Search Engine Marketing Companies: A Hit or a Miss?

How to tell if an internet marketing company is likely a miss…before you hand over thousands of dollars for the intangible.

For a true SEM professional, it takes less than five minutes to review a so-called internet marketing specialist’s website to determine if they know their stuff or not.  After all, it’s logical to think that an SEM (search engine marketing) company that handles hundreds of thousands, even millions of SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising dollars each year on behalf of their clients, would know what steps to take for their own website’s search engine visibility.

So I took five minutes to review the websites of two of the largest, more well-known SEM companies in Seattle and here’s what I found:   (It wasn’t pretty!)  

  1. Graphics replacing the bulk of what should be HTML keyword-rich headlines and text throughout their home pages!  Graphics are not readable by Google or any search engines.  And if search engines can’t read it, they can’t rank it  No alt tags either to be found on these two SEM company home pages.  Using graphics to highlight keyword-important areas instead of HTML text is SEO 101 not-what-not-to-do!
  2. Slow loading.  One website tested at a 3 second load time which is considered the speed of molasses to Google (load time should be less than 1 second.)  Google factors in a site’s speed when determining overall quality of a website.  The higher quality, the higher ranked.  Effective SEO strategies all contribute to quality, which, in turn, increases traffic, time spent on a website, i.e., overall popularity.  Neither of the home pages of these two SEM sites were optimized for fast loading.
  3. Google Pagespeed Insights Low Ranking –Google PageSpeed Insights analyzes and ranks the content of a web page.  The target ranking that Google recommends is 90+.  One site ranks a low 67 out of 100 .  The other ranks only 78.  Both websites were ranked low by Google for significant slow server response time (hosting-related), redirects, resource blocking, lack of HTML compression, etc.
  4. Yslow low ranking –YSlow score measures the user experience, which equates to more time spent on a website = higher return on pay-per-click ads and higher organic search engine ranking.  One site received a D, the other scored a C.  Significant contributors to the low ranking?  One site has 44 stylesheets, 33 external Javascript scripts and 1,944 DOM elements on the home page.  These are whopping numbers!  And this particular SEM company whose site is unnecessarily loaded down with all these extra scripts and style sheets is national and rakes in millions of dollars each year.  Who’s minding the store?

According to a 2010 study*, the average website Yslow score is 69, a C grade.  But, surely, that number should be higher for websites of so-called experts in SEM, right?


When shopping SEM companies, get the specifics of exactly what they will do for you.  For example, if they include “analyze site structure,” ask what that includes.   The more general the response, the more leary you should be.  Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the typical client to be able to assess the true expertise of an SEM company.  Let’s say it’s hit or miss. But I’ve shared a couple of tools with you today so you can, at minimum, get a feel of their approach of their own website.

Karen Skeens, Ad Ventures’ “cyber visionary” and website QA / SEO specialist, has been overseeing web design and strategy, web development, and search engine marketing for Ad Ventures and Ad Ventures’ clients since 2000.


The above findings are what I found during my 5 – 10  minutes of testing and include all findings both negative and positive.  Both sites’ home pages tested are far from being properly search engine optimized.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a key component of internet marketing.  The focus is to drive traffic to a website by moving a website’s ranking up higher in the search engine organic results or through pay-per-click ads that appear on search engine results pages.

Here’s Wikpedia’s definition:  Search engine marketing (SEM): a form of marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) through the use of either paid placement, contextual advertising, and paid inclusion, or through the use of free search engine optimization techniques also known as organic results.





Karen Skeens

Karen Skeens

Cyber Visionary and Website Guru with many years of marketing & advertising industry experience selling, marketing, writing and designing.

Leave a Reply

About Ad Ventures Brand-Strategy-Design Agency

Put your branding & marketing on a path that’s smarter, more cost-efficient and clever with

Recent Posts

Sign up for our Newsletter

let's go

Ad Venturing!

tales from the trail
an adventurous blog

Sign up to receive marketing tips we picked up on the trail.