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Search Engine Marketing Consulting: Finding Mr. Right

When it comes to SEM, publishers are very, very special

There are literally hundreds of individuals and companies on the Internet who call themselves a search engine marketing consulting firm. One such firm even promises to get you ranked in the first four spots in Google search results without a website – using YouTube and custom-made videos instead. (It’s an interesting proposition: When Google is taken out of the mix, YouTube is actually the second largest search engine today.)

Of course, you might ask yourself, when you’re looking for the perfect search engine marketing consulting firm: If that company isn’t on Page 1 of Google results, how can they promise that they’ll get me there?

When it comes to getting our clients’ content ranked on Google, Mequoda loves Page 1, but we also believe that searchers will click through at least three pages of results. And the ability to get itself ranked doesn’t mean that a search engine marketing consulting company offers what your operation needs, or is capable of working efficiently with your team.

Identifying the perfect search engine marketing consulting firm

Because the competition in this market is so fierce, and because at least three pages of results are still promising, don’t base your decision entirely on Page 1 Google search results. There are plenty of other criteria you should keep in mind, especially since publishers have specific needs unlike those of any other company on the Internet.

Your consultant must understand your needs, not his

Remember that search engine marketing includes both organic (free) and paid (pay-per-click, or PPC) marketing. They can be very different things. It’s important to find a search engine marketing consultant that specializes in what you need to meet your goals, and is honest about what it doesn’t specialize in. And if a company tries to change your mind about what you need, and steer you to what it just happens to specialize in without compelling reasons – run away!

Then there’s the search engine marketing consulting firm that pops up fairly high in a Google search who warns, “If you’re doing the same thing as every other company in your industry, you’ll never stand out from the crowd and get noticed.” That sounds great – but Google works on mathematical algorithms, and making Google happy therefore isn’t an art, it’s a science. Which means you shouldn’t fall for fads or brand-new techniques that your search engine marketing consulting firm just invented yesterday. What works, works. Find someone who knows what works and hammers away at it for you.

What works for Toyota might not work for a publisher

You won’t find many search energy marketing consulting companies that specialize in the publishing industry. Most spend their time almost exclusively working with retailers who sell almost every consumer good out there but information.

But for publishers, there’s one crucial difference in SEO marketing: You must optimize not just your marketing materials, but your actual products as well.

That’s why Mequoda specializes in techniques such as SEO blogging and SEO campaigns that focus on content. For example, our Feb. 12 webinar, The Mequoda SEO Campaign: Making Money from Free Content, outlines a real-world case study in which a niche publisher made almost $2 million from a single piece of free content – a process known among publishers, but not among general-interest search engine marketing consulting professionals.

We also spend a great deal of time teaching editors and writers the fine points of SEO content production and marketing, a process which is unnecessary for companies that sell, say, hunting boots or prom dresses.

Can you trust them?

Surprisingly, most of the SEM consulting firms that pop up on the first few pages of Google search results have no testimonials, no portfolio and no client list on their websites. If they’re as good as they all say they are, why can’t they prove it? What’s more, if you can’t see who their clients are, you won’t have any way of judging whether they can, in fact, handle the unique needs of a publisher.

You should also look for approvals from organizations like the Better Business Bureau, as well as memberships in reputable trade organizations such as ABM, SIPA and the like.

(In case you’re wondering, there is actually one search engine marketing consulting firm on Google Page 1 that has plenty of all of the above.)

Your SEM consultant should be able to train you

Some search engine marketing consulting firms want to sell you some fish … forever. Others want to teach you how to fish so you have the option to eventually take your SEM operations in-house.

Most of our SEM clients keep us on for the entire package for awhile, then gradually peel away to take it on themselves. That’s because part of our search engine marketing consulting package includes training. A good consultant has a precise process that he or she can teach you and your team, which is scalable inside your organization. You should also expect ongoing coaching including analytics, regular meetings, and milestones.

Insist on certain focus points from any consultant

Any reputable search engine marketing consulting company must be able to focus on your organization like a laser. We recommend these five elements to be monitored and discussed with your consultant at every meeting:

  • Your online target audience
  • Your online editorial purpose and goals
  • Products you sell online
  • How you drive the right visitors to your website
    How you convert visitors into buyers

For more information on what your consultant should be monitoring, see this post from CEO Don Nicholas, 5 Lists to Audit Internet Marketing Strategies.

Have you had good or bad experiences with search engine marketing consulting agencies? I’d like to know who you would recommend, and although we can’t name names for companies you don’t recommend, at least share with the community problems that they should be trying to avoid!

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