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Epiphany Search


As anyone who works in the industry knows, search is a constantly changing landscape with innovations and updates happening almost every week, which have far-reaching consequences for the direction and success of campaigns. Therefore, it is perhaps unsurprising that the latest Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) report on the state of search marketing in the UK, which quizzes marketers from the nation's top brands, has revealed a 'concerning' lack of understanding of digital marketing. The IAB - a group made up of representatives from Google, Yahoo! and Bing, ten industry specialists and five top brands - recently reported that at board level, the majority of respondents had a significant lack of understanding of digital marketing. However, in spite of this, the report also highlights the steadily-growing budgets assigned to digital campaigns and the overall willingness of brands to engage with the discipline.

The knowledge gap

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one point the latest IAB report highlights is the continuing lack of understanding of search and digital as a whole and how this is impacting the implementation of campaigns. Of the 200 brands surveyed, 53 per cent of respondents admitted that they or their executives had little or no understanding of digital marketing. This top-down knowledge gap would appear to be following through to brands' current marketing focus, with only a third admitting to currently using search, either organic or paid, to help build brand awareness and drive traffic to their sites.

In spite of this, roughly two-thirds (62 per cent) of the marketers interviewed felt that further integrating search within their wider media mix would help bring substantial benefits, but 72 per cent of those currently running campaigns do nothing to incorporate them with other marketing channels. One could see this purely as digital campaigns being stifled by confusion at a senior management level, though 58 per cent of the marketers interviewed also claimed they had little understanding of attribution modelling and 44 per cent admitted that they didn't have a mobile optimised site, it is perhaps suggestive of a wider lack of understanding of digital channels. As Jack Wallington, the IAB Search Council chair commented, "the results are indicative of the fact search is still being siloed, rather than playing a critical part in the wider media mix".

Other key findings

While the report is perhaps bleak in its assessment of current knowledge of digital, the discipline is making some in-roads in terms of ad spend. The report shows that nearly two-thirds of brands spent more than 20 per cent of their 2011 marketing budget solely on digital. Both organic (48 per cent) and paid search (49 per cent) budgets are set to grow this year, as are social media spends (68 per cent), a positive signal given Pricewaterhouse Coopers' recent estimate that digital marketing spends are set to expand by 11.2 per cent over the next three years.

Aside from the recognition that further integration of search would help marketing activity, the report also highlights a number of other areas of digital engagement by brands. Social media was again seen to be a prominent aspect of most brands' online marketing activity, with 65 per cent of those running integrated search campaigns choosing social media as their secondary medium. Rather unexpectedly, given the prominent lack of understanding demonstrated by the survey, the report also showed some knowledge of more emergent aspects of digital amongst brands, with 70 per cent of respondents believing that mobile search would overtake more traditional forms by 2015.

The report is perhaps best seen as presenting a mixed view on the state of search and digital as a whole. While there is still some way to go in terms of bridging the gap in terms of knowledge of search compared to more traditional marketing, there is clearly a willingness by most marketers to engage with digital further, which can be seen both in the expansion of digital spends and attitudes towards further blending search with other marketing mediums.

The full IAB Search Marketing Barometer 2012 is available to download direct from