Search Engines Have Role in the SEM Value Chain

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In the interactive advertising world, there is little doubt as to the incredible value an agency can bring to the search marketing equation. Employing industry experts who have a broad stroke of clients to hone their skills only serves to benefit the individual. Clients and agencies working together can often outperform the market, so to speak, by combining their individual strengths.

The value chain does not end with the agency. The savviest search strategies today are designed with three constituents: client, agency and search engines. Just as an agency can bring the collective wisdom of its portfolio to the client, the search engine can bring that same level of insight to the client/agency relationship.

When choosing an agency of record, many clients stipulate an exclusivity clause that states the agency cannot bring on a client in the same category. The rationale behind this is sound, in that clients want to know their agency is not compromising proprietary strategies or data for their competitors.

The challenge with this arrangement, however, is that an agency may have limited insight into what the category overall is doing in search. This is an area where the vertical experts at Yahoo or other search engines can add tremendous value by sharing what the category is doing at a macro level, without compromising individual advertiser's strategies and tactics.

Another valuable resource search engines bring is manpower. The agency landscape is competitive, with clients increasingly negotiating demanding contracts, which keep agency staff trim. When special projects come up, it is often a struggle to ship work out the door on time.

Here is where leveraging the manpower of the search engines can help. Whether it is keyword generation, assistance withcopywriting or even campaign analysis, it's likely your search partners can lend a very experienced hand to assist. While it won't be possible to outsource all the heavy lifting, there are definitely times it can make the difference between launching a campaign on time or not.

In today's information-rich marketing environment, more chief marketing officers are demanding consumer insights as part of the services they are receiving from a partner. The major search engines are uniquely poised to provide agencies with data due to the sheer volume of searches conducted.

Certain search engines can even provide demographic and behavioral insights to agencies, based on analyzing the data on purchased keywords.

For example, did your assumptions around your target demographic prove true when you analyzed who actually searched for your product? We have raised a lot of eyebrows (and validated many more) when we have shared Yahoo Buzz data, for example, with some of our agency partners. It has allowed them to fine-tune and optimize campaigns midstream based on who is actually connecting with it.

In order to fully leverage the value chain of search marketing services in this hyper-competitive marketplace, be sure to invite your agency to leverage their search partners. By combining the expertise and insights of the agency, client and search engines combined, the learning will be far greater than if the agency and client choose to go it alone.

Ron Belanger is Boston-based senior director of channel strategy and development at Yahoo Search Marketing. E-mail belanger@yahoo-inc.com.

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