SEM: Agency or Direct?

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Friend of mine tells me that the major search companies soemtimes offer
direct relationships to organizations, as opposed to working with
agencies. This could be beneficial compared to agencies, for agencies
keep claiming that they will not allow access to certain information,
as it is their IPR. This creates a bit of a black box approach as then
the client would not know what are the keywords their products are
advertised on, what exactly are the adtexts they are using, etc.
Additionally agencies here do not seem to be able to fix on some kind
of forecasting on an ongoing basis, which can help us plan a month
ahead in terms of sales.

Would a direct model alleviate these concerns. Would a Google or Yahoo!
- have the same high level of sophistication of tools as say, an
- they should be able to forecast effectively enough right? Can someone
do a rough estimate over a particular period of history and say, 'there
are about x keywords and y visitors searching for products such as
yours. There is a potential of you at maximum getting ____ number of
clicks, at _______ price.'
- even if they do use tools, they too would be proprietary, which is
fair enough, but at least we should know what was the outcome of the
usage of the tools - did it generate higher keywords, did it automate
some of the bidding, and how much of tail words these are developing.

What are your views.

Specifically is it better to go to an agency or go direct. If we go
direct, then should we build some search capability in house? If yes,
then how do we go about doing that?

What is the model an eBay or Amazon using in the US? I do know they
have a lot of their stuff done in house...

Sorry for the long post... any views welcome!

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