From Snake Oil to keywords, the Shady salesman lives on, but in 2012 his wares may include promises of rankings, traffic, and leads galore. Because not many advertisers understand search marketing, they are forced to put their trust in a small group of “experts” who hold the majority of the knowledge and invest their money in a technology they might not understand.
But Advertiser beware because some search marketers take advantage and advertisers pay dearly in terms of website rankings, which leads to loss of search traffic, which leads to loss of business, and so forth and so on…making all search marketers look unethical.
Here are a few quick tips to help keep you and yours from getting burned.
Tactics Should Be Transparent
Whether it is a paid or organic search campaign, reputable search firms are more than willing to explain to you the tactics they are proposing. On the paid side, you should be allowed to review and provide feedback on deliverables such as:
– Account Structure
– Keyword List
– Ad Copy
As well as know exactly where the search firm will be bidding on keywords (i.e. on Google vs. Kanoodle).
If you have questions about certain tactics, ask them to explain their reasoning…there should always be a method to their madness and it should align with your goals for the campaign.
On the organic side you should be allowed to review and provide feedback on deliverables such as:
– Keyword Strategy
– Link Strategy
– Content Development (if search firm is handling)
Organic search optimization is much more complex in terms of tactics, and you shouldn’t expect to understand everything in detail, but don’t be afraid to ask for explanations about anything that makes you uncomfortable…they should be willing to walk you through any step of the process. If after a thorough explanation it is something that still seems sketchy, it probably is…and while it is not “illegal” to game the search engines, the impact of having your listings pushed deep into the search results might not be worth the reward.
Compensation Model Should Make Sense
There are a variety of ways to compensate vendors for search expertise. On the paid side it can make sense to establish:
– Commission percentage based on media spend
– Revenue share based on conversions
– Hourly wage
– Retainer Fee
On the organic side, since there is no technical media spend, commissions don’t make sense but the other compensation models tend to work well. Remember that what you’re really paying for is the intellectual capital, and the ability to garner traffic (and in turn sales) that would otherwise be unavailable.
With any compensation model, it should be clear how your budget is being invested. If the search firm courting you has a “Just give me your budget and I’ll bring you leads…don’t worry about how I’ll make money” attitude…run.
Because if they’re not willing to share with you what they are keeping as their cut, they know they are charging too much for it.
If It’s Too Good to Be True…
Lastly, it is important to be realistic about what it is you expect from a search campaign, and what it is a search firm will “guarantee.” If they guarantee top rankings for certain keywords, do research of your own to see if they have any search volume or value to you. If your business is in an extremely competitive vertical and they guarantee top rankings for the highest volume keywords, ask how they intend to do that. If they can provide conversion/phone call data without ever having touched your website, ask where they’ve been sending traffic.
Long story short, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
As with any investment, it is worth the time it takes to learn at least the basics of search, and a reputable search partner will be more than willing to share their knowledge…but be careful once you get them started, because they won’t stop.