Is there an Opportunity for Low-Cost Local SEM?

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    Greg Sterling has an interesting post on his Screenwerk blog on the challenges of selling SEM to small local businesses.

    He argues that most small businesses don’t understand enough about SEM and all the metrics involved to evaluate an SEM service except by trying it. When they do, often the ROI is not great because several parties have to take a cut of the ad budget.

    Greg goes on to suggest that SEM is probably too complex to be sold to many small businesses whose ad budgets are simply too small to get reasonable results:

    It’s a disservice to sell traffic at pricing levels that are too low to deliver volume or to create unrealistic expectations with inflated claims about results. Both drive churn, which is inefficient for everyone.

    I tend to agree with what Greg’s saying there, but I do wonder whether there’s an opportunity to provide low-cost templated or even fully self-service SEM services to specific verticals by providing standard sets of keywords and just varying the location that is targeted.

    We could imagine a service for plumbers, say, where they would click a few checkboxes to say which, out of heating, bathroom installation, emergency call-out, etc., they provided, then select their target town and monthly budget.

    That would be enough to set them up with a suitable PPC campaign with a relevant set of target keywords and monitoring tools. By automating the process, the cost could be kept low and hopefully the ROI would be more attractive.

    How Low Cost SEM Compares to Alternatives

    A few questions:

    • Are good SEM firms doing this anyway?
    • Is the main cost involved in small business SEM actually the cost of selling to these small businesses in the first place (rather than setting up and managing the campaigns?)
    • Would this even just be more or less equivalent to vertical directory sites buying traffic and selling it on?

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: mandiber

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