I remember back in the very earliest days of the formation of the SEO/SEM industry, the debate raging around what to call it. Everyone had pretty much settled on SEO (for search engine optimization), even though some argued it was not technically accurate (were we optimizing search engines or sites). I weighed in on the side of SEO, because I argued that we were indeed optimizing the search engines themselves, no matter how indirectly. In those days, we were all on Search Engine Forums, the only SEO forum at the time.
Little did I know it, but a little company that was a client of my future employer was busily expanding the world of search by introducing pay-per-click. GoTo.com was to fork off a branch of online marketing that needed a new name. It only seemed natural to change “optimization” to the more general “marketing,” and SEM was born. Everyone naturally started using SEO for practices where you don’t pay the search engines directly, and SEM for services provided directly from the engines. And to this day, when you approach a firm, the disciplines are so dramatically different, that you’ll usually find them specializing in one or the other.
With the automated tools for PPC campaign management improving every day, and increasing attempts to control costs, more campaigns are being brought in-house every day. To further this trend, Google is pursuing simplicity in campaign management tools and selection of products. Managing online campaigns will increasingly become like traditional media buys, and SEM firms (pay-per-click management) will be either increasingly squeezed or forced to evolve into something else. They may become more like ad agencies, managing brands and creative content. They may become more hard-core developers, building increasingly sophisticated campaign management tools to provide completive edge over Google’s “simplified” interfaces.
Hence, the interest in the long tail in PPC–increasingly complex and difficult to manage keyword campaigns that are too burdensome to bring in-house, but still valuable enough to pursue. But the overhead of dumping hundreds of thousands of keywords into a campaign just isn’t worth it. Instead, simply consider using HitTail to get your short sweet list of long tail keywords, and dump them into your campaign. Isolate the campaigns, and see how it compares to other campaigns. You may find some remarkable results.
So, if you’re in the market for search marketing services, don’t automatically narrow your chose to SEM or PPC management companies. Consider including agencies that address the entire integrated marketing mix, who bring healthier long-term strategies to the table including cross-engine, long-term natural search.