2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Research and Insights on Managing the Evolving Search and Social
Climate for Optimal Results
Lead Author
Jen Doyle, Senior Analyst
Contributors
Sergio Balegno, Research Director
Production Editor
Brad Bortone, Editorial Production Manager

2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition
US $447 / ISBN: 978-1-936390-01
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

TABLE OF CONTENTS 
Table of Contents .................................................................................................................... ii 
Director’s Note......................................................................................................................... 2 
Executive Summary ................................................................................................................ 3 
The state of search marketing............................................................................................................... 4 
Chart: Integrating social media into search marketing plans ......................................................... 4 
Chart: SEO maturity....................................................................................................................... 5 
Chart: The expected future impact of search innovations .............................................................. 6 
Achieving balance of search and social marketing for achieving optimal impact .................................. 7 
Chart: The effectiveness of SEO objectives and social media objectives ...................................... 7 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by social media use ....................................................... 8 
Chart: Organic conversion rates by social media use .................................................................... 9 
Perceptions of SEO ............................................................................................................................ 10 
Chart: Perceptions of SEO at budget time ................................................................................... 10 
Search and social partnerships ........................................................................................................... 11 

Chapter 1: Organic Benchmarks ......................................................................................... 12 
Budgeting for SEO ................................................................................................................ 13 
Online marketing budgets ................................................................................................................... 13 
Chart: Online marketing’s share of the budget ............................................................................ 13 
Chart: Online marketing budget allocation ................................................................................... 14 
Staffing is the greatest SEO expense ................................................................................................. 15 
Chart: SEO budget allocation ...................................................................................................... 15 
Chart: SEO budget allocation by organization size ...................................................................... 16 
Chart: SEO budget allocation by primary market ......................................................................... 17 
Chart: SEO budget allocation by industry sector ......................................................................... 18 
Chart: SEO budget allocation by social media use ...................................................................... 19 
Increasing SEO budgets ..................................................................................................................... 20 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets .................................................................................. 20 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets by organization size .................................................. 21 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets by primary market ..................................................... 22 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets by industry sector ..................................................... 23 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets by SEO maturity ....................................................... 24 
Investing in SEO ................................................................................................................................. 25 
Chart: SEO budgets..................................................................................................................... 25 
Chart: SEO budgets by organization size .................................................................................... 26 
Chart: SEO budgets by primary market ....................................................................................... 27 
Chart: SEO budgets by industry sector........................................................................................ 28 
Chart: SEO budgets by social media use .................................................................................... 29 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Chart: SEO budgets by SEO maturity.......................................................................................... 30 

Target objectives ................................................................................................................... 31 
Perceptions on the most effective SEO objectives.............................................................................. 31 
Chart: The effectiveness of SEO objectives ................................................................................ 31 
Chart: Very effective SEO objectives by organization size .......................................................... 32 
Chart: Very effective SEO objectives by primary market ............................................................. 33 
Chart: Very effective SEO objectives by industry sector .............................................................. 34 
Chart: Very effective SEO objectives by social media use .......................................................... 35 
Chart: very effective SEO objectives by SEO maturity ................................................................ 36 
Marketer insights: SEO strategy development .................................................................................... 37 
B2B marketers share insights on planning an SEO strategy ....................................................... 37 
B2C marketers share insights on planning an SEO strategy ....................................................... 41 

