Brands recognize that search marketing has a strong ROI, with 72 percent of recently surveyed search marketers indicating they plan to increase their SEM technology spend this year over 2011. 26 percent foresee spending at the same level, while just 2 percent of respondents intend to reduce their investments in search marketing technology. The maturity of enterprise SEO platforms has reached mainstream adoption, notes BrightEdge in their 2012 Search Marketers Survey report.
Search Engine Watch reached out to a few members of the search marketing community to see if their experience and outlook is on par with those who participated in the survey.
Search Marketing Manager Andrew Taylor of CitrixOnline spoke with Search Engine Watch (SEW) on how they use technology in search and social marketing: “We’re trying to monitor as many of those signals as makes sense. You can sometimes get so bogged down in all of those data points that you don’t give yourself time to draw conclusions.”
His insight mirrors the concerns of many, that search and social data can become overwhelming unless managed properly. “We’re trying to go at it in a logical way, so which social signals matter to companies in general and then which apply to us? We try to leverage machines and platforms to crunch a lot of the data for us… search changes over time, so there’s not always going to be a technological solution to processing data to look at it at a high level and make decisions,” said Taylor. “When we can, we use technology solutions to save time so we can bring in the human element to look at the data and go from that point.”
Security & Global Support Increasingly Important
As they plan to invest more in SEM technology, 83 percent of respondents indicated they foresee enterprise-grade infrastructure becoming more important to their marketing organization in 2012. Companies are becoming savvy about cloud applications and expect the same capabilities as the larger vendors oﬀer, notes BrightEdge. The need for scale has evolved to making sure the cloud computing platform the company is using is scalable but also secure.
72 percent of respondents said their organization targets markets in more than one country, while 78 percent said it will be more or much more important in 2012 to have a marketing solution that can provide global support. ClickZ expert Crispin Sheridan, of SAP Marketing, agrees and told us it’s “very important; we really can’t use tools that aren’t global.”
Dawna Olsen, Corporate Marketing Director at Epicor, said, “One of our biggest challenges from a global SEO perspective is to define the right set of long-tail keywords for each region and language, then accurately update the global sites as quickly as we have new content.” Epicor works with a global translation company, but as Olsen explains, part of the challenge is “having someone locally in the environment to actually go in and make the proper updates to the sites, and also to have someone in the market to understand the proper keywords in that region.”
Search Marketers See Value in Social
Fully 98 percent of search marketing respondents agreed that social media matters to their organization’s marketing strategy. BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu told SEW, “Last year, we saw a lot of the theme was around tracking ROI, organic search and better quantifying ROI. This year, it’s a lot more about social signals on SEO. As enterprises and brands have developed ways to understand the value of organic search, they’re expanding their footprint.”
Each of the search marketers we spoke with agreed. Sheridan shared with us that SAP Marketing considers social a very important part of their marketing strategy, with six of their team members now working on it.
Olsen explained her organization’s use of social media as a part of their marketing strategy. “We started social a couple of years back and it’s an evolving educational process when it comes to executive buy-in,” she said. Social can be challenging, she notes, because it is very resource intensive. Epicor continues to focus on it and has evolved from “getting out there and establishing/protecting our brand to starting in on more full-out engagement and the things that are going to offer the most SEO benefit.”
Performics CEO Daina Middleton tells us, “Search in general is at a turning point.” The web has turned into a participation vehicle, she says, explaining, “It’s not just about your own assets, but about any assets that potentially benefit the point that you’re trying to get across.” Performics is “incorporating social into everything we do; we used to do this with digital, we talked about it as something separate. Five years ago, people were saying, I want to do something social. We just don’t think of it that way anymore.”
Predictions for Social Signals in Search
Yu noted that one of the major themes in free-form responses gathered from survey respondents was the impact of social signals on search rankings. “Search and social are coming together and that’s a key dimension of not just what Google is doing, but how the customer experience is coming together,” he said.
He predicts the larger volume of signals around relevancy will increase the impact of social signals in search, over time. Just as on-page factors are a great look into relevancy, social activity (Shares, Likes, +1s, etc.) are going to be major signals in ranking, according to Yu.
Sheridan agreed that social in general will be more important to SAP Marketing’s SEO in 2012. He believes Likes, tweets and other social signals will be far more important this year than they were in 2011.
“For 2012, we’re looking at a larger budget for social and spending a little bit more with search,” said Taylor. “We feel that social signals in search already are fairly important and it’s likely that their algorithmic importance might rise over this next year and the years to come.” CitrixOnline has social media managers and community managers in-house and are currently on the three major social networks, Facebook, Twitter & Google+.
He would like to see more resources allocated to social and community building, which he believes spills over into strengthening the brand and brand identity. According to Taylor, “Right now it’s more about the indirect; we’ve definitely seen increases in organic traffic, but we’re not seeing the type of return that we would see by investing in other channels right now. I think that might change.”
Do you agree with the outlook for 2012 as put forth by survey respondents? Let us know in the comments.