Top 12 Search Engine Marketing Myths
by Paul J. Bruemmer

There are many misconceptions about search engine marketing 
(SEM), and some have actually become established myths. The 
most popular myths are those about in-house optimization, 
submission software, traffic quality, and lead superiority 
-- not to mention the myth of guaranteed top-positioning. 
Below are the top 12 myths that can lead marketers astray 
if left unchallenged. 

1. In-House Optimization Is Cheaper 
Research indicates less than 1 percent of marketing budgets 
go to SEM, so it's no wonder many Web sites will be improperly 
optimized. Yet SEM pros get better rankings faster because 
they've mastered the complex, technical, ever-changing submission 
process that has such a steep learning curve. Outsourcing is 
cost-effective because the pros benefit from economies-of-scale 
after the initial outlay in personnel, technology, and process 
development. In-house SEM lacks such cost maximization. 

2. It's a One-Shot Deal With Submission Software 
Submission software promises the moon. But how can software get 
the same kind of results reputable vendors provide for a fraction 
of the cost? There's no way software can identify keywords 
automatically or optimize your content and HTML coding. All the 
engines have specific submission guidelines that change like 
clockwork. It's not one-size-fits-all, and no software program 
can customize and update to the degree required for maintaining 
top listings.

3. SEM Leads Are Inferior to Traditional Media Leads
This is the opposite of reality. SEM leads are the most 
qualified leads you can get because people searching for 
products and services on search engines are in "action" mode 
and ready to buy. Search engine traffic is qualified because 
users initiate the search with a purpose, making these leads 
targeted and more valuable than those from the "broadcast 
advertising" methods used by traditional media.

4. SEM Traffic Isn't High Quality
Ideally, it'd be nice to have an integrated marketing campaign 
with TV ads, direct mail, email, banner ads, and search engine 
marketing, but not everyone can afford this. When your marketing 
budget is limited, the place to start is with SEM. A properly 
optimized site can produce leads and sales within a short time 
period. Case studies have shown that search engine traffic is 
equal to or better than traffic from more expensive sources. 

5. Guaranteed Top Rankings or Your Money Back 
Money-back guarantees are worthless in search engine positioning 
because outcomes are always unpredictable and ever-changing. New 
submissions are always being added to databases, changing rankings 
continuously. Bottom line: technicians simply cannot control the 
search engines.

6. You Need Listings in Thousands of Search Engines
Submission software claiming to "Submit to 1,500 directories and 
search engines" will get you listed in many FFA (Free For All) 
engines. FFA listings are worthless and don't begin to compare 
to directories and engines like Yahoo! and Google. A likely 
result: Your name gets on email spam lists.

7. Once You Achieve Good Rankings, You're All Set
Search engine positioning requires trial and error, and success 
is ephemeral. Today's top listings  will change tomorrow; 
sometimes, listings change on an hourly basis. Maintaining 
positioning requires constant monitoring and tweaking. It can't 
be guaranteed, and results aren't permanent once achieved.

8. SEM Doesn't Give a Good ROI
This is actually a falsehood. The ROI for SEM is excellent 
compared to other marketing methods, especially when compared 
to keyword banner buys. Marketing Sherpa case studies also 
illustrate this by comparing the results of banner ads, direct 
mail and SEM. With SEM, you get better conversion rates, lower 
cost-per-click, and lower acquisition costs.

9. Professional SEM is Too Expensive
SEM has proven cost-effective compared to banner ads, direct 
mail, email marketing, and print advertising. For instance, SEM 
deliverables are half the cost of keyword banner campaigns, and 
SEM provides specific measurable results. 

10. All SEM Services Are Alike
Fact is services and pricing vary widely. SEM is striving for 
ethics and standards although there will always be a few 
questionable providers. Ask your provider to define services, 
pricing, contracts, and reporting. Verify the provider's 
experience and proficiency by interviewing past customers.

11. You Can Save Money With Pay-Per-Click Engines 
You hear about buying PPC traffic and getting featured listings 
for free in the major search engines. This is partly true because 
of partnership deals, but your best results come from a 
well-integrated SEM campaign that includes optimized pages for 
both human-powered and crawler-based search engines and enhanced 
link popularity. A PPC campaign can be expensive without cost 
management and ROI verification. Lastly, some users avoid 
featured listings because they consider them tainted.

12. A Buyers Guide to SEM Vendors Is Gospel
It would be nice to be able to depend on a buyers guide, but the 
industry changes too rapidly for any guide to remain current and 
accurate, even with updates. While I'm proud of the top rating 
Web-Ignite got in MarketingSherpa's SEO buyers guide, I would 
still recommend that you get referrals from people you know and 
interview prospective vendors in depth. Always trust your own 
judgment above someone else's opinion.

Paul J. Bruemmer is the CEO of Web 
Ignite, a search engine marketing 
company founded in 1995. Web-Ignite earned a top grade in the 
Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms and has helped 
promote over 15,000 Web sites. Client testimonials report 
traffic increases of 150 to 500 percent. Bruemmer's articles 
have appeared on ClickZ and other publications.