At what point do you call in the experts?

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How does a company marketing online know when it is time to hire an outside search-engine advertising agency? The answer, from search-engine-marketing veterans on a panel at the Jupitermedia Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo: "As soon as you ask that question."

One speaker, Ethan Giffin, product manager of, a temporary-help-recruitment firm in Hanover, Md., realized he needed outside help as his company responded to the frenzied need for temporary workers in the wake of the hurricanes that devastated Florida last summer. When he set out to find and hire a search-advertising agency, he barely considered traditional advertising agencies because, "I just didn't think they had the expertise."

He quickly zeroed in on search-engine-marketing agencies dedicated to the complicated and somewhat dry field of search-based advertising. He settled on iProspect in the typical way he would hire any vendor: by examining results from the Watertown, Mass., firm; getting to know the staffers and their work; and digging up references from the company's clients.

"We needed an agency used to dealing with large, dynamic Web pages," he explained. Thingamajob's Web pages were so complicated that Google only indexed 49 out of the site's 10,000 pages. He was frank about his need for an experienced "bad guy" to come in and explain to Thingamajob's employees that the Web site needed to be redesigned so that it would be easy to navigate for customers and easy for search-engine "spiders" to crawl and enhance Thingamajob's placement higher in nonpaid search results. His goal: to attract more resumes through search marketing.

Improvement was dramatic, Mr. Giffin claimed, as Thingamajob's conversion rate went from 3% to 26%.

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