Search marketers, organizations becoming more sophisticated: study

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Eighty eight percent of search marketers measure the ROI of their campaigns, 9 percent more than in 2005, according to search engine marketing firm iProspect's "Search Marketer Measurement & Performance Study."

IProspect commissioned the study to gain a better understanding of search marketer behavior regarding results measurement and personal-performance evaluations. The survey targeted marketers based on their familiarity with their company's search marketing efforts and screened participants for involvement with marketing their company's products. Participation was limited to search marketers who both outsource the management of their search engine optimization campaigns and engage in paid search advertising.

"Given that the percentage of search marketers that now measure the ROI of their campaigns has risen to 88 percent, it's clear to me that more and more search marketers are motivated to understand the monetary return from their efforts," said Robert Murray, president/CEO of iProspect. "It also suggests that more marketers have overcome organizational, technical or business-model obstacles that may have precluded them from measuring ROI in the past.

"The growth in this area could also be attributed to the fact that the average search marketer is more knowledgeable and sophisticated than was the case in 2005, and that the industry as a whole has evolved and is doing a better job educating and providing resources for search marketers," Mr. Murray continued. "But overall, given the substantial investment that search marketing requires, I can't imagine not measuring ROI.

"It's become mandatory as senior management is increasingly demanding that the cost of search marketing initiatives be justified," he said.

The study also revealed search marketer job performance evaluations that are based on search metrics have increased to 86 percent. In 2005, 19 percent of search marketers did not have their performance evaluation tied to search metrics. Today that number has decreased to 14 percent, representing a 5 percent increase in marketer performance evaluations based on search metrics.

"This growth could be attributed to a number of factors such as increased industry maturity, increased search marketer sophistication and increased ROI measurement," Mr. Murray explained. "For example, the maturation of the industry, including better search marketer education and easier access to information about accepted best practices, has most likely contributed to a higher percentage of search marketers calculating the ROI of their efforts."

He also said it has probably caused companies to feel more comfortable and motivated to evaluate the performance of their search marketers based on the critical success metrics of their different initiatives.

According to the study, there has been an increase in search marketer job performance evaluations tied to true business results such as total sales, return on advertising spend, or ROAS, and ROI. More specifically, the percentage of search marketer evaluations tied to total sales increased by 16 percent, those evaluations based on ROAS increased 13 percent, while those based on ROI rose 6 percent.

"Not only does this demonstrate that search marketers have the information they need to tie their efforts to actual business results, it also speaks to the increased sense of control over the systems and processes that measure and analyzes these results," Mr. Murray said. "This provides search marketers with a higher degree of comfort in allowing their job performance to be evaluated on these criteria."

The study was fielded in March 2007 by JupiterResearch. A total of 794 qualified search marketers completed the survey.

Mr. Murray pointed out that marketers should track the ROI of their search marketing initiatives, be they managed by vendors or totally managed in house to justify the cost of those initiatives.

"They should also feel motivated to have their job performance evaluated by the business results that their search marketing efforts produce," he told DM News.

"Both of these are now by far the norm within most organizations, and will become more so as senior managers become more familiar, and comfortable, with search marketing metrics and critical success factors," Mr. Murray said. "The results also emphasize the obvious need for web tracking and analytics tools, and potentially professional services to support those tools to support clients so search marketers can evaluate the success of their efforts."

He made the following recommendations:

To companies that provide search marketing services, recognize that search marketers, and the organizations at which they work, are getting more sophisticated at connecting their search marketing efforts to monetary business results, and, in fact, more often than not, have their own job performance evaluation tied directly to those results.

That means they are demanding more from their service providers in the way of results, and in tracking mechanisms that associate monetary results to the search strategies and tactics that they have implemented.

"Secondly, it's clear that the industry norm is now that marketers measure the ROI of their search initiatives and that the evaluation of their job performance is tied to those results," Mr. Murray said. "That being the case, those search marketers, and their companies, who have not yet reached that degree of sophistication should realize that 'everyone else is doing it' and so should they."

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