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The Fallacy of Search Engine Marketing Only

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Allow me to offer a preemptive caveat—I own a successful search engine marketing (SEM) company. Like most business owners, I am constantly trying to expand our client base—via the same search-engine and Internet-marketing methods that we deliver to our clients.

A quick search for terms such as "search engine optimization company" or "Internet marketing company" on Google will demonstrate that we practice what we preach. As I write this, on a "clean machine" (one with all browser settings reset and cookies removed), my SEM company ranks No. 1 on Google for both phrases and the plural forms of those phrases.

Based on your past search tendencies, your specific location, and whims of the Google gods, your mileage may vary, but you should find us near the top of the search results pages for those and hundreds of other related terms.

The Value of Integrating Different Internet-Marketing Methods

The point here is not to boast—those results are because of the collective efforts of my expert team, not solely my own expertise. The point is to support my contention that we practice what we preach, and that the vast majority of our leads come from the Internet-marketing methods we apply to our own site.


Yet there has been much debate over the years in the SEM community about whether it is proper or even hypocritical for an SEM company to use other forms of advertising unrelated to Internet marketing.

The naysayers generally have a common argument: A quality SEM company "shouldn't need" to engage in any form of offline marketing. Depending on the company's goals, that may be true for some.

A smaller firm or an independent consultant may have more than enough leads from its Internet-marketing methods. It may even be turning business away while blogging about how companies such as mine shouldn't need to look offline for additional business opportunities.

However, that, again, relates directly to one's goals. If an SEM company has capacity even after maximizing its online leads, and its business plan calls for maximum growth, what is the issue with engaging in other forms of marketing?

As long as other marketing channels provide an acceptable return on investment (ROI), I do not buy the argument that you "shouldn't need it," no matter what your situation.

The metrics are what are important. Our experience shows that our own Internet-marketing methods provide us with, by far, the highest ROI of any of our other marketing efforts. But that does not mean that the ROI from our online-marketing efforts constitutes the baseline for what is acceptable in terms of a return. In fact, we have done the math, and we know that we can afford to pay much more per lead.

Consider This Perspective

Let's look at that another way. We often work with companies that are using online marketing for the first time. Those companies almost always have successful offline-marketing campaigns in place. (After all, they are successful businesses.)

They are obviously delighted when they discover that their cost per lead or cost per sale with Internet marketing is much lower than their other marketing efforts—but does that mean they decide to shut those other successful channels down? Of course not.

And do we, as a responsible SEM company, advise them that they should shut down those channels and put all their eggs in the online basket? Of course not. We just enjoy the fact that our Internet-marketing methods provide the best bang for their buck.

Nobody can deny that the advent of various Internet-marketing methods has been a game-changer. Some forms of traditional advertising may even be on their last legs. Trade-show attendance is down. Magazines and newspapers are in decline. I can't remember the last time a door-to-door salesperson came to my house (unless you count Girl Scouts peddling cookies—or those selling a particular religion, but that's a different story).

However, some channels, in our experience, provide exceptional returns when done properly. Direct mail still works for us. Channel partnerships with offline-marketing businesses can be profitable. Offline PR provides our SEM company with superior exposure and returns.

Bottom Line

As long as we are achieving acceptable margins on those endeavors, we will continue to use them. And I will continue to be incredulous when I hear from those who tell me that we shouldn't.


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Scott Buresh is founder and CEO of Medium Blue, an award-winning search engine optimization company.

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  • by Rick Volz Tue Jun 29, 2010 via web

    Excellent post Scott - and from obviously a very reliable and authoritative source. With so much attention being paid to Social Media and On-line marketing, lost in the cloud is that other forms of marketing do work, if done correctly and can provide a strong ROI. As you allude, a company cannot flip a switch and go from traditional direct marketing (mail, e-mail, calls, etc.) to On-line/Social without risking short to mid-term business viability.

  • by Anon Tue Jun 29, 2010 via web

    I like the last sentence: "Offline PR provides our SEM company with superior exposure and returns." So you like to USE offline media and the audiences they aggregate, but you don't want believe that you should pay for them? In other words, you like to advertise when you get space for free? Sure, you get "exceptional returns" when done properly: you're "free-riding." Once you acknowledge that, I'll be happy to listen to the other things you say.

  • by Howie at Sky Pulse Media Tue Jun 29, 2010 via web

    Your point goes for all businesses. If your at a cocktail party and you connect with someone who can be a client do you say nothing and hope they find you via search? Just like there has never been a major brand that was built only via search or digital. Even the biggest Web Only brands all bought off web advertising to reach people or non-web word of mouth (of various forms)

  • by Benno Aalders Wed Jun 30, 2010 via web

    I keep on being surprised by the surprise that can be read in these kind of posts. No exception in this post, it is like the author is surprised with his own findings. Branding has always been an important part of a companies position. And one thing SEO or SEA does not do is branding. For this display bannering of advertising still is one of the main investments. Sure, it does not have an obvious ROI as for SEO. But I am convinced that without a serious continuous branding campaign a company will stand on a weak foundation for every marketing and communication dollar or euro they will spend.

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