Dating: The Perfect Metaphor For Picking A SEM Vendor

So you are looking for that perfect someone--someone who understands you.

Someone you can trust and depend on.

Someone who can relate to you and appreciate where you're coming from and where you want to go.

I think you can see where I'm going with this. Much of the criteria you would use in selecting a life partner also apply to selecting a professional services firm--a search engine marketing firm in particular. For just as you plan and hope that when you're selecting a spouse you're doing so for the long term, such should also be the case with your SEM vendor selection. Trust me, the financial, psychological and ancillary costs of making a change in either case is substantial (but that's a topic for another article).

Finding a life partner can be a difficult and challenging task, but investing the right amount of time and exhibiting the right amount of patience will definitely reward you in the end with a long and satisfying relationship. I may be dating myself here (pun semi-intended), but in today's day and age, it seems like people move too quickly.



If you're active in the dating world today, it seems like an online personal ad can lead to a chat session, which leads to a cup of coffee, which then leads to dinner and a movie and then to a weekend in Vermont in less than 10 days, and a marriage proposal 10 days later... Whooaaaaa there, partner. Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson! What ever happened to getting to know each other? What ever happened to "courtship"?

Selecting an organization to ensure the success of your search marketing initiatives isn't something you want to rush into. Sure, at first blush your date might be real cute, but once you invest some time getting to know him/her, you find out he's a chronic liar, she can't keep a job, he lives with his mother, and she has multiple personalities. Your prospective search engine marketing vendor may seem really attractive at first, when their salesperson comes to visit your office all dressed up and bearing a flashy Powerpoint presentation and projector. But it takes some time and some digging to get beyond that good first impression to understand the substance that lies beneath.

Here are a few things you can do while courting a search engine marketing firm to help determine whether they are worth bringing home to meet Mom. If warning signs flash when you ask about any of them, dig a little deeper to see if there's a bigger problem hidden under all the hair and the make-up.

  • Visit the company's offices. (Are they slobs? Could you live there?)
  • Meet their people and observe their culture. (Would you feel comfortable in this family?)
  • Ask to meet your account team. (Would you share a sink and a mirror with her?)
  • Review and understand their process. (Is his life under control, or out of control?)
  • Attend one of their client-only events. (What can you learn from the company she keeps?)
  • Ask for a "lost client" reference. (What can his last girlfriend tell you?)

Will exploring these factors take time? Absolutely. Will they take even more time if you pursue them for multiple vendors? You bet. But would you rather find out before or after you've bought the ring and hired a caterer that your future partner is wanted in three states? Perform your due diligence as though you're preparing for a lifelong commitment, and you'll stand a much better chance of selecting a vendor with whom you can live and grow old together.

Click here to view photos and listen to panel discussions from the Search Insider Summit.

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