Is It Time For Search Marketing Standards?

Feb 26, 2008 - 8:30 pm 2 by
Filed Under SMX West 2008

Search Insights Track

Is It Time For Search Marketing Standards? - Now that several groups and organizations are offering certifications in search marketing without massive online debate and uproar, does that mean the oft-discussed idea of agreeing to common search marketing standards of behavior could happen? Let the discussion -- and likely debate -- begin! This session explains the issues involved, with viewpoints all around.

Moderator: Jeffrey K. Rohrs, Vice President, Agency & Search Marketing, ExactTarget Q&A Moderator: Dana Todd, Chief Marketing Officer, Newsforce

Speakers: Chris Boggs, SEO Manager, eMergent Marketing Paul Bruemmer, Director of Search Marketing, Red Door Interactive Brian Combs, Founder & Senior Vice President, Apogee Search Ian McAnerin, Founder & CEO, McAnerin International Inc.

Shoutouts to Chris Boggs who blogs for us and gave us a little shoutout in the session!

First up is Paul Bruemmer. Is it time for search marketing standards?

The trust system in this room is based on standards. Everything is really governed by standards. They work quite well in professions. It would be great to have this in the search industry as well.

Examples of SEM standards: - Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have sitemaps ( - Google, Ask, and Microsoft anonymize log data - November 2007 FTC - advertising concerns

Industry is maturing - 62% growth in 2005. The market is slowing in 2008. Saturation point is approaching.

Signs of maturity: growing number of training programs and certification courses.

History - back to August '98 - early attempts to get rid of spammers. In 2008, again, there's a call for certification from several different folks.

SEMPO has a metrics and standards task force to develop guidelines for search marketing. SEMPO states that they're not a standards body, however.

IAB - online best practice resource which is supported by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft - basic search engine policies - checklists to help advertisers - search marketing howtos - etc...

Next steps: demand for standards by concerned individuals and search agencies by contacting SEMPO Task Force on Metrics and Standards. If SEMPO won't take up the task, then talk to IAB and DMA. Standards are going to provide us with sustained growth.

Up next is Chris Boggs. Are standards a black and white issue?

Create tactical risk consideration guidelines related to search marketing. - End document should clearly define SEM tactics and provide a risk rating based on adherenece to search engine established guidelines. Who owns the document? SEMPO - 700 members in the SEM industry 2 primary phases: define tactics and rate tactics

Required phases - adoption of search markketing standards - proposed process Define standards of behavior - requires a definitions of tactics. Adoption of definitions - this is a lengthy process and probably will ignore some perspectives Establish ratings - example: why would you cloak? Sometimes there are reasons why cloaking is necessary. Based on degree of danger. Publishing and promotion - You'd probably want to put it on a separate domain (not attached to an existing site). A wiki format is possible. Promote it heavily but monitor the reputation. This is a breathing document, not a "set and forget" document. Search changes daily. Tactics change every day.

Define: Establish a glossary: Simpler tactics: keyword research, rankings reports, creating page titles, meta gags, adding headers More difficult but less widespread: labeling images, labeling other non-text content (flash), providing workarounds Known no-nos: white text on white backgrounds, deceptive IP delivery These standards must be committee driven rather than community driven because otherwise it will take forever.

Rate and promote: There are levels of risk - no risk, little risk, moderate risk, high risk, not advisable Clearly establish that not all tactics are included in the glossary: don't want to give away the recipe to search engines or to our competitors. If a tactic is not clearly defined, a marketing manager should pause to question why. Promote using all available networks and major industry associations.

Consider this topic with your head and less with your heart because if your heart gets in the way, it may not get too far.

Brian Combs is up next. SEM is known for its holy wars. Here are some recent discussions: "Are paid links evil?" and "Is bid management dead?" There's a lot of dissent. How do we find consensus on purchased/rented links and link baiting techniques?

SEM firms are on a continuum. Anything outside of what Google says is okay is wrong to people, for example. Some behavior is clearly unethical, like misleading clients and engaging in risky practices without disclosure. Others: selling traffic delivery as search engine optimization, managing campaigns with untrained staff members, and performing SEO for uncompetitive yet impressive sounding keywords.

Last up is Ian McAnerin. We can talk about marketing standards and be detailed or very light. Ian wants middle ground.

Morals = personal code of conduct for the self (religion, philosophy) Ethics = social. Code of conduct related to interactions with others (law, etiquette) Standards = documented agreement on specifications, rules, and normas (Thou Shalt, You Must) Guidelines = documented agreementson general principles and processes, usually to clarify or provide context for standards (You should, try to)

Google doesn't provide standards. They provide guidelines. Ian finds that interesting because you usually need standards to provide guidelines.

Why do you need standards? For guidance, credibility, and protection. It gives you a hint of what training you should need. You should give the industry credibility (and yourself). If you get sued and you said "I followed XXXX's best practices," it will be easier than if you don't have standards.

Argument against search standards: restraint of innovation, loss of control or unfair concentration of power, blurring morals vs. ethics and standards vs. guidelines, too broad or narrow specification, and enforcement.

Restraint of innovation - standards need to be a living document and evolve with time. New criteria and technology will emerge and change over time (like social media).

Loss of control - power corrupts. Lack of power corrupts too. Search engine optimization is a business. Take calculated risks to compete or innoovate. Mistakes will be made.

Blurring these morals - Google won't allow you to bid on beer on AdWords but they will let you bid on Wine. That's a moral decision, not an ethical decision.

Too broad/narrow: there's a difference between an SEO and an SEO consultant. The industry defines the industry, not search engines or any other group. Business ethics have almost universal support unlike other areas such as specific search engine guidelines.

Enforcement and authority: who are you and what gives you the right? Lack of legislative authority - it has to be opt-in. Must be seen to be neutral - not a "money maker" or publicity scheme. Public awareness is also important.

For testing, clients and potential employers love standardized testing but SEOs don't. Teaching and tests should be separate. Set a lowest common denominator. Testing can help train and encourage standards. PPC and SEO should be separate tracks. The cost of entry should be low enough to allow people in other countries to participate.

Code of ethics - should be applied to everybody and while being clear to the public. It should protect the integrity of the industry.

Professional standards - specific and measurable means of identifying compliance with code of ethics. Best practices.


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