SEO Beats PPC & Social Media For Generating Leads, New Industry Report Says

wm123-reportSEO is the number one source of leads for both B2C and B2B marketers, beating out both PPC and social media marketing in a recent survey of online marketers. But more of those surveyed say they plan to increase their social media marketing budgets in 2012, ahead of SEO and PPC.

The numbers come from the 2011 State of Digital Marketing Report, which was compiled by Webmarketing123, a California-based online marketing agency. The company surveyed more than 500 U.S. online marketers in August and September; about two-thirds of all respondents identified themselves as B2B marketers.

Whether B2B or B2C, both groups of marketers agree that SEO has the biggest impact on lead generation. 57 percent of B2B marketers credit SEO as their primary source of generating leads, while 41 percent of B2C marketers said the same thing.


Both types of marketers say that website traffic is the primary way they measure the success of online marketing efforts. Brand awareness was at the bottom of the list for measuring success by both B2B and B2C respondents.

The survey asked a number of budget-related questions, including one about which channels get the majority of the marketers’ budgets. On the B2B side, one-third indicated that SEO gets the majority of their budget. But on the B2C side, more than 42 percent say that PPC gets the majority of their budget — about double the number of B2C marketers who said SEO is their top budget allocation.


Overall, 60 percent of respondents said they plan to increase their budget for social media marketing in 2012; 53 percent plan to increase their budget for SEO and 40 percent will increase their PPC budget.

Those increases in social media spending are likely field by another couple statistics from the survey: 68 percent say they’ve generated leads from either Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, while 55 percent have closed deals from social media leads.

The 2011 State of Digital Marketing Report can be downloaded from Webmarketing123′s website. You’ll need to provide name and contact information. There’s also an associated infographic with many statistic, which we’ve posted separately here: Infographic: Digital Marketer Views On SEO, PPC & Social Media.


Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing: General | SEM Industry: General | SEM Industry: Stats | Stats: Spend Projections | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Clive

    Some interesting data although it would seem to me that they are trying hard to justify the spend on Social Media.

    The key question is “Have you ever generated leads from a Social Media site?”.
    So if I spent thousands of dollars, months of time and generated one lead – my answer would still be YES!

    What is telling is that ONE THIRD of respondents said – NEVER!

    If you asked that question of the two strategies they are comparing to (SEO & PPC) I am pretty sure that close to 100% (if not all 100%) would have said they had generated leads.

  • Kevin Webster

    I find this very interesting. In my experience, PPC generates many more leads than traditional SEO for B2B companies (assuming they have a PPC spend). With recent studies indicating the drop in CTR for organic results as a whole, I think we might find this study looks quite a bit different next year.

  • JVRudnick

    A great catch here Matt..I love that the B2B shows the largest portion of expenditures too! Will add this survey site to my own list…so muchly appreciated!



  • douglaskarr

    Ugh… this is just the kind of report that can really influence marketers to make some poor decisions.
    1) Social media is impacting search more than ever. No, I’m not saying that retweets equate to backlinks, but by amplifying the message socially, and getting to more audiences, you can achieve backlinks. Ask any inbound marketer that deploys infographics and promotes them socially if it works.
    2) PPC can be an incredible asset to SEO. We are able to test thousands of keywords via PPC to see what works and what doesn’t work… and then target those keywords. As well, on very competitive pages, having a PPC ad AND organic result can LIFT overall conversion rates.

    PPC can also get you leads TODAY. SEO and Social Media can take much longer as you build authority. This survey is the opinion of marketers and forces people to slice and dice responses into imaginary silos.

    A well-groomed inbound marketing program utilizes all the tools available, often cross-promotes between them, and then balances and leverages each appropriately to maximize conversions and reduce costs per lead. Marketers should be utilizing their OWN data to determine their own balance of what the right spend is.

  • Chris

    I agree with DouglasKarr, this data can be influence some marketers to make choices between three very good tactics to generate leads. The goal is to find which mix works best for your business.

    Another overlooked factor is the QUALITY of the lead. I’ve found that PPC, SEO and Social Media provide different qualities of leads, from ones that are just “trolling” the web for vendors’ advice, and whose sales cycle is not fully defined, to those that are very qualified because they are searching for a specific product/service to fulfill a present need. Again, analyze your data to see which tactic is providing the type of lead you need.

    Otherwise, good article to get people talking, and thinking.

  • Yiannis Gedeon

    1 quick questions there..Are those leads generated from SEO more profitable from the ones of PPC and Social Media? Because you might get 100 leads from SEO and 10 leads from PPC the question is which of these people eventually bought your product? And if that is the case then why marketing managers are planning to spend more on social media in the year to come and not stick with more SEO investment?

  • David Rekuc

    I think this is a misleading conclusion based on the study. Natural search is the only channel where leads can be generated accidentally. Of course those who allocate little to no budget for PPC and Social Media won’t see results like they see in natural search. If you broke out the “do not invest in these channels” segment, I have a hard time believing that 100% of them wouldn’t see the majority of their leads from SEO.

    Companies with small PPC or Social Media budgets that lack the proper knowledge of how to run these campaigns are also likely to see much better SEO results.

    A more valuable study to me would be taking a sample of companies with mature campaigns in each channel and comparing the volume and efficiency of each channel. I think that would speak more to the potential of each of these channels.

    Regardless, thank you for the post, interesting info.

  • Steve Hill

    Seems kind of lacking in data to me and as Doug pointed out, could mislead people.

    ROI MUST to be a part of this discussion. Simple figures about adoption rates and yes or no responses to closing deals make interesting reads, but are relatively worthless when spread across distinctly different industries.

    This is because not all B2B companies are created alike and not all B2C companies are created a like. For example generating leads for attorneys is a lot different in terms of time, costs, marketing messages, sales cycles, consumer segments, etc., is a lot different than generating leads for a logging company.

    I’m not calling the report bad or inaccurate, I’m just saying its far too limited for a professional marketer to react to and make good decisions.

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