SEO tactics ............................................................................................................................ 44 
Achieving higher rankings ................................................................................................................... 44 
Chart: The effectiveness of SEO tactics ...................................................................................... 44 
Chart: Very effective SEO tactics by organization size ................................................................ 45 
Chart: Very effective SEO tactics by primary market ................................................................... 46 
Chart: Very effective SEO tactics by industry sector.................................................................... 47 
Chart: Very effective SEO tactics by social media use ................................................................ 48 
Chart: Very effective SEO tactics by SEO maturity...................................................................... 49 
Marketer insights: Best SEO tactics .................................................................................................... 50 
B2B marketers share insights on the best SEO tactics for achieving higher rankings ................. 50 
B2C marketers share insights on the best SEO tactics for achieving higher rankings ................. 54 
Integrating search and social media ................................................................................................... 56 
Chart: Organizations integrating search and social media are most strategic ............................. 56 
Chart: Integrating social media into search campaigns ............................................................... 57 
Chart: Integrating social media into search campaigns by organization size ............................... 58 
Chart: Integrating social media into search campaigns by primary market .................................. 59 
Chart: Integrating social media into search marketing campaigns by industry sector .................. 60 
Chart: Integrating social media into search campaigns by SEO maturity .................................... 61 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO ...................................................................... 62 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO by organization size...................................... 63 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO by primary market......................................... 64 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO by industry sector ......................................... 65 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO by social media use ...................................... 66 
Chart: Goals of integrating social media with SEO by SEO maturity ........................................... 67 
Chart: Social media devices utilized for SEO purposes ............................................................... 68 
Chart: Social media devices utilized for SEO purposes by organization size .............................. 69 
Chart: Social media devices utilized for SEO purposes by primary market ................................. 70 
Chart: Social media devices utilized for SEO purposes by industry sector .................................. 71 
Chart: Social media devices utilized for SEO purposes by SEO maturity .................................... 72 
Search and social ROI ........................................................................................................................ 73 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media ............................................. 73 
Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media by organization size............. 74 
Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media by primary market................ 75 
Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media by industry sector ................ 76 
Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media by social media use ............. 77 
Chart: Marketer’s opinions on the ROI of search and social media by SEO maturity .................. 78 

SEO metrics ........................................................................................................................... 79 
Typical rankings for target keywords ................................................................................................... 79 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings...................................................................................... 79 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by organization size ..................................................... 80 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by primary market ........................................................ 81 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by industry sector......................................................... 82 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by social media use ..................................................... 83 
Chart: Average target keyword rankings by SEO maturity........................................................... 84 
Inbound traffic generated from organic search.................................................................................... 85 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search................................................................................... 85 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search by organization size .................................................. 86 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search by primary market ..................................................... 87 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search by industry sector ...................................................... 88 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search by social media use .................................................. 89 
Chart: Inbound traffic from organic search by SEO maturity........................................................ 90 
Organic lead volume ........................................................................................................................... 91 
Chart: SEO serves as a significant lead generation tool .............................................................. 91 
Chart: Percent of total leads generated from SEO by organization size ...................................... 92 
Chart: Percent of total leads generated from SEO by primary market ......................................... 93 
Chart: Percent of total leads generated from SEO by industry sector.......................................... 94 
Chart: Percent of total leads generated from SEO by social use ................................................. 95 
Chart: Percent of total leads generated from SEO by SEO maturity............................................ 96 
Lead quality from organic search ........................................................................................................ 97 
Chart: Organic lead quality .......................................................................................................... 97 
Chart: Organic lead quality by organization size .......................................................................... 98 
Chart: Organic lead quality by primary market ............................................................................. 99 
Chart: Organic lead quality by industry sector ........................................................................... 100 
Chart: Organic lead quality by social media use ........................................................................ 101 
Chart: Organic lead quality by SEO maturity ............................................................................. 102 
Organic conversion rates .................................................................................................................. 103 
Chart: Defining a conversion ..................................................................................................... 103 
Chart: Defining a conversion by organization size ..................................................................... 104 
Chart: Defining a conversion by primary market ........................................................................ 105 
Chart: Defining a conversion by industry sector ........................................................................ 106 
Chart: Defining a conversion by social media use ..................................................................... 107 
Chart: Defining a conversion by SEO maturity .......................................................................... 108 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Chart: Organic search conversion rates .................................................................................... 109 
Chart: Organic search conversion rates by organization size .................................................... 110 
Chart: Organic search conversion rates by primary market ....................................................... 111 
Chart: Organic search conversion rates by industry sector ....................................................... 112 
Chart: Organic search conversion rates by social media use .................................................... 113 
Chart: Organic search conversion rates by conversion definition .............................................. 114 
Marketer insights: SEO challenges ................................................................................................... 115 
B2B marketers share insights on their greatest challenges with SEO ....................................... 115 
B2C marketers share insights on their greatest challenges with SEO ....................................... 119 

