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Why Search Engine Marketing can help you Beat a Recession

Recent economic trends suggest that we’re about to enter in the worst recession in a generation. We all have friends who are hurting, even if we’re closer to Main Street than Wall Street.

In Search Engine Marketing Land, though, things still look pretty good. I was talking to a client today whose product is directly tied to housing starts, which are the lowest they’ve been in fifteen years. We both agreed the numbers were bad, but we also were surprised to find that overall the Paid Search campaign that we manage for him had not declined at all in the last three months; in fact traffic and conversions have continued to rise, with conversion rates holding steady. He clearly felt that Search Engine Marketing was a key component to keeping his company afloat during these tight times.

This isn’t an isolated trend. Without exception, Search Engine Marketing continues to grow for our clients. Why is it growing even as Americans are clearly cutting back?

First, the essential nature of the search market makes it a strong advertising channel in recession periods, as described in this outstanding article by Joshua Stylman. Joshua emphasizes three key aspects of Search that are so important in a tight market:

  • Accountability
  • Efficiency
  • Cost Control

These have been a prime part of paid search for years now, which makes that market a deeply rationalized and efficient advertising resource.

We think there are two additional factors that bode well for paid search.

1. Paid Search is a gateway to information gathering. A recession doesn’t mean that people stop spending money. It just means they look for better deals, and so the job of advertising in a contraction is to emphasize value, provide good information, and identify the consumers most likely to buy. These three are exactly what Search Engine Marketing is designed to do.

2. Google will continue to improve and innovate their Paid Search Products, making advertising increasingly measureable and efficient. This quarter looked like a rough one for Google, but a lot of that had to do with unrealistic expectations about their non-core advertising, such as doubleclick, and the fact that they decided to increase the quality of their Content Network through aggressive reduction of clickfraud, a decision that had a negative impact on their receipts.

Google has always taken a long-term view about their products and their place in the market, and their efforts in the last two quarters have been largely focused on increasing transparency and metrics for their core AdWords product. The Content Network’s purging in the last quarter is an example of improving a product that has struggled for credibility and transparency. Additional innovations such as their new conversion tracking and more open quality scores show that Google is deeply committed to making their product work better. As Google advances, Yahoo! and MSN are forced to improve their products as well. These improvements will continue to provide innovations that allow people to more effectively and efficiently find the products they need, and as a result they will rely on them more and more in tight times.

I guess it’s clear that we’re pretty bullish on Search Engine Marketing. Then again, Pure Visibility is a Search Engine Marketing Company, we could well be biased! But we invite you to ask around and see what your friends are saying. And I guess the real question to ask would be: how are you finding out what to buy these days?

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