The Future of SEM Education

I heard a political pundit the other day say something to the effect that the economy isn’t in the toilet, but it’s heading towards that room of the house. With gas prices (and everything prices) jumping and running and stalling to sprint again, one could ask, “What is the future of search?” This leads to the question: What is the future necessity of SEM education?

State of the Market

Much like our own presidential report every January, SEMPO recently completed their State of the Market 2007 report, releasing these key findings:

  • The North American SEM industry grew from $9.4 billion in 2006 to $12.2 billion in 2007, exceeding earlier projections of $11.5 billion for 2007.
  • North American SEM spending is now projected to grow to $25.2 billion in 2011, up significantly from the $18.6 billion forecast a year ago.
  • Marketers are finding more search dollars by poaching budget from print magazine spending, Web site development, direct mail, and other marketing programs.
  • Paid placement captures 87.4 percent of 2007 spending; organic SEO, 10.5 percent; paid inclusion, .07 percent, and technology investment, 1.4 percent.

The Ads

Reuters recently reported that while online ads aren’t necessarily growing at the rate of print advertising decline, they’re still growing while the economy all around us is shrinking. Money is moving, and even in a tight spot, it appears to be moving online. And almost 90 percent of that is for PPC. This is important on two fronts:

  1. These numbers will cause other companies to advertise.
  2. Those companies will need knowledgeable and properly-trained people to execute a great PPC campaign.

And then some numbers just boggle the mind: “The Kelsey Group has projected that online advertising will hit $147 billion by 2012.”

The Developing World

The above number from the Kelsey Group is numbers worldwide, which should come as no surprise. In China alone, Internet usage has gone from 69 million to 253 million in the last five years, and as the country becomes more industrialized, those numbers will only climb as more of the 1.3 billion Chinese become hooked into the Internet.

And while growth in other parts of the world isn’t as exponential as it is in China, as other countries develop their own and import other technologies, the viewers and providers of the Internet increases, especially in mobile because, in some parts of the world, that’s the most quickly increasing demographic; many more people have access to a cell phone and signal than a computer and Internet connection.

What the heck does that have to do with SEM? Everything. Supply and demand. A larger population means more business, which means more need for Web presences, which means more competition, which means more need for good SEO. And whether the world wants to learn from us or have us create their optimization, we have an in: the language of the Internet is still English.

Now, more than ever, it might be a good time to reignite the call for SEO standardization. What? Ooh, too soon. Sorry about that.

The Outlook

Taking a look at all these resources and numbers, you can see one thing: growth. When the economy is good, businesses are willing to push budgets to online sources. These numbers show that an enormous number of businesses realize the importance of not only having a Web presence, but being able to maintain a visible presence because when the economy is sinking — like now — budgets aren’t only being pushed online, but pulled from other sources.

What does that mean for the future of search education? It’s bright. That same SEMPO report mentioned earlier also talked about the increases in companies with employees dedicated to SEM, which is now averaging three for companies under 500 employees and five for all advertisers overall.

The state of the market is good, as is the demand for SEM services and education.

So aside from where you see search and education going in the short term, where do you see it in the next five years? The next 10? Is the constant flux of SEM knowledge and practice our strength in the coming years? Is our lack of consolidation and standardization a weakness? Will Cuil kill Google? We’d love to hear from you.

Now, if we could just get gas under $4 a gallon…

Join us for SES San Jose, August 18-22 at the San Jose Convention Center.

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