Friday, March 6, 2009

Search Insider: Enough Is Enough Already

Enough Is Enough Already

So my last column sparked a ton of feedback in the form of posted responses and articles from fellow Insider, Aaron Goldman.  I want to begin by clarifying for all readers that not all clients fall into the complacent, jaded or nearsighted categories.  There have been so many valid points raised in Search Insider over the last few weeks, and they have a common theme: Our industry has issues, and both agencies and clients are at fault.

No compensation plan seems to work out in the long-term for agencies or clients.  Small SEM accounts are just as demanding, sometimes even more demanding, than larger spend accounts, leaving us agency folks competing for a very small group of accounts we deem attractive. Agencies are struggling to win profitable business, primarily due to the bidding wars during the RFP process.  Clients select the lowest bidder, are surprised when they don't receive the level of service they need, and then go back to RFP, or decide it is time to bring it in-house. There is an undeniable trend of larger advertisers moving SEM in-house, for a variety of reasons, further shrinking the prospect pool.   In-house may work for awhile, but eventually plateaus for most.  Of course, that may be good enough for the complacent.

One of the biggest advantages an agency has over in-house teams is that we are exposed to a wide variety of accounts, which accelerates our learning in this rapidly changing industry.  We have more resources to turn around timely projects and achieve the seemingly unachievable. 

Having worked client-side and agency-side, it is important to profile the typical agency employee.  Agency employees are obsessed with work.  It is a faster-paced environment than the Daytona 500.  If office hours are Monday to Friday from 9-6, then the majority come in around 8 and leave around 7.  They check their accounts multiple times throughout the weekend, satisfying their addiction.  Their greatest joy comes out of running a report in the morning and learning a client's campaign has just had its best day ever! 

Getting ahead in the agency world means you have to stand out among a group of highly competitive, ambitious people.  Typically, those who leave the agency world for a client-side job, do so because they no longer wish to push themselves to these extremes.  Those of us who do choose to live out our careers in the agency world thrive on it.  We love it so much.  Pleasing others pleases us.  I have to ask, who wouldn't want these people working on their business?

The emergence of quality technology platforms that are licensed to in-house teams and agencies alike, have created a feeling of independence among advertisers.  These advertisers believe that a tool is all they need to execute search in-house, and at a fraction of the cost of an agency.  Think again.  SEM is a service, not a product. 

Bid management is such a small component of paid search today.  Optimizing Quality Score variables and conversion paths are the keys to taking search campaigns to the next level.  The plan to accomplish these things can be as simple as a few copy and landing page tests, or as complex as a complete overhaul and restructuring of our accounts.  In-house teams, even those comprised of individuals with agency backgrounds, simply are not exposed to the volume of experience that agencies touch every day.  I make it a point to stay hands-on with our accounts, because things change.  A hands-on approach is the only way to remain at the forefront of a landscape that can change every time you hit the refresh button.

So readers, lay it on me again.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Janel Landis is senior director of search development and strategy at SendTec, Inc., a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based multichannel, integrated marketing firm specializing in search engine marketing, direct response television and lead generation.

Search Insider for Friday, March 6, 2009:

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