM Doesn't Give a Good ROI

    This is actually a falsehood. The ROI for SEM is excellent compared to
    other marketing methods, especially when compared to keyword banner buys.
    Marketing Sherpa case studies also illustrate this by comparing the results of
    banner ads, direct mail and SEM. With SEM, you get better conversion rates,
    lower cost-per-click, and lower acquisition costs.


  9. Professional SEM is Too Expensive

    SEM has proven cost-effective compared to banner ads, direct mail, email
    marketing, and print advertising. For instance, SEM deliverables are half the
    cost of keyword banner campaigns, and SEM provides specific measurable
    results.


  10. All SEM Services Are Alike

    Fact is services and pricing vary widely. SEM is striving for ethics and
    standards although there will always be a few questionable providers. Ask your
    provider to define services, pricing, contracts, and reporting. Verify the
    provider's experience and proficiency by interviewing past customers.


  11. You Can Save Money With Pay-Per-Click Engines

    You hear about buying PPC traffic and getting featured listings for free in
    the major search engines. This is partly true because of partnership deals,
    but your best results come from a well-integrated SEM campaign that includes
    optimized pages for both human-powered and crawler-based search engines and
    enhanced link popularity. A PPC campaign can be expensive without cost
    management and ROI verification. Lastly, some users avoid featured listings
    because they consider them tainted.


  12. A Buyers Guide to SEM Vendors Is Gospel

  13. It would be nice to depend on an SEM buyers guide, but the industry changes
    too rapidly for any guide to remain current and accurate, even with updates.
    While I'm proud of the rating Web-Ignite gets in a popular industry buyers
    guide, I would still recommend that you get referrals from people you know and
    interview prospective vendors in depth. Always trust your own judgment above
    someone else's opinion.

Paul Bruemmer is the CEO of Web Ignite, a search engine optimization company. Founded in 1995, Web-Ignite has helped promote over 15,000 Web sites and was recognized by Iconocast and MarketingSherpa as a top SEO firm based on reputation.

 

 

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