PPCInnovate or Die: Where Will SEM (and You) be in 5 Years?

Innovate or Die: Where Will SEM (and You) be in 5 Years?

All industries come to maturity. The search marketing industry is no exception. In order for you to remain around (be you in-house marketer, business owner, inexperienced college grad or advertising agency), you must prepare for the future – now.

innovate-or-dieWith the current innovation in search engine marketing (SEM) and the seismic shift of offline dollars to online, our industry is the Wild West with a lot of opportunity. However, all industries come to maturity, and our industry is no exception. If we don’t prepare for it today, we won’t be around five years from now.

This current “high” has been found in almost every marketing industry (e.g. newspapers, movies, radio, TV). They started as a new hot medium and gained quite a bit of traction. Lots of small advertisers were in it, and did quite well. As the mediums matured and were quantified, the cost of investing became much higher, and smaller businesses weren’t able to compete.

In order for you to remain around (be you in-house marketer, business owner, inexperienced college grad or advertising agency), you must prepare for the future – now.

In the Year 2017…

Let’s create a hypothetical scenario of five years from now – one in which Internet marketing continues picking up steam.


Most colleges (not just UBC/UCLA and market motive) will have Internet marketing training courses, and will be churning out graduates a dime a dozen. While now there are no standards of good SEM (and new ad formats are coming out every day), the rate of innovation will slow, and academics will standardize good and bad best practices.

Internet Companies

Online-only companies will be facing stiffer competition. Companies that…

  • have websites which don’t convert as well…
  • don’t have as good an in-house marketer or agency…
  • can’t accept competitive marketing goals…

…will drop out of the game. There will maybe five to seven players dominant in each vertical. There will be more standardized attribution models to evenly distribute revenue to the appropriate source. This will negate some of the credit mistakenly given to SEM.

SEM Analysts

SEM analysts won’t be as much of a commodity as before, and will command somewhat lower salaries. Darn!

Internet Marketing Agencies

In the future, SEM agencies will desperately need to justify why they cost 3x-4x more in labor than hiring someone in-house. This will leave a lot of the smaller agencies to die.

Integrated agencies with strong digital arms will take their standard fare – bigger advertisers who really want an agency, and are willing to spend the bigger dollars. Digital only agencies will provide real innovation to their clients in order to succeed.

Currently, it’s much easier to acquire an SEM account. Companies switch agencies all the time. In the future, companies will be much more hesitant to sign up with a new company, as the additional value will be much more minimal. In fact, the bigger risk will be that clients will take your work, and manage it in-house. (Some already do this.)

But don’t worry, agencies. All hope isn’t lost. There are so many online marketing mediums, ad formats, techniques, and elements that will remain valuable at the premium price.

How to Ensure You Aren’t Blown Away in the Winds of SEM

Analysts & Agencies

  • Better Knowledge: Stay on top of all industry news, and try to learn about latest developments as quickly as possible.
  • Broader Horizons: Go beyond your horizons in SEM. With your unique focus on ROI/ROAS metrics, and detail-oriented philosophy, there’s no reason why you can’t manage everything from display campaigns, to offline guerilla marketing campaigns.
  • Efficient Processes: You will have to learn/continue to learn how to do the lower end work at a lower cost, without sacrificing quality. An in-house analyst won’t be able to outsource some of the lower end work, and you can create better efficiencies, and monetize at lower or equal rates to an SEM analyst.
  • Innovate: You will need to prove your value consistently, by innovating and showing your clients the innovation. In-house analysts just can’t innovate as fast as you can.
  • Love Your Clients: It’s easy to gain clients now, not so in the future. Make a special effort to love your clients now!


Companies will create truly accountable business goals that can be integrated with online marketing reports. Online only companies will diversify both online and offline to other marketing mediums.

The sobering message: innovate and diversify, or die.

Image Credit: David Armano


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