Search Marketing Evolution Reflected In Annual SEMPO Survey

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Synopsis – The sixth annual SEMPO results (2010) revealed some interesting trends in search engine marketing. As Marc Engelsman discusses in his article “Search Marketing Evolution Reflected In Annual SEMPO Survey,” the rate of change in search engine marketing tactics can be blindingly fast in some instances and relatively sedate in others. Covering the major findings in this short bite from the extensive results that result from this important annual “state of the union” report, Marc concentrates on changes in social media marketing, paid search versus SEO, and sources of budget “poaching.”

As the time comes for this year’s survey, it’s a good time to be reminded of the highlights from the 2010 results!

The complete article follows …

Search Marketing Evolution Reflected In Annual SEMPO Survey

Welcome to the world of search marketing — a world that is in a state of constant evolution. The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) released the results of its sixth annual State of Search Survey in March 2010. For many caught up in the “new normal” of today’s business pace, March 2010 may feel more like three years ago than just a few months ago. Sometimes the evolution of search marketing is slow and nuanced, while in other cases, change is rapid and obvious. The SEMPO survey uniquely captures both kinds of search market evolution, as it is designed to reveal shifts in trends over time as well as surface, emerging issues. Here are some of the evolutionary trends revealed by this year’s survey that you may find interesting and/or useful.

1. Social Media Marketing — It should come as no surprise that social media marketing has rapidly become a key component of a company’s web marketing activities. But what may be surprising is the high level of adoption of this tactic (72%) in comparison to the more-established tactics of search engine optimization (90%) and paid search marketing (81%).

2. Paid Search Versus SEO — A closer look at how companies have used SEO and paid search through the past reveals a subtle yet significant shift in search tactic activity. Specifically, while SEO has stayed relatively consistent at the 90% level, use of paid search has grown from 70% in 2008 to 81% in 2010. Meanwhile, agencies report that their handling of paid search for companies/clients has dropped from 82% to 76% over the same period. The clear implication of these findings is that more and more companies are managing their own paid search programs. Agencies need to adapt to this new reality if they are to succeed.

3. Sources Of Budget “Poaching” — Another area in which the survey reveals shifts concerns the areas from which companies report “poaching” budget to support their search and social marketing efforts. In last year’s report, print advertising led the way at 44%, followed by direct mail at 22%, website development at 15%, TV advertising at 13%, and conferences/exhibits at 10%. Now, 12 months later, conferences/exhibits are poached at a level of 24%. Web display advertising budgets are close behind at 23%, while those budgets were far down the list at 7% last year.

Like the industry it represents, the SEMPO survey has evolved over the years to keep pace with change, with this year’s report delving into more detail on challenges for existing search tactics as well as the impact of new trends/technologies. Two comparisons were particularly noteworthy.

1. The biggest challenge identified by all was “measuring the ROI.” All three tactics rated ROI measurement as the big challenge — 43% each for search engine optimization and paid search and 63% for social media marketing. “Optimizing destination pages” was second on the list for both SEO and paid search while “making the business case” was the second biggest challenge for social media.

2. The “rise of local search” was cited as the most highly significant trend by agencies at 37% while companies put it fifth on their list at only 19%. Companies see “personalization of search results” as most significant at a 31% level. Both agencies and companies had “rise of mobile internet” among the top three trends. It will be interesting to see if that evolves as rapidly next year as social media marketing did this year.

This year’s SEMPO State of Search Survey gathered the opinions of almost 1,500 respondents from 68 countries. The results are presented in 119 figures, some of which I have touched on here. They are exemplary of the depth and variety of perspectives captured and accurately reflect the aura of change that surrounds the search industry and those of us along for the ride.

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