Search marketing trends: Focus on integration and content

Marketers are focusing on integration of search marketing with other digital channels and disciplines such as display advertising and content marketing, according to research looking at UK search marketing trends.

The study, from Econsultancy and NetBooster, indicates that the proportion of UK companies now either fully or partially integrating paid search and display advertising has increased to 58% from only 34% last year.

The research also found that 59% of companies are now integrating their search engine optimisation (SEO) activity with their content strategy, while a further 12% say their SEO ‘drives their content strategy’.

The seventh annual UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report, published in association with NetBooster, is based on a survey of more than 750 in-house and agency marketers carried out in the spring this year.

Amy Rodgers, Research Analyst at Econsultancy, said: “One key trend identified by the research is the emergence of content marketing as a focal point for many organisations. A content strategy has become an integral part of SEO, with a focus on the synergy between creative, content production, online PR and search engine marketing.”

According to the research, agencies are responding to the trend towards integration of different marketing activities, with more than half of agencies (52%) now offering a full range of digital marketing services, an increase an increase from 45% in 2012 and 42% in 2011.

The research also found that Google’s introduction of ‘Enhanced Campaigns’ for AdWords has been met with a mixed response in the world of search marketing, with confusion (and polarisation of survey respondents) around whether or not this will actually help rather than hinder marketers trying to target effectively.

Enhanced Campaigns, introduced earlier this year, means that the structuring of AdWords campaigns is becoming device independent. From next week, advertisers will no longer have the ability to have specific mobile, tablet or desktop targeted campaigns.

According to the survey, 29% of client-side marketers think that Enhanced Campaigns will have a positive impact on their search marketing activity, compared to 14% who said that it will have a negative effect. But more than half (56%) of respondents said they didn’t know what the impact would be, reflecting confusion in the marketplace about its implications.

The research also found that some marketers are struggling to adapt to Google algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda. Anecdotal feedback suggested an increased demand for penalty recovery services as a result.

Amy Rodgers added: “While the shifting SEO sands represent an opportunity for some agencies, frustrations around constant changes to search algorithms are identified by many respondents as a main factor affecting their ROI from search engine marketing.”

In other findings, nearly half of client-side marketers say that their companies have not taken any action since the launch of Google+, and most are not using it to a greater extent than creating a branded page.

More than half of the companies surveyed are not linking their AdWords campaigns to their Google+ accounts, though awareness of the platform’s impact has increased since last year.