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get to know sem technology

Get to know Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Technologygears

Dear marketing director, I hope this letter finds you and your search engine marketing program well.

I am writing because I am concerned that you might be missing out on a key part of your SEM performance.

I want to discuss SEM technology – or as it’s commonly referred to, “SEM Bid Management Software”. This software uses bidding algorithms and rules to automate and help manage a company’s SEM program.

For years now, SEM technologies have proven to be outstanding add-ons to agencies’ consulting work. Leading platforms in this space include Kenshoo, Marin, Efficient Frontier and SearchIgnite –my agency’s own.

But instead of being treated as an add-on tool – a servant to the surgeon – SEM technology often ends up becoming the main feature of the agency. Unfortunately, SEM technology often replaces the very people you think are working on your account.

And this begs several questions:

Does your current agency use SEM technology?

Have you even been shown what the technology looks like? If so, what is the contribution of your agency’s consulting team, beyond mere software management?

Have you been invited to contribute – at the strategic level at least – to the bidding and optimisation process?

I’ve spoken to hundreds of ecommerce and marketing managers over the past three years. I’ve discovered many are aware of the concept of SEM technology, but are not familiar with their agency’s actual technology offering and its impact on their SEM program. Why is that? One reason is many agencies still refuse to use SEM technology, either due to the high monthly fees, or the lack of awareness of the various technology platforms on offer.

Compared to the US or UK markets, the awareness of, and training in, various SEM technologies in Australia is still relatively low.

A second reason is agencies are worried that if they demonstrate their SEM technology to their clients, the latter might try to cut them out of the picture and bring thetechnology in-house.

A more likely reason relates to white-labelling – agencies using a vendor’s SEM technology under

their own name. This scenario is probably the most prevalent in the industry. Whether the act of white-labelling

is vendor-approved or not is another question. White-labelling can cause concern to an agency. If the agency is

under-performing, and their client discovers the name of their underlying SEM technology, then things

can get ugly. The client might dump the incumbent agency and retain another agency that is using the

same software. Ouch. The fourth, and perhaps most likely reason for the low awareness of SEM technology among marketing managers is agency pride. I am referring to the desire to persuade the client it was the agency’s people

that produced the client’s great SEM results, not “the robot”. The truth probably lies in a combination

of all four reasons and is the impetus for this letter. Remember this fact: for a very large number of search marketing

agencies – especially those whose staff is populated by entry-level graduates or fluffy account managers

– their technology is often their only SEM resource. So if you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps

millions, every year on SEM, ask yourself: How often does your agency approach you with cutting edge

consulting advice? How much time does the agency spend on involving you at the strategic crossroad

of consulting and technology? And how much time do you spend reviewing the software that dictates

such a large chunk of your quarterly and yearly performance? Invite your agency to come to your office and take you through a presentation on their SEM technology.

Make sure you ask for a realtime demonstration, using the best demo account of them all: yours.

This type of transparency is required if marketing managers are ever going to get the full picture of

their search engine marketing performance, and where it actually comes from in most cases.


Tom Skotidas is head of marketing at First Rate.

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This article reproduced with permission from ADNEWS magazine 9 April 2010



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