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January 28, 2013

2012 Search Marketer Survey Results: The Rules Have Changed

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Ever wonder how much dough those search marketers are raking in? Yeah, me too. Professionals who carry the title tend to keep pretty hush-hush about their earnings, but an agency called SEMPO manages to dig up the goods each and every year.

SEMPO is a worldwide not-for-profit agency that represents search and digital marketing professionals. SEMPO has teamed up with ClickZ to present the 2013 survey, and if you’re in the industry, you can access the questionnaire here. SEMPO has conducted this study for many years but, in 2012, the findings shifted to reflect the dramatic changes in the search landscape that went down during the year.

What It’s All About

SEMPO’s questionnaire is a yearly study of the entire search and digital marketing industry, and this year will contribute to almost a decade’s worth of data. The survey seeks to measure the current income level of those working in the industry, and it takes factors such as location, job duties, and level of expertise into consideration.

According to Search Engine Land, SEMPO attempts to mine information about SEO and SEM jobs that span from new hires to chief execs. Researchers also hope to discover how salaries vary based upon the global markets professionals serve. The survey asks questions about bonuses and other perks, SEM budget amounts, and other aspects of each participant’s role in his or her agency.

The more search marketers who participate, the better — a large number of participants will yield results that are far more accurate. In turn, this will help us all learn more about the search marketing industry as a whole.

SEMPO’s 2012 Findings

SEMPO issued a press release announcing the findings of its 2012 survey in September of last year. The release reported key findings of the study, including tactical use of social media, higher amounts spent on paid search activities, and an increased emphasis on reputation and branding.

The 2012 report managed to survey more than 900 different search marketing agencies spanning the globe. Thirty-six different countries were represented in the 2012 data set, and it included information about quite a few different areas of the industry.

Here’s the skinny: the 2012 survey found, despite the unstable global economy, the search industry was coming up roses. It proved to be surprisingly stable even though there was such major upheaval in the search environment during 2012. According to the press release, new tools and platforms played a role in the stability and, although professionals reported some of the same goals as they had in years past, some survey answers highlighted unanticipated new trends in the industry.

The Game Has Officially Changed

Two findings from the survey that I found particularly relevant for SiteProNews readers included the following, pulled straight from SEMPO’s official press release in 2012:

• Survey responses show a drop in the blunt objective of driving traffic, but it remains a key goal for search engine optimization (SEO). Perhaps more interesting is the doubled number of agencies citing brand/reputation as a goal, up from five percent in 2011 to more than 11 percent in this year’s survey.

• As with SEO, agencies evaluating their clients’ goals for paid search noted a significant rise in seeing brand/reputation as their top objective. This appears to have come largely at the expense of “generating leads” that, nonetheless, remains the top goal. The researchers surmise that for some organizations, especially those with sophisticated attribution methods in place, using pay-per-click (PPC) as an “assisting” channel that builds and supports brand terms and ideas has a greater cumulative effect on lead generation than campaigns designed for immediate returns.

This data is extremely telling if you stop to think about what went down last year that led to the findings above. Google’s onslaught of rockin’ new algos and updates forever changed the way search marketers operate and the game is now on a completely different playing field.

Take the first bullet point, for example: The responses of the survey pointed to a decline in the “blunt objective” of driving traffic. That was the singular focus of search marketers in previous years, but as the press release noted, that zinger wasn’t even the most interesting aspect of the discovery. The biggie was the number of search marketing firms that cited brand/reputation as a goal more than doubled.

Takeaway: It’s all about creating a unified presence on the Web if you want to get anywhere. Gone are the days of fly-by-night websites raking in the traffic with nothing but killer keyword sets and link-blasting software — and the algos are only getting more sophisticated. Now, it’s not about the tools you use or the data you mine — it’s about who you are as a brand.

The second bullet point above is even more curious. It notes that agencies representing paid search advertisers also cited brand/reputation as a top goal in the study. Companies are using PPC as a stepping-stone toward the goal of unified branding across the Net for their clients instead of as an isolated lead-generation tool. This is huge. These findings mean all the chatter we’ve heard in the search community over the past year indeed holds true — to make it online, you must become a brand.

Daunting… intimidating? I know, I know. I’m right there with you. But if you step back for a minute and ponder all this info, it sort of makes sense. If you brand a website, get active on your branded Twitter account and Facebook page and you begin connecting with others in your niche across the Web, a funny thing will happen — people will begin to recognize you and traffic will flow to your site through virtual word-of-mouth.

Google may have initiated the changes that started the domino effect leading to this new emphasis on brand management, but complying with Big G will produce a rather ironic result. By doing Google’s bidding, you’re essentially freeing yourself from its clutches — traffic will begin to recognize your brand and begin to find you… without the help of a search engine.

Take that, Googlebot.


Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the Net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

3 Responses to “2012 Search Marketer Survey Results: The Rules Have Changed

    [...] Post from: SiteProNews: Webmaster News & Resources2012 Search Marketer Survey Results: The Rules Have Changed [...]

    avatar Rowing Fitness Machine says:

    I don’t see any actual figures in the press release from SEMPO…am I missing something? or was the piece not going to disclose the answer to your opening sentence/question?

    [...] generation, which nevertheless remained the top goal. This is very significant. As SitePro news noted, the change in Google’s algorithm, and the maturation of the market means the emphasis is now [...]

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