Both SEO and SEM are equally effective online tactics, according to nearly 2,500 marketers surveyed by Marketing Sherpa. Some 54% said SEO produced strong/good returns while 51% claimed the same thing about their SEM spends. Online display ads did not perform well, with only 19% of marketers reporting decent returns.
While that trust in search optimization and marketing is commendable, it supports what we already know about the value of targeted, online tactics. On the other hand, there's a sizeable group who aren't satisfied yet.
Over a quarter, or 28%, of marketers discovered their SEM returns were highly variable vs. 17% who found SEO returns varied too. Meanwhile 21% of respondents claimed SEO results were hard to gauge; by contrast, just 9% said SEM created any tracking challenges. Online banners again were non-performers, with 43% of marketers calling them a low-value tactic.
How to react to these outcomes?
Well, consider the sources. These respondents “conduct or supervise search marketing for their own companies” and likely have a vested interest in producing decent SEO and SEM results. It makes sense that over half of marketers are pleased with their efforts -- though we may wish for more.
The survey asked about marketing tactics independently. Thus any connections among the different online (and offline) tactics aren't here. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the ROI non-performers quite yet. As we know, any awareness can also drive search activities down the line.