Chapter 2: SEO Resources ................................................................................................ 121 
SEO resources and tools.................................................................................................... 122 
Majority of online marketers practicing tactics in house .................................................................... 122 
Chart: Online marketing resources ............................................................................................ 122 
Chart: Online tactics done in house by organization size .......................................................... 123 
Chart: Online tactics done in house by primary market ............................................................. 124 
Chart: Online tactics done in house by industry sector .............................................................. 125 
Chart: Online tactics done in house by SEO maturity ................................................................ 127 
SEO tools you can use ..................................................................................................................... 128 
Chart: The effectiveness of SEO tools ....................................................................................... 128 
Chart: Very effective SEO tools by organization size................................................................. 129 
Chart: Very effective SEO tools by primary market.................................................................... 130 
Chart: Very effective SEO tools by industry sector .................................................................... 131 
Chart: Very effective SEO tools by social media use ................................................................. 132 
Chart: Very effective SEO tools by SEO maturity ...................................................................... 133 

Chapter 3: Search Innovations .......................................................................................... 134 
Mobile search ...................................................................................................................... 135 
The current impact of mobile search ................................................................................................. 135 
Chart: The current impact of mobile search ............................................................................... 135 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from mobile search by organization size................................. 136 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from mobile search by primary market.................................... 137 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from mobile search by industry sector .................................... 138 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from mobile search by social media use ................................. 139 
The expected future impact of mobile search ................................................................................... 140 
Chart: The expected future impact of mobile search ................................................................. 140 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by mobile search by organization size ....................... 141 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by mobile search by primary market .......................... 142 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by mobile search by industry sector ........................... 143 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by mobile search by social media use ........................ 144 
Chart: Mobile media users within age and gender ..................................................................... 145 

Real time search .................................................................................................................. 146 
The current impact of real time search .............................................................................................. 146 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Chart: The current impact of real time search ............................................................................ 146 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from real time search by organization size ............................. 147 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from real time search by primary market ................................ 148 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from real time search by industry sector ................................. 149 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from real time search by social media .................................... 150 
The expected future impact of real time search ................................................................................ 151 
Chart: The Expected Future Impact of real time search ............................................................ 151 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by real time search by organization size .................... 152 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by real time search by primary market ....................... 153 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by real time search by industry sector ........................ 154 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by real time search by social media use .................... 155 

Personalized search............................................................................................................ 156 
The current impact of personalized search ....................................................................................... 156 
Chart: The current impact of personalized search ..................................................................... 156 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from personalized search by organization size ....................... 157 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from personalized search by primary market .......................... 158 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from personalized search by industry sector .......................... 159 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from personalized search by social media use ....................... 160 
The expected future impact of personalized search.......................................................................... 161 
Chart: The Expected Future Impact of personalized search ...................................................... 161 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by personalized search by organization size .............. 162 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by personalized search by primary market ................. 163 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by personalized search by industry sector ................. 164 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by personalized search by social media use .............. 165 

Video search ........................................................................................................................ 166 
The current impact of video search ................................................................................................... 166 
Chart: The current impact of video search ................................................................................. 166 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from video search by organization size................................... 167 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from video search by primary market...................................... 168 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from video search by industry sector ...................................... 169 
Chart: Receiving a great impact from video search by social media use ................................... 170 
The expected future impact of video search ..................................................................................... 171 
Chart: The expected future impact of video search ................................................................... 171 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by video search by organization size ......................... 172 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by video search by primary market ............................ 173 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by video search by industry sector ............................. 174 
Chart: Expecting to be greatly impacted by video search by social media use.......................... 175 

