Internet marketing is a complicated, multifaceted puzzle that is constantly changing. If this was a simple process, SEO/SEM firms would not exist. There are numerous avenues for growing businesses online, and it’s not all about buying clicks or ads.

So, how much do you really know about Internet marketing? Do the terms SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) mean anything to you, other than something you need to be doing to grow your business? Do you have any knowledge of how these processes actually work?

I really don’t know very much about any of this either. Ironically, I have been employed for over a year by an SEO/SEM company. So, you might wonder how I can tell you what you need to know. Please read on, and I promise you will have a clear understanding of what you need to know.

I have spent most of my career in account management. I’ve also been involved in a few start-up companies, both as an employee and owner.

When I took a leap from a huge marketing corporation to an upstart Internet solutions company, I was determined to learn everything about SEO and SEM. I was sure that I would be up to speed quickly on how everything worked, and the processes in detail.

I thought by now I would be able to write an article that would fully explain every aspect of this business. After all, it is only one aspect of marketing. But the truth is I still have only a basic knowledge of how it all works. And chances are, unless you have some major time available, that’s probably the best you can ever hope for, too.

The people who know all aspects of SEO and SEM are an extremely small group of people. They have spent years of their lives learning and refining their methods. Each person has their own area of expertise, and performs their part as almost no one else on earth can.

If you think about it, our business is probably similar to your own to some degree. As a business owner or manager, your goal is to create a team consisting of several experts working toward a common goal. In general, the better the team members are at their specific craft, the more successful the company.

In most cases, you have a certain amount of knowledge about what each person does, but not necessarily all of the details. You probably have some level of trust with each of them, and a sense of their performance.


To manage an SEO/SEM function in your business, here is what you need to know:

• First of all, accept the high probability that you can’t do this yourself. Even if you have the financial and human resources available to assemble an SEO/SEM team, it would be next to impossible to run the operation cost effectively.

• Don’t delay. The Internet community is looking for information relevant to what potential customers are looking for, well-established companies that will provide the products and services that meet their customers’ requirements. Search engines are looking for several qualities within each company’s Website and beyond, and one major factor is the length of time a company is recognized on the Internet. With each passing day, it will become increasingly more difficult and expensive to get ahead of your competitors who are already established. Waiting will just make the whole process more complicated and expensive.

• Make sure that your agreement includes a clear description of what you are being offered. For example, you’ll want to make sure that the type of business and the territory you intend to capture is defined and exclusively protected. If an SEO/SEM firm is truly working on your behalf to help your company achieve the best results possible, they’re not doing you any favors by working for your competitors in the same market.

• If you have marketing and IT professionals on your staff, a reputable SEO/SEM firm will work in conjunction with this group. The teamwork concept is vital to the success of most marketing campaigns, and is especially true in this arena. A solid partner-oriented working relationship will assure you that your company’s program will achieve the best results for the long term.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is buzzing through all industries. HVAC contractors have adopted the Internet as yet another marketing tool, but how to be most effective is still another challenge.

• Every business is unique. So, it only makes sense that the same solution that works for another business will not work for yours. The company you choose to work with should be spending some time with you and your team to understand your business and what you’re all trying to accomplish. Both parties should have a realistic vision of the campaign’s short- and long-term goals.

• There are no magic formulas. Internet marketing is a complicated, multifaceted puzzle that is constantly changing. I have spoken to countless marketers who have spent thousands of dollars buying clicks and Internet ads, and received little or no return. Let’s face it; if this were a simple process, SEO/SEM firms would not exist. There are numerous avenues for growing businesses online, and regardless of the hype, it’s not all about buying clicks or ads.

• Try something new. The Internet provides some of the most effective ways to try out different marketing strategies and new ideas at a very reasonable cost, compared to other methods. For example, if you’ve just added a line of green or energy-efficient products, you can pick out a few of these products and test the market. The measured responses will tell you most of what you need to know. Whatever doesn’t work can be adjusted or replaced quickly. If you’re considering a new type of service, you can create a small pilot program with a set budget to find out what level of interest exists. In terms of versatility, no other advertising media comes close.

• A sense of performance. As with any type of marketing, you need to have an idea of what your program is doing for you. A good SEO/ SEM company can provide you with any type of data you would imagine. And the information should be easily accessible and readily available to you.

• ROI is the key (you’ve heard that before?) In the Internet world you can and should have a very detailed account of your return on investment. An idea is perceived, developed, and promoted. When the program is finished (usually at a substantial cost) the results are measured and the ROI is computed. The ability to change your focus in an SEO/SEM marketing campaign is second to none. If something isn’t working, or you want to try a new approach, these ideas can often be implemented in days, or sometimes even hours.

• Make sure you are comfortable with who you decide to build your SEO/SEM program with. The firm you choose will need to know a lot about your business; not only what you’re doing today, but also what your plans and goals are for the future. Because of the information you will share, you need to have complete confidence and trust in it.

• Know the company. The convenience of the Internet can also be a big problem, especially if you don’t know who you’re dealing with. A reputable SEO/SEM firm should have a physical location you can, and if it’s feasible, should visit. In some way, there should be at least one face-to-face meeting. They should also be able to provide solid examples of Websites, results, and some explanation of their business strategies and practices. In short, do your best to find out as much about them as it takes for you to feel comfortable and confident in their ability to deliver what they are offering. Remember, if everything progresses as it should, you will be doing business with these people for years to come.

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Publication date:10/20/2008