For a while last week, it seemed as if the spiders that Google sends scuttling over the internet to satisfy the kaleidoscope of requests made of the search engine every nanosecond or so had escaped from the set of ITV’s new Saturday night monster-thon, Primeval.
I won’t bore you with the details of what went wrong last week with the “quality score” method used by Google to rank the “sponsored links” (that’s ads to the rest of us) on search results pages, but detail is everything in search engine marketing.
The ability to choose the right set of keywords for a search-based campaign, to bid at just the right level for certain words or phrases, to devise a scheduling strategy that maximises the value of every pound invested in the campaign are talents gained from direct experience of marketing in the search engine environment. Likewise, being able to take the right actions quickly when glitches like last week’s occur requires a real depth of knowledge and understanding, not to mention excellent, trustworthy working relationships with clients.
I’m not saying these qualities can only exist in an independent agency, but the growth in this corner of the marketing universe has been driven by the independent sector to the point where it is the only area of online marketing investment that hasn’t stalled or is shrinking.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out why dedicated search engine marketing agencies have been successful. The concentration of expertise means problems get solved fast, the inside knowledge and experience of agency staff gives them an edge in structuring deals with the search engines and the focus on one channel means no one gets distracted by other work the agency may be doing.
Independence also spurs innovation. Our new, fixed-fee Latitude White service is the first product to put search engine marketing within reach of countless smaller firms which, up to now, might have considered paid-search advertising beyond their means.
So it’s no surprise that the year-on-year rise in SEM spend has finally attracted the attention of established advertising agency brands, and I for one will always heartily welcome any new entrant that helps to bring further credibility and attention to the sector. But just as in every other marcoms discipline, it is the independent sector that will continue to provide innovation, originality and leadership in online marketing.
Richard S Gregory is chief operations officer of Latitude Group