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Old 07-07-2004   #1
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Threats and Opportunities of Search Engine Marketing

Almost everywhere you look, all (or almost all) of us in this industry talk about how great Search Engine Marketing really is and why it's one of the best marketing methods ever invented on earth, so on and so on . . . But, let's look at reality here! Search Engine Marketing is still a 'toddler' learning by "trial and error" as it goes along and still a long way from maturity.

This is why I would like to invite all to this thread to talk freely about what you think are the threats and opportunities of Search Engine Marketing to have a better future. Tell us what you see wrong today that can be easily corrected or will be a total challenge to correct. Point out important learnings from the past so that they will not be repeated in the future. Look at it from the user's perspective, the marketers' (online and offline) and the search engines' and directories'. Think of the paid models and the free results. Relevancy of SERPs or Paid Ads. Will there be organizations to regulate anything in this industry? Please share your opinion.

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  • Let's not discuss about validation of PageRank or other ranking equations.
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Old 07-07-2004   #2
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Threats? Click Fraud.

$40 auto clickers are available that use proxys/anonymizers for unique IPs.

Competitors can easily engage in sabotage of their rival's on-line marketing efforts. If the ROI becomes untenable, SEM will lose favor.
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Old 07-07-2004   #3
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Well one of the obvious threats are the spammers such as Traffic Power for example that give the industry a black eye. Of course with that threat comes the opportunity for SEOs and SEMs that are not spammers to shine.

The fear of every person whose job it is to hire a SEO or SEM company is "Will they do anything to get me in trouble with the search engines?" and "Will I see an improvement in visibility, traffic, ROI, etc.?" They have trouble determining which SEO/SEM will give them the value they are looking for. Add to that struggle companies like Traffic Power who employ 200 plus telemarketers that call people all day long selling their machine generated doorway page/link farm methods of doing SEO.

So here lies a threat as well as an opportunity for SEOs and SEMs to not only perform ethical marketing tactics and treat their customers fairly but to educate people not to fall prey to companies that will do them more harm than good.

And I think eventually that is what will happen. Spammers who essentially are only concerned about making a buck as opposed to helping their customers businesses benefit will fall by the wayside as the search engine marketing industry matures. It reminds me when the graphical Internet gained steam back in 95 and all of a sudden there were Internet seminars everywhere on how you can become rich selling classified ads on the Internet. People fell hook, line and sinker for that, me included. But now, we know you are not going to get rich selling classified ads on the Internet. The Internet has had some time to mature and people are all the wiser. The same will hold true for the search engine marketing industry IMO.
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Old 07-07-2004   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
The fear of every person whose job it is to hire a SEO or SEM company is "Will they do anything to get me in trouble with the search engines?" and "Will I see an improvement in visibility, traffic, ROI, etc.?" ...
I would venture to guess that the majority of business people do not have any clue about the potential pitfalls in internet marketing. There are no similar analogies or circumstances with marketing via other mediums IMO, so it is not natural for the layperson to conceive that dangers exist.
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Old 07-07-2004   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bernard
I would venture to guess that the majority of business people do not have any clue about the potential pitfalls in internet marketing
I think this may be true of a minority but certainly not the majority. I talk to potential clients each and every day of which this is a concern for them.

I think that people that buy into hiring spammers fall into three classes:

1. Completely ignorant of pitfalls
2. Aware of them but don't care
3. Aware of them but think they will not get caught
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Old 07-07-2004   #6
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I'm trying to wrap my head around where we're going with the move toward personalized & local search.

I keep thinking of Mike Grehan's interview with Jon Glick of Yahoo, where Glick says "...the issue of: "I'm number one for this keyword"... may not exist at all in a few years. You know, you'll be number one for that keyword depending on who types it in! And from where and on what day... and... It is going to get more complex than something that can simply be summed up in a ranking algorithm...."

