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September 19, 2012

A Look into the State of Search Marketing 2012

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The State of Search Marketing Report 2012 by Econsultancy and SEMPO hit our inbox recently, and the survey data gives us a glimpse into some of the big challenges many companies are facing now and what’s important to them.

Podium and Microphones

In this post, we’ll look at some of the emerging themes — ROI and attribution being one of them. As you’re reading this, I encourage you to think about ways you can help companies overcome some of their biggest challenges in digital marketing.

Whether you’re an in-house marketer looking to get buy-in or an agency/consultant looking at your approach to services, this data gives a glimpse into the psyche of companies, their challenges and opportunities in Web marketing.

The Challenge: ROI and Attribution

A common theme among the survey data shows companies are still facing challenges in measuring the ROI of individual disciplines like SEO, paid search and social.

From the data, it’s seems as though many companies are at a turning point where they need to break down the barriers between the disciplines to realize the true value of their digital marketing efforts.

It’s apparent companies are striving to understand the purpose of each discipline, what metrics and goals to track, how it works in a symbiosis with the others, and its role in the big picture of ROI.

A need for attribution modeling to get a better understanding of how each discipline is contributing to the bigger picture seems to be an answer to many of those challenges.

It seems like many companies are almost there, and a new perspective on their efforts might help them solve many of the common challenges we are seeing reported in the SEMPO State of Search Marketing 2012 results.

The Data: A Closer Look

Challenges Managing Search Engine Optimization

Top three challenges:

  1. Measuring ROI of SEO efforts.
  2. Optimizing destination pages.
  3. Staying abreast of search engine indexing algorithms and technologies.
SEMPO State of Search Report Graph

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

How you can help meet these challenges:

  • Find ways to define purpose, set goals and KPIs for your campaigns in a way that’s meaningful. What do you want your SEO to be able to do for you? Then you can begin to discern what SEO can and can’t accomplish, and where other disciplines fit into the mix.
  • Make sure that those efforts to drive people to your site are not wasted on pages that don’t convert. This is where content and user experience are key. Is your page set up so that the main content is easy to find? Do you offer engaging, useful and relevant content that delivers on the promise of your keywords?
  • If you’re an agency, consultant or evangelist for SEO, think of ways you can help key people/clients stay apprised of and understand the important algorithm changes. If not a simple conversation, what content can you create and distribute to clients/prospects/internally to keep people up-to-date? Google makes hundreds of algorithm updates per year, some of them very impactful, some of them less significant. Use discernment in which you speak to and how it relates to the bigger picture.

Challenges Managing Social Media Marketing

Top three challenges:

  1. Measuring ROI from social media efforts.
  2. Getting budget for social media efforts.
  3. Integration and measurement with other online/offline marketing channels.
SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

How you can help meet these challenges:

  • No longer is social media an argument of “should I be doing it?” But you do have to know why. If you know why you are participating in social media and why you are choosing the channels you are, the measurement part is a lot easier because you have goals.
  • The need for budget for social media and integration of social into other online and offline marketing can go hand-in-hand with attribution modeling. If you know the value of your social to your entire digital campaign, it becomes easier to know how to allocate resources and budget for it.

Social Media and Search Marketing Alignment

Many companies still don’t view their search and social marketing as a unified effort. The report findings state:

“There’s a divide in how companies and agencies view search and social. With each year, a greater percentage of agencies report treating social and search as interrelated reaching 58% in 2012 On the client side, below, there’s been little movement in the last two years. Part of that divide is simply in exposure; agencies are more likely to have direct experience with the impact of social influence on search traffic, as well as with the impact of social signals on page relevance/ranking.”

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

For more information on the relationship between search results and social, check out the following articles. But remember, the value that social can lend to your search marketing goes beyond rankings – it can allow you to uncover opportunities for marketing content and participating with your audience in new ways:

SEO, Paid Search and Social Media

It’s no surprise that many companies embrace paid search because of its perceived simplicity in assigning ROI. The data below shows once again, a need for clearly defined goals for each channel, then attribution modeling to determine their value within the entire marketing strategy. For more on multichannel attribution, check out our liveblog coverage of the session, “Measuring Profit and ROI across Channels” at SES San Francisco in August 2012.

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

Use of Social Media Sites

The following slide shows where companies are spending their resources in terms of social channels. Top three channels are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Next is YouTube followed by Google Plus, interestingly enough.

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

When choosing social media channels, many factors need to be weighed. Take into account its potential impact on search results, where your audience is and if there is a good fit between your business and that channel.

For more on how to choose and optimize social channels and strategy, here’s some reading:

Factors in New Channel Adoption

This data gives us insight into some of the concerns companies have when adopting a new channel. If you’re an in-house marketer looking for buy-in, or a agency/consultant, think about ways you can address these concerns before going in for the buy. Additionally, what content can you create around your argument that will help support it?

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

Significance of Trends and Technologies

This reveals how companies responded to perceived impact of trends and technology updates.

SEMPO State of Search Marketing Slide

Source: Econsultancy and SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012

This data seems to say that many companies are still unsure on how to approach their SEO in a way that is algorithm-proof, so to speak. When companies chase algorithms or don’t have a good understanding of quality SEO, they are ever at the mercy of Google’s updates.

For more on refocusing SEO efforts from an algorithm-based approach to something more strategic, check out this article: How to Survive Google Algorithm Updates (May 2012, SEO Newsletter).

And of course, mobile is top of mind for many, with good reason. Google has been preaching mobile for quite some time now, and wants us all to think about the mobile experience we’re creating for our users. Here’s one tidbit from Google’s Avinash Kaushik at SES San Francisco in August 2012:

Tweet from Google Conference Presentation

Source: Bruce Clay, Inc. Twitter Account at SES San Francisco 2012

For more on mobile:

Closing Thoughts

All in all, the data reveals what many of us believe is the next logical step for companies: treating all efforts and channels as a cohesive plan, and measuring as such. As companies view the disciplines within search marketing as symbiotic, more and more, attribution is top of mind.

Companies want to know how to measure the ROI of their organic search, social marketing and paid search individually. Then they want to know how each of them contribute to the ROI of their holistic marketing plan.

A little about the survey sample:

  • There was a total of 883 respondents for the entire survey.
  • U.S.-based participants accounted for 64 percent of the total.
  • Size of companies by number of employees is as follows: 1 to 9 employees at 4 percent; 10 to 100 employees and 34 percent; 101 to 1,000 employees at 30 percent; 1,001 to 5,000 employees and 9 percent; More than 5,000 employees at 22 percent.
  • Size of company by revenue in 2010 is as follows: less than $1 million at 7 percent; $1 to 10 million at 29 percent; $10 to $100 million at 22 percent; $100 million to $1 billion at 20 percent; more than $1 billion at 21 percent.

There’s a lot more interesting data in the SEMPO State of Search 2012 report (72 pages worth) – download your copy here if you’re a SEMPO member. If you’re not a SEMPO member, sign up! (As a side note, we offer special discounts to SEMPO members, including $200 off our SEO training course.)

For last year’s data, check out the post on our blog that looks into the State of Search Marketing Report 2011.

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One response to “A Look into the State of Search Marketing 2012”

  1. Nick Stamoulis writes:

    There are so many social media sites out there and it’s not realistic for a business to be active on every single one. It’s important to find the networks that will have the most impact. In some cases this may not be Facebook (the social media giant) but instead a niche social network where there is much less distraction.



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