I had breakfast yesterday with John Nicoletti, head of agency operations, and Dave Tan, head of SEM development for Google. They manage Google's relationships with search marketing agencies — updating them on what Google is working on and supporting the paid search business they manage with on behalf of marketers.
We chatted a bit about the findings from my recent Search Marketing Agency Wave, and John and Dave shared with me trends and differentiators they observe from their work with agencies. Here are our collective observations:
Technology doesn't differentiate agencies; how agencies use technology does. My wave does include automation as a point of differentiation in a lot of critiera. But to be clear, I don't think automation for the sake of automation is what makes an agency good. Nor does the technology enabling the automation need to be a proprietary tool developed by the agency. I'm agnostic when it comes to what tools an agency uses. What I care about is if the agency uses technology to improve processes, scalability, efficiency, and effectiveness of marketer search programs.
John and Dave pointed out — and I agree — that the features and functionality of search management technologies are universally very similar. The value to the marketer comes in how these tools are used to improve their overall performance and visibility.