Last week, eConsultancy released its UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2012 in association with Netbooster. The report covers paid search (PPC), search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing and is based upon a survey of over 500 companies carried out in February and March 2012.
I’ve summarised the key trends below:
Changes in Company Spending
Within the UK most companies envisage that spend within SEO, PPC and social media will continue to increase throughout 2012 with most believing they are most likely to increase spend within social media and least likely to increase spend within PPC. Almost 1 out of 10 companies who expect to see an increase in social media spend believe this will almost double, although it is worth noting that the actual amount companies spend on social media is very small when compared to SEO and in particular PPC spend. Google UK revenues for the first quarter of the year has increased by 18.7% year on year. The survey did highlight that spend on mobile search for companies has doubled within a year to 4% up from 2% in the 2011 survey.
The Yahoo/Bing Search Alliance has had almost zero impact on the dominance of Google within the UK search market. The giant still accounted for over 84% of search engine visits and over 90% of search engine queries. In comparison Yahoo and Bing received less than 8% of search engine visits and less than 7% of search engine queries. A whopping 80% of companies surveyed stated that the Search Alliance has not encouraged them to invest more budget with the platform, so it looks as though Google’s dominance is set to continue.
Impact of Google +
Whilst Google is attempting to make an impact within the social media space, many companies do not have a view of what impact will have on their search and social media. 68% of in house search teams at companies do not know what the impact of Google + has been on their activity. Furthermore 56% of companies have not made any changes to their search activity since the introduction of Google +. On a positive note 44% of companies are planning to do something with Google + in the future.
Increasing Complexity of Search and Lack of Internal Knowledge Hampering Company’s Search
The search marketplace is becoming increasingly complex especially with the frequent changes in Google’s algorithm. This combined with a growing lack of knowledge within companies is causing growing problems for advertisers. 29% of companies in the survey stated that lack of know how is a barrier to preventing effective SEO. This is an increase from 16% of companies stating this as a factor in the 2011 survey, which is a clear demonstration that companies are not keeping up with the changing face of the search marketplace hence many are suffering from an increasing knowledge gap.
This situation is further exacerbated by the shift towards companies bringing these services in house. Companies who took part in the survey demonstrated an increase in-house PPC from 38% to 45%, 48% to 55% for SEO and 64% to 70% for social media marketing.
As search continues to change companies are failing to understand its increasing complexity. The survey showed that 41% of companies either did not know or think it was relevant to know whether local search, social search or mobile search offered the most value.
Barriers to Optimising Activity
For paid search companies cited strength of competition (35%), keywords being too expensive (34%) and a lack of budget (34%) as being the main barriers to their activity.
For SEO companies cited a lack of internal resource (42%), lack of budget (38%) and lack of know-how (29%) as being the main barriers to their activity.
Companies cited the main barriers to their social media activity were difficulty of measuring success (48%), lack of internal resource (37%) and lack of budget (34%).
Other factors that have been cited for having a negative impact on search campaigns include:
- A lack of integration of digital activity with 57% of companies treating search and social in isolation and only 19% of companies using one company to manage their search and display activity
- A lack of attribution of performance. Only 44% of the companies involved in the survey stated they were tracking the ROI of their paid search as effectively as they would like to. For SEO this figure was only 37% and for social media a mere 20%. In the current economic environment demonstrating ROI is more important than ever and the inability to do so is hampering companies in this space.
- There is a significant lack of investment within the social media space with 75% of companies investing less than £10,000.
- The use of bid management technology is still immature within the marketplace
- There is a lack of cohesiveness with many companies using channels in isolation and for different purposes such as social media for branding and PPC for direct acquisition. It is important that companies clearly define their online strategy and utilise the various channels in a complimentary manner to maximise their ROI.
- There is significant confusion from companies as to why they should be in the social media space. Everyone wants to be in this space however many don’t really understand why.
The constantly evolving and increasingly complex search and social marketing space, combined with a growing advertiser knowledge gap is becoming an increasingly difficult barrier to overcome. Whilst spend within the search space looks set to grow, it seems that this is due in part to rising costs, as opposed to increasing sales volume.
At a time when many brands are being challenged to reduce costs and drive greater efficiencies, the evolving marketplace is inhibiting their ability to do this. One solution for companies has been to bring more of their search marketing in-house, rather than relying on agencies. Whilst this may result in cost reductions being made (at least initially), the lack of internal knowledge is creating further barriers.
It is essential for companies to find a balance whereby they are reducing costs, but not doing so to the detriment of their activity. Given the ever evolving nature of the online space, any savings made by way of cost reduction could easily be lost by maintaining a marketing team that is becoming more out of touch with the very environment in which they are supposed to lead your business forward.