Outsourcing Search Engine Marketing Articles

NOTE: OUTSOURCING SEARCH MARKETING ITEMS FROM SEPTEMBER 2004 ONWARD ARE LISTED IN THE SEM INDUSTRY: OUTSOURCING CATEGORY OF SEARCH TOPICS IN SEARCH ENGINE WATCH.

Yes, you can do search engine marketing all by yourself! However, there can also be advantages to outsourcing for some or all of your search engine marketing needs.

Search engine marketing firms often have great experience in how to manage paid listings better, which is gained by working on multiple accounts. As for non-paid listings, SEM firms also have experience that may help them understand how to better optimize or list your web site.

NOTE: Article links often change, especially the older an article is. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline. Also, some very old articles flagged "no longer online" might indeed be online -- but the former URL no longer resolves, and it's not worth the time investment for me to try and personally track down these down versus spending time producing new content.

Jump to articles from:
Sept. 2004 Onward
Jan-Aug. 2004
2003 - 2002 - 2001- 2000

Jan-Aug. 2004

SEO Firm Ordered to Refund Fees, Pay Fine
Search Engine Watch Forums, Aug. 12, 2004
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?threadid=1071

Discusses how firm Internet Advancement was ordered by the Washington state attorney to refund customers who failed to achieve top search rankings apparently as promised. The action came after more than 100 complaints filed with the attorney general's office, the US Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Interestingly, the company's web site still has claims such as "Most search engines update their listings about every 30 days and if you aren't resubmitting often enough you can be wiped right off the list." That's not correct. No major search engine I know of suggests that if you don't resubmit, you won't maintain high rankings. The company's web site also still continues to guarantee "top 20" rankings along with a refund policy. Coverage also from DMNews.com.

Selecting a Search Marketing Partner Webinar Breakdown
Search Engine Lowdown, July 14, 2004
http://www.searchenginelowdown.com/2004/07/selecting-search-marketing-partner.html

Long rundown on the webinar Search Engine Watch associate editor Chris Sherman held on how to select a search engine marketing firm.

Google's Patrick Keane Afraid of Search Engine Optimizers
Search Engine Lowdown, July 13, 2004
http://www.searchenginelowdown.com/2004/07/googles-patrick-keane-afraid-of-search.html

Andy Beal comes away shocked/angered/stunned (and understandably so) that a Google representative seemingly suggests that SEM companies can't help people improve rankings. Of course they can. They can't guarantee this, but often someone who understand search engine optimization can certainly help. Google itself says that firms may be useful in its help pages, as I describe more here. Google tells me it still stands by those pages, as described here.

SEO Consultants Directory To Launch Peer Review Network
SEO Consultants Directory, July 7, 2004
http://www.seoconsultants.com/press/2004/07/

This long-standing guide to SEO firms that have been reviewed and approved according to its own criteria will now allow approved firms to participate in approving of other firms, as a means to expand the guide.

Media Planners Face Tough, Time-Consuming Task When It Comes To Search
MediaPost, March 22, 2004
http://www.mediapost.com/dtls_dsp_news.cfm?newsID=242988

Search is getting more and more complex, as many more smaller players vie for advertiser dollars and even the big players push different products. Then there's the complexity of just handling the basic keyword-linked paid placement ads. Some ad agencies are outsourcing, but others are deciding they need to face the challenge by building up internally. (permalink)

Outsourcing Search Engine Marketing
SearchDay, Mar. 11, 2004
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/3324651

Search engine marketing is crucial for the success of online businesses -- but should you take on search marketing in-house, or outsource this challenging task to a contractor or agency?

Yahoo starts massive European keyword push
netimperative, March 11, 2004
http://www.netimperative.com/cmn/viewdoc.jsp?cat=news&docid=BEP1_News_0000063220

Think search engines will wipe out search engine marketing firms? Yahoo has outsourced search ads that it's running for its European portal to UK-based WSPS. The firm will oversee Yahoo ads that will run on rival networks such as Google, Espotting and Mirago -- as well as on Yahoo's own Overture.

Legal Clause Limits SEM Campaigns Before They Start
ClickZ, March 8, 2004
http://www.clickz.com/experts/search/results/article.php/3322201

Clients may insist upon SEM firms having what Fredrick Marckini calls a "do not utter our name" clause in legal agreements. He argues this means that the client can't benefit from getting links from the SEM firm's web site or from the client's many vendors. Certainly any company with vendor relationships will want to consider having those vendors link to them, if only because the vendors themselves may have quality visitors that will benefit from finding the client web site.

As for SEM firms, I'd argue that you want to remove such clauses because you operate as an SEM "agency of record." This is commonly done in the advertising world. A new advertising company is selected by a major company to be their agency of record for handling ad buys.

