We talked about it back in July (with a bit more of a green tint), but the discussion of how beneficial all forms of online marketing can be in an economic downturn has definitely raised its head again. Rand at SEOMoz.org touches on search engine optimization in a downturn in his post today and the latest issue of Search Marketing Standard has an article by Laura Callow asking, Is Search Marketing Recession-Proof?
Rand’s article raises some valid points about the SEO industry. Now that other forms of advertising and sales channels have slipped up a bit due to their high costs or lower ROI, online marketing – including SEO, is taking more of the marketing budget pie in a lot of corporate environments. Internal marketing departments and external marketing agencies are having to prove their worth more, now that budgets are getting stretched and squeezed to their fullest. If a channel isn’t accountable for spending vs. sales then the likelihood that it will survive this downturn is unlikely.
Also, SEO is coming out of the shadows. As myths get debunked and education is expanded to business owners and marketers, true SEO is gaining ground as a viable marketing initiative. Of course there are still gamers, hacks and snake oil salesmen out there and until our industry grows up a lot more and sets some standards the fight will rage on between white hat and black hat SEO.
On the other side of the fence Ms. Callow discusses the benefits of search marketing or PPC advertising. Which is one arena where we have seen tremendous growth in the last several months. Of course a majority of this growth can be attributed to the holiday season, as we handle pay per click advertising for several online retailers. However it is not just retailers looking to leverage this channel over traditional advertising – many of our b2b customers have been asking about it as well. I believe Ms. Callow nails the reasoning for this perfectly in her article.
Often marketers are attracted to PPC advertising due to its inherent benefits such as advanced targeting, accountability and cost effectiveness. With PPC advertising you can start or stop ads at any time, run them only when you know people will be looking for your product or service, target by geographic region (down to the city level) and attract customers using their nomenclature at the exact instance of their interest and query. With advanced web analytics you can track click to conversion metrics to further account for each dollar spent vs. each dollar generated.
There is also a “safe” factor to PPC advertising. Marketers know that they can invest a minimal amount upfront and give it a test run. If they feel it is not working for them they can stop all ads and outgoing costs instantly or they can retool ads and spend more time doing keyword research to find better converting terms. Right now these are especially attractive features.
Don’t Stop at SEO and PPC Advertising
The only thing both of these articles are missing is any mention of other online marketing initiatives, like permission based email marketing. Email marketing is still a tremendous way to market on a very cost effective platform. It literally costs pennies, and in most cases fractions of pennies, to leverage an internal customer or lead list that may be gathering dust and turn it into a powerful customer relationship management channel and sales tool.
So if you are not already involved in online marketing, you better get your move on! You are already losing ground, market share and revenue to your competitors if you are not actively working the online channel. In all market conditions it is a powerful marketing tool, but especially during an economic downturn.