Each year, Marketing Sherpa compiles an exhaustive look at the state of search marketing. Each year, these reports grow more comprehensive, reflecting the continuous change and evolution of our industry as it grows up. This year’s report is no exception.
The Marketing Sherpa 2009-10 Search Marketing Benchmark Report is 213 pages, and is divided into five major sections, including:
The business of search. There’s been a lot of talk about how search marketing budgets have been affected by the tumultuous economy, and this section of the report offers some interesting data on what’s really going on out there. Contrary to other areas of advertising and marketing that have seen budgets slashed, search marketing continues to grow, albeit at a slower pace. This section has great stats about how budgets have changed, how resources are being allocated, and for the first time, salary stats for various job categories in the industry compared with other traditional marketing positions.
Search benchmark data. This section offers invaluable competitive intelligence data, collected by surveying search marketers, agencies and advertisers. The stats here cover a wide range of cost-per-click data, clickthrough rates, an abundance of info on the types, quantities and prices of keywords used by both B2B and B2C marketers, volume and conversion rates, and a new section on searcher behavior.
Measurement and testing. Over the past few years, analytics has grown from something a few geeky search marketers played around with to a core pillar of most search marketing campaigns. This section looks at both the key metrics used by most marketers, as well as the most underused metrics that could, but largely aren’t, being exploited. Testing, ROI tracking and attribution modeling also get good coverage.
Tactical issues in search. This section offers a potpourri of data culled from search marketers, offering insights into everything from targeting tactics, key SEO factors, clickfraud rates and insights into dozens of other issues that search marketers grapple with on a daily basis.
Search engine usage. This section offers good stats covering market share, searcher preference and other data covering the top general and vertical search players. There’s also good info on secondary players as well as the international search engines, with an emphasis on the rapidly maturing Asian market.
Throughout, the emphasis is on data collected both by Marketing Sherpa and about a dozen or so partners who analyze the search marketing industry. For each topic, there’s both a chart or graph and written interpretation of the data. Most of the time this interpretation is helpful, but I found myself wishing for more detailed analysis for some topics. A few times, an analysis seemed superficial, as if the writers were rushing through a topic or didn’t understand it well enough to offer meaningful insight.
Most of the information in the report is useful and compelling, though occasionally the data gets too granular and seems more like fluff thrown in apparently to fill out the page count (e.g. detailed distributions of salary ranges for all job titles). Another drawback is that the graphics are occasionally difficult to interpret, with busy or confusing charts. I found myself wishing that Marketing Sherpa’s graphic designer would follow the guidelines laid out in Edward Tufte’s classic The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
However, given the sheer scope and quality of the information presented in the report, these are comparatively minor quibbles.
While the insights in the report are valuable for anyone seeking a competitive edge in search marketing, the Marketing Sherpa 2009-10 Search Marketing Benchmark Report is probably most useful for anyone needing objective data to make a case for budgets or tactics in an SEM campaign. Many of the difficult questions asked by clients or internal executives have answers in the pages of the report, and even better, are backed by solid data.
Marketing Sherpa 2009-10 Search Marketing Benchmark Report
Sixth edition ISBN: 978-1-932353-96-9
Marketing Sherpa LLC, $447 (PDF Only: $397)