SEM firms, especially those with a growing and notable clientele, need to convince clients that search engine marketing is no longer a "secret." Being named by an SEM firm doesn't necessarily mean that the client's competitor is suddenly going to discover search engine marketing. At this point, they've almost certainly heard of it.

The point is that you, as an SEM firm, will argue that you'll do it better. And you'll also need to argue that your own "halo" of being a successful firm will benefit the company. When they allow you to be named as an agency of record, if you are a good firm, then the company will benefit from the publicity you'll generate about the "win."

Agencies and SEM: Howdy, Partner
ClickZ, Jan. 27, 2004
http://www.clickz.com/media/agency_strat/article.php/3303771

Ad agencies want and need good SEM firms to work with. Finding the right partner may be hard work, but it's well worth doing.

Latest Proposal Kit Ideal for SEOs - Product Review
High Search Engine Ranking, Jan. 19, 2004
http://www.high-search-engine-ranking.com/Latest-Proposal-Kit-Ideal-For-SEOs.htm

Need to do a proposal for search engine optimization work? Here's a general software-based proposal kit with an SEO template included.

The Nightmares of a SEO
Search Engine Guide, Jan. 6, 2004
http://www.searchengineguide.com/wallace/2004/0106_dw1.html

If you don't work with your SEO, they can't do their best for you. Tips on getting along.

Articles From 2003

Bungled Search Engine Optimization - Cleaning Up the Mess
SearchDay, Dec. 24, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/3292401

Many advertising agencies, design firms, and even web hosting companies offer search engine marketing services for their customers. However, some of the methods they use to obtain top positions are considered to be spam by the major search engines. How do you tell the difference?

Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization Debuts
SearchDay, Nov. 26, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3109451

At the gala inaugural meeting of the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, the group's board outlined the organization's mission and extended a welcome to all search marketing industry professionals.

Top Five Search Engine Optimization Myths
ClickZ, Nov. 24, 2003
http://www.clickz.com/search/results/article.php/3110091

Shari Thurow covers promises you might hear from some SEO companies that she warns should make you wary, such as guarantees about free positioning, instant link popularity and off-site microsites.

Search firms move toward full service
BToB, Nov. 10, 2003
http://www.btobonline.com/cgi-bin/article.pl?id=11878

A look at changes happening among search engine marketing companies, how new services are being added and how companies are shaping themselves to adjust to new offerings from search engines -- including search engines positioning themselves as SEM companies.

Why an SEM RFP Is a Mistake
ClickZ, Nov. 3, 2003
http://www.clickz.com/search/results/article.php/3102741

Submitting RFPs to search engine marketing firms is a bad way to truly understand vendors. Indeed, you'll probably find many good vendors may not even respond. RFPs are often badly written and ask questions that can't be properly answered. Fredrick Marckini urges an open conversation model. For more thoughts from vendors about this, also see this recent thread from the High Ranking Forums.

Schmoozing with the Enemy
FastCompany, November 2003
http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/76/dispatch.html

For two years running, Google's now hosted a "Google Dance," an off-site party for attendees of the Search Engine Strategies conference when held in California. This color piece looks at the event and how Google is reaching out to entice potential advertisers but pokes fun that some "bad guys" might be in attendance, as well.

Fair enough, but plenty of search engine marketers are pretty sick and tired of being cast as some type of "enemy." No one suggests that most PR professionals are the "enemy" of the media. Indeed, many reporters can find a good PR person very useful in constructing stories. The same is true with search engines.

A good search engine marketer understands there are paid ways and non-paid ways to get good coverage for their clients. And there are indeed plenty of good marketers who go after the unpaid ways that are acceptable and don't hurt search engine relevancy.

Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization Opens To Members
The Search Engine Report, Sept. 2, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport/article.php/3071421

I've mentioned SEMPO before briefly in some past newsletters, but now the organization has an actual site up and is open to members, so it warrants a revisit. SEMPO stands for the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. The registered, non-profit group aims to raise the profile of search engine marketing, so that potential clients will understand what SEM is and budget money for it. More about the group and why you might or might not want to join can be found in the short story below.

CompUSA Taps Range Online for Search Marketing
DMNews, July 2, 2003
http://www.dmnews.com/cgi-bin/artprevbot.cgi?article_id=24339

Financial analysts depend largely on published revenues from Overture and other search engines to gauge the size of the search engine marketing space. Unfortunately, that leaves off money earned by third-party search engine marketing firms. Those still dismissing some of these firms as being in a "cottage industry" should think again. For example, Range Online Media projects $30 million in revenue, for this year. That's a lot of cottages, honey.

