Lee Odden

Marketing Sherpa Search Marketing Survey

Marketing Sherpa

If you’re on the Marketing Sherpa mailing list, then today you would have received notice of the 3rd Annual Benchmark Search Marketing Survey. Each year Marketing Sherpa conducts the survey to capture insights from search marketers around the globe.

Last year’s survey involved over 3,000 participants, making it likely the largest search marketing survey of its kind, offering spicy tidbits such as: Agency optimized campaigns experienced a 110% increase in traffic compared to in-house optimization campaigns at 38%.

Stefan Tornquist, Director of Research for Marketing Sherpa was able to answer a few questions about this and last year’s survey:

What are some of the most significant insights that came out of last year’s survey?

That’s potentially a very long answer, but for me, there were two things come to mind:

First off, we did some eyetracking of how people conduct commercial searches. It’s amazing to see in color just how narrow the searcher’s window of perception is. Usually that window just includes the first PPC ad on the right, and even that doesn’t get really deep attention. Algorithmic listings do better, but even there people have an amazingly low tolerance for waiting.

They’ll wade through a page for personal interest stuff, but for commercial searches, they assume that marketers are doing the work to get relevant content highly placed. It really places the emphasis on good SEO, and wise PPC bidding (as if that wasn’t there before). Right now we’re doing some follow up to compare non-commercial w/commercial searches because with eyetracking you always get 10 questions for every answer.

The other was when we looked at the opportunity for press release optimization. If you take search itself, there aren’t many areas where it’s still relatively easy to stand out. In the world of optimizing press releases, there’s a lot that people take for granted – such as assuming that their wire service ‘optimization’ is 100% of what they could be doing.

There’s much more that goes into it, and it’s an amazing way for small companies to get ahead of the big guys. I’m curious to see how things have changed over the last 12 months, but I’m willing to bet that the opportunity is still there.

Are you presenting completely unique surveys to agencies compared to in-house marketers? If so, how do the questions differ?

Yes, the surveys are unique, and they’re also driven by some logic, so few people actually end up taking the same survey. With the agency folks, we take advantage of them looking across a large number of search properties and client types so we ask a lot of trend and effectiveness questions. With marketers we ask some of the same things, but spend most of the questions on what’s really happening in their campaigns, to provide benchmarks.

What new questions or areas of focus are in this year’s survey and how do you decide what emerging tactics to ask about?

We couldn’t get away without drilling down on click fraud, and there are a few questions on that which should provide some entertaining data. I’m also looking forward to comparing the excitement for some emerging trends (social search, pay per call, etc.) with what people are actually willing to spend.

We also take a deeper look at ‘vertical search’ this year. I’m not wild about the term because so many of the ‘vertical’ search properties are really directories, but regardless, it’s an important part of the industry for the B-to-B folks, and there’s still a lot to learn.

We pick the tactics by asking around, whether it’s at SES or just bugging the experts by email. We also take go through our case studies from the last year, and look for tactics with huge potential but less coverage – last year we took on press release optimization for that reason.

What are some of the most effective ways to use the survey results and what companies would most benefit from this kind of data?

Well the most common way people use the data is to compare their budgets and tactics with the industry to make sure they’re in the right ball park. But my favorite result is when I get an email saying something like “I used the report to argue for more SEO budget, and now we’re getting tons of leads from natural listings…” It’s more fun when people are trying new things and benefiting from them. Plus, grateful people share their data with me.

Thanks Stefan!

If you work in search marketing, then you can take the survey here. As an incentive, you’ll get a Highlights Report featuring 5 new data charts early this fall. Plus, you’ll also be invited to attend Marketing Sherpa’s complimentary annual Research Results teleconference presentation in September.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Hawaii SEO says

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  2. Thanks Dave!