How To Reduce SEM Churn With Integrated Customer Intelligence

Turnover in the SEM world has been a long-standing challenge as annual churn estimates from Borrell Associates range from 50-70 percent. While every organization cites a slightly different number, the issue represents real revenue dollars as finding and onboarding a new client or a new SEM agency is no small endeavor.

However, with new tools that engage SMBs in monitoring their advertising performance, I expect SEM agency churn will likely subside in 2011 and retention levels will normalize.

The Churn Challenge For Small Businesses

Part of the SEM churn challenge is that SMBs typically wear multiple hats and rarely have someone dedicated to marketing or advertising. SEMs provide metrics-based reports but they don’t elicit much attention or engagement, and even the SMBs who do look at reports either don’t review them often enough, don’t understand how to interpret the data or don’t know which changes to make in their programs to effectively address the issues.

Essentially, SEM firms need to better leverage performance metrics in a way that speaks to SMB pain points. Thankfully, new tools are making that easier. Phone calls are a currency that SMBs understand and recent developments enabling SEMs to offer actual caller dialogue through automated transcriptions has even increased the value of a call to an advertiser.

With tools to evaluate the keywords spoken, as well as caller sentiment and purchase intent, the local search industry has an opportunity to leverage this data for more comprehensive consumer data and program insights.

SEMs that are looking at new ways to integrate call and click metrics with social media and reputation management tracking tools will finally realize a tipping point on churn.

The Future Is In An Integrated Reporting Platform

With an integrated reporting platform – including calls, clicks, social, reputation and more – SMBs can see a collective and comprehensive view of customer and market intelligence and gauge advertising performance. This data can then be used to optimize their overall marketing program and drive operational efficiencies.

While the reporting platform of choice will continue to evolve, reporting on consumer dialogue and sentiment of actual calls in an integrated format will remain mainstays for SMBs and SEMs.

This will make it easier for SMBs to engage in the program and provides a more holistic view for search marketers to better counsel advertisers on program changes and program growth-with the potential for value-add revenue opportunities.

For example, consider the following scenarios:

  • Call chatter and online dialogue requesting discounts rise, so the SEM recommends that its SMB advertiser engage with a deals company to promote a special deal. They move forward and announce it through social media channels and see inquiries rise.
  • Online reviews and caller sentiment reveal negative customer experiences, so the merchant trains its customer service professionals on new procedures and situational best practices.
  • Consumer call transcriptions are evaluated for keywords and a relevant, new keyword term makes the top 5-10 words spoken. The SEM adjusts the keywords and the merchant modifies the ad creative to leverage new consumer interests.

Engaging SMBs: Make it Easy

At the end of the day, the keys to engaging SMBs are to show value and make it easy. Don’t bog them down with too much data but build a business case for a new initiative with numbers that speak for themselves.

Search marketers must make recommendations for optimizing search budgets and give SMBs enough data and performance metrics to enable them to make smart business decisions.

With new tools that demonstrate concrete SEM value, SEMs can use insightful customer intelligence to help connect with SMBs for the long term.

SMBs will value the SEM agency that helps them maximize their search advertising dollars, and the SEMs that do so will help make alarming churn statistics a thing of the past.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Small Is Beautiful


About The Author: is president of Telmetrics, a provider of call measurement solutions. Dinan has led Telmetrics' evolution from print-centric tools to multi-media, leads-based measurement solutions and was appointed president in May 2009. He can be reached at

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  • Nick Stamoulis

    I find that working with small business owners has its pros and cons. I think like you said they are often not dedicated to marketing type activities and wear many different hats all of the time. As a small business owner myself, I can relate well to the mid-sized companies (with in house marketing teams) and small businesses as well. In my years of working with clients with their SEM efforts, I have learned, the following key points are what sets you apart and helps you truly become on their team:

    1. Organization
    2. Project Management
    3. Clear Goals and Strategy
    4. Schedule

    I find that clients that know we are easy to work with, reach on the phone/email and have a schedule/task driven type of relationship works very well. On the flip side, (like 99.9% of SEM clients out there) the goal is to increase visitors, conversions, etc. small business owners sometimes become very impatient. One observation that I have seen is that people tend to react differently when it is THEIR own media and budget.

    Anyway, that are my thoughts and thanks for an excellent post!


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