Why the growth of search defies economic turmoil

By Wayne Lieb

In the midst of an economic downturn, marketers are still embracing search engine marketing as an accountable and cost-effective strategy. Here are the factors that are driving continued growth.

Companies around the world have watched bad news pile up over the past few months, as it has started to become apparent that many of the world’s major economies will slip into prolonged recession. However, amidst the gloom, one major American company had good news for its shareholders — results that beat analysts’ forecasts with a 25 percent increase in revenues for the most recent quarter. That company was Google, and its success illustrates how search engine marketing (SEM) continues to defy poor economic conditions, enabling it to grow into one of the world’s most significant marketing channels.

It is expected that paid search will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13 percent up to 2013, even in a world where print, broadcast, and other offline media are stagnating or declining. So what is it exactly that seems to make SEM recession-proof? It is the fact that it is accountable, measurable, and delivers good results for a relatively low investment. SEM does just what marketers need a marketing medium to do in a down economy — it generates better returns on the smaller budgets with which organizations have to work.

Achieving conversions
SEM is a powerful tool for branding, as well as achieving customer acquisitions and conversions. Most other forms of advertising push a message to audiences who may or may not be interested in them. But in SEM, a user declares intent by telling you exactly what he or she is looking for, and search engines provide the results to the user.

Search gives marketers an opportunity to place their messages in an environment that is relevant to the user. It allows you to directly address people who are seeking out products or services just like the ones your company sells. In other words, it’s pull marketing rather than push marketing.

SEM enables marketers to get the right message across to the right people and at the right time. Because of this, there is far less waste than there is in some other forms of advertising. You are not spending money talking to people who simply aren’t interested in what you are selling.

What’s more, SEM allows you to pursue a range of business goals and measure your success in achieving them. You could easily set up a branding campaign that will see a longer tail of keywords and the possible use of the content network. Your focus will be on achieving critical mass or reach in a cost-effective manner. By contrast, a sales-driven campaign will be more targeted with a strong ROI focus.

As long as you keep linking your results to your online objectives, you can easily see how hard your money is working for you and optimize your campaign to ensure the best possible results. For example, if you want to generate leads, you can measure the amount and quality of those leads. With the┬áright tools, you will have the ability to track, manage, and evaluate your campaign, right down to a keyword level, to understand what is working for you and what isn’t.

Closing words
Around the world, marketers are still buying into search. Research conducted by Forrester in Asia Pacific, North America, and Europe shows that 85 percent of marketers are using, piloting, or planning to pilot search marketing programs this year.

Search marketing is an integral element of marketing strategies because it ensures that you are present when users are looking for your services or products online. If you are not visible, you are losing out on opportunities to talk to people who might become your customers if they are exposed to your message.

Wayne Lieb is director of search marketing at Acceleration – Digital Marketing.

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