Have you seen the number of search marketing companies that have been snapped up by advertising agencies or larger search marketing companies? As predicted, the industry is consolidating; the number of SEM companies shrinking. Is this a good thing? I think so. In forming SEMPO, I made a personal and professional commitment to mature this industry. To help it grow into a new, accepted and understood part of the marketing and advertising world. Independent consultants have been the backbones of SEM. They, including myself, were the risk takers, the entrepreneurs, who noticed early search engines were driving visitors to their websites or the websites that they developed for clients. Maybe we could increase the number of visitors to paying attention to the search results? So we learned the algorithms and started changing our meta tags to rank in higher positions. We read our raw log files looking for clues and we watched our results on engines like infoseek and altavista.
But to service large brand companies it takes more than 1 person. With the unique nature of search marketing, you not only require strategists, managers and implementers but people working the campaigns day in and day out. Ok, tools are making it easier but they are still, primarily, disjoint and immature. I say this at the same time I would like to believe that the virtual companies that many of us have become, using multiple subcontractors to perform all aspects of online marketing, would be valued by prospects and agencies (and acquirers). RFPs make our business models look unattractive and, while we are cheaper than large SEM firms, we don't have the outsourced staff to service the clients in the manner they are used to.
There are some signs that the experience of the consultants and owners of the virtual companies may be worth something (see SendTraffic deal). So as large companies get on the fast-moving train of SEM, they are looking for experienced consultants to come on board. And the large advertising firms, that so desperately want to 'do' SEM as their clients are damning, are looking for single people or established firms to join their large infrastructures to help service their existing clients. Small businesses need small SEM companies, especially to help them navigate PPC and local search opportunities. Lots of opportunities and respect for the consultants.