Chapter 4: The Search Engine Market .............................................................................. 176 
State of the search market ................................................................................................. 177 
Google holds their place at the top of the search market .................................................................. 177 
Chart: Core search report - share of searches .......................................................................... 177 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

Chart: Core search report - volume of searches ........................................................................ 178 
Chart: Search engine market share - spend .............................................................................. 179 
Bing and Yahoo alliance aims to even the playing field .................................................................... 180 
Chart: % Change in total searches by search engine for 2009 .................................................. 180 
Chart: % Change in unique searches by search engine for 2009 .............................................. 181 
Chart: % Change in searches per search engine user by search engine for 2009 .................... 182 
Search and social partnerships ......................................................................................................... 183 
Chart: Total unique visits to search engines and social sites for 2009 - 2010 ........................... 183 

Chapter 5: Agency Perspectives ....................................................................................... 184 
SEO benchmarks................................................................................................................. 185 
Client’s increasing SEO budgets....................................................................................................... 185 
Chart: Expected changes in SEO budgets, Agency VS Client ................................................... 185 
Chart: Expected changes in client SEO budgets by organization size....................................... 186 
Agency perspectives on the most effective SEO tactics ................................................................... 187 
Chart: The effectiveness of SEO tactics – agency perspective ................................................. 187 
Agency insights: Greatest SEO challenges ...................................................................................... 188 
Agencies share insights on their greatest SEO challenges ....................................................... 188 

Appendix .............................................................................................................................. 191 
Appendix 1 - Glossary ....................................................................................................................... 191 
Appendix 2 — Demographic Data for 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Survey .......................... 200 
Chart: Organization size of survey respondents ........................................................................ 200 
Chart: Organization type of survey respondents ........................................................................ 201 
Chart: Primary target audience of survey respondents .............................................................. 202 
Chart: Industry sector of survey respondents ............................................................................ 203 
Appendix 3 - Research Partners and Other Data Sources Referenced ............................................ 204 
Research partners ............................................................................................................................ 204 
Referenced resources ....................................................................................................................... 205 
About MarketingSherpa LLC ............................................................................................................. 207 

 

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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

DIRECTOR’S NOTE  
Welcome to MarketingSherpa’s 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition. 
As  planning  began  on  this  seventh  annual  benchmark  report,  it  became  clear  that  the  search  marketing 
landscape  had  changed  dramatically  during  the  past  year,  much  more  so  than  in  previous  years.  It  also 
became clear that a comprehensive study of all the new terrain that needed to be covered would create an 
over‐abundance of valuable research; enough to fill two benchmark reports – literally! 
So, for the first time, the Search Marketing Benchmark Report is being published in two separate editions. 
This SEO Edition provides all new benchmark research and insights exclusively on the topic of search engine 
optimization.  The  companion  PPC  Edition  focuses  exclusively  on  the  topic  of  paid  search  marketing.  The 
goal of each edition is to help you better understand what works in search engine marketing today. 
SEO Edition Highlights 
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Primary research survey providing the collective wisdom of 2,194 search marketers 
Benchmarks on organic search challenges, objectives, tactics, metrics and budgets 
Innovations in mobile, real time, personalized and video search 
Search agencies provide their unique prospective on client SEO programs 
An overview of the search engine market from industry leading sources 

This  benchmark  report  is  filled  with  useful  information  including  160  charts  and  analytical  commentary, 
hundreds of insights from search marketers and more. Information that is actionable and needed to remain 
competitive in a marketing world highly dependent on search results. 
As always, we welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you. 
Best regards, 

 
Sergio Balegno 
Research Director, MarketingSherpa 
@SergioBalegno 
 
 

 

