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London, UK: E-consultancy, the publisher of best practice online marketing research and information, announces the publication of the first UK Search Engine Marketing Buyer’s Guide. By publishing this 125-page report to help educate the market, E-consultancy supports calls for the creation of an industry body that would help define and oversee best practice in the search sector, where malpractice and confusion remains rife.

“The value of search cannot be overstated, and if you outsource, it is absolutely crucial that you choose the right search engine marketing partner for your company,” says E-consultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein. “This normally means lots of research, meetings and telephone calls. The Buyer’s Guide will help people get a headstart by understanding how the process works in order to quickly identify and appoint the right agency.”

Friedlein adds: “SEM agencies are increasingly concerned about ethics and we know that bad practice is rife. The Buyer’s Guide will help educate the market, so that companies can avoid the horror of a Google ban by finding an agency that adheres to best practice.”

Specialist search agencies are becoming increasingly frustrated about unethical behaviour and the perception of search engine optimisation as ‘a black art’, when in fact there is plenty of science and best practice that can be applied.

Although the sector is tremendously competitive, rival search companies have indicated to E-consultancy that there is a real need for the creation of an independent industry body to bring credibility and trust to the sector by establishing clear guidelines and best practices. Such a body could give clear guidance to site owners on which approaches and techniques might be considered malpractice. For example, the following have come under fire: creating gateway pages (now banned by Google), cloaking (identifying search engines’ spiders by IP address in order to serve them customised content), use of hidden text and cybersquatting in meta tags (use of competitor brand names).

bigmouthmedia MD Steve Leach agrees with the call for a governing body: “At the moment, anyone with a PC in their back bedroom can claim to be an SEM expert. Once they’re involved with a client, they can have devastating results on the brand, site traffic, even the site technology. A governing body will open up the discussions about best practice and allow ethical marketers to clearly understand the risks.”

While the short-term results can appear to be healthy, clients that have chosen unethical providers can suffer brutal long-term damage. With an estimated 85% of web traffic originated via search (with Google currently accounting for approximately half of all UK search traffic), the implications of a Google – or other search engine – ban would be severe. Online retailers, for example, typically generate between 50% - 100% more revenue per customer from searchers than browsers. Search-originated site users are also less likely to drop-out from the checkout during the buying process. Roughly a quarter of online retail traffic is referred from search engines.

Aimed at businesses of all sizes, the report is essential for any company on the verge of outsourcing their search requirements, as well as for anyone keen to learn more about the process of optimising websites for search engines. It provides readers with an at-a-glance overview of the search sector, including vendor comparisons between some of the leading companies in the UK marketplace.

E-consultancy’s Search Engine Marketing Buyer’s Guide, compiled over the past three months, features 19 vendors that pursue and implement ethical search techniques for their clients to achieve results. The report is an ideal starting point for companies looking to appoint a specialist SEM provider, with tips on how to evaluate your own requirements and suggested questions that will help determine which agency is best for your company.

The paid-for report can be downloaded from www.e-consultancy.com/publications/search-engine-marketing-buyers-guide/. Individual subscribers pay just £99 per year to access the full range of exclusive content featured on E-consultancy, as well as events, roundtables, press release distribution and an enhanced agency listing.

A free sample of the report, with two vendor profiles, can be downloaded from http://www.e-consultancy.com/publications/download/search-engine-marketing-buyers-guide/search-engine-marketing-buyers-guide-sample.doc.

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----Notes to editors----

Images of the publication, screenshots of E-consultancy.com and photographs are available of Ashley Friedlein upon request.

About E-consultancy.com:

Since 1999 E-consultancy has provided UK e-business and marketing professionals with access to the best information and advice to help them get the most out of interactive channels:

* Information - Specially commissioned reports, white papers and guides as well as 100,000+ pages of articles, case studies and features from leading sources.

* Advice - Exclusive roundtable events, Beauty Parades, bespoke training courses, seminars, expert forums and a network of over 40 specialist e-business consultants.

E-consultancy charges for individual subscriptions and multi-user corporate membership as well as for consulting work. E-consultancy has over 18,000 registered users, 30% of whom are CEOs, Directors or Senior Management.

E-consultancy was co-founded in 1999 by Ashley Friedlein and Matthew O'Riordan. Ashley is a twice best-selling Internet author. E-consultancy's shareholders include Philip Redding, former Managing Director of Wheel, which he helped grow to the largest UK new media agency.

About Ashley Friedlein, CEO, E-consultancy.com:

Ashley Friedlein began his career in digital media at Pearson and Bloomberg, before becoming Lead Strategist at Wheel, where he successfully managed the development, delivery and ongoing maintenance of several major Internet sites, in particular for media owners.

Ashley is also the author of the books "Web Project Management: Delivering Successful Commercial Web Sites" and "Maintaining and Evolving Successful Commercial Web Sites: Managing Change, Content, Customer Relationships and Site Measurement" [Publishers Elsevier Science & Technology Books].

More information at: http://www.e-consultancy.com/book2/

---Contact Information---

For more information about this release or E-consultancy contact Chris Lake at info@e-consultancy.com or call 0207 0718609

Published on: 12:00AM on 19th March 2004