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Report: Most Search Marketers are Unsophisticated

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The majority of search marketers are unsophisticated, despite having worked in the field for two or more years, according to a study by JupiterResearch.

A special report from the Search Engine Strategies conference, December 13-16, 2004, Chicago, IL.

Niki Scevak, an analyst at JupiterResearch, took a look at how marketers are using search, and emerging trends in search marketing. He also introduced Gary Stein, a senior analyst at JupiterResearch, who joined in the Q&A that followed Scevak's presentation.

Based on its latest Survey of Search Marketer Behavior, JupiterResearch considers three quarters of search marketers currently using unsophisticated search engine marketing (SEM) tactics. "Only one in four search marketers bids and measures intelligently," said Scevak.

To segment "sophisticates" and "unsophisticates," JupiterResearch looked at the methods search marketers use most frequently to determine the amount of money to bid for a keyword and the most detailed level they usually use to look at metrics to quantify the effectiveness of search marketing.

He presented data that showed sophisticates are driving spending on search engine marketing. For example, 66% of sophisticates spent $25,000 or more in the past 12 months and 44% spent more than $100,000. In contrast, 64% of unsophisticates spent less than $25,000 in the past 12 months and 48% spent less that $10,000. This includes per-click fees, agency fees, and tool fees.

Sophisticates are happier with SEM and plan to increase the amount of money they spend on search marketing by greater percentages in the next 12 months. Nevertheless, 69% of all search marketers say they will spend more this year on SEM than they did last year.

According to Scevak, there are some key milestones in on the road from being an unsophisticated to becoming a sophisticated search marketer. The key one is adoption of analytics, which enables marketers to expand both the number of keywords and the use of additional paid listing vendors.

Sophistication increases with experience, although a majority of unsophisticates have been using search engines to market their products or services for two or more years.

Sophisticates are more likely to change bids, select keywords, change ad text, or change landing pages. Unsophisticates are less likely to optimize SEM campaigns regularly.

Sophisticates are more likely to measure the effectiveness of search marketing in immediate online sales and the number of leads for online sales. Unsophisticates are more likely to use metrics like increased web traffic.

Sophisticates bid on more paid listing vendors, increasing the number of clicks they generate. For example, 96% of sophisticates work with Google, 91% with Overture, 44% with FindWhat.com, and 39% with LookSmart. In contrast, only 80% of unsophisticates work with Google, 68% with Overture, 21% with FindWhat.com, and 21% with LookSmart.

Sophisticates currently bid for more keywords with more than a third bidding for more than 1,000 keywords. In contrast, only 14% of unsophisticates bid for more than 1,000 keywords.

Scevak said, "Retailers are the most likely to bid and measure intelligently." According to JupiterResearch, the professional services industry has the lowest sophistication of bidding and the health care industry has the lowest sophistication of measurement.

Scevak concluded, "Marketers must achieve sophistication in bid strategy and measurement to survive."

Greg Jarboe is the president and co-founder of SEO-PR, which has formed a strategic partnership with PR Web to provide search engine promotion services through a network of more than 40 search engine marketing firms.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Three out of Four Search Marketers 'Unsophisticated' discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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