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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  
Managing the Evolving Search and Social Climate for Optimal Results 
It’s truly a tumultuous time for search marketing. Between the growth of social media, the release of search 
innovations,  as  well  as  search  and  social  partnerships,  the  current  climate  is  hardly  recognizable  from  its 
state just a short time ago. This evolving environment challenges marketers and generates speculation as to 
what’s coming next in search engine marketing.  
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been an essential component of many successful marketing plans for 
more than a decade, but despite the proven ROI capabilities of SEO, there is a surprisingly large percentage 
of marketers without formal processes for executing this viable practice. In order to achieve the greatest 
benefits from SEO, marketers are pressed to formalize their strategies. 
The growing traffic and popularity of social media has even some of the most loyal search engine marketers 
questioning  the  future  of  search. Rest  assured  –  search engines are  still  receiving  billions  of  searches  per 
month. If you cut your SEO efforts now, there are plenty of competitors who would be happy to take your 
place in the rankings and capitalize on traffic you could have been garnering for yourself.    
The  major  search  engines  have  responded  to  social  media’s  growth  by  releasing  innovative  solutions  to 
improve the end user’s overall search experience, such as real time and personalized search. These, among 
other  improvements,  position  search  engines  for  long‐term  success  and  stability.  What  impact  are  these 
innovations having  on  search  engine  marketers,  and  what  impact  will  they  have  in  the  future?  These  are 
just two of the vital questions answered by this report. 
The key to success in today’s search engine market is to focus on managing the many changes in the search 
and social climate. The 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition provides you with much‐
needed benchmark data on best practices and industry standards, highlighting new tools and resources that 
will help you achieve optimal results.  
Inside, you’ll also find valuable insights from marketers and agencies who candidly discuss their processes 
and challenges, so you can learn directly from their experiences.  
As always, we thank you for your interest in our research, and look forward to your feedback and stories of 
success. 
Regards,  

 
Jen Doyle  
Senior Analyst, MarketingSherpa 
@JenLDoyle 

 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

THE STATE OF SEARCH MARKETING  
If you’re in the business of search engine optimization, you know how quickly things can change. In just the 
last  few  years,  dramatic  changes  have  taken  place  including  the  emergence  and  growth  of  social  media, 
various search innovations like mobile search and real time search, as well as search partnerships. 
First, let’s take a look at social media, and who’s using it with search. 

CHART: INTEGRATING SOCIAL MEDIA INTO SEARCH MARKETING PLANS 
Q. Does your organization integrate social media into your search engine marketing plan? 

No
36%

Yes
64%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

 

If you’re not currently integrating social media into your search engine marketing plan, you are officially in 
the minority. The fact that more than 60% of our respondents indicated they were practicing this impactful 
tactic is a representation of social media’s recognized potential. 
Topping our list of companies using this tactic were those with less than 100 employees, likely because they 
are more agile than their larger counterparts and thus able to more quickly make decisions and changes to 
their campaigns.  
Integrating social and search was also a popular tactic for companies with mixed primary markets, targeting 
both businesses and consumers (B2B and B2C).  
In short, if you haven’t started to integrate social and search tactics, it’s time to get on board. After all, your 
direct competitors could very well be ahead of you. This report includes benchmark data that demonstrates 
the benefits of integrating social media into your SEO campaign. 

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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

CHART: SEO MATURITY 
Q.  Please  select  the  statement  below  that  best  describes  the  process  your  organization  uses  to  perform 
search engine optimization (SEO) practices. 

We have no 
process for 
performing this
20%
We have a formal 
process we 
routinely perform
34%

We have an 
informal process 
we randomly 
perform
46%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

 

What’s truly shocking is the fact that more than half of the marketers who participated in this study either 
had no formal process for performing SEO, or an informal process that was randomly performed. SEO has 
been around for more than a decade and has clearly demonstrated proven ROI capabilities over that time, 
yet many companies are still behind the game with their processes. 
In order to gain the maximum benefit from SEO, it is necessary for marketers to challenge themselves and 
formalize their processes for practicing this impactful tactic. In this report, we will demonstrate the value of 
taking a more formalized approach to SEO.  
 

