Search is growing up, let’s take the client with us

Search is growing up, let’s take the client with us

26th May 2010

The search industry, like the entire web industry for that matter, is a relatively young industry. The biggest player in the industry is only about 11 years old after all. Therefore its not surprising that the industry has seen a yearly recurring trend of growth. Even with the economy going downhill the search industry kept growing.

A new research performed by Reform Digital again shows the growing trend. Things are still looking bright for the industry. But the research, together with recent developments also shows the industry is growing up. Clients want a more ‘mature approach’ and the industry should take that approach to keep growing. Clients want more control and understanding and agencies will have to teach that to the clients.

The research was conducted online between October 2009 and February 2010 amongst clients of Reform Digital so we should be careful with the numbers, but it is an indication.

The key findings of the research are:

  • 65% of respondents said that search is the most important marketing channel for their business, and 83% believed that search became more important to their business in 2009.
  • Clients rely on agencies to select the right technology. If the client switches agency, a change in technology tends to follow. 47% of clients who use an agency don’t own the technology or the tracked data. 52% of these clients don’t own – or don’t know if they own – the PPC data.
  • Clients want more pro-activity, insight and transparency from agencies, though our respondents do express a desire to pay for search strategy going forward.
  • Bringing search in-house: 32% of respondents manage their search in-house and an additional 56% of agency clients have also considered taking search in-house. The decision to take search in-house is largely driven by a desire to take control of search as a whole. 33% of respondents believe that search is too important to their business to be out-sourced.
  • Design, e-commerce and content functions operate closely alongside search experts, however above- the-line and PR campaigns are significantly less well integrated. There is also a growing desire for budgets to be assigned to developing dedicated search strategies.

So what can we learn from this?

The results show an interesting trend. It looks as if the clients are looking to take more control over what is happening. Until recently the search industry has been a lot like a car-repair shop. You bring your car, they ‘fix’ it, but you have no idea how they did it and if what they tell you is correct.

Clients seem to be wanting to take more control over what’s going on. This means they will either get more in house SEOs or they want more ‘explanation’ from their agencies. On the other hand they still believe every word the agency says and rely on them when it comes to making choices in who to hire.

Agencies therefore need to take the next step in growing up: they need to even more ‘teach’ the clients what is important. This process has been going on for the past year orso. In my view training will become more and more important in the next few years. Educating the clients to a level so they can understand what their agency or inhouse SEO is doing. A client doesn’t have to be trained to be the ‘car mechanic’ himself, but more understanding would be nice, it would benefit both the agency and the client.

Off course, I’m very curious about what you, as a client, agency or inhouse SEO think of this. So let me know in the comments: do clients need more training?


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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