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Happy dances and spleen-eating – the state of search marketing 2012

I just finished reading the 2012 SEMPO/Econsultancy State of Search Marketing report. Lots of great data in there, but a few things leapt out at me. Some leapt out all smiles and happiness. Others leapt out and tried to bite out my spleen.

Whenever I read a report like this, I ask myself three basic questions. Here they are, with the happy-dance and spleen-chomping information I got for each:

Do folks get it?

I always wonder if business owners are starting to understand just how important search has become.

In paid search, there’s no doubt: Companies are spending more. And more. And more. Maybe more important, though, is that over 90% of companies are now keeping their PPC budgets flexible:

ppc budgets are getting flexible

That’s smart. It’s more than smart. It’s wise. If PPC pays off, why not put more money into it?

Companies are even putting more money into search engine optimization (SEO). SEO remains a big, fat, golden-egg-laying goose if you can make it work. Look at how many companies are moving their budgets into higher categories, year over year:

seo budgets are going up

Hey, Econsultancy – love the data. But maybe next time make this graph a little easier to interpret? A line graph, perhaps?

Happy dance score: 9/10

Of course, this is me. So every silver lining has a cloud.

First, 30% of companies still count keyword rankings as one of their top three SEO metrics. Keyword rankings beat value of sales/leads, profitability of sales and return on ad spend:



top metrics

This is a joke, right? You're pulling my leg! Hahahah! Funny. Or. not.

Sales, leads and conversions came out ahead (barely). But traffic volume? Really?!!!!

To me, this is more about analytics than SEO smarts. My gut tells me most of the companies leaning on rankings and volume are doing so because they still can’t get conversion data.

Should I just dig out my own spleen? With a spoon? And then present it on a plate? This data hurts me that much. Sniff.

Splenenectomy score: 6/10

Overall result: I’m happy. Or at least less miserable.

Are they taking the bait?

Every year, some shiny thing appears on the horizon, and everyone jumps on it like barracuda on hapless, silvery baitfish. It’s hard to watch, especially when companies haven’t done a good job on the easy stuff yet.

Last year was clearly the year of social. This year, people are sobering up a bit:

social media budgets

Common sense prevails, a little.

Happy dance score: 8/10

On the other hand, people keep dumping more money into PPC without really understanding what’s happening to it. 54% of respondents said they saw an increased ROI from Google so far this year. But 77% are spending more.


Soooooooooo, the solution to lack of ROI growth is to spend. more. money. I…

Splenenectomy score: 7/10

To be fair, I know some of these folks are probably revamping their campaigns, positioning themselves to make more, etc. Still. Can we all stop the crazy train for a moment?

Overall result: I’m cautiously optimistic. And looking out for falling pianos.

Are we measuring the right things?

Finally, I want to know if we’re asking the right questions. Here are the options we presented to companies for ‘significant’ trends and technologies in 2012:

search issues


Uh. What about content? Rich snippets?

I won’t even bother going off on the total lack of evidence that mobile rates a 55% ‘highly significant’ score. Call me when it’s 55% of your sales, people.

Overall result: Solid. Lots of good stuff in here, so I can’t whine too much about a few missed opportunities. But really—can we ask about content next year? Pretty please?

Get the report

If you want more detail, you can read the report.

The easiest way to get the State of Search 2012 is by being a SEMPO member. After that, you’ll have to pay, alas.

CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

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  1. I will be honest no matter how many times I try and convince the clients that they should put more or less budget back to AdWords, depending on their profit made as a direct results of Google AdWords.
    Clients are just not interested or willing to share profit figures or even then at least say, “hey we willing to pay x amount for CPA”.
    Thanks for awesome stats

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