I’m right in the middle of evaluating vendors for Forrester’s Wave on search marketing agencies and I’m finding (no surprise, really) that these providers offer very similar services.  There are certainly some place of differentiation (like the amount of consumer research a vendor conducts to understand your target audience).  But in terms of the basics (keyword selection, bid opimization), vendors look a lot alike. 

So, as I wade through the details of each vendor, I’m hoping you all will weigh in on what selection criteria is most important to you when you are looking for a search partner.  Does it matter if the vendor has its own bid management technology?  Are you only interested if they have experience in your industry?  Is SEO or paid search more important?  Would you sacrifice customer service for in-depth conversion tracking?  Let me know what the most important factors are to you.  I’ll be using your feedback to help me weight my evaluation criteria.  Thanks!