Many search marketing consultants are expensive and they rely on diagnostic software to do the
job that should really be done by an experienced person. Using the software, they will do a basic
examination of the site and give you a report on their findings.
Then, based on their understanding of your site, your needs, and where you are currently, they will
provide a series of recommendations that may or may not be accurate. The state of search market-
ing when the software was built and the state of search marketing when the software is used often
changes — subtly and dramatically. There can be a large discrepancy there.
So what happens is companies hire these search marketing organizations and it’s just money out
the door. The money is spent and the company finds that they get little or no value from the
investment — no usable return. So, they’re out the money and they still don’t have the help that
Relatively few people have a large amount of experience in search marketing. For the handful that do
have considerable experience (more than three or four years, which is often the minimum require-
ment when an organization is hiring a search marketing consultant) trying to recover from the dam-
age done by these services becomes an image protection mechanism.
I want the industry to look good. If it doesn’t, I suffer because my potential customers still remem-
ber when they got burned. I have to come up against the bad stuff and try to overcome it. This is
part of the reason why I take on so few clients.
So I would say that when you’re looking at search marketing capabilities, you need to know what
questions to ask. If you don’t know what questions to ask you’re going to find yourself in a posi-
tion to spend money and never receive results. You’re going to get a lot of pitches from people who
don’t know what they’re doing. Asking the right questions will help to let you know if they’re expe-
rienced or just someone who thinks they can handle search marketing because they bought some
Jerri: What should organizations be focusing on to improve search marketing?
Training is one area that is still being developed in this industry. I’m a bit biased, but I
think the SEMPO curriculum is one of the best available today. It’s not an endorsement of a person’s
capabilities. When they finish a course, they receive only a certificate of completion. Other programs
offer a “certification,” which can lead potential clients to feel the person is not only knowledgeable,
but ethical, too. Though no program could ever hope to certify an individual’s ethics, it comes down
to perception and presentation. If someone says they are “certified” and you don’t understand exactly
what that certification entails, it’s easy to assign more credit to an individual than they deserve.
There are other training options besides SEMPO. I tend to gravitate toward the broader theory-
based components of education as opposed to the “here’s a tool and here’s how to use it” method.
But some people work better with theory and others work better with tools. Personally, I don’t
use tools in search marketing, or I use them as little as possible, and if I do have to use a tool, I
only use it for specific tasks. Keyword research and link management are two areas that come to
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