There have been a slew of reports released in the past week showing that paid search marketing rebounded nicely in the first quarter from the doldrums of the great recession. The "doldrums" in our industry weren't exactly the same as in the rest of the economy, but we felt our own shockwaves nonetheless. Efficient Frontier, Performics, Havas Digital, and others have recently released data suggesting that paid search media spending in the past three months has been -- dare I say it -- robust.
At SearchIgnite, we released our own whitepaper yesterday of Q1 Paid Search Trends that shows much of the same. Some of the key findings:
· Year-over-year paid search spending was up over 11% on a same client basis -- the best quarter since Q1 2008.
· Equally encouraging is that our clients' spending was flat in the first quarter vs. the fourth quarter of 2009, a metric that traditionally is slightly down due to seasonality of the holidays.
· Retail spending is still strong, and travel spending is finally starting to rebound.
· Spending on Bing is up big year-over-year (+22%) but actually fared the worst of the big three engines quarter-over-quarter (-7%), suggesting that Bing's share of spending from retailers is higher than that of their competitors.
· Yahoo's market share is still reeling, dropping to 15% of overall media spend.
So now that paid search and the digital economy is bouncing back, and we've got a little spring in our step -- what's next?
It's important that we as an industry seize what could quite possibly be a game-changing year for search -- with things like attribution, mobile search and the blending of search/social platforms (Twitter ad model anyone?) changing the way we search and the way marketers reach consumers in the process.
Paid search lies within the digital marketing landscape not in a silo, but as part of an ecosystem that more closely resembles a traditional customer conversion funnel that includes Attention, Interest, Desire, Memory and Action. Understanding how display, email, social, affiliate, organic search and paid search marketing affect each phase of the customer purchase decision process is critical to maximizing overall digital marketing performance.
Search marketers need to play a proactive role with their clients to understand how paid search assists (and doesn't) in their broader digital marketing strategy. In doing so, we will have a more strategic seat with decision makers closer to the CMO's office. Not doing so will cause search marketers to be marginalized, as digital marketing is increasingly viewed in the context of a broader ecosystem by marketing decision-makers.
User behavior and access to search results continues to evolve rapidly due to the proliferation of smartphones, access to faster mobile networks and dramatic usability improvements of smart devices led by the iPhone but now being emulated by Droid and others.
As Gord Hotchkiss has pointed out on these pages many times, search is just a means to an end for users to access information. Changes in user behavior will dramatically affect search marketing as we know it today. This is all the more reason for search marketers to take the lead today in cross-channel attribution modeling, so our role in the new, new digital landscape continues to grow.