That may be a threat ... or an opportunity, I guess. How do you market/optimize for the day when all potential red widget customers aren't presented with the same basic set of results when they Google for "red widgets"?

And the other thing, which I feel is a threat and I believe I brought up once before on the forum, is the possibility/likelihood that the search engines will stop being just traffic conduits and start being actual content aggregators -- providing the information the searcher is looking for rather than sending the searcher through to relevant web sites where the information is available. Google is an investor in the Univ. of Washington's KnowItAll project, which is self-described as "a domain-independent system that extracts massive amounts of information from the web in an automated, open-ended manner."

I suppose in a sense Yahoo is already doing this, with their own content offerings showing at the top of the SERPs on many queries. But I don't like the idea of something like KnowItAll extracting information from my site and giving it to the end user instead of sending them through to my site to get the information. I suppose I'm a bit protective that way.

One thing I do know is that it will be very interesting to watch our industry mature over the next few years in response to maturation by Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.
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Old 07-07-2004   #7
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Thumbs up Outstanding Thread!

I can already see this is going to be one of the best threads ever. Please don't forget to "Rate this Thread" at the bottom.

Thanks everyone!
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Old 07-07-2004   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
I think this may be true of a minority but certainly not the majority. I talk to potential clients each and every day of which this is a concern for them.
As I'm not an SEO, but one of those business people who formerly had no clue, I cannot offer an informed opinion on the subject. I think this would make a good subject for a forum poll though as I cannot seem to locate any web reference to a study on the subject.

Last edited by Bernard : 07-07-2004 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 07-07-2004   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pleeker
I'm trying to wrap my head around where we're going with the move toward personalized & local search. I keep thinking of Mike Grehan's interview with Jon Glick of Yahoo, where Glick says "...the issue of 'I'm number one for this keyword' may not exist at all in a few years. You know, you'll be number one for that keyword depending on who types it in!" That may be a threat ... or an opportunity, I guess. How do you market/optimize for the day when all potential red widget customers aren't presented with the same basic set of results when they Google for "red widgets"?
That is where the overall picture of rankings - quantity of traffic - conversions - ROI comes into play. SEOs and SEMs that are just offering a "placement" service may find their livelihoods threatened. But those who can provide a complete solution and show a client that they not only have better search engine visibility but more sales or customer acquisitions and a better ROI will do well with or without personalized search.
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Old 07-07-2004   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
those who can provide a complete solution and show a client that they not only have better search engine visibility but more sales or customer acquisitions and a better ROI will do well with or without personalized search.
Right. No doubts. But I'm talking about the underlying issue, what personalized search might mean. It's our job to understand and assess the factors that make up G's or Y's (or whomever's) algorithm, and apply our assessment to marketing and optimizing our clients' sites, measuring their success, etc.

Implied in that is The Algorithm. When Joe Surfer in San Diego looks for red widgets, he gets results from The Algorithm. When Sally Pointandclick in Hartford looks for red widgets, she also gets results from The Algorithm. What Glick is talking about (and others have echoed) is that The Algorithm will someday cease to exist as we know it. Sure, there will be factors used to determine how to rank sites ... but as Glick says, "depending on who types it in." It's as if The Algorithm will be replaced by as many algorithms as there are ... what? individual searchers? search "communities", as defined by geography? zip codes? what else?

Definitely a threat. Possibly an opportunity.
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Old 07-07-2004   #11
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I think the personalized search is actually more of an opportunity. We will see 'Todays SEO' vanish. Keywords, titles, incoming links etc. probably will be insignificant in the next few years. What will become even more important will be knowing your searchers, the demographics, searching methods, psychology of the individuals you want to target. Knowing the target audience will be more important than knowing "How" a particulare algo works or ranks a page, just because it will be different for each searcher from around the world and different depending on intent. Just watching, reading and thinking (yes it hurts sometimes) it appears that the engines want to target intent of the searcher. So the better you know your target demo, beyond people looking for X, the better you will perform in the long run. You're going to have to target, males, white, in Las Vegas etc etc etc.

