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Why Search Is Still Your Digital Bread And Butter

Date published: September 04, 2014
Last updated: September 4, 2014

The trend of growing a company’s digital spend is quite delightful. Digital marketing professionals certainly enjoy the market’s following of our lead – not to mention consumer trends – and growing their budgets, staff, and resources devoted to web, technology and the like. But it never ceases to amaze me how those dollars are appropriated.

According to  Gartner’s Digital Marketing Spending survey report for 2014, digital or online advertising is the top spend category, taking up 12.2 percent of the surveyed CMO’s budgets. Website spend, digital commerce, social marketing, mobile marketing and content creation and management are the next five categories. Coming in a distant seventh is search marketing, according to the results found in Gartner’s Reflecting Focus on Customer Experience report.


Gartner, Digital Marketing Budgets Increase, Reflecting Focus on Customer Experience, Laura McLellan, January 9, 2014

Gartner, Digital Marketing Budgets Increase, Reflecting Focus on Customer Experience, Laura McLellan, January 9, 2014.


SEO and SEM make up just 9.2 percent of the typical marketing spend according to this survey. That number is down from the year before, which was a number down from the year before that.

Certainly, I understand that content, social, mobile and so forth require more of an investment when they’re new to a company’s budget. But how on earth can CMOs justify spending less than 10 percent of their digital budget on the one category that was, is and will always be the most important for their brands?

That’s right. You just heard a social media guy say that search is the most important category of a digital marketing budget. Why? It’s simple:

Search engine optimization and marketing make up the one category for your digital spend that serves an audience ready and willing to buy.

When someone encounters an advertisement online, they may be shopping for said product or they may not. If that online media is appearing on a news or social media site, there’s an almost 100 percent chance the audience is not shopping. They’re reading the news or posting selfies.

When someone encounters a company’s social media posts or content marketing efforts, they’re almost 100 percent not looking for information about or solutions to a particular problem. They’re probably looking at pictures of their grandkids … or their ex.

But when someone encounters your paid search advertisement or sees a page featuring the organic results you’ve worked hard to produce, they are different than all other digital audiences. They typed in a keyword, question or problem to which your ranked content is a potential solution. They went looking for you!

SEO Isn't Optional

Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are not just nice-to-haves or pieces of a larger digital strategy you don’t have to worry about much because you did it a few years ago and satisfactorily rank for most of the things you wish to rank for. It is an imperative segment of digital marketing which you cannot afford to lose focus of.

Whether you’re working hard on it internally, or you have the budget and interest to bring in outside consultants or agencies to help, search engine spend should be the first and most carefully handled piece of your digital strategy. It shouldn’t be treated like low-hanging fruit that’s easy to nab. It should be treated like something that serves your most important prospective customers.

Because, after all, the willing ones are more important.

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