What’s the best way to automate SEM?

Ian Epstein
VP of sales search at Coremetrics
Frequent expert speaker at industry events

An algorithm-driven optimi­zation approach can provide value and help with the initial optimization of a marketer’s search program. However it does not fully address the needs of cli­ents who have dynamic events on their site, such as seasonal demands, cadence of promotional events, or spikes due to mainstream media awareness. Working with an agency, which understands the business needs of the client, can help tackle these unpredictable yet signifi­cant events. Most important is coor­dinating online marketing efforts to coincide with search strategies — paid and organic.

At Coremetrics, we have moved to managing our clients programs via a first-click marketing attribution model, which allows the client full visibility into the role their paid search programs played in the conversion process. Last-click attribution might make for easy conversion metrics, but it does not help the client understand which marketing channel initiated which stage of aware­ness for the customer.

Rather than optimize a single market­ing channel such as paid search, it is imperative to help clients organize, plan, and structure their paid search program so it works in coordination with all their online marketing efforts. Customers must understand the value of branded versus non-branded key­word campaigns, and why you must coordinate both to be successful.

An SEM agency should seek out the best technical solutions to help manage a program. While an algorithm-driven optimization tool might help in some verticals with these efforts, we believe managing a search program with a full view of all customer site data has distinct advantages.

Russ Mann
CEO at Covario
Former SVP of strategic initiatives and global alliances at PeregrineSystems Inc.

One misconception about automated search solutions is that they are limited to bid management when in fact there are a variety of other func­tions such as keyword discovery, com­petitive research and advanced report­ing and analytics on the paid search side. On the SEO side, automation can inform auditing and link management solutions. Highly automatable and scal­able search software can be leveraged across global enterprises for both data collection and analysis.

The automation approach is best for large advertisers — companies that bid on multiple search engines with tens of thousands of keywords, companies looking to maximize their organic search results across thousands of Web sites, companies looking for enterprise search global reporting and analytics for paid search and companies who wish to automate SEO across enter­prise solutions.

For multinational enterprises doing larger paid search across all search engines, a combination of agency services, including strategy, copywrit­ing, translation and bid management with reporting and analytics solutions is required. Covario has developed an enterprise-class solution which allows large advertiser clients to maximize the company’s free rankings and lever­age the benefit of its organic and paid initiatives side by side.

There is not just the ability, but the requirement, for marketing and advertising agencies to leverage fast software solutions for search. Fortune 500 clients demand efficiency, automa­tion and real-time access to informa­tion. However, the technology must be leveraged with effective strategy, good processes and skilled personnel.


Epstein suggests that tracking client behavior from first click helps understand conversion and provides a broader view of how behavioral analytics coincide with search marketing efforts. In contrast, Mann contends that automation can in fact move search marketers beyond the basic keyword bid and shed analytic insight on both paid and organic efforts. However, both agree that tactical human input is necessary for success.

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