SEM budgets target direct sales over branding: SEMPO

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Corporate advertisers are allocating search engine marketing budgets mostly for direct sales rather than building brand awareness, according to preliminary findings from a Radar Research survey for the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization.

Early data from the sample of corporate advertisers shows 59 percent see direct sales as their primary objective in SEM programs, the 2006 SEMPO market survey said.

Brand awareness as an objective has lost its top spot from last year, with only 53 percent of respondents seeing that as their prime reason to use SEM. Forty-eight percent cited lead generation.

But even as corporate advertisers shift their priorities, survey findings show that SEM no longer is taking dollars away from other marketing channels, SEMPO  found. It has now gained credentials as part of the overall marketing mix.

Forty-two percent of those advertisers responding to date told SEMPO their SEM budget is a new allocation. Print budgets are losing most from this shift, the survey found.

Also, nine out of 10 senior management executives now claim they are very involved or moderately involved in SEM programs. This is a huge jump from last year, when less than half surveyed said they were very involved.

That said, early survey results show that organic search engine optimization continues to be the most popular form of SEM. Of those advertisers sampled to date, 83 percent report organic SEO is their No. 1 choice, with paid placement a close second at 80 percent. These results are similar to last year's, when 80 percent placed organic SEO as No. 1 in their SEM program.

Corporate advertisers and ad agencies can participate in the survey at www.sempo.org/survey. Data will be collected through December. More than 1,000 marketing executives are being asked to take this survey, SEMPO's third annual effort. The goal is to gauge industry trends in SEM activities, spending and attitudes.

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