Forrester Rates The Top Large Search Marketing Agencies

Forrester, the large marketing technology analysis organization, has released two of three of its Forrester Wave reports related to search marketing. The first, The Forrester Wave: Search Marketing Agencies, Q4 2012 rates seven of the largest full-service search marketing agencies. While the ranking results are interesting in themselves, some of the other insights offered in the report are also thought-provoking.

The report limited its coverage to large, full service (meaning agencies that offer both organic SEO and PPC) and agencies who serve large clients of $1 billion or more in revenue. It excluded other large, and sometimes prominent agencies if they didn’t meet these two criteria (meaning search marketing was a smaller component of overall marketing activities). Also excluded were firms providing professional services secondary to a software product. This resulted in a group of just seven firms. Forrester rated the firms on 25 criteria, gathering input from the firms themselves, customers and analyst interviews.

The firms were classified as “leaders,” “strong performers” or “contenders.” The “leaders” were 360i, iCrossing and Performics. “Strong performers” included Covario, Impaqt and iProspect. The lone “contender,” a newcomer to the evaluation, was Acronym.

The report details how and why each firm was rated, but I’m not going to go into those details (360i is making a free copy of the report available here). Instead, I’m going to focus on some of the key trends and insights Forrester dug up while doing the research.

Key Insights For Search Marketers

Search marketers have faced major challenges this year, including problems advertisers are facing with paid search inflation the difficulty of finding qualified search marketers, keeping up with algorithm or other changes, dealing with new search interfaces (voice, touch, etc) and a number of others. This has led many organizations, even those with an in-house team, to seek outside assistance.

When marketers were asked ““What types of agencies, technology partners, or service providers do you use for your search marketing?” the majority (41%) responded that search agencies were the most important. Unsurprisingly, 29% said they were looking for a “social media listening platform for SEO” followed by a local analytics provider (22%) and SEO automation tools (21%).

Forrester also found that marketers are starting to apply more of what they’re calling “discovery tactics” – multi-channel touchpoints to reach customers. Contrary to the reports of small businesses reducing or abandoning paid search campaigns, organizations with larger budgets love search advertising, with 78% reporting that they use paid search daily. 58% said they are involved with both SEO and mobile paid search efforts daily. And mobile SEO (31%) and social media PPC ads (28%) are also an important component of daily “discovery marketing” campaigns.

Perhaps the most interesting finding the study surfaced was in response to the question: “What are the biggest search marketing challenges you expect to face in the next two years?”

The responses?

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking a look at the second of three Forrester Wave reports, this one focusing on SEO Platforms. Again, if you’re interested in taking a closer look at the full Search Marketing Agencies report, you can download it here.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | SEM Industry: Outsourcing | SEM Industry: Stats

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About The Author: (@CJSherman) is a Founding Editor of SearchEngineLand.com and President of Searchwise LLC, a Boulder Colorado based Web consulting firm. He also programs and co-chairs the Search Marketing Expo - SMX conference series.

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