Who is Sarah Williams of TrafficMagnet?
Traffick, April 16, 2003
http://www.traffick.com/article.asp?aID=140

Just like everyone else, I receive spam emails pitching search engine services. I've especially enjoyed the multiple ones that have come recently a Mr. Kronis offering advice on "how to optimize and prepare http://www.searchenginewatch.com specifically for better results with Google." He's clearly visited Search Engine Watch and understood what the site is about - not! Then there's the generic email that came in today, asking for a link swap and informing me, "An added benefit is increased search engine traffic because the search engines rank sites higher that have a good number of relevant links." Really? I did not know that :) In this article above, Ed Kohler provides a welcome dissection of a pitch he's received. And if you were hoping to perhaps ask Sarah out on a date, she apparently doesn't exist :)

Stung by Unethical Search Engine Optimization - A True Story
SearchDay, March 18, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/2174921

Even knowledgeable, ethical professionals can get swindled by unsavory search engine optimization techniques. Here's how one firm discovered -- and fixed -- the damage inflicted on an unwary online retailer.

Relevant Pricing = Higher Profits for SEO Companies
Academy Of Web Specialists, March 2003
http://www.academywebspecialists.com/newsletters/0303.html#nobles

How should search engine marketers price their services? Barry Lloyd of MakeMeTop, a large UK-based firm, reveals his company's system of billing for traffic to a separate web server.

Hiring a Professional SEO
About Web Search Guide, Feb. 5, 2003
http://websearch.about.com/library/weekly/aa020503a.htm

Tips on hiring a search engine marketing firm.

Overture UK Launches Accreditation Program
The Search Engine Update, Jan. 22, 2003
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/03/article.php/2152781

Accreditation of search engine marketers is an issue that's been much discussed over the years. "OK search engines, how about you giving us some criteria and if we agree to them, you give us your accreditation blessing," has been the pitch by those in favor of such a plan. Now, for the first time that I know of, a major search engine has done exactly this: Overture, at least its UK-operation.

Articles From 2002

Finding More Than You Bargained For
Washington Post, Dec. 19, 2002
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9254-2002Dec18.html

Looks at the growth of search engine marketing as an accepted industry

Outsourcing Search Engine Optimization
SearchDay, Dec. 11, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2161371

Choosing a firm to do search engine optimization needn't be confusing or frustrating if you start by creating a request for proposal that focuses on your own specific needs.

Google Offers SEO Selection Guidelines
The Search Engine Update, Dec. 5, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/02/article.php/2152741

At the end of last month, Google rolled out a new page offering advice to those seeking a search engine optimization firm. Since being unveiled, there's been both support and criticism of the tips and recommendations that Google has posted in various SEO forums. From my perspective, most of what Google has posted is sensible advice and positive for the SEO community as a whole, especially compared to what was said by Google previously about SEOs, within its help area. A look at what Google is saying, touching on areas of agreement and disagreement.

My introduction to search engine optimization
Pandia, Dec. 2002
http://www.pandia.com/sw-2002/45-michelle.html

When I was in college in the 80s, no one thought, "I want to be a search engine marketer." After all, we didn't have search engines! But what's struck me over the past year is that now we indeed do have people who aren't transitioning into search engine marketing from other jobs, as was the case in the 90s, but instead thinking that search engine marketing is the first job or career they want to undertake. I don't know if SEO is Michelle Stoltz first job or one she's transitioning to, but regardless, those established in the industry can follow her thoughts as she discovers the world of being an SEO consultant for the first time.

iProspect Awarded Two-Year Contract Extensions for Search Engine Positioning Services From Sharp Elecronics and FordDirect
iProspect Press Release, Nov. 6, 2002
http://www.iprospect.com/web_site_promotion/press11062002.htm

OK, this is a press release about iProspect winning two big contracts. Why care? Aside from the lengths of the contracts, it's still relatively rare to see big companies allowing their search engine marketing agencies of record to trumpet major contract wins in the way ad agency do when they win or renew accounts. It's a sign that search engine marketing is maturing. In addition, for all the attention Overture's monster revenues has brought to the paid listings side of the search engine world, the amount of revenue generated by third party SEO/SEM firms has yet to be taken into account. Other press releases at iProspect document that the firm has landed at least $9 million in business this year. Albeit that iProspect is a large firm, but these remain earnings for just one of many SEM firms out there. SEM is definitely NOT a cottage industry.

New Search Engine Marketing Buyer's Guide
SearchDay, July 17, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2160351

SEMList.com is a new directory that can help web site owners find experienced professionals to help with all aspects of the increasingly important process of search engine marketing.

Buying vs. Leasing Search Engine Traffic
SearchDay, July 23, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2160391

When considering search engine marketing strategies, it's important to consider both short term and long term approaches, or 'buying' vs. 'leasing' web site traffic.