I think that is the largest "threat" but the biggest "Opportunity" in the future. It will be fun to see what happens. I think the changes will reduce the number of people doing SEO to a few very very well backed smart groups.

My 2 cents.....
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Old 07-10-2004   #12
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I will agree that personalization presents a huge opportunity, because it ups the quality of search and potentially flushes out "thin" optimization techniques while making professionalism in marketing assistance stand out even more. I totally agree with Mike G. on that point.

On threats, "self-servingness" is high up on the list. SEM's need to be able to seem connected to business reality and to be useful, well-rounded, and even fun folks to be around. (Never a problem at any of the conferences I've attended, fortunately!) We are sometimes in danger of pushing too hard in promoting our angle, I think, and when we do, we might wind up getting confused with those folks who really REALLY push it by spamming and cold-calling clients. I have been on general biz discussion forums that have frankly oversold SEM, which is odd because it's simply unnecessary to do this. Every second article you read in the business section is about Google. If we can't make some reasonable hay out of that without wildly exaggerating our role in the world... well... heaven help us when the hype wears off.

Another huge opportunity to have clients come over to SEM without having to be pushed hard into it is the huge trend towards measurable ROI. Being able to pit some "lead generation mumbo-jumbo hoo-ha" service against a PPC campaign, let's say, on a CPA and ROI basis is a great way of showing up scams, or simply marketing methods that no longer work.

The trend is your friend. And the trend becomes clear when everyone starts measuring everything. I say, sit back and enjoy the ride.
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Old 07-13-2004   #13
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Localised search will definitely impact the methodology, but it will create more pages... obviously national or international companies will work to have their pages in front of all types of customers. If pages have to be created to localize info then that will be done. If small entities (phone numbers/local addresses/IP?hosting etc) have to be tweaked so be it.
Just because the search results may become localized does not mean the nationals will drop away.
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Old 07-16-2004   #14
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I think that over-optimization can definitely be a threat for the search engine marketing industry (obvious reasons), to the engines, the businesses (websites) and the users.

When I read stuff like Andy Beal’s outstanding findings at the Search Engine Lowdown about how Google's head of sales advertising, Patrick Keane, basically replied:
Quote:
there is no way to improve your rankings on Google and that any claims by a SEO company were false. He suggested that a few simple "design changes" were all that could be done and that a SEO firm wasn't needed.
Instead of posting here and take this great thread into a different topic, I posted my comments to this allegation in this post, “SEO does NOT work according to Google’s head of sales advertising”.

And how Jill Whalen has hit it right on the bulls-eye with her topic “The Art of SEO” in her last newsletter. Bravisimo Jill! I think you are so right with your statement,
Quote:
“SEO is much more of an art than a science. The science is only a small portion of it.”
where SEO is a lot more than the 12 or so typical on-page factors (out of the 100 or so). There are just so many things that play an important role that a single page with the a few nailed on-page factors will never be enough. We can discuss it more in this thread if you like.

The biggest opportunity for SEM will probably be in the Link Building segment, since there are not that many SEO/SEM firms that really even want to do it, but rather outsource it with highly effective professionals that know the right long-term linking strategies. The question is how much $$ per link? And at what cost or which methods, as discussed in St0n3y’s thread, “A Positive Step Forward in Link Strategies” where links.html pages will most likely be filtered out down the road by the search engines. Think of it, it’s just like our real offline world, a well established link can be a very effective recommendation. Like my good friend Mike Grehan says, “not all links are valued the same”. For example, if Danny Sullivan recommends a tool or a website with a link to it and writes an entire story about it, that can not be the same than some John Smith self promoting his new tool in a low traffic forum or in his best friend’s links.html page.

