Grown from the dirt, through the roots of grass, the world of search engine marketing (SEM) has now reached the lower part of the blade of a new shoot of grass. An industry in its infancy is exciting to watch and even more exciting to be part of. Riding the Google wave and shouting Yahoo! is great, but it is time to reach to the next stage of growth, to the top of the blade of grass, or at least a little further up.
There are three major actions that need to happen for search engine marketing (pay-per-click, contextual advertising, search engine optimization, paid inclusion, shopping search, local search, etc) to reach the next step:
1) Publishers and third party tool vendors need to provide the next generation of tools that make it easier for SEM companies to more effectively and efficiently manage campaigns for multiple clients and, also, to enable budgeting/spending to be reliably predictable. 2) The search portals that present 'organic' search results need to set and enforce guidelines for what tactics are considered, by them, as unacceptable behavior with respect to search engine optimization (SEO). 3) The search engine marketing companies themselves need to work with their clients and prospects to educate them on the strategic value of search engine marketing. We need to move up the chain of command and sell the marketing communications team and the executive management. We need to be strategic in our thinking.
The third action will increase the amount of money allocated to search engine advertising projects. Number three also requires SEM/SEO companies to make sure that they are well versed in the strategic world of brand marketing and demand generation. It is clear that many SEM/SEOs already have this knowledge, but in order to gain the respect of the people who own the big budgets, we need to continue to grow to meet this goal.
In order to help with all three goals, I was part of a team that formed SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization). SEMPO's mission is to band together SEM/SEO companies and consultants worldwide, and arm them with material that helps educate the marketplace on the value of SEM, including the search portals and publishers. SEMPO is also going after the 'marcom' managers and advertising agencies by launching a powerful marketing campaign that will, again, educate them on the value of SEM.
SEMPO is influencing the publisher's and search portal's product plans and sales/client services models. All SEM/SEO companies and agencies will benefit from SEMPO's efforts whether they are members or not. Being a member does provide added benefits. By establishing an 'association' we show the larger industry of online and offline marketing that we are a cohesive, professional, mature group that deserves attention. SEMPO is one year old this week. Happy Birthday SEMPO. Let's all keep working towards establishing SEM as a main component of every company's media plans.