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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

CHART: THE EXPECTED FUTURE IMPACT OF SEARCH INNOVATIONS 
Q. How do you think the following search innovations will impact your business in the next 1–5 years? 
Will have a great impact on our business

Will somewhat impact our business

Will have no impact on our business

Personalized search

33%

57%

11%

Real time search

33%

56%

10%

Video search

26%

Mobile search

24%

47%

47%

28%

29%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

 

With a number of search engine innovations being released, it’s only natural for marketers to speculate on 
what role these new additions will play in the future of SEO. It’s not surprising that personalized search tops 
the list. Because personalized search causes different search engine users to receive different results, it’s 
possible  that  personalized  search  may  have  a  negative  impact  on  some  organization’s  SEO  efforts  by 
decreasing their exposure and this has created much speculation among the SEO community.   
Another recent addition, real time search, is also expected to have a significant impact. As the popularity of 
using social media for marketing purposes grows, so will expectations of this search innovation’s impact. 
Of all the segments surveyed organizations that integrate social media into their search campaigns had the 
greatest expectations on the impact of all innovations above. This could be due to the fact that this group of 
marketers is generally more ahead of the curve and well educated in the most recent developments in both 
search and social media.  
In this report, we will take a closer look at each of these search innovations, alongside their current – and 
anticipated future – impacts on a number of these specific segments. 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

ACHIEVING BALANCE OF SEARCH AND SOCIAL MARKETING FOR ACHIEVING OPTIMAL IMPACT 
CHART: THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SEO OBJECTIVES AND SOCIAL MEDIA OBJECTIVES 
Q.  In  your  experience,  how  effective  has  search  engine  optimization  (SEO)  and  social  media  been  at 
accomplishing these marketing objectives for your organization? 
Very Effective Social Media Objectives

Very Effective SEO Objectives

Increase brand or 
product awareness

37%

Improve brand or 
product reputation

37%

42%

29%
36%

Improve public 
relations

27%
33%

Increase website traffic

57%
18%

Increase lead 
generation

35%
10%

Increase offline sales 
revenue

17%
9%

Increase online sales 
revenue

26%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

 

SEO  is  clearly  perceived  as  being  the  more  effective  tactic  for  increasing  bottom  line,  and  commonly‐
measured objectives like increased website traffic, lead generation, offline sales revenue and online sales 
revenue.  Social  media  is  believed  to  be  the  more  effective  tactic  for  objectives  that  are  new  to 
measurement, like improved brand or product reputation and public relations. Many marketers think these 
objectives are still difficult to measure, but with the growth of social monitoring tools it is now possible to 
define brand reputation and reach. 
Currently, social media is not widely perceived as being very effective for lead generation or increasing sales 
revenue, and search is not seen as very effective in improving public relations or reputation. Marketers who 
balance search and social may be doing so because they believe the pair make a good combination toward 
achieving objectives where using just one of the tactics is not as effective. 
 

 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

CHART: AVERAGE TARGET KEYWORD RANKINGS BY SOCIAL MEDIA USE 
Q. What is your organization’s typical organic ranking for the majority of your currently targeted key terms? 
Non‐Social Media Users

Social Media Users
35%

Positions 1 ‐ 3

34%

31%

Positions 4 ‐ 6

35%

18%

Positions 7 ‐ 11
13%

10%

Page 2 of search results

11%

Greater than page 2 of 
search results

6%
8%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

  

For  the  chart above, as  well  as  for the entirety  of  this  report,  we’re defining “non‐social  media users”  as 
marketers who do not currently integrate social media into their search campaigns and “social media users” 
as  those  who  do.  When  we  asked  organizations  what  their  goals  were  for  integrating  social  with  search, 
69% of respondents indicated they wanted to use social media to help improve their current search engine 
rankings.  
As you can see, there isn’t a drastic difference in the average target keyword rankings between these 
groups. Social media users performed slightly better in positions 4‐6, and had fewer companies ranked in 
positions 7‐11, so social media was able to marginally help them, but the results are otherwise comparable. 
Social media does have the potential to do more than slightly improve search campaigns as represented 
above. Since this practice is just in its beginning stages, there’s no telling how efficient the execution has 
been, or the length of time the practice has been used by respondents. Social media is undoubtedly an 
effective tool in generating new inbound links and a wealth of search engine friendly content – two 
essential components of any SEO plan.  
Social media can impact your search campaigns in more ways than one. See our next chart to learn more. 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

CHART: ORGANIC CONVERSION RATES BY SOCIAL MEDIA USE 
Q. What is your organization’s conversion rate for organic traffic? 
Social Media Users
27%

Non‐Social Media Users

17%

Organic search traffic
Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

  

 

Notice that the conversion rates of social media users is significantly greater than non‐social media users. It 
is possible that social media users are seeing a greater improvement in this metric than they did with 
ranking because it can take time for a website’s search ranking to improve, where the effects social media 
has on conversion rates may take less time to have an impact. 
There’s no doubt that social media can be an effective tactic in improving brand or product reputation and 
public relations. It’s likely that an improved public profile would result in a higher conversion rate. If a 
search engine user already recognizes and has heard positive things about a brand that shows up in their 
search results, they are more likely to click through and convert on their website. 
Companies that participate in social media already know that their social content is being indexed by search 
engines.  Now,  when  a  consumer  conducts  a  search,  they  are  presented  with  social  networking  profiles, 
images, videos, slide presentations and customer reviews. Delivering a variety of content will allow a brand 
to have more appeal to different audiences who prefer multiple forms of media.  
Since  social  media  generates  an  increased  number  of  listings  received  by  a  participating  brand  on  search 
results  pages,  their  competition  gets  “pushed  down”  to  lower  rankings.  This  establishes  the  participating 
brand as the key player for the search engine user’s query. This could also increase organic clickthrough and 
conversion rates. 
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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

PERCEPTIONS OF SEO 
CHART: PERCEPTIONS OF SEO AT BUDGET TIME 
Q. Which statement best describes how search engine optimization (SEO) is perceived by your organization 
at budget time? 

The value of SEO is 
unknown and 
something we do 
only as time 
permits. Why 
invest more?
13%
SEO is basically 
free. Let's keep it 
that way.
20%

SEO is a promising 
tactic and will 
eventually produce 
ROI. Let's increase 
budget but do it 
conservatively.
43%

SEO is producing 
measurable ROI. 
Let's increase 
budget liberally for 
continuous 
improvement.
24%

Source / Methodology: MarketingSherpa Search Marketing Benchmark Survey / Fielded April, 2010 N=2,194

 

Perceptions of SEO are considerably positive at budget time. Of our respondents, 67% indicated they would 
increase their SEO investments either liberally or conservatively. Over time, SEO has earned a reputation for 
being a promising tactic and producing measurable ROI.  
It’s not surprising that the two groups of respondents most likely to liberally increase SEO budgets were our 
social media users and our most mature SEO marketers with formal processes. These groups are likely to 
have the most expertise in SEO and thus, are more likely to receive the greatest benefits from this practice. 
In this report, we’ll take a deeper look into marketer’s decisions regarding SEO budgets, including budget 
amount, allocation and expected changes in SEO budgets. 

 

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MarketingSherpa 2011 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition

SEARCH AND SOCIAL PARTNERSHIPS 
The search engine market has undergone significant changes in the past year. For many years, Google has 
dominated the space; however, the partnership of Bing and Yahoo! aims to make the search market a race 
of two competing key players.  
Social media’s popularity growth has forced search engines to act more quickly. In the past, it could take 
days – or even months – for search engines to index new content on the Web. When social media began 
offering search capabilities that displayed results as they were being published, search engines knew they 
had to react. This reaction resulted in real time search, which is now available on Google, Yahoo! and Bing. 
These  partnerships  are  increasing  the  power  of  search  engines  and  delivering  more  relevant,  up‐to‐date 
and complete results than ever before. The delivery of improved search engine experiences, as a result of 
search and social partnerships, will solidify search’s place in the marketing mix for many years to come.     

 

 

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