Feature: But Those Are MY KEYWORDS!

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If you want to see a grown man cry, go after his keywords.

It is no secret that paid search marketing is war. Protecting tens of thousands of keywords is the SEM soldier's never-ending battle. As if this were not hard enough, sometimes the hardest battle comes from within the ranks. And this is exactly what I witnessed last week.

Search engine marketing no long lives within individual consultants or SEMs alone. Today, an advertiser's traditional agency, interactive agency, media buying agency, PR agency and in-house search team are all well-armed with search strategies and tactics.

Why? The spoils are too great and everyone vies for a piece of the pie. Though slow to the field, the larger entities, or the advertiser itself, have now built up their search skills. In fact, many agencies have recently hired away employees from top SEMs, as well as become well-versed in the required technology.

Picture this: a large interactive agency with a respectable search engine marketing team is awarded a brilliant, microsite project and the accompanying interactive media buy, including search. This sends the incumbent SEM into fits. Fearful of losing ground, the SEM sends the agency a very limited approved list of keywords to bid on. Of course, these keywords receive little or no traffic. And so they go to battle over who gets to own which keywords.

This is where it gets ugly. There is nothing sadder than seeing two entities fight over keywords - especially when it is at the expense of a mutual client. The advertiser is captive, as the entities enter into an outright bid war. Often, treason will occur when two internal departments, say consumer marketing and enterprise marketing, each duke it out for the same keyword.

How to avoid such a waste of time and money? Diplomacy. Unfortunate as it is, the onus is on the advertiser to make sure all play nicely in the sandbox. Guided by common sense, it is the advertiser who should determine what is best for the brand, and not the agencies' respective billings.

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