Efficient Frontier's Siminoff: Search Landscape Always Changing

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Ellen Siminoff is CEO of search engine marketing firm Efficient Frontier. The former Yahoo executive is a veteran attendee and speaker at several ad:tech shows. Here are her thoughts on the state of search engine marketing.

How has the search engine marketing industry changed since last year?

Obviously, a great deal has changed since last year. Thinking back to last year, local search has received a great deal of attention, contextual advertising is proving to be effective, numerous analytical services have been introduced and video search has come into play, to name just a few.

And it continues. Nearly everyday you see the search engines launching new services and products to attract more advertisers. But the biggest change by far is MSN. We have been working with them during their pilot program and have been very pleased with the results. Not only will MSN make paid search more competitive among the search engines, but also more complex for advertisers.

What I mean by complex is that advertisers will have to manage campaigns on multiple platforms as opposed to the old days of managing on just one or two engines. To help them do that, they will need advanced, scalable technology solutions that can help them effectively manage not only multiple engines, but also the unique scoring quality models of each.

What trends are you seeing now?

Several. First, advertisers have become more fluent in paid search and thus are focused on strategies that drive ROI. They are realizing that the driving force behind paid search is technology and more importantly, the scalability of that technology to be able to effectively manage thousands upon thousands of keywords.

Second, is the integration of offline advertising into paid search. We have been working closely with our clients to help them maximize their offline efforts with paid search.

In the search engine marketing agency industry, I've seen a fair amount of consolidation and bifurcation between the smaller SEM agencies and the larger players. There seems to be three to four major players, each of us approaching the market somewhat differently.

What are some innovative search engine marketing and interactive campaigns you've seen recently?

I have to say a few of the most innovative campaigns I am seeing right now involve advertisers integrating their offline strategies into their paid search campaigns. We have a client that is doing an excellent job integrating its offline marketing strategies into their paid search campaigns. They are using search to drive leads to their site where customers can place advance orders and schedule pre-set installation appointments at a local store.

What advice would you give to Google, Yahoo and MSN?

Though we may all want to think paid search has been around a long time and is a mature market, it's far from it. Sure, it's a proven medium, but it is far away from reaching its fullest potential.

For all the search engines, I would tell them to focus on the consumer, because advertisers will follow. That would be my advice for Google and Yahoo. As for MSN, I would tell them to focus on building volume.

What are some top-line tips for search engine marketing in today's market?

First, increase your number of keywords so your campaigns are not at risk from the competitive market price of a few high-priced words. More often than not, your tail words will generate a higher ROI than your popular keywords.

Second, use the portfolio approach to manage your campaigns -- not rules-based. And I would go one step further to advise advertisers to manage their campaigns like Wall Street. For example, how a mutual fund manager runs his or her portfolio by running what-if/trade-off scenarios among keywords and performance.

Finally, ensure your site is consumer-friendly, because what a person does once they click on your ad is just the first step. Make sure they can get to what they are looking for as quickly as possible.

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