Confusion Over Search Engine Marketing

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What a strange, magnificent and scary world we live in.

Marketing Pundits (like me) were quick to forecast a serious uptake in search engine marketing as the recession (which, according to some is officially over) took hold. Common sense dictates that as Marketers get nervous and hold back on their advertising spend, they’re going to focus whatever dollars they are using on strategies and tactics that really drive results and that are highly measurable. Search engine marketing fits the bill perfectly.

It turns out that researchers following the paid search world found that it declined 26% overall.

This was the net result from a newly released report by Hitwise for research done leading up to May 9th, 2009. "Referrals from search engines continue to climb but the proportion of clicks going to sponsored or paid listings is decreasing. This is no doubt a result of cutbacks in marketing spend due to the recession," said Hitwise analyst, Heather Hopkins, in the news item, Hitwise – Paid Search Sinks Fast, published in BizReport on May 13th, 2009.

And yet, a day later, we’re being told that 45% of respondents to a joint study by eConsultancy and Guava planned to raise spending on their paid search programs.

eMarketer ran the news item, Searching For Sales, Traffic And Branding, which says, "with the global economy faltering, money in short supply, search marketing is often the tool that marketers rely on to attract new customers. ‘Search marketing is the best customer acquisition tool in the online space,’ said eMarketer senior analyst David Hallerman."


Yes, some of the reports and studies are funded by the actual agencies and consultancy groups that make their profit from these specific channels, but this type of differing insight (released within days of one another) is not going to help the more traditional Marketers make the right decisions. Beyond the research, we all know that more and more people are doing searches in and around the products and services we sell all of the time, and the opportunity to put our highly targeted and related messages in front of them – on a pay-per-click basis – is something that no brand can afford to avoid. Still, it would be much more helpful to the growth of the Digital Marketing channel if we could rally the troops (just a little bit) on our research and news output.

What do you think, is search engine marketing up, down or right where we left it prior to the meltdown?


  1. Up and Down – depending on the market. Big business is in a panic and is predictably throwing good money after bad in hopes of staying on the hamster wheel. Smaller businesses that didn’t fold, are finally educating themselves to the alternatives and paying attention to organic testing. They are moving their money and taking more control of the process.

  2. Before the turn of the year, we found that convincing clients of the benefits of SEM was a bit of a hard sell. Come 2009 and it’s a different story: they’re approaching us. What I also see is an increasing number of SEM/SEO companies sending unsolicited emails to businesses promising all sorts of unrealistic benefits and results. I think companies see the value; they’re just having difficulty finding practitioners to trust.

  3. Paul Gillin has a great quote in his latest book that cites some research which effectively says that 80% of paid ads attract a very specific demographic of the population – lower income, lower educated, usually new to the web, principally folks unable to accurately discern the difference between organic content and advertising.
    The quote essentially says that for a certain target audience, paid search works really well, but if you’re looking for a higher income, higher education audience, paid search lead quality is terrible.
    All depends on the target audience.

  4. I would have to say it is up. More and more people are realizing SEM is becoming necessary.

  5. I have noticed the trend of marketers using SEM and SEO strategies and tactics in the last 18 months or so. I think with the recession they are looking at more bang for their buck.
    Oh, and by the way, I wanna know who the jokers are that are saying the recession is over? Not where I live it isn’t.

  6. What we’ve noticed is some of our customers and other contacts looking at online marketing more closely as a whole.
    Those who had some properties online for show are now reviewing their strategies to see if they can best optimize their online presence for better business monetary returns rather than simply indicate they also have a website.
    I believe the demand for SEM & SEO has picked up because of the above reason and also companies getting online to reduce costs overall that associated with brick motor.

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