8 Search Marketing Trends in 2013

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The seventh annual UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report was published by Econsultancy recently, which surveyed more than 750 companies and agencies on all aspects of the SEO and PPC industry.

The 98-page report covers everything from the percentage of agencies offering SEO services to how many companies use bespoke bid management technology. The full report is available here, but if you don't have the time to read it in its entirety here are eight key points from the survey.

1. Content marketing not just a buzz-word

The industry as a whole now appears to have accepted content-led strategy as an integral part of the SEO process. External agencies are now used by 48% of companies to create a content strategy, representing a rise of 9% in the last year.

Googles Penguin updates are largely responsible for this shift away from link-building to online PR, and only 12% of companies now keep their content and SEO strategies separate. Content marketing and online PR are the two activities that most companies (33%) are planning to use going forward.

Content is king in SEO

2. More agencies turning full-service

One of the headline stats from the report was that 52% of agencies now offer a full range of digital marketing services.

This figure has been steadily on the increase from 2011, when the number was just 42%.

To look at the finding from a different perspective though, 48% of agencies – including Search Laboratory – have resisted the temptation to branch out from their founding area of expertise.

Search Laboratory is one of only 10% agencies that offer both SEO and paid search.

3. SEO leads the way

SEO is by far the most common service search marketing agencies claim to offer, with 91% of respondents answering that they optimise clients for Googles natural search. This is no surprise, however it is interesting to note that Search Laboratory actually started life as a PPC agency before branching into the natural SERPs.

Social media marketing is now as prevalent as paid search (both offered by 78% of agencies), while analytic services comes second in the rankings at 81%.

4. Brands optimising in-house

Despite nearly all search marketing agencies offering SEO services 52% of companies surveyed admitted to still carrying out their SEO in-house. I'd expect this figure to decrease moving forward as more companies outsource to agencies due to the laborious nature of SEO, driven by content and online PR. The number of companies using an agency for SEO has risen steadily from 2009 when it was at just 11%.

PPC is the service most commonly outsourced with 28% of companies using an agency, closely followed by display advertising. Social media marketing is predominately carried out in house and only 7% of respondents outsourced to an agency.

5. Keyword research most popular service

Keyword research for SEO purposes is the agency service most popular with companies, and at 74% is clear of site audit (64%) in second by some distance. However, it comes last in the agency service companies are planning to use at just 15%.

Keyword research is also the most popular PPC agency service, even more so than ROI tracking and analysis. Unlike SEO though, it has decreased in popularity by 4%.

Multilingual Search

6. No change in multilingual

In the 2009 report 74% of companies expressed no interest in running multilingual search campaign and that figure has not changed in this years report. There is little difference between PPC and SEO on this subject: 13% of companies use an agency for multilingual PPC campaigns, while that figure is 12% for SEO.

Nearly three quarters of those companies that are running international campaigns in different languages use the same agency across both PPC and SEO. Interestingly only 6% run their campaigns via the local markets, rather than centrally managed.

7. Search marketing budgets set to rise

More than half of the companies surveyed intend to increase their online marketing budgets in the areas of PPC and SEO, while just over 40% are planning on spending more money on display advertising over the next 12 months. These figures marry up roughly to agency predictions for clients budgets.

A quarter of companies surveyed spend less than £10,000 a year on PPC but at the other end of the spectrum, spend over £1m per annum has increased by 6%. In comparison there has been a 5% increase in companies spending over £50,000 a year on natural search, and 15% spend over £100,000.

8. Bid management technology

Search Laboratory is in the 12% of agencies that use bespoke bid management software for paid search. The vast majority of both agencies and companies instead rely only on tools provided by search engines, however this is more common with lower PPC budgets.

Tracking, measurement and reporting, cost, integration with analytics and ease of use were the main criteria companies use to select their bid management technology.