These days there is a lot of advice floating out there about SEM. Here’s my recommendations on who to trust and who to take with many grains of salt.
Who to Trust:
1. Forum Posters: For whatever reason, people who post on forums like WebMasterWorld or Search Engine Watch seem to be very forthcoming with accurate information. Perhaps its because they enjoy feeling like an expert, or perhaps its the egalitarian nature of forums, but I find that the best way to get an answer to a hard question is to throw it up there on a forum and wait for the responses to come in.
2. In the Trenches Search Engine Workers: What do I mean by “in the trenches”? Anyone who works at a search engine but not in a sales role. For example, at Google, there are tons of rank-and-file employees who are in charge of creative maximization, editorial review, algorithmic design, etc. If you can connect with any of these folks, you’ll find that they are often willing to share “insider information” that can give you a major edge on the competition. I once had a connection with a guy on the Google algorithm team. Let me tell you, that paid some major dividends!
3. Your Colleagues at Other Companies: We SEMers gotta stay together! When I run into friends at trade shows – perhaps even folks from direct competitors to Adteractive – it’s always refreshing to share ideas and observations about SEM. Granted, I don’t give away the Crown Jewels of my SEM techniques (nor do I expect them to), but there are always some good nuggets that improve performance.
4. Numbers: Ultimately, SEM is a numbers game. When you measure everything you do (tracking URLs, Web analytics, multivariate testing of usability, etc), you can verify whether someone is telling you the truth or not about a particular campaign or search engine.
Who Not to Trust:
1. Speaker Circuit Speakers: This means anyone who always appears at every trade show, writes for ClickZ, or is on the board of SEMPO. These folks are great at self-promotion but not great at actually guiding you toward accurate information.
2. Most Bloggers: Sadly, most bloggers regurgitate information from other blogs or Google press releases. They add no value and actually have no expertise to impart to you. This blog, of course, is an exception to the rule!
3. Sales Reps from Search Engines: OK, this is a bit unfair. In truth, almost every sales rep I work with is a straight-shooter that will always tell me where to buy and not buy on their engines (kudos to Kevin, Jung, Jean, Coco, Ben, Michael, Mike, Kirsten, John, Kristen, and my other great reps!). The problem really is with the reps that bombard me with calls from second-tier sites that want a quick $1000 for one week campaign. As I noted in my article in The Search Marketing Standard, when you hear someone promising “50 billion clicks a month” it’s time to run away as fast as you can.
4. Anyone with a Web site with More than 10 Pages of Content on One Page: Increasingly, I’m seeing the “Cory Rudl” types moving into SEM advice. These are the Web sites that seem to scroll forever with lots of free bonuses, testimonials from full-time testimonial experts, and a strange affinity to yellow highlighting. I’m amazed that these sell, but I’m certain that they won’t work for you!
Who did I miss?