Economic conditions have begun to improve and build positive momentum. That's not only the view from the Institute for Supply Management about the U.S. services sector, which in February grew at its fastest pace in more than two years -- but also from some search companies and agencies supporting marketers and advertisers in paid search and search engine optimization (SEO).
This year SEO cozies up closer to social marketing. In 2009, marketers spent time focusing on survival, but in 2010 more look to find the balance between paid search and display advertising, and SEO and social marketing -- and to back up campaigns with numbers from analytic services.
At the search marketing firm Covario, CEO Russ Mann expects a 15% jump in paid search sales this first quarter, compared with the year-ago quarter. "Marketers have begun to bundle SEO with social marketing," he says. "And now that tweets from Twitter and Facebook Fan pages index in Google, marketers are looking at SEO more closely."
Optimizing for social marketing doesn't stop at Facebook and Twitter. Marketers need to think about all blogs and user-generated content on YouTube or sites that supports user ratings. Marketers also are turning back to the "good old fan club" on their Web sites as a way to engage consumers, Mann says. "You don't need to use someone else's platform to run your own contests," he says. "Companies like Fender, McDonald's and Dairy Queen are not only using the best known social portals, but some are going back to trying to reengage with consumers on their own sites, too."
All this helps with social SEO, Mann says. People blogging about products and services, as well as linking to social campaigns, help drive up campaign sites in search engine rankings. Within the next month Corvario plans to launch a new platform, Social Media Insight, that ties SEO together with social media campaigns.
Mann says the uptick the industry will see this year got a boost from SEO marketers who started 2010 with renewed optimism and new budgets.
During the second and third quarter things start to slow. By the third quarter people start to plan for the following year. And the fourth quarter, the user-it-or-lose-it quarter typically produces the best deals. Buyers know this, Mann says.
During the third quarter of 2009, Mann began to see more companies seeking growth outside the United States. Internal reports noticed a shift in paid search spend out of the U.S. and into Korea, China and Europe.
The spend report Mann references doesn't focus on search optimization, but it shows a "huge, huge increase" in SEO. "We see more large-scale global SEO project," Mann says. "The manufactures and providers are making sure they have internationally optimized pages with local content."
New York-based agency Didit had a lull in new client contracts after the economy tanked, but business picked up again at the end of the third quarter 2009 and continues to increase momentum in 2010, according to a spokesman.
Google, YouTube, Twitter and Didit have begun to recruit new hires. Take a look at the more than 75 jobs posted to the board for the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization.
Resolution Media has begun to see a slight increase in business, prompting the need to hire folks, too, according to Bryson Meunier, associate director for content solutions at the company.
Recovery, albeit slight, hasn't been easy -- but some industries continue to see signs of better days ahead.
"In paid search you're only as good as your last click," Mann says. "[Companies] only took a one-to-two quarter hiatus at most during the spring and summer [last year], but by the fall of 2009, people felt the financial crisis was under control and banks gained more liquidity."
R&D projects and new product launches, such as software as a service applications (SaaS), that had been in the pipeline on hold began to come back. Companies began to dial up paid search spend around September 2009. Now Mann sees online media finally cannibalizing traditional media buys on television, print and radio.