I just discovered that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) isn't simply a rebrand of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a marketing discipline that is almost universally damned as being shifty, black-hat, and more than just a little shady. What Joe's Pizza Shack probably needs is an SEO consultant; what Siemens needs is a seasoned SEM expert who not only understands all the tech behind how to make a website hum but also the business processes, ego-wrestling, accountability, and reporting required to seduce Enterprise to where they need to be to take search to the next level, to take what is probably being done ad hoc by legions of System Admins, Website Developers, Coders, E-Commerce gurus, and Designers, and bring it all into focus with an integrated and holistic plan, pathway, and strategy.
Apparently, when you transition from being a practitioner of SEO to an SEM consultant, you go from spending 90% of your time on code-fu and only 10% on loving on your client to closer to 80% of your time being a Search Marketing evangelist, wooing the Powers that Be into understanding why they must take (lots of) money away from other things in order to put it into what might seem a little like snake oil to the uninitiated.
Similar to the law of conservation of mass, enterprises have the law of conservation of budget. The law implies that budget can neither be created nor destroyed, although it may be rearranged, or the entities associated with it may be changed in form. If you're going to implement a serious SEM campaign, you're going to need to jack the funds from somewhere (and someone) else.
What my colleagues Mike Moran and Bill Hunt do on a daily basis is business consulting. They're politicians, able to bridge the void between technologists, middle-managers, C-Suite executives, bean counters, CMOs, the eCommerce team, the paid search team, different sites, verticals, technology, and even languages and cultures.
How do I suddenly know all of this? Well, I have been helping Mike Moran and Bill Hunt promote their upcoming book, Search Engine Marketing, Inc., and spent an hour on the phone chatting with Bill about search, social, business, and the enterprise. In that chat, I learned the difference between Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing: SEO is tactical, SEM is strategic.
When I think of search, I am thinking about optimizing web pages, speeding up server times, caching content, finding the perfect desirable but not too competitive suite of keywords and finding ways of working that into copy, into theme, and into line with what my clients sell, offer, and produce.
When I think of search, I am up to my eyeballs in plugins, installs, architecture, Google PageSpeed, MOZ, Audienti, Keyword Planner, .htaccess configuration files, inbound link, content marketing, social media profiles, Google's search algorithm updates, title tags, descriptions, formatting, site architecture, sitemaps, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and all that stuff.
What they are doing is hand-holding C-Suite executives who never actually have any more money. Who are suffering under constant scrutiny and needing to play within the limits of the law of conservation of budget.