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Lee Odden

Bye Bye Marketing Sherpa’s SEO-SEM Buyer’s Guide

By Lee Odden     Marketing Industry News, Online Marketing


For the past 5 years or so, Marketing Sherpa has published a buyer’s guide for SEO and recently, SEO/SEM firms. The initial guide ranked the search marketing companies which caused a bit of a stir, since it’s hardly a consistent industry to measure. What followed was a report that was less of a guide to SEO and SEM firms per se and more of a guide about the industry and tips for choosing an agency. The listings for each SEO/SEM firm were self reported.

Mike Murray recently wrote on the Fathom SEO blog that he thought there won’t be any future guides being published. I emailed Anne Holland and she confirmed this was true, saying that Marketing Sherpa will be focusing their efforts on the Benchmark Guides and because of the inherent difficulty in providing qualitative evaluations of each SEO and SEM service.
She also commented on the Fathom blog:

Mike, Thanks so much for your kind words about our Buyer’s Guides. We decided to discontinue the line of Buyer’s Guides this year because while the information was valuable, it wasn’t precisely what customers wanted. They wanted ConsumerReports style verified ratings of each firm’s performance. That’s an impossible task for a technical service industry. So, this year we’re retiring the line and considering ways to re-tool it so it’s useful to customers as possible while keeping the data true and real. PLUS, for data hounds, we’re broadening the scope of our annual Search Marketing Benchmark Guide (currently weighing in at more than 200 pages of stats) to include more firm info.

A follow up post on the Fathom Blog provides more info as well as an invitation to give Marketing Sherpa feedback.

So it looks like the SEO/SEM Guide is no longer going to be published, at least in it’s current form. If you haven’t seen the SEO/SEM Guides, you can read previous posts from OMB or visit the most recent guide page at Marketing Sherpa’s site.

A question for search marketers is, “Does it matter if this guide isn’t published?” I’ve read debates about this in the forums, where many report not having heard of the guide or haven’t received any new business as a result of being listed.

However, TopRank’s experience with being listed in the SEO Guide the past 3 years has been positive to say the least. I’ve had it happen in several prospect meetings on sizeable projects, where the marketing VP or director literally pulled out the print version of the SEO guide, pointing out how impressed they were that TopRank was listed. Several other clients have mentioned seeing us in the guide as well.

The SEM Benchmark Report that Anne mentions in the comments is not meant to be a replacement for the SEO/SEM Guide, but it is a fantastic report and exceptionally useful for client-side marketers as well as agencies. Here’s a link to last year’s Search Marketing Benchmark Report. A new survey to capture data for an updated Benchmark report was run recently so be sure to watch for a review here in the coming months.

Also, for companies looking for resources on selecting and hiring a search marketing agency, see this post, “Finding a Search Engine Optimization Company“.


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