To start, we'll hear from Europe, with Asia due next week. The week after, we'll analyze all the responses. There are many more people and nations I'm eager to include, so if it interests you, send a line, and perhaps there will be sequels down the road.
Thanks go to Michèle Ramponi of 1ère Position for introducing me to e-SEMA, the European Search Engine Marketing Alliance. All respondents from Europe are e-SEMA members, and Michèle's help was invaluable. On to the Q&A...
Meet the Panelists:
Spain: Eduard Pertíñez, Manager, Atraczion started as a pure natural search engine optimization (SEO) firm in 2001 under parent Blaunet. Services include natural SEO (dubbed "Atraczion Traffic Services") and a growing paid search business.
France: David Degrelle, CEO, 1ère Position , founded 1999. Services include natural search engine optimization, paid search management, WebMarketing consulting and training, and tracking and monitoring.
Italy: Mauro Lupi, President, Ad Maiora, founded in 1997. Primary service is natural search engine optimization.
Search Insider (SI): How do you say "search engine marketing" in your native tongue?
Spain: Posicionament als cercadors (in Catalan) or posicionamiento en buscadores/marketing en buscadores (Spanish).
France: In France, people are reluctant to use any other language than their mother tongue. Except for programmers and specialists, French is limited in precisely describing SEM; we use only "Référencement" to describe any kind of SEM activity. At 1ère Position, we use "Mix-Référencement."
Italy: English is very popular in Italy, particularly in the Internet market, so usually we say "search engine marketing." If we have to speak Italian, it is, "Visibilità sui motori di ricerca."
SI:What search engines do you predominantly work with?
Spain: Google, MSNbeta, and Yahoo!
France: Google FR, Google.com, Voila, Yahoo!, MSN. You can find the evolution of the French market here.
Italy: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Virgilio.
SI:Many of the world's largest search engines originated in the United States. How well do they stack up against local favorites?
Spain: There is no important local search engine anymore in Spain.
France: Google.fr does a really good job in attracting French traffic, with more than 75 percent of the overall French market. U.S.-based search engines have historically quickly overpowered French search engines. Today only Voilà remains online.
Italy: Many search engines we work with are very well done in their Italian versions.
SI: In what ways could search engines in your market better meet the needs of Internet users and search engine marketers? And in what ways do the search engines excel?
Spain: PPC pricing still needs work. PPC distributors should have a larger discount because we do an important job in finding the optimal keywords for a customer campaign. That optimizes results and betters confidence in sponsored results, so everybody wins.
France: The search engines would be more precise if human interaction could take place - in other words, having a search engine taking into accounts what people think of the results given for each search (Ujiko.com has tried to do this). Also, the ethical guidelines set by Google are sometimes ambiguous.
Italy: In Italy, Google is the strongest search engine, ranking Web sites with good criteria. Now MSN is improving its technologies and index to "crack" Google's predominance. Both of them fight spam, and users are confident in the results.
For further thought:
SI:What search-related innovations most excite you?
Spain: Not many.
France: Local search, news search, and searching by the type of file the Web user seeks. In any case, in France a lot has still to be done to create more accurate results.
Italy: The "local search" phenomenon and the possibility to choose from different categories and media (images, news, desktop).
SI:What are the greatest challenges, threats, and/or obstacles for SEM in your country?
Spain: I think the greatest challenge is still to come: the day Web design applications include SEO as a basic part of the Web site design process. But SEM is becoming more and more of a multi-disciplinary art. From techies to salespeople, you need a team to find a correct balance of all different possibilities.
France: For us, it's all the ways companies mislead Web users: spam, XML, and so on. The Internet is only now becoming integrated in the media planning of major French players. It is not as well acknowledged that the Internet is a medium by itself as it is in the U.S. So there is a gap between online marketing investments. Another gap, compared to the U.S., is broadband, which has yet to be deployed around the whole country.
Italy: Spamming and illegal methods of Web site positioning, going against search engines' policies, instead of stating a clear "how to" policy.
SI:Are there any myths about SEM that you'd like to correct?
Spain: SEM is not the holy grail anymore, but it has become a very important part of any online company activity. You cannot spend money in paper brochures if you don't have a plan to distribute them, can you? This applies perfectly to SEM. Your online brochure is your Web site. SEM makes it arrive to your potential customer. Not having a search engine marketing plan for your Web site is like having a thousand printed ads in a closed box on your desktop. Useless.
France: The myth about being a global player -- targeting every single country by having an English Web site. Speaking for Europe, we are 25 countries but really different communities, cultures, concepts, and expressions that would only be meaningful for a specific group of people. Also, clients have to understand that they need to think about SEO before creating their Web sites.
Many marketers are convinced they can do SEM in-house because it is too expensive, and they think it is a "simple practice." A lot of marketers think also that search engines are not a valid advertising and brand knowledge tool for types of products that people don't buy immediately online. A lot of research instead shows that search engines influence people into purchasing a product. Thanks to Eduard, David, and Mauro, and again to Michèle. Tune in next week when we travel to Asia.