Recession-proof search strategies

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When the economy weakens, companies will direct their attention to the marketing programs that provide the best return. Savvy marketers know this isn't the time to cut marketing budgets; it's simply time to ensure that marketing investments are getting the best return possible. The latest trends show that marketers are being held accountable for the return on their marketing investments, but companies are not cutting marketing budgets.

"B2B Marketing in 2008: Trends in Strategies and Spending" (MarketingProfs-Forrester Research) shows that marketers are increasingly being held accountable for marketing ROI in terms of business metrics. More than 70 percent of B2B marketers surveyed reported having systems in place that tie marketing success to business outcomes.

The same survey shows marketers are not significantly decreasing marketing budgets due to economic concerns.

• 45 percent of B2B marketers surveyed reported marketing budgets will remain unchanged.
• 50 percent reported an increase in marketing budgets with average increase of 26 percent.
• 6 percent reported a decrease in marketing budgets with an average decrease of 18 percent.

Search provides accountability and top ROI
Search marketing accounts for more than 40 percent of internet marketing, and research shows it yields top ROI. However, marketers must know how to closely track organic and paid search campaigns to see exactly how the campaigns break out in terms of performance. This not only helps justify marketing expenses to management, it also allows you to achieve even better performance.

The returns on measurement through web analytics can be significant when you use your customer data as actionable intelligence, whether management is calling for increased revenue from the corporate website or seeking a better return from your marketing campaigns. Let's say you are under the gun to improve performance for organic and paid search campaigns. Here's where knowing what to measure and how to analyze results with web analytics is key.

Organic and paid search synergy
Too often, marketers are overly focused on paid search results. However, it is clear that implementing both natural and paid search campaigns will empower you to more successfully accomplish your interactive business goals.

Paid search advertising is effective for increasing traffic volume to a website. Natural search is essential for building credibility and providing validation in the SERPs. When the economy is challenging, many companies increase their branding efforts. That's because in a competitive situation, the stronger brand will get the sale. Using both natural and paid search gives your brand the opportunity to place its products and services in front of millions of prospects 24/7 for both direct response and branding.

Today's marketers get the best results with integrated marketing programs that take advantage of the right marketing channels for their products, region and industry. It's always important to know how well your marketing campaigns are performing, especially when the economy pauses. Today, more than ever, it's important to use web analytics and campaign optimization to gauge and increase ROI.

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Stephen Ellis
Stephen Ellis March 11, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Very timely article Paul!

Through my experience, I've noticed that consumers – especially in the US – are slowly beginning to reduce searches which clearly show a commercial intent towards more news and entertainment searches. This behavior – if it continues as a trend – will put more pressure on marketers to deliver value via brand-based ads. Quantifying the exact ROI on that type of advertising is always hard, and highlighting secondary data points such as the "New Visitors to Returning Visitors Ratio” you identified in your table becomes increasingly more important.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that completing the analytics circle doesn't stop at optimizing the PPC/SEO campaigns – it must include data-supported changes to the website design. It is vital to track on-site user behavior, and use those insights to push website changes on a weekly, not quarterly or yearly basis. Customers have to treat their website more like the "daily specials” board at a diner than the sign outside the restaurant.