2012: Search Marketing Armageddon or Opportunity?

What’s on the minds of digital marketers as we head toward 2012? Are they looking to bump their search spend up, down, sideways – and what issues are they focusing on in the coming year. The Mayan calendar holds 2012 as a year of Armageddon – but are digital marketers seeing next year as disaster or opportunity?

It’s Budget Season Again

Across the world, the annual budgeting process, also known as “The Family Feud,” is taking place as departments, campaigns, and groups vie for attention, direction, and money. In most companies, budgets are the result of several processes. There is:

  • “Zero basis budgeting” where the budget for programs has to be completely re-justified annually. 
  • Incremental budgeting where adjustments to the previous year’s budgets are the goal – where spending is bumped up here a bit, and down there a bit. 
  • Competitive benchmarking based budgeting, which involves matching budget allocations to key competitive or industry benchmarks.

In media, allocation of budget by channel usually is done incrementally. The trend for years has been adjustments upward in digital advertising at the expense of traditional print advertising – usually justified through media mix models or competitive and industry benchmarking.

Most Important Issues Facing Search Marketers in 2012

So what is the most important issue facing search marketers in 2012? This is what we found during an August 25 webinar, based on 83 responses:

  • Mobile search, surprisingly, was named the most important issue by 37 percent of respondents. 
  • Attribution modeling came in second – a sign of the growing maturity of the search market. 
  • Though social media is a huge issue, optimizing brands to show up on Facebook was the lowest rated goal for 2012 beneath video search.
  • Only 12 percent of respondents included integrating Likes and +1s into their SEO programs as the top priority.

2012-search-marketing-most-important-issueNot covered in the specific survey was the impact of rich snippets for SEO on Google. This should be a high priority for advertisers in 2012.

Organizations were also asked to benchmark their maturity in both search and social media. The results:

  • Respondents rated the maturity of their search programs as “Average.” Only 7 percent said they are highly mature, and 25 percent said they are mature – that seems low. However, most respondents indicated that they rate themselves this way because they are concerned about their organizations ability to scale search, particularly SEO, into mobile search, integrate programs across channels, and scale the more manual aspects of search (e.g., link building and keyword development).
  • Social media was rated as “immature” by 39 percent of respondents, which makes sense. Social is a relatively new channel – we’re still working out metrics on what “success” means. What was most surprising is that 25 percent rate their programs as “mature.” That seems high.


2012: Armageddon or Opportunity?

With so many challenges on the horizon facing search and social media marketers – mobile, video, rich snippets, Facebook advertising, attribution modeling – the question “2012: Armageddon or Opportunity?” isn’t so much a question as a potential outcome.

If advertisers don’t address mobile search, attribution modeling, and increasing the maturity of their programs, then 2012 means digital (or brand) Armageddon. If these issues are addressed, then 2012 is the year of opportunity.

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