Dot-com noir
Salon, July 1, 2002
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2002/07/01/spyware_inc/

I doubt I've ever had so many people message me about a story as with this one -- and even through their emails, you could see their jaws dropped open in disbelief. It would be unfair to characterize the entire SEO industry based on the antics attributed to Website Results here. However, there is no doubt some companies continue to pull in traffic in dubious ways. Of course, few of them will be acquired for the $95 million stock deal that happened when 24/7 took on Website Results. I wrote about the acquisition at the time it happened and was dubious that 24/7 knew exactly what they were getting and whether it was acceptable to search engines. I was told the company had done "due diligence" that involved talking with major search engines about what Website Results was doing. "Their reaction to optimization was neutral to slightly positive," the company said. Somehow, I doubt they would have been neutral to slightly positive about what is described in this article.

Finding Search Engine Optimization Professionals
SearchDay, June 4, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/2160051

Looking for help crafting search engine friendly pages and link building programs? These directories of search engine optimization and marketing professionals can help you locate the person or firm that's right for your needs.

SEO Guide Expands, But Ratings Upset Some Firms
The Search Engine Update, April 2, 2002
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/02/article.php/2152391

Review of the aforementioned MarketingSherpa's "Buyer's Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms."

Articles From 2001

Guaranteed Search Engine Placement is a Shell Game
Traffick, Dec. 13, 2001
http://www.traffick.com/story/seo/011213_seoguarantees.asp

William Orr goes in search of the myth of guaranteed search engine placement and finds that it's just that, a myth. Well, unless you purchase paid placement listings, of course.

Surplus Of Search Engine Marketing Reports
The Search Engine Update, Oct. 2, 2001
http://searchenginewatch.com/_subscribers/articles/article.php/2150841

Three newly released reports cover the issues of selecting a search engine marketing firm, which search engine marketing strategies seem to work and a review of how the web sites of Fortune 100 companies rate in terms of search engine friendliness.

Ten Considerations when Hiring a Search Engine Optimization Company
Academy of Web Specialists, Aug. 20. 2001
http://www.searchengineguide.com/aws/2001/hire-seo-firm.html

Tips on selecting an SEO company.

Fees and Concerns of Professional Search Engine Optimizers
Academy of Web Specialists, June 13, 2001
http://www.searchengineguide.com/aws/2001/pro-se-optimizer-fees.html

Good overview of the challenges in hiring a search engine optimization company, given the wide range of models available. By the way, one of the most popular questions I'm asked is, "How do I know if a company is any good?" As you would with any professional, ask for references. Talk to others that have used the company you are considering and understand what their experience has been.

Repositioning the Doorway: Part 1
ClickZ, Jan. 17, 2001
http://www.clickz.com/search/opt/article.php/835501

Within the search engine optimization industry, the definition of terms such as "doorway pages" vary depending on who you ask. Given this, how can outsiders trust SEO specialists, this article asks.

Repositioning the Doorway: Part 2
ClickZ, Jan. 24, 2001
http://www.clickz.com/search/opt/article.php/835871

An argument that the search engine optimization industry needs standards to survive and thrive. One difficulty here, especially in terms of pricing and approach, is that different companies have different needs. If you have a great web site with lots of wonderful copy, a search engine optimization consultant that works directly with your page titles and meta tags may be able to significantly boost traffic over time, for a one time fee. If you are an adult web site with all of your content hidden behind a password system, those pitching doorway page services are far more likely to be of help.

Where your site falls between these ends of the spectrum is impossible to predict, and you might even find that employing different companies, with different approaches, makes sense. In short, there's no one size fits all solution. When you hear different companies give different pitches, this isn't so much because one is "right" while the other is "wrong." Instead, they've each evolved different models based on the clients they serve and the skills they possess. Ask for references, talk to their clients and go with the ones that serve companies similar to yours.

Articles From 2000

Selecting a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Agency
ClickZ, Nov. 15, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/article.php/832411

Types of services typically offered by search engine optimization firms and questions to ask.

Desperately seeking surfers via search engines
The Globe and Mail, November 13, 2000
http://www.globetechnology.com/archive/gam/News/20001110/ECSEOO.html

Discusses using third party firms to improve traffic from search engines.

Search Engine Traffic: Can't Get Enough of It
ClickZ, July 19, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/article.php/826601

You get a good return on investment from using third-party pay-per-click search engine optimization companies, this article says. The problem? The volume is much less than with banner ad campaigns.

Is Search Engine Marketing Viable?
ClickZ, July 14, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/article.php/826241

Richard Hoy suggests that money spent with pay-per-click search engine optimization firms might be better used on other types of publicity.

Launching a Search Engine Traffic Campaign
ClickZ, March 29, 2000
http://www.clickz.com/article.php/822451

Outsourcing your search engine traffic work? Here are some things to ask the companies you contact.