The second best opportunity I see is the Multilingual Search Markets space. Come-on guys . . . search is not just the U.S. even if it is our back yard. And even if it is, there are numerous of Hispanic or ethnic communities within the U.S. that do not search in English. Take for example search marketing in Spanish, where there are 61 million users in the world connected to the Internet . . . oh yes, and searching with their favorite engines. People say many things about these markets, but the fact is that not that many know about them and it’s amazing how much PPC advertising and SEO dollars can be done at fractions of the cost.
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Old 08-14-2004   #15
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Post Keep the little fish alive!

I hope that as SEM gets bigger that the small business doesn't get pushed out. I want to see the rules be strong for small business and big business alike. In today's world money talks and Blank-Blank walks. This revolutionary medium that we are in is designed for all, and I want to see everyone in it have and continue to have an equal footing.
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Old 08-15-2004   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hiero
I hope that as SEM gets bigger that the small business doesn't get pushed out.
it can't. the whole idea behind the web is to spread information. its scalable. as it gets bigger there will be more opportunities not less.

as the information pool expands there will be a need for more filters and aggregators will extend out opportunities, not take them away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hiero
I want to see everyone in it have and continue to have an equal footing.
most people fail on the web for the same reason that they fail off the web...
lack of focus, a lack of desire, or a lack of investment (you can make up for a shortage of cash by putting in a bunch of time and effort).

on the web you do not need much money to succeed. you just need to be willing to invest time. the feedback loops make the learning cycles extremely quick. smaller businesses can use their time smarter than big businesses do.

I was esentially bankrupt and heavily in debt with no marketable skills and no web knowledge less than 2 years ago and think I am doing somewhat ok now. anyone can do good on the web as long as they are willing to try.
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Old 08-15-2004   #17
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Interesting POV Aaron (seobook). What do you think are the threats and opportunities of Search Engine Marketing to have a better future then?
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Old 08-15-2004   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
Interesting POV Aaron (seobook). What do you think are the threats and opportunities of Search Engine Marketing to have a better future then?
I kinda think that search engine marketing existed and exists because it is low hanging fruit. highly profitable...for now.

eventually search engines are going to get fairly hard to dominate by brute force and they will become a better reflection of the fact that the web is a social network and is about spreading ideas.

those well branded SEOs may do well for a long time, but I think most people in the SEO industry will not be in the SEO industry in 5 years.

sure there will always be some need for SEO because indexing and ranking the new content types and new publishing formats will always lag the actual technologies, but I think there is a lot better money in being able to create ideas http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ than in making machines think our ideas are important.

raw SEO will start to take much longer and be much more expensive. eventually it will become more economical for most sites to just use the ads and / or create better sites / products / brands / ideas.

ad management will also get marginalized as the ad delivery technology and tools gets better and cheaper (to automate much of what we do by hand) and people learn more of the concepts behind the systems.

SEO can augment the ideas, but SEOs are going to be forced to become better marketers...learning more about branding and viral marketing. helping shape the ideas and include the marketing into the products and the marketing medium

I have only been playing on the web for just over a year and a half but a large amount of that time has been in SEO forums. yet there are maybe only a few dozen names that come to mind in the SEO industry. not that many SEOs have exceptionally strong brands. http://robfrankel.blogspot.com/

creativity is going to become much more valuable.
being able to visualize the web as a collection of ideas and concepts will become more valuable.
being able to create the ideas that spread is another thing that will be huge.

on a side note many of the more technically advanced people are not even going to the search engines to go to some of their favorite sites. stuff like bloglines and technorati and social networking and rss are going to take a huge hunk of search engine traffic and ad spend especially if / when people figure out how to include ads into the feeds without them seeming out of place.
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Last edited by seobook : 08-15-2004 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 09-24-2004   #19
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Click Fraud

I keep hearing more and more about click fraud, has anyone here actually been paid refunds for click fraud?
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Old 09-24-2004   #20
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I keep hearing more and more about click fraud, has anyone here actually been paid refunds for click fraud?
Not me, but I know several people have have been refunded do to click fraud.
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