Study: 'It's Not My Job' Could Cost Search Industry Big Bucks

by , Jun 18, 2009, 5:28 PM
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While service companies have spent time understanding the market and refining bid engines to determine prices for search terms, many have fallen short when it comes to integrating what happens after consumers click through to the Web site.

Paid search or SEO professionals might say: "It's not my job, man" to determine what's next once a person clicks on a link or paid search ad and ends up on a client's Web site landing page. That kind of thinking could cost the industry revenue in the long term.

Despite the fact that 31.8% of survey respondents reveal they will not change budget this year compared with last, 33.6% say they will spend 10% or more, 20.8% believe they will spend between 10% and 20% less, and 14% say they will spend zero or don't know.

That's according to findings from the report titled "Search Engine Marketing in 2009: Reality Not Matching Expectations When it Comes to Performance," published by [x+1] Thursday.

The findings reflect dissatisfaction in the way service companies manage accounts. Companies need to take paid and organic search out of the silos and integrate them into the total campaign strategy. They need help converting people from lookers to buyers once they hit the Web site. When asked to rate the expected performance of SEM in 2009 on a scale of 1 to 7 -- 7 being the highest -- only 20% of respondents gave it a 6 or 7, and 57% ranked it at 1 or 2.

The most common and effective metric for determining the success or failure of an SEM campaign is the percentage of "lift" or increase in conversions measured before and after the use of SEM.

SEM graph-level of satisfaction-x+1

The survey suggests that less than one-quarter -- 21% of respondents -- were satisfied or very satisfied with their company's ability to optimize sites for between 30 and 100 keywords and redirect searchers to landing pages; 42% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. Only 23% were satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to continuously improve the performance of their landing pages in response to keyword searches.

Search engine technologies and brands have done a decent job of helping to determine the bids for keywords, but "once I get someone to click on the paid link, no one is there to help me determine what I should display on the landing pages," says Ted Shergalis, cofounder and chief strategy officer at [x+1].

Companies that have an SEM strategy say "you got the person to click, now help me understand" what to serve up to the person on the East Coast who clicks on the term "credit card from a dot.edu domain on Friday at 11 p.m.," versus someone landing on the site from a dot.edu on the West Coast.

Shergalis says companies need help in defining the slight differences behind the search terms that led the person to the site."

Nearly all technology available today requires a predetermined response based on a keyword term before serving up a page, but a shameless plug from Shergalis reveals that [x+1]'s predictive algorithm build the page with articles and ads based on data known about the users.

SEM Spending pie chart 2008-2009 x+1

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