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Search Engine Marketing. Your antidote to recession worries?

13:08 on Fri, 4 Jul 2008 | Industry Comment | 1 Comment

We’ve all been here before.

Month on month the media are giving us warnings over possible global recession, which inevitably leads to concern and increased caution when it comes to company spending and agreeing budgets.

And what gets cut first when push comes to shove?

Yes, you’ve guessed it, the poor old marketing budget. Every single time. Reviewed alongside other company spending, it’s the easy target, probably because its the less tangible one of all.

Yet research has shown time after time that those who continue to market through a period of economic instability stay at the front of the consumer mind and come out the other side in far better shape than those who have left the Marketing Director busking for a budget to do his or her job effectively.

So the question is, could there be a way of cutting spend without losing marketing impact? Well maybe, just maybe, this is the time when those so far unconvinced by the fast-growing online marketing sector, will finally give it a try if only as an inexpensive alternative to their offline presence.

Please don’t get me wrong. Offline marketing in most cases is still as necessary today as it was last year in terms of building awareness, so I am not advocating replacing one with the other.

Quite the contrary. As always in marketing it’s a question of getting the mix right - they should support one another in achieving your goals. However, many clients have been too reluctant to trial online marketing for fear of upsetting the status quo - even if that status quo is one of downward sales.

“We’ve always done it this way - and it’s served us pretty well” is quite frequently the answer I’d get when questioning the reasons behind a client’s choice of media.

In the past few years, the overwhelming trends towards online business and sales
has challenged that thinking like never before. Most importantly, clients who have
entered the brave new world with proven SEM* agencies and embraced Search Engine Marketing correctly, would never dream of going back.

I guess what I am trying to say here is this;

One. Online marketing is not costly when compared to most offline marketing activity and you can test it inexpensively.

Two. Everything an agency does in online marketing terms is monitored, so a ROI can be very swiftly measured and delivered, unlike with so many offline activities.

Three. By testing it with a small budget first against certain offline activities you have traditionally included in your budget, you can start to see where you could be cutting back on spend without cutting back on response.

And four. With the squeeze being talked up, surely this has to be the time for those clients to take this low cost risk in a bid to ‘gain more by investing less’.

In fact, any SEO** agency worth its salt will have evidence of head-to-head comparisons carried out against offline. Here are just a couple of examples we at Further can point to.

The first happened during the the last quarter of 2007.

We conducted a paid test for a client who had historically been spending the same budget each month in the national press to gain subscriptions to a magazine. Taking exactly the same budget, we were challenged to make Pay per Click advertising deliver a better ROI. The results speak for themselves. Across the quarter, our PPC campaign had delivered a response 8 times higher than via that of the national press - and cut the cost of trial acquisition to one seventh!!

Another client here at Further decided to test search engine marketing and put a small amount aside for it while the lion’s share is still spent on press, directory and magazine advertising. During the second half of 2007, 82% of all enquiries came via our online activity - for just 15% of the client’s marketing budget.

It is not easy for some clients, particularly those owner-managed SME’s for which every penny counts, to easily take the decision to switch some of their marketing budget to something which is relatively unknown to them.

It must be hoped though, that a combination of proven examples and the need to survive the testing times ahead will make them think a little harder about at least dipping their toes in the water with a proportion of their budget, however pared back it may be.

Written 03.02.08 Steve Jaggard.


*SEM (Search Engine Marketing) is a form of Internet Marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in the Search Engine result pages (SERPs). According to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, SEM methods include: Search Engine Optimization (or SEO), paid placement, and paid inclusion. Other sources, including the New York Times, define SEM as the practice of buying paid search listings with the goal of obtaining better free search listings.

**SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results, or the higher it "ranks", the more searchers will visit that site. SEO can also target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As a marketing strategy for increasing a site's relevance, SEO considers how search algorithms work and what people search for. SEO efforts may involve a site's coding, presentation, and structure, as well as fixing problems that could prevent search engine indexing programs from fully spidering a site. Other, more noticeable efforts may include adding unique content to a site, ensuring that content is easily indexed by search engine robots, and making the site more appealing to users.

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aaron • Years ago