SEM Solutions: Read the Fine Print
As more and more advertisers start to take search seriously and thus the need for SEM partners, there's generally more noise in the marketplace and less knowledge on the part of the buyer. One major, major point that I'd like to impart upon anyone considering SEM solutions, then, is to read the fine print.
For example, Aquantive's AtlasOnePoint might appear on the surface to be a passable SEM solution: it's available as a self-service ASP model which advertisers and agencies like, and works across all major search engines. Beautiful, splendid. Spend a little time reading their Atlas Search product brochure, however, and two deal-breakers emerge:
1) They admit it doesn’t work in opaque marketplaces. Check out the ** on page 3 of the product brochure (wherein on the right column they describe Campaign Optimizer, their ROI-based automated management feature) and the associated disclaimer at the bottom of page 3, which reads:
“Automated campaign optimization does not apply to engines with opaque bid landscapes.”
Given that 100% of the U.S. search market is now opaque (and 80%+ of the int'l market), that, folks, is all you should need to flush them out of the SEM consideration water. [Because virtually all SEM's are rules-based solutions, you should apply AOP’s admission to others as well.]
2) The core of their pitch (both for the entire Atlas marketing suite and any one component in particular), is that they can help the advertiser be aware of all the different components of their marketing efforts, and thereby properly attribute value to the appropriate channel. This sounds great, but the reality is that aside from providing a unified dashboard, they don’t actually do anything to enable the optimization or the advertisers’ use of that data. In the same way that you should ignore rules-based tools because they force infinite workloads on advertisers, advertisers should ignore cross-channel tracking/analytics platforms because they don’t do the math.