A new survey of marketing decision makers in the US and UK has found many CMOs to be understating the strategic value of search engine marketing (SEM) on their overall business.
The data published by Adthena shows SEM to be massively important to CMOs and a key area of current and planned investment. But when it comes to competitor analysis and ROI, there are still notable gaps in how it is being used.
According to Zenith, global investment in SEM is expected to reach nearly $110 billion by the end of 2020. The Adthena survey found that 72% of respondents ranked SEM within their top three most-valued marketing functions – more than holding its own against tactics such as programmatic, video content, and native/display advertising.
CMOs are not completely ignorant of the importance of SEM to business strategy.
Ninety-two percent do believe that SEM can help them make more strategic business decisions. Of these, nearly 60% believe that SEM plays a strategic role by either gaining a competitive advantage (58.9%) or identifying new market opportunities (58.2%).
On top of this, 95% of CMOs are in agreement that this channel can support customer acquisition and help drive sales.
Adthena’s data does find that in many areas, CMOs are not employing SEM tactics to strategic ends. In some cases, executives seem completely unaware of SEM’s usefulness. For instance:
According to the survey, 41% of CMOs have never tracked how their company is performing against their competition in the search context.
Adthena cites their work with Volvo in the highly competitive automotive industry as reason enough for businesses to be doing this – when the brand was making a play for the hybrid cars market. In examining their competitors’ SEM performance, they gained insight that standard ROI metrics could not provide. It allowed the business to more closely examine the customer journey of those looking to purchase a hybrid vehicle and how they could better optimize their SEM campaigns to ensure their messaging was resonating over the competition.
Adthena’s research finds that 64% of marketing executives say they use search metrics to guide or optimize future strategy, but a worrying lack of communication of these key insights across the C-Suite could be causing a disconnect in overall business strategy.
The abundance of search data available to businesses is impressive. 61% of CMOs are presented with SEM metrics either weekly or daily. But according to the survey, only 35% report these metrics to fellow senior leadership.
Clearly “data overload” is an issue here. Executives simply don’t have the capacity to be sharing this information as readily and regularly as they could be.
In the context of growing investment in SEM and the vertical taking on a larger proportion of marketing budgets on into 2020, Adthena’s VP of marketing Ashley Fletcher notes the importance of search intelligence to help CMO’s marketing dollars go further and to steer future business decisions.
“While SEM has the power to check all the boxes, CMOs are sitting on untapped market and competitor knowledge that could help guide the activities that most affect their bottom line,” he says.
“To stay on top of increasing competition, CMOs must continuously monitor their search performance to determine how, when and where they can optimize efforts across touchpoints. More important still, they must begin to see and understand SEM as a strategic imperative for driving company growth.”
The positives are that the vast majority of CMOs are running paid search campaigns and a vast majority are aware of the availability of search intelligence tools.
But as this research highlights, there are clear areas where a more comprehensive understanding of SEM performance across all levels of business can go towards improving customer journeys – and competitive strength – at a time when organizations need to make every dollar work.
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