MarketingSherpa: Marketers Say Search Is Not ‘Very Effective’
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2004 Search Marketing Survey, on average, neither marketers or their agencies feel their search marketing efforts are “very effective.” However, as MarketingSherpa Publisher and Editor Anne Holland says, it’s their own fault.
When you combine paid search spending with search optimization spending, the total spend on search reaches $3.78 billion, according to the survey—a considerable number for “an ad tactic” most marketers believe to be only “somewhat effective.”
Fifty percent of the survey’s 3,007 marketers said paid inclusion and optimization are “somewhat effective,” while 47 percent believe the same is true of paid ads. About a third of respondents said optimization and paid ads are “very effective,” but only 18 percent said the same is true of paid inclusion.
Why aren’t marketers more pleased with their search marketing campaigns? Holland says it’s a question of perception versus reality. Marketers are notoriously hard to please, and within a complicated environment like search, the truth can often be clouded over. For Holland, a couple of glaring trends/problems stood out.
For one, most marketers don’t send their click-throughs to specialized landing pages. Holland said this means they’re losing out on a lot of conversions. Results from a 2003 MarketingSherpa survey of Google AdWords customers pointed out that 75 percent of those using specialized landing pages reported significantly higher conversion rates than those who sent traffic to a regular site page. Sixty-three percent of that survey’s respondents said they sent click-throughs to specialized landing pages.
In the 2004 survey, that figure fell drastically, although the 2004 survey included all search campaigns. Just 42 percent of those surveyed currently use specialized landing pages, 32 percent use deep-linking, and 26 percent send their traffic to the home page.
Still, “people should know better,” Holland said despondently. “The majority are sending people to crappy pages.” She noted that such “worst-practices” leave “a lot of money on the table,” because marketers are sending click-throughs to pages that don’t convert well.
Rob Middleton, chief strategy officer of search engine marketing (SEM) services firm Fathom Online, noted that the decrease is partly due to the involvement of fledgling newbie advertisers in paid search over the last year. Middleton said that many new advertisers start by taking the self-service approach, and then find themselves disappointed in the results. He noted that effective search marketers aren’t buying 10 or 20 keywords—they’re buying 5,000 keywords and monitoring their progress constantly.
“Often, we need to tell clients why they should be tracking,” Middleton said. The MarketingSherpa report also revealed that search optimization boosts traffic considerably, despite search marketers’ lukewarm response to it. According to the data, marketers said organic clicks increased an average of 73 percent in the six months after optimization; organic click-throughs convert 6.7 percent for business-to-business marketers and 6.5 percent for business-to-consumer marketers.
Despite this, marketers will only spend $238.5 million on search engine optimization (SEO) services, while paid search spending will be $3.3 billion. “Optimization is very mysterious,” said MarketingSherpa’s Holland. She said that companies are overly wary about SEO because they know so little about it.
Overall, Holland said that hiring outside help improves search performance. SEM agencies get significantly higher average click rates (3.4 percent versus 2.8 percent), and higher conversion rates for paid search (6.1 percent versus 5.8 percent)—and they also bid nine cents higher on average than most in-house SEM operations, which results in more leads.
So which are the best SEM firms? Holland wouldn’t say, but she did note that any firm with a high staff-to-client ratio will do the best job. Holland said a good agency is largely determined by the number of man hours it can devote per page, per site. By man hours, she means technicians, not salespeople. According to Holland, there is a lot of room for growth in the SEM/SEO space.
MarketingSherpa’s 2004 Search Marketing Survey is part of the Search Marketing Metrics